Yorkshire Dales walk - Upper Wensleydale, High Clint and Shaw Gill

Shaw Gill waterfall 

Shaw Gill waterfall - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

Head up to High Clint for outstanding views and reward yourself with a waterfall dip

Hardraw is a busy spot. We had to watch closely on our visit as we crossed the road outside the Green Dragon for fear of being run down by cyclists and motorbikers. Walkers were everywhere too while groups mingled for a visit to the waterfall.

A property in Sedbusk 

Sedbusk: It’s one of those perfectly peaceful places straight from a sepia postcard where time seems to stand still - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

You can escape the crowds quite easily, though, as we found out on this short but relatively arduous walk onto the fells with three discoveries. The first of them came after a pleasant meadow and riverside amble: the hamlet of Sedbusk. It’s one of those perfectly peaceful places straight from a sepia postcard where time seems to stand still. We had lunch sitting on a bench on the green in front of a renovated cottage. A man measured wood for sawing while his partner painted a gate and their dog lazed between them, his head propped up on the grass.

The second discovery was High Clint. You can hardly miss it – the cliff towers above – but the novelty is dispensing with the bridleway and walking along the edge of it. (You’re within open access land up here so it’s allowed.) The view over Hawes, up Widdale and beyond to the Three Peaks is exceptional. The River Ure was a silver ribbon and buttercups glinted gold.

Shaw Gill waterfall 

Shaw Gill waterfall - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

The final surprise was Shaw Gill, a little gorge just outside Hardraw pervaded by the scent of wild garlic and with three beautiful waterfalls hidden in the trees. The first of them is ideal for a dip but I saved myself for the granddaddy of them all: Hardraw Force, the highest single drop waterfall in England, accessible for a charge at the back of the pub. Lying on my back my view of the sky was cupped by the waterfall’s horseshoe and occasionally obscured by fine spray from the spout and my kicking. A refreshing end to a grand day out. 

Optional extra:
For a longer outing visit or swim at Cotter Force, a waterfall to the west of Hardraw. Parking is easy in a large layby on the A684 at Holme Heads Bridge (SE850915) then it’s a seven minutes each way signed walk to the falls.

Green Dragon, Hardraw

Green Dragon, Hardraw - Credit: Paul Kirkwood


1.  Opposite Green Dragon follow footpath to Hawes. Go through kissing gate then bear left on to flagged path. After fifth gate bear right heading for gate with red lid. Pass through gate then bear left keeping wall on left. Pass through fieldgate to reach road. Turn right and almost immediately left along footpath to Sedbusk, passing over packhorse bridge and step stile. Pass through another stile to reach and cross road. Go through step stile then bear right. Pass through two step stiles to road.

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2. Turn left into Sedbusk. Follow road to right of Chapel Cottage past green and continue along lane as it bears right to become a bridleway (a concrete then stony track) to Staggs Fell and North Rakes Hill. Just before metal gate turn sharp left through fieldgate and up grassy path initially along a cutting. As it bears sharp right leave cutting and continue on flattened grass with wall on left. Bridleway runs to left of walled copse and through two gates then bears right. At post with blue waymarker bear left and continue up.

3. Just as another post comes into view 120 yards away turn left off bridleway heading for a beanbag sized boulder. Shortly afterwards reach faint cart track. Follow it left along High Clint. From here navigate by sight. Head first for the two large cairns and then to right of sheepfold below. Soon afterwards a stony track comes into view.

4. At track turn left and down to road. Turn left, descend sharply then turn sharp right on to footpath to High Shaw. Walk to right of barn and through fieldgate then turn left, keeping wall on left. In corner of field go through gap stile and down steps with stream on right. Go through another stile, left over ladder stile and through wall stile and gap in wall. Pass caravan site. Go through handgate and follow path as it passes to right of Fossdale House and down steps to lane.

The Final descent to Hardraw

The Final descent to Hardraw - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

5. Turn right and then sharp left at fingerpost through gate to Shaw Gill. Cross footbridge and turn right to visit waterfall. Retrace steps and continue along western bank of stream passing two more waterfalls. Leave gill through metal gate and turn left to cross back over stream and bear right. At road turn right and, after 150 yards, turn right to Hardraw through bridlegate and gate. Continue down farm track to right of house and through gate stile. Complete descent to Hardraw.

Maps: OS Explorer OL30, Yorkshire Dales Northern & Central Areas; OS Landranger 98 Wensleydale & Upper Wharfedale.

Compass points

Start/finish: SE 868912, DL8 3LZ.
Distance: 8.9km (5½ miles).
Accessibility: The open access land is slightly uneven (watch out for rabbit holes!) but makes for pretty straight forward walking particularly when dry.
Time: 4 hours. 
Parking: On street in Hardraw.
Refreshments: Green Dragon, Hawes (greendragonhardraw.com, 01969 667392). Note: meals not served at time of writing. Cream teas and lunches at Stone House Hotel, Hardraw (stonehousehotel.co.uk, 01969 667571).
Map link: https://osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/route/8874591/Hardraw