Sunday, January 4th, 2015 – A Circuit around Conistone, Yorkshire

May I take this opportunity to wish all my readers a happy and prosperous New Year. Thank you for your input and comments over the past twelve months, and thank you to those who have also re-visited to read subsequent posts that I have added.  

In the 12 months of starting this blog, I have had just over 2700 page views, so thank you all for visiting.

To kick off the New Year, we went over to Conistone which is a small hamlet located next to the River Wharfe, in Wharfedale, Yorkshire. I am not unfamiliar with the place, having walked through it on two separate occasions whilst doing the Dalesway, but I have never walked around it, or more accurately, above it. I also note that it is exactly 1 year to the day that I started this blog by describing a circular route around Malham Tarn –  Malham Tarn Circuit – both done on the 4th of January.

Distance – 7 miles
Ascent – 1,323 ft

Elevation profile
OS Map of the Route
3D Map of Route

We parked the car at Conistone bridge which spans the River Wharfe, on the minor road that leads into Conistone. Conistone is a small collection of houses and farms with an attractive, small church that is hidden off the main road that runs up through Upper Wharfedale. Conistone is mentioned in the Domesday book and means ‘the King’s farmstead‘.

As we locked the car and orientated ourselves among our surroundings, we quickly strolled into the centre of Conistone. There really isn’t a great deal to be seen with the exception of an old signpost located on a grass island surrounded by minor macadam surfaced roads. A quick glance at the map and we were off on a public footpath headed east towards a steep sided valley known as The Dib. Conistone Dib is a small dry gorge that leads upwards to a steep sided valley and eventually onto a limestone pavement area above Hill Castles Scar. I was quite surprised by The Dib, it was a limestone gorge in miniature.

The start of Conistone Dib

Progress was quite easy up between the limestone walls and as we progressed the landscape opened up to a steep sided valley with a prominent rocky escarpment to the right hand side known as Bull Scar.

Conistone Dib
Bull Scar on the way along Conistone Dib

We made rapid progress on the wide, easy path below Bull Scar until we came to a sharp climb upwards at the head of this dry valley. We had an easy scramble over the limestone outcrop until we met the Dalesway footpath which ran above us.

The head of Conistone Dib
We made our way onto the Dalesway footpath and walked slightly uphill onto the prominent bridlepath of Scot Gate Lane. At this point there was an area of limestone pavement which runs above Hill Castles Scar which surrounds the distinctive, and well known knoll of Conistone Pie. Yes, an odd name, and I couldn’t see any resemblance to pies as I know them, but perhaps I was looking at it from the wrong angle. In all honesty I came away from it a bit nonplussed. At this point we had to pause for breath again, and took the time to admire the view that opened up behind us before continuing the walk upwards along the bridlepath.
Scot Gate Lane passing through the limestone pavement
We continued up the bridlepath until we got to Bycliffe Road. This is shown on the OS map as a bridlepath, but actually looks like a ‘real’ farmers lane and is quite substantial too and made for rapid progress. In fact it looked a bit out of place on this bleak moor. I suspect it is a private road used to get people onto the moors for grouse shooting from studying the maps.
The start of Bycliffe Road
We progressed part way up Bycliffe Road and then took a left turn onto a footpath running diagonally through a grassy field and up to a coniferous timber plantation. The path alongside the plantation is noted on the map as Conistone Turf Road. Turf or turbary roads are common in the Dales and indicate an old route from the village to the moor where peat could be gathered for fuel.  As we continued upwards, the path lead to a sharp, steep final stretch which had us puffing and panting again. We stopped for breath as we passed through a large drystone wall and lingered a while to watch the sun setting over Kilnsey Moor.
The view up Bycliffe Road
Looking back to Conistone from the summit of the Turf Road
Whilst we paused for breath it seemed a good moment to get some photos as the sun was giving the whole landscape a glorious golden hue. The air was very still and cold, which you could now feel once the physical activity had stopped. The frost was still heavy, and obvious in the sheltered and shady areas, and particularly so down in the valley which we could clearly see now.
Looking south towards Cracoe Fell from the Turf Road
We moved off and continued up towards the trig’ point at Capplestone Gate. This was the final push and after the trig’ point, it was all back downhill to the car. After climbing over the stepped timber stile at Capplestone Gate, we walked through an almost lunar landscape of disused mines and excavation waste heaps.
The trig’ point at Capplestone Gate
The sun setting behind a drystone wall at Capplestone Gate
Kilnsey Moor from Capplestone Gate
The trig’ point at Capplestone Gate
A telephoto shot of the sun setting over Kilnsey Moor
As we progressed along the area of disused mines, the sun had disappeared below Kilnsey Moor, and the moon started to rise over Conistone Moor on the opposite side of the valley from Kilnsey. The sky was clear, and the moon was full and very bright. We started to descend from this high, open landscape and made our way down Highgate Leys Lane and back towards the Dalesway. By this time the sun had set and the moon was illuminating our path and casting shadows in front of us as we walked along and its brightness highlighted our breath in the cold air.
Full moon rising above Conistone Moor
The walk back down to Conistone was largely uneventful, and as the sun had now set there was little point in taking photographs either. We just made our way back to the car. As we walked along the minor road through Conistone I took the opportunity of getting a photo of the St Mary’s church. As it was dark had to set the camera on a Gorillapod and give a lengthy exposure to ensure I got enough light to form a decent image. 
The sky above St Mary’s church, Conistone
As we got back to the car, the sky was very clear and I took the opportunity of limited street light pollution to get a photograph of the night sky above Conistone. 
The night sky above Conistone
We decided to go and rebalance our fluids at the Tennant’s Arms at Kilnsey. It was a one minute drive away, the nearest pub and quite a substantial place so should be open for refreshment. Some scenes from the film Calendar Girls were filmed there, if I remember correctly.
The Tennant’s Arm’s, Kilnsey from Conistone Bridge
We got to the Tennant’s Arms and decided to have a look at the menu with a view to having our tea there. The pub itself wasn’t busy at all, and we ordered a couple of drinks whilst perusing the fayre available. Disappointingly, there was nothing jumping out at us from the menu so we finished our drinks and decided to drive up to Kettlewell to try the three pubs there instead.
Do I really need to put a caption on this one?
We made our way into Kettlewell and parked near to the village shop on Far Lane. We walked over the bridge in the direction of the church, around the corner and into The Kings Head. Unfortunately, we arrived at 6:55pm and they stopped serving food at 7pm, so we were unlucky with our quest for our evening meal at this hostelry. It is a few years since I was last in this place and it has changed from all recognition. It used to be a typically ‘pubby’ interior, brass bar rails and patterned carpet, horse brasses, etc but now it was all Farrow & Ball colours and chalkboards. A bit cold looking in my view, but the food smelled good. We reluctantly made an about turn and went down to the Racehorses Hotel to see if we could eat there. We looked at the menu outside the front door and it seemed to offer a decent choice, so in we went. I ordered a pint of Timothy Taylors “Landlord” and grabbed a couple of menu’s. We sat next to the coal fire in the front room which was really giving some heat out and after meticulous study of the menu, we both decided to go for the steak pudding as a main and placed our orders. When it arrived it was enormous, about the size of half a melon, and was held in a large bowl surrounded by a ‘moat’ of gravy. The waitress then brought two additional separate bowls for each of us, one which contained chips, and the other contained vegetables. Mrs MuddyBoots also requested additional gravy, which was unnecessary in my view, but it duly arrived in a large gravy boat. The steak pudding was absolute heaven, and made me regret ordering a starter. Now, I am a big bloke, and I do have a big appetite, but I did struggle with this size of portion – it was big and full of large chunks of steaky deliciousness. We had to reluctantly decline the dessert menu. After we cleared our plates and drained our glasses, we settled the bill and waddled outside to make our way home.
It was a great day out, and a good start to the year, although I somehow don’t think we could get better steak pudding. So, in closing, I found Conistone Pie disappointing, but the steak pudding more than made up for it.
The Racehorses Hotel, Kettlewell

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