A Circuit Around Littondale

Today is a Saturday, and it is also walking day; the first day of the weekend and the day for catching up on those jobs that cannot be done during the week. One of those jobs related to my car which had been off the road for some repairs and I had been lucky enough to have the use of my mothers car for the time that mine was unavailable. I had agreed to drop it off for her on Saturday morning so I decided to get it washed and valeted prior to taking it back and then setting off on the walk.

We got to the car wash, and they said it would take about an hour as there were others in the queue before me. This gave us time to kill. Fortunately there was a Cafe next door to the car wash and they were open for breakfast. Mrs Muddy Boots persuaded me, against my better judgement to call in and grab some breakfast. I knew temptation would get the better of me, and it did, and a “Full Monty” was duly ordered. We sat down with our cups of tea and awaited delivery of our food. After a short time the waitress appeared with two rounds of toast each and then a large plate each of bacon, eggs, beans, mushrooms, black pudding, sausages, tomatoes, hash brown and fried bread. All this for £4.95 including the tea and toast. I did think this would be sufficient to keep me going for the next few days, if not for the duration of our walk today.

The Full Monty

After finishing off the huge breakfast, we collected my mothers car from the car wash and valeting shop and drove it back to her house. We then proceeded to drive to the Yorkshire Dales along the A59 towards Skipton and then up wonderful Wharfedale and into Littondale.

On arriving in Arncliffe the only practical place to park was outside the Falcon Inn. There are no parking restrictions as such, but I am wary of parking outside the houses of others as they may require the place to bring shopping in from their cars and I don’t like being inconsiderate. Additionally, I live in a small village which has a very popular village pub, and many people go for a ‘run out’ to this country pub and then park directly outside my house which is very frustrating when trying to unload my car, and even more frustrating as the pub has a large car park which these inconsiderate people seem unable to use. As is usual on walking trips, Mrs Muddy Boots has to nip to the loo at regular intervals, so we went into the Falcon so she could avail herself of the facilities and thus I started this walk with a couple of pints of Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker inside me.

Distance – 6 miles
Ascent – 937 feet

OS 3D MapRoute Profile

We exited The Falcon through the front door and turned left to walk down the side of the pub. This took us along a walled track past a small, attractive telephone exchange and along onto what possibly was an old drovers road that lead up the fellside.

Old Drovers Road Leading from Arncliffe

As we started gaining height we came across a signpost on our right indicating the path to Malham which was six and a half miles away, via the Monks Road (as the OS Map has it). Fountains Abbey used to own much of the land around here, so it is likely that the name of this path came about from its use by the Abbey.

Signpost outside Arncliffe

We made our way up the Monk’s Path which rose high above Cowside Beck and above Yew Cogar Scar. The sun was trying to break through the clouds and it was quite warm. As the path began to level out we sat down on the soft, springy grass whilst admiring the vista up Littondale. The sun had broken through the cloud and was now beating down on our faces. We lay back on the soft grass looking upwards watching the clouds changing shape and passing by against their blue background. Well, with the huge breakfast, and a couple of Timothy Taylor’s inside we both nodded off for an hour. I awoke to the sound of skylarks and sheep, whilst Mrs Muddy Boots slowly stirred, stretched languidly and mumbled about staying there for another couple of hours.

After a short time we reluctantly arose, pulled our rucksacks on and continued gently ambling our way along the Monks Path high above the tumbling Cowside Beck with the glorious expanse of Littondale stretching out behind us, and apart from us there was nobody else around.

Looking back to Littondale from the Monk’s Path
Arncliffe from the Monk’s Path
The View up Littondale
Looking toward Potts Moor and Out Moor above Litton

We continued walking steadily uphill and arrived at a small dry valley named as Clowder on the map. We turned off the Monks Path and proceeded to walk upwards across the tussocky moorland between small limestone outcrops of this dry valley until we reached the highest point of the walk. We were quite fortunate as there were a number of intersecting drystone walls up here with gates at the points they intersected and some small sheepfolds which allowed us to pass through into different pastures.

As we started the descent to High Cote Moor, Mrs Muddy Boots started walking back uphill towards  a section of galvanised wire sheep fencing blocking a tumbled down part of a wall. At this point there was a sheep which looked like it was scratching its back against one of the timber fence posts. As She got closer she shouted me to come back up as the sheep which she had seen had both its horns tangled in the wire fencing and could not free itself. I walked up to the fence and the sheep was wanting to run away from me. I got a strong hold of it by the horns and managed to free one side of its head, and then the other. Now I know sheep are a bit thick, and their sole ambition in life is to die, but I do feel this one sensed I was trying to help it and it stopped struggling after a short while until its head was free again, and at this point it trotted off and at a distance of about ten yards, stopped, turned around and made several short bleats which I understood to be it saying “Thank You” – you can’t beat a nice bit of anthropomorphism!

After my good deed of the day we continued walking down the hillside to the obvious bridle path at High Cote Moor. We picked up the path and made our way along it north eastwards gradually descending to Arncliffe Cote.

Looking down to High Cote Moor
Cote Gill dropping over a limestone outcrop
Looking up Littondale from above Arncliffe Cote

We made steady progress down from High Cote Moor as the bridlepath was both well made and clear. We passed through the small, ancient farmstead of Arncliffe Cote and eventually arrived on the main tarmac road up the valley. We turned right and made our way along the road to Outgang Lane which lead us to the River Skirfare, which sounds like be a Norse name if ever I heard one, although I am no expert on these matters. Our arrival at the river was greeted by a substantial steel footbridge leading across to Hawkswick, although we didn’t cross the bridge, but turned left to the path which runs alongside the river.

Footbridge to Hawkswick

As we made our along the valley floor through lush, green pasture land back to Arncliffe there were parts of the path that had been washed away by the floods earlier in the year and deep scars in the earth on the river banks were indicative of the force of the water that had come down this valley. As the ground was flat we managed to get a good pace going and we soon arrived back in Arncliffe via the Old Vicarage, which is a grand looking building for such a small place, and we passed between it and the church of St Oswald.

St Oswald’s Church, Arncliffe
The village stocks at Arncliffe, on the approach to the Lychgate of St Oswalds (should be brought back into use in my opinion)

We walked through the little side streets of the village and came out on the Green onto which most of the cottages face. We walked up the green and back to The Falcon Inn. As is usual, we had to rebalance our fluids, and on entering the pub a couple of pints of the landlords finest brew were ordered. The Falcon is unique in that it has no cellar and very little space behind the bar, and the casks are tapped and a large jug is filled from which the Landlord then fills the pint glasses with a practised ease.

The Village Green at Arncliffe
The Falcon Landlord handling big jugs with ease

As we sipped our beers we contemplated ordering our evening meal here, however we decided that as this was the second time we had been in here in one day we should try further up the valley at Litton and see what the Queens Arms was like. After we finished our drinks we drove up the valley a couple of miles until we got to Litton. There were a large number of cars parked outside the pub, so we weren’t hopeful of getting a table, however when we got through the door and ordered a drink the bar staff found us a table for two in the dining room.

Testing a pint of Greene King in the Queens Arms
Wall map in the dining room of the Queens Arms

The dining room was very well presented with attractive table settings. We ordered Steak Pie and Chips and a King Prawn Curry, both of which were really delicious and were served in ample proportions too. We had to decline the pudding. We slowly finished our drinks and reluctantly paid our bill and left the establishment. We got into the car and began the long drive home whilst discussing what a great day we had both had.

Littondale, we will be back!


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