Dales Walk: Wensley to Aysgarth & Aysgarth Falls
A steady walk along the River Ure from the sleepy village of Wensley ending at the spectacular falls at Aysgarth. Return to Wensley by local bus, or extend the walk via Bolton Castle and Redmire for a long day out!
- Linear walk from Wensley to Aysgarth Approx 8.5 miles allowing for exploration of the falls and to the bus stop in Aysgarth Village
- Round walk including return to Wensley via Bolton Castle Approx 15.5 miles
The quiet village of Wensley was once a busy market town, hence giving its name to Wensleydale. Following an outbreak of the plague in the 16th century which decimated the population, with many who did not succumb fleeing to nearby Leyburn, the Wensley market was replaced by one in nearby Askrigg and eventually a larger market in nearby Leyburn, now considered the gateway to the dale. The current village is pretty but small and not the main tourist spot in the region, so finding parking is fairly easy on one of the side roads off the main A684. Pull-ins and lay-bys can be found along Low Lane, turning off the A684 in front of the Holy Trinity Church and driving a short way past the cottages, or on the A684 itself immediately to the west side of the bridge over the River Ure
Please do take care to park with consideration to residents and also taking care not to block field entrances and turning areas opposite farm tracks.
The Holy Trinity Church was used as the setting in the TV series 'All Creatures Great and Small' for the wedding of James and Helen Herriot
The church with origins in the 13th century was built for a larger congregation when Wensley was the centre of local trade, and is worthy of a visit before you head off along your riverside walk.
From Low Lane, head West, passing the church and turn left (South) along the A684 to cross the bridge over the Ure. Cross over the main road with care, and take the Public Footpath immediately adjacent to the bridge wall, heading West. This heads into a narrow wood running along the left hand bank of the river, between the road and the river as the two converge then keeping the line of the river as the road peels off to the left.
As the road heads off to the left, keep following the path to the left of the woods as Scaw Bottom that now sit between the footpath and the river. At the approach to a farm track and a bridge (Lords Bridge) to the right, the path veers slightly left, and crosses over the farm track a few metres up from the lower right hand corner of the field.
Cross the track (do not turn right over the bridge) and continue west following the footpath through three fields.
After the third (shortest) field, keep heading parallel with the river, ignoring the path heading half-left then, after about 350 metres, keep following the path to the right, heading into a small wooded area and keeping the line of the river, first dropping down to almost meet the river then keeping to the left of the tree line.
The path is easy to follow alongside and above the Ure as it heads North-West, then turns half left to continue West past Batt Island. As the river bends to the right you can see the medieval Bolton Castle to the North West, sitting above the village of Redmire and below the high East Bolton Moor behind it.
The walk follows the River Ure as it meanders gently between Aysgarth and Wensley
The path moves slightly away from the river briefly and crosses a clear track (the track is signposted "Berrys Farm"). Keep straight ahead (West) along the path ignoring the track before gently climbing into Cornlands Wood and rejoining the river at Redmire Force - a multi-drop waterfall that is slightly less spectacular than the falls at our destination of Aysgarth with the first of the drops the only one that is easy to see clearly due to the Force Scar cliff edge.
A path leads down steeply to overlook the first drop of the falls.
Above Redmire force on a low water day in the summer of 2018
Water volume and the nature of all the falls along the Ure varies according to seasonality, so this walk can be quite different in character in the Spring and Autumn, to that in high Summer
From Redmire Force, head back up the access path to rejoin your route which continues West past Middle Wood, after which the view opens up once again of the river and drops down to stepping stones at Slapestone Wath
River Ure at low levels at Slapestone Wath
Do not cross the stepping stones which lead North across the Ure to Thoresby, and continue along the riverside path West by South West
Stepping Stones across the River Ure
The path turns along to follow the river South-West and through another small wood at Adam Bottoms and Froddle Dub, where Bishopsdale Beck flows into the Ure - follow the path alongside the beck as it heads towards the main A684. Look out for the historic AA call box 442 at the roadside, visible to your left as you follow the footpath towards the road. The box has recently been subject to a campaign to restore and maintain it and it is certainly a scene which brings to mind more tranquil days before mobile phones.
AA Box 442 on the A684 just outside Aysgarth
Join the A684 and, after visiting the AA box if you choose to take a closer look (the box is locked, the interior is not accessible to the public) walk along the road over Hestholme Bridge, taking care as you do so as this is a double bend on a road that can be busy and can carry heavy traffic including HGVs and caravans.
Immediately after the bridge that crosses the beck, leave the road which turns sharply left and head straight on along the footpath (West).
Keep along the footpath (you have a choice of paths at a fork, either of which lead to the same destination) and be mindful of the numerous signs requesting that dogs be kept on a lead and that there is no access on this side of the river to the bank and onto the falls - no matter as we will be heading back along the north bank where access is easy and plentiful to Aysgarth Middle and Lower Force.
Either path leads shortly to St Andrew's Church at Aysgarth.
The path leading to St Andrew's Church at Aysgarth
St Andrews is a medieval church that has been through two restorations and is home to a rood screen originally held at nearby Jervaulx Abbey that was relocated at the time of Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries. Monastic live shaped many of the early Dales communities and several monks from Jervaulx sought haven at St Andrew's.
St Andrew's Church at Aysgarth
Continue West to leave the churchyard then turn right down the steep road heading down to Yore Bridge and Yore Mill where you can find a tea room and craft shop. The River Ure was first recorded as the Yore. Take care as there is no footway along the narrow two-way road. From the bridge, you can see the Upper Force falls to the left, which can be visited by taking the footpath to the left
Like the Redmire Force visited earlier, the water volume at Aysgarth can vary considerably, from being an awe-inspiring rushing torrent - a visual and audible spectacle as the noise of the rushing water can be considerable, to being almost still with raised rocky sections of the riverbed making it possible to cross the complete width of the river.
Upper Force in June 2018
From Upper Force head back towards the road at Yore Bridge, but keep along the footpath climbing to the left of the road, up towards the Aysgarth Visitor Centre and car park, which has toilet facilities and a visitor information centre.
Follow the clear signs from the visitor centre towards Middle Force and Lower Force, crossing the road and heading through a double hand gate along the footpath through Freeholders Wood.
There are paths heading right, to firstly Middle Force then to Lower Force, both of which are worth exploring and viewing.
Aysgarth Middle Force from the viewing platform
After Middle Force, head back up to the footpath and continue along towards Lower Force, ignoring the first gate on the right (marked "Return Route from Lower Force") and take the second path instead which heads gently downhill then reaches a fork. To the right is an easy path to a viewing area, heading left takes you down all the way to the river bank, this does involve rocky steps which can be very slippery and a short scramble down a steep step requiring use of hands to drop down and scramble back up, but is worth the effort.
In drier summers it is possible to take a walk some way along the bed of the River Ure below Lower Force
It is also possible to access the top of Upper Force where conditions allow, from the viewing area
Looking down to the River Ure from the top of Lower Force
After some time exploring the falls, head back along the footpath towards the Aysgarth visitor centre.
1. Return to Wensley (By Bus)
To return to Wensley by bus, head into Aysgarth village by retracing your steps from the visitor centre down to Yore Bridge and back up to the church visited earlier. Turn right opposite the church and follow the public footpath west into the village. The bus stop can be found at the Aysgarth War Memorial.
Check The Little White Bus timetables for times of the 156 "Wensleydale Voyager" and 856 "Acorn Wensleydale Flyer" for Sundays. Note that there are only a limited number of services so plan your walk to leave plenty of time - plan to arrive in Aysgarth early for your bus as there is plenty to see to eat up the time before your bus is due
2. Continue your Walk to Carperby and Castle Bolton
For those wanting to extend the walk, a scenic return to Wensley can be taken by heading back from Middle Force retracing your steps through the Aysgarth Falls visitor centre car park and down the path towards Upper Force.
Pass through the gate on the right of the bridge and take the footpath to the right heading North through Bear Park that meets up with the road, running alongside the left of the road for a while and finally joining the road just before a road junction.
Keep along the road (slight left) at the junction then immediately afterwards at a field corner of traditional dales stone walls, follow the marked footpath right through the gate (North by North-East) and alongside the left of the stone wall. At the end of the wall the path bears slightly right (North) and passes right of West Grove Farm, emerging on the road through Carperby by the war memorial on the village green
A small village, the role that evangelical reformism played in shaping Dales life (although seen more in neighbouring dales) is evident by the well maintained Wesleyan Chapel. The village is also proud of its local football team and sports pavilion which was completed when the fundraising appeal won a Mars Confectionary grant of £125,000, The pavilion was then used in a series of Mars adverts featuring footballer Peter Crouch playing for rival local team Askrigg against Carperby
Continuing North West through the village from the war memorial, fans of James Herriott can also visit The Wheatsheaf Hotel where Alf Wright ("James") and his wife Joan ("Helen") spent their honeymoon in 1941
Carperby to Bolton Castle
Passing the inn on your left, continue through to the end of the village and take the footpath on your left opposite Manor House, as it heads past the barns of East End Farm before heading steadily uphill through fields and stiles, haading North-East, skirting around the small wood of Bolton Plantation and eventually climbing to Bolton Castle.
Approaching Bolton Castle from Carperby
Bolton Castle, built in the late 14th century has remained in the same family ownership since it was built. Partially restored and preserved after it was 'slighted' in the English Civil War it now is an interesting visitor centre with both the castle giving a glimpse into life of days past, and the gardens with wildlife and falconry displays.
(Walkers with dogs please note there is no admission to the castle or gardens for dogs)
Bolton Castle from the village, Castle Bolton
The casle was also the prison for Mary, Queen of Scots for around six months in 1568 before she was removed to Tutbury where she remained until her execution 18 years later.
Castle Bolton to Redmire
Leave the castle, and head east along the level road to Castle Bolton village. As the road bears sharply left, head slightly right on along a lane of cottages before very shortly taking the marked footpath on the right, heading downhill. Pass through one field then half way through the next field bear left at the footpath junction heading South East. Stay on this footpath and cross the wide track that used to be the a railway line. Do not follow the track, but continue straight ahead South East until you reach a green behind a row of houses. Head around the left side of the houses to reach the road at a small gate, then head right (South)
Pass the Bolton Arms on your right and follow the road as it bears left. At the road junction where the main road bears left again, take a slight right (in effect keeping straight ahead) heading South-East then at the next junction head right (South) along the road
Keep heading along the road past houses and the Post Office, and pass Church Close on your left. After Church Close the road bends to the right, leave the road and head slight left along Well Lane (cul-de-sac). Follow the fingerpost left "To The Church" then shortly afterwards turn right along Well Lane - a gravel track marked with a "Public Footpath" sign
Redmire to Wensley
Follow Well Lane as it crosses a stream then turns firstly right then left - at the next right hand bend leave the lane along the footpath that heads South-East through a large field - keep left and head for the broken gate beside a tree in the far corner.
The footpath is easy to follow as it continues more or less in a straight line through five fields before entering West Wood. The path turns slightly left as it approaches the wood, cross a track keeping straight ahead and join a wide clear track heading South-East through the wood.
Keep along the track ignoring any other paths heading off left and right, the track eventually leaves the wood and continues East, becoming a maintained driveway passing Bolton Hall
Keep along this driveway all the way to the road at Wensley where you can see the church from the beginning of your walk to your right - head right downhill along the main A684 to return to the start.