The Herriot Way is named of course after James Herriot who moved to the area in the late 1930s to start a veterinary practice. The rest as they say is history. His books became particularly popular in the 1970s, when Herriot discovered that there was no end to the average animal lover’s desire for his incidental and sentimental anecdotes. By the late 70’s - mid 80’s this interest spawned a film and a very successful TV series based on his life. This walk visits a lot of the places where he lived and worked.
This circular walking tour was originally designed in 4 stages to make use of the Youth Hostel accommodation at Aysgarth, Grinton, Keld and Hawes. However there is plenty of conventional accommodation both in these 4 villages and in the intervening settlements along and close to the way. The conventional way to walk the Herriot Way is anti clockwise, starting and finishing at Aysgarth Falls. However there is no golden rule which states that the tour has to be walked in this direction, There are some advantages in doing the walk in a clockwise direction, not least that you can make use of the Sherpa Van service to move your baggage on each day. This service is not available for those doing the tour anti clockwise.
Planning your day stages
The Herriot Way falls conveniently into 4 stages averaging 13 miles each, stopping overnight at:
(2) Hawes or one of the hamlets in its vicinity
(3) Keld or Thwaite or Muker,
(4) Grinton or Reeth and
(5) Aysgarth again or Carperby.
Over this sort of terrain days of this length can be regarded as moderate for a fit walker, but it is quite feasible to add in one or even two extra stages using accommodation at intermediate points, such as Askrigg, Bainbridge, Healaugh or Castle Bolton. Also there is no rule which states that the tour has to start at Aysgarth. Grinton or Hawes would also make good starting points, with public transport connections no worse than those to and from Aysgarth. Keld however is more remote and less accessible.
Stage 1: Aysgarth to Hawes (13 miles).
There is a lot to see on this stage, and if you are starting the tour in Aysgarth and don't want to rush things you could spend a night in Askrigg or Bainbridge. This might make the two first days rather short for most walkers, you could however take time to explore Bainbridge and its surroundings (milepost 6) . You start by following the banks of the River Ure past the Upper Fall and then from Worton Bridge (milepost 4) climb up the north side of the dale to Askrigg (milepost 5). You continue at a high level on the north side of the dale passing several farms and hamlets and surmounting numerous stiles before reaching Hardraw Force waterfall. From there it is only a couple of miles across the valley to the stage end at Hawes.
Stage 2: Hawes (or nearby hamlets) to Keld (or Thwaite or Muker) 13 miles.
The Herriot Way crosses the Pennine Way at Hawes and before rejoining it for the crossing of Great Shunner Fell the trail passes through Appersett. Beyond Appersett the Herriot Way combines with the Pennine Way and follows the long curving ridge which leads to the summit of Great Shunner Fell (716m) the highest point on the tour. You then descend north-eastwards to Thwaite, your first hamlet in Swaledale. Beyond Thwaite you pass close to the pretty village of Muker before parting from the Pennine Way to climbing over Kisdon Hill (499m) and descend to Keld. In conditions of heavy rain or poor visibility it is possible (and may be advisable if your map and compass skills are not good) to take an easier route following a narrow tarmac road over the moorlands from Appersett via Hardraw to Thwaite, and then another relatively quiet tarmac road from Thwaite to Keld. You will need to carry a picnic today; the only places of refreshment en route after leaving Hawes are at Thwaite, where you may be able to get afternoon tea, and at Keld, where there is a small cafe open seasonally. There is a pub and a shop at Muker which is a short distance off the route.
Stage 3: Keld (or Thwaite or Muker) to Grinton (14 miles) (or
With minor differences this stage coincides with Stage G of the well-known Coast-to-Coast walk originated by Alfred Wainwright (also served by the Sherpa Van baggage transfer and accommodation booking service). The original Wainwright route keeps to the high ground, passing the evocative remains of former lead mining operations on the desolate moorlands around the head of the Gunnerside Gill and at Old Gang Mine. Starting from Keld you pass the Kisdon Force waterfall before climbing past the ruined Crackpot Hall (milepost 27.5) onto the high moorland. An interesting spot for lunch on the high level route is by the old mine buildings at Blakethwaite on the Gunnerside Gill (milepost 30). There is no phone on the high level route between Keld and Reeth. There is an alternative low level route which follows the River Swale which is better in bad weather, however many walkers prefer this pretty route anyway, as there are pubs available to stop for lunch.
Stage 4: Grinton to Aysgarth Falls (12 miles).
From Grinton you climb south-westwards out of Swaledale along miners' tracks across Harkerside Moor, passing old lead mine workings before reaching the highest point of the day at Apedale Head (545m). You descend the lonely valley of Apedale and cross East Bolton Moor to Castle Bolton (milepost 49). There is time to visit the great square keep of Bolton Castle before descending into Wensleydale again. The final section of the tour (assuming you started in Aysgarth) brings you to Aysgarth Falls again.
Arriving and departing by train. The walk is circular and so you could start anywhere theoretically on the trail, however there are no direct train services with anywhere on the route. Probably the most convenient way by train to reach the start of the walk and to leave it at the end, is by taking either a train up to Northallerton on the London to Edinburgh line or up to Garsdale on the Leeds - Settle - Carlisle Railway line.
Up to the minute information regarding departure times, journey times, and details of prices, is available from National Rail Enquiries on 08457 484950 (24 hour service, local rate call within UK) or visit www.railtrack.co.uk.
Arriving by Bus: From Northallerton Railway Station you will need to make use of the local bus service into Wensleydale, check to find out whether your bus is leaving from the station, The Buck inn, The Nags Head or Northallerton College. The nearest point to the start of the Herriot Way by bus is Aysgarth and Hawes in Wensleydale There is a Dales and District bus Nos: 156 / 157 Northallerton to Aysgarth daily: at 0940, 1135, 1335, 1425, and 1535 (college days only) during week days. On Saturdays there is a 0935, 1135, 1335, 1535 and 2035. On Sundays from the Northallerton Buck Inn, there is a 1630 service only. The service takes approx 1 hour 20 minutes. (It is also possible from Northallerton to bus to Reeth in Swaledale via Richmond using Dales and District bus 54 / 55 to Richmond and then Arriva North East bus 30 / 36 to Reeth. In both cases there are only a handful of buses a day). For details of local bus services visit www.ukbus.co.ukFrom Garsdale Railway Station (GRS) You can get to Hawes which is 7 miles away. There is an occasional bus service, but basically a taxi is much easier. (£5 approx). The bus is the Harrington 112 (Tel: 01969 650682) and leaves GRS 1025, 1305 and 1740 on Tuesdays and Fridays. On Saturdays the service runs at the same time, but the first departure is at 1035. The journey to Hawes is 20 minutes.Taxis: All must be prebooked. Convenient ones for the Herriot Way are at the Garsdale end, e.g. Harringtons ( of Askrigg) Tel: 01969 650682, Ellis ( of Hawes ) Tel: 01969 667598 and Davenport ( of Garsdale) Tel: 015396 20389.
Most convenient international airport: 1) MANCHESTER 2) LEEDS 3) TEESIDE / NEWCASTLE. If arriving at one of these airports, to reach the starting point of the Herriot Way take the train from Manchester airport or Manchester Piccadilly to Leeds, then change trains and go to Garsdale. This Journey takes about 3 hours from Manchester Airport, or 3hrs 40 mins if travelling via Manchester Piccadilly. From Teesdale/Newcastle get the train to Northallerton on the London – Edinburgh line.
Arriving by car. To reach the start of the walk by car from London it is perhaps easiest to drive up the M6 to the Sedbergh turn off onto the A684 to Hawes or on to Aysgarth in Wensleydale. From the Eastern side from the A1 (M) at Scotch Corner you can join the B6270 Richmond - Reeth -Keld Swaledale road. Or from Ripon on the A61 you can drive via the A6108 and A684 into Wensleydale. Beware that there is limited secure parking, Keld being one of the places