Yorkshire walk - Wharfedale and Conistone
- Credit: Alamy Stock Photo
Explore quirky and dramatic features of the Conistone Fells in Wharfedale.
I have Baroness Sayeeda Warsi to thank for this walk. During lockdown and dreaming of venturing more than a few miles from my front door I watched the Dewsbury-born peer and former co-chair of the Conservative party experience the route in the Winter Walks series on BBC4. What particularly caught my eye was a brief clip of Conistone Pie, a circular rocky outcrop, and then her descent into Gurling Trough, part of Conistone Dib. I thought I knew every corner of the Yorkshire Dales but clearly I did not. A scan of the map revealed another feature with a quirky name that I wasn’t familiar with, Davy Dimple, a cairn overlooking Conistone village. I strung the features together into a route and waited patiently for the opportunity to follow in the Baroness’ footsteps.
The pie did not disappoint. Diminutive and more of a wart than a bake, perhaps, but well worth a scramble for an ‘I’m the king of the castle’ frisson. It set the tone for what was one of the best walks I’ve done in the Dales in recent years partly because of the quality of the footpaths. Not only do they afford superb views but they’re so grassy, springy, smooth and easy to walk along. At times I felt like I was strolling along a golf fairway with, at the outset, the River Wharfe way down below, overlooked Knipe Scar nosing in from the north.
Turning my back on the view I ascended to the highest point of Conistone Moor at 512 metres. The trig point marking the altitude wasn’t at the most notable of peaks but provided a welcome staging post as well as a good preview of the rest of the journey and gentle descent down Conistone Turf Road, another fine thoroughfare.
I’d saved the best until last. At the end of the road I explored a fine limestone pavement with, incongruously, trees growing out of it and a lime kiln complete with bench seat for walkers needing shelter. I descended into Conistone Dib via a short but big drop, pressing my hands to the rocks either side for support. The cleft was a sign in miniature of things to come as I proceeded down the Dib, the ravine getting ever narrower until, within Gurling Trough, it was just a few yards wide. The pavement and ravine reminded me of Malham but Conistone has none of the crowds.
Before I could finish there was still the small matter of Davy Dimple. I’d seen it from the village at the start of the walk and was determined to conquer it although I could spot no clear route up. A few puffs and staggers up a very steep bank took me to the cairn. It was well worth the effort, the view over Conistone providing the perfect final frame to my TV-inspired adventure.
1. From bridge walk into village then L in centre. Fork right on walled and stony bridleway signed to Sandy Gate. Go through metal side gate, pass aerial, go through new wooden gate then bear left to pick up grassy track and walk with scar to right. Go over step stile, ascend Conistone Pie then continue through gate and over gated step stile. Go through gap in collapsed wall beside stile then through step stile.
2. At conifers turn right up stony track signed public footpath to Moor Gate. Go through gate and after 30 yards bear left up sunken then stony track with wall on left. Just before steep bank ahead turn right to and through step stile and keep ahead. Go through gate beside ladder stile, turn right and stick beside wall as it bears right. Pass five yellow painted posts then through bridle gate in wall on right.
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3. Pass trig point on right. Descend via 'turf road' footpath past one small plantation. Follow left edge of second plantation, pass through field gate and continue on path as it bears sharp left. At end go through gate then right down Bycliffe Lane (track) signed ‘BW Conistone’.
4. After 200m turn left off track following fingerpost signed for Dales Way. Pass through two gates in quick succession. After the second drop down to right, pass through gate and then descend very steep crevasse to another gate. Pass through third gate then kissing gate. Follow path as ravine narrows and out into Conistone.
To reach Davy Dimple: After kissing gate (see above) turn immediately left and very steeply up along winding sheep trod. At top follow track along edge to cairn. There’s no path directly down. You’re best bet is to descend on your bottom aiming for the village and just to the left of a patch of scree.
Maps: OS Explorer OL2, Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western; OS Landranger 98 Wensleydale & Upper Wharfedale.
Start/finish: SD 979675.
Distance: 11kms (6¾ miles).
Accessibility: Easy, clear walking with fairly gradual ascents but sharp drop into Conistone Dib. Can avoid by returning to village via bridleway used at the start.
Time: 4 hours.
Parking: On bridge approaching Conistone. No parking in village.
Refreshments: None en route. Try Tennants Arms in Kilnsey.
Note: All of the route lies within open access land which means there’s no need to stick to public rights of way.
Link for map: https://my.viewranger.com/route/details/Mzg2NDI2Mg==