UPPER Swaledale may be difficult to get at but a walk here brings together all that is very best of the Dales; rivers, rolling hills, exquisite little villages and a sense of history. It is not overly long but in this weather a perfect place to dawdle and enjoy.

The walk starts in the village of Thwaite (norse word meaning clearing or meadow), near the Kearton Country Hotel and tea rooms. Thwaite is a lovely little village, beautiful stone cottages clustered together, very welcoming in the summer sun. A series of footpaths leaves the east end of the village, take the one heading diagonally uphill in a north easterly direction., crossing a small river initially. You are now on the steep slopes of Kisdon Hill, unusual for this part of the Dales as it stands in in splendid isolation from the surrounding moors.

To climb involves an initial pull up to the stone barns of Kisdon Farm, perched ½ way up the fell. The stone barns of Kisdon are another of its most attractive features, many still used for storing winter feed. On entering a lane with stone walls on each side leave the Penine Way and take the first left footpath you come to, heading directly uphill. This is the hardest part of the day, nearly 400 feet of climbing. However the path does flatten out after 300 feet as it arrives at the summit area, the deep sides meaning the views across to the surrounding moors being very impressive. Or those (like myself) who like ticking the highest point, Kisdon Hill summit lies nearly ½ a mile to the north. Just follow the stone wall to its summit cairn (ignore a path heading in the correct direction before meeting the wall) and return the same way.

Back on the bridlepath follow the path north as it skirts the west flanks of the hill, dropping steadily to the road just south of Keld. Enter Keld which has a pleasant outside café, and is another attractive village made with Yorkshire stone. It is probably best well known as the crossing place of the Coast to Coast and Pennine Way long distance route, many walkers are very familiar with place. It’s lovely in at all times but particularly welcoming as you stagger in after a hard day on the wild moors that surround the village on all sides.

From Keld the walk totally changes complexion. From now it is all about the upper reaches of the River Swale. Head out of Keld to the south east on a farm track opposite the café. After 200 metres a path cuts left through the trees down to a bridge over the river. Take this raher than continue on the more obvious Pennine Way. Sfter crossing the river join a main track that now skirts the hillside and offering some wonderful views down to the river valley and across to Kisdon Hill. In addition there is a splendid waterfall at Kisdon Force (not much to see at the moment admittedly!) and a derelict building called Crackpot Hall. The hall has a checkered history as a shooting lodge, mining office and the setting for a 1930s play about a wild 4 year old girl called Alice. Explore it.

From the hall the track turns gradually due south and drops down to the valley floor. There is a lovely patch of woodland and a fine mile of riverside walking to enjoy before a bridge to your right crosses the river and returns to the village of Muker through some glorious Hay Meadows. Muker is the 3rd fine village of the walk, take your time to look around. A path to the west end of Muker leads the 1 mile back to Thwaite. A walk that really does have everything.

* Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, an outdoor business in the Yorkshire Dales. He has written his own book, the “Dales 30” which describes the highest mountains in the Dales. He also runs 1 Day Navigation Courses for Beginners and Intermediates. Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill Weekends. To find out more details on any of the above and details of many more walks in the area visit where2walk. co.uk.

Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 7.5 miles (including 1 mile to Kisdon Hill summit)

Height to Climb: 410m (1,350 feet)

Start: SD 892982. There is some layby parking on the main road just outside Thwaite.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard.

Refreshments: The Kearton Country Hotel and Tearooms are very good and there are also cafes in Keld and Muker.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL30) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

  • Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.