North Yorkshire walk - Skipton and River Aire circular

Skipton canalside  

Skipton canalside - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

Canals, cotton mills and climbs on this walk which starts in the heart of Skipton.

Skipton is the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales but head in the opposite direction and you enter a scenic region on the banks of the Aire every bit as appealing as the famous National Park to north with a fraction of the visitors.  The route has bags of variety – from the canal towpaths in Skipton to the high moorland near Carleton in Craven which boast panoramic views back over the town and towards the riverbank of the Aire which provides your gentle return. The route starts from the  station making it ideal for those using public transport. 

Points of interest:

The Leeds & Liverpool Canal. Measuring 123 miles this canal is the longest man-made waterway in Britain. It was the main trade and communication link with the outside world for Yorkshire, Lancashire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside, connecting the Irish and North Seas with the national inland waterway network.

The mill at Carleton in Craven

The mill at Carleton in Craven - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

Skipton map with numbers v2

Skipton map with numbers v2 - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

Carlton in Craven. The village is dominated by an old cotton mill which dates back to 1861. The old workers’ cottages line the Beckside crescent. The mill housed a mail-order business throughout the 1930s and was used by Rover to produce aircraft parts in the Second World War. Thereafter the mill was a textile factory again, later producing carpets. It closed in 1999 and has since been converted into apartments.

Old lead mine chimney, Cononley

Old lead mine chimney, Cononley - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

Cononley lead mine. Owned by the Duke of Devonshire, the mine was established around 1810 but most of the lead had been exhausted by the 1860s. During operation the mine boosted the population of Cononley to more than 1,500. From the walk route you get a fine view of the mine chimney on top of The Gib hill.


1. Leave station and cross A6069 then turn left up Carlton New Rd and follow it as it bears left  over road and railway. Turn right down Engine Shed Lane. At end bear left and through underpass. Cross two stiles and footbridge. Cross another stile, go through gate and over stile and keep ahead on lane into Carleton. At junction turn right onto Beckside. Follow road as it bears left. At a t-junction turn left onto West Rd and Skipton Old Rd to leave village.

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2. Pass Carla Beck Farm and footpath fingerpost. Yards after that turn right up stony track. At the back of barn look across the track for stone steps. Go up steps and cross field. Cross stile then head to right of the second electricity pole from left. Cross stile 20 yards from wood to right. Head across next field heading to left of electricity pole. Cross stile then stile over fence. Turn right onto drive. Just before gates to Carleton Biggin Farm turn right down footpath which doglegs to left and leads over stile and through double gate and another gate. Ascend Burnt Hill. Cross stile and head to and through conifers.

3. Turn left and pass through second gate to descend to farmhouse. Cross stile and pass through gap in collapsed wall. Pass through gate and to right of farmhouse and, as the track bears left, look for post with yellow top. Bear right at that point keeping parallel with track. As you approach next house bear left and up slightly in corner of field to join track.

4. At the road turn left then soon right down footpath. Head for an ungated gap in wall and descend towards thicket enclosed by curved wall. On left side of wall look for stile leading to wooded hollow. Bearing slightly left emerge from hollow and turn right onto track. On descent fork left down footpath. Cross stile to reach Cononley.

5. At road turn right then second left down Main St. Turn left down New Inn Fold. At T-junction turn left and soon right down Meadowcroft. Take footpath to left of house 28. Pass through gate and proceed down field, thorough gate then turn left and through gap in wall. Cross stile to reach track. Turn right, cross railway and continue along track as it bears left and becomes river path.

6. Follow path through gates and under rail bridge. Pass culvert and head to right of electricity lines across fields heading towards the more distant of two road bridges.

7. In corner of field cross stile and, at road, turn right and over bridge and under A629. Turn right down Burnside Crescent then left down Burnside Avenue. Cross footbridge over railway. At the Champions Church turn right and over rail bridge then turn right onto A6131. After 100 yards turn left across hospital car park and join canal towpath via path. Stay on towpath passing under road bridge. At second swing bridge turn left onto road and cross A6069 back to station.

Eat here

New Inn, Cononley - a cosy stop off 

New Inn, Cononley - a cosy stop off - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

New Inn, Cononley. 
A homely, small, traditional pub operated by Timothy Taylors. Cononley comes just over half way around the route making it the perfect place to pause. It’s very cosy in winter with low ceilings, exposed beams and a roaring fire.

Bean Loved coffee shop 

Bean Loved coffee shop - Credit: Paul Kirkwood

Bean Loved, Otley St, Skipton.
Very highly rated, this is the town’s first independent coffee shop. You can order takeaways online in advance. Particularly good vegetarian options and the eggs benedict comes recommended too.  Open Thursdays to Sundays, 10am to 2 or 3pm.

Compass points
Start/finish: Skipton station. SD984514. BD23 1RT.
Time/distance: 5 hours; 15km.
Accessibility: Easy, flat walking but navigation needs attention.
Map: OS Explorer South Pennines OL21.
Parking: Car parks in Skipton.