top of page

Yorkshire Dales: exploring Swaledale, Wharfedale, Littondale and Wensleydale in 2021

One of the joys of living in York is being so close to some of my favourite places, the Yorkshire Dales being one of them. I thought I’d share photos of my walking and cycling trips over there this year.

I’ve done day trips to Swaledale, Grassington, Buckden, Arncliffe and Semerwater.

In September I made the most of the Indian summer to go camping near Hawes, in Wensleydale. It’s an area I don’t know that well, apart from visits to The Wensleydale Creamery.

Grassington river walk

A 14 mile walk along the River Wharfe and fields. Grassington, Burnsall, Linton.

April 2021

This was my first further afield walking trip after winter lockdown. I was so in need of fresh inspiration, hills and wide open spaces. Driving through Nidderdale, the first view across the Yorkshire Dales had the same effect as the first glimpse of seeing the sea did as a child. I’m from the Midlands and a holiday to the coast was always a treat. I realise I’m very lucky living where I do but I’d felt very penned in. After all, my work relies on the inspiration of the Yorkshire countryside and beyond.

The walk from Grassington to Burnsall is one I’ve done a few times. On leaving the Yorkshire Dales National Park car park, the footpath leads towards Linton Falls and then along the river Wharfe. Just the sound of the water along the river chilled me out and restored that sense of calm. Sand martins swooped across the river, in and out of the sand banks.

At Hebden suspension bridge the footpath crossed the river. On reaching Burnsall, I had lunch by the river before walking back towards Linton through the fields. It was a joy to hear the unmissable call of curlews. The warmth of the sun was heavenly, so back in Grassington I could resist walking along the river in the opposite direction, past the limestone pavement, for a paddle in the river.


A 38 mile cycle ride through Reeth, Muker and Keld to Tan Hill.

April 21

I just adore Swaledale, both for cycling and walking. As some restrictions were still in place, it meant hotels and B&Bs were still closed. The area was blissfully quiet.

Towards the end of April we had a glimpse of an early spring. Starting at the Dales Bike Centre in Fremington, I cycled through Reeth, along the road to Muker and Keld. Some of my favorite views are from the road from Thwaite and Angram. The perfect spot for lunch to the sound of curlews. The view that inspired one of my latest linocut prints, Swaledale II.

At Keld I carried on toward Wain Wath Force on the River Swale before double backing to take the road up to Tan Hill. My plan had been to return via langthwaite but I didn’t want the day to end. As the roads were so quiet I decided to return by the same route, finishing my ride at the Dales Bike Centre cafe for coffee and cake.

I spent four days camping in Swaledale in 2018. See photo from my trip in my Inspiration in Swaledale, Yorkshire Dales blog.

See each step-by-step how I made this print in my Making Swaledale II - 5 colour multi-block linocut print blog.

Buckden, Wharfedale

A 7 mile walk through Yockenthwaite and Hubberholme an along the River Wharfe.

May 21

I’d planned to do a circular walk up Buckden Pike but stupidly I picked up the wrong map by mistake. Luckily I did have the trusty green Yorkshire Dales Pathfinder Guide book with me, which had an alternative walk from Buckden in it.

From Buckden the walk follows Buckden Rake towards Cray. At Yockenthwaite the walk follows the Dales Way, returning along the River Wharfe via Hubberholme. You might recognise the farm at Yockenthwaite from All Creatures Great and Small.

Arncliffe to Malham Tarn

A 12.5 mile walk.

August 21

I love Littondale and have been wanting to walk from Arncliffe to Malham Tarn for a while. It’s one of my favourite routes for cycling, so I wanted to see the view from another perspective.

From Arncliffe the footpath climbs up above Cowside Beck with stunning views across the Littondale valley. On reaching Malham Tarn weI returned via Low Cote Moor to join the River Wharfe near Hawkswick Cote Farm. The walk wouldn't be complete without a drink outside the Falcon Inn at Arncliffe.

Hawes, Wensleydale

September 21

Making the most of the India summer I append 2 night camping at Old Hall Cottages Campsite in Hardraw near Hawes.

Day 1 - Cycling 50 miles through Wensleydale, Wharfedale and Coverdale

Leaving York early, I had my tent pitched by 9.30am so that I had a full day ahead of me.

A friend gave me Jack Thurston’s Lost Lane’s book. In it is a route called ‘A Grand Day Out’, a challenging 50 miles, with not one but two of the Yorkshire Dales steepest climbs, Fleet Moss and Park Rash. I’d cycled up one but not the other. What that meant was my anxiety levels had been through the roof and I’d had a sleepless night worrying that I couldn’t do it! Not helpful when I needed every bit of energy I had.

From Hardraw I cycled to Hawes and past Gayle Mill. Park rash wasn’t nearly as hard as I’d anticipated. All my worries vanished with the views that opened out in front of me and the complet sense of calm up there.

The road then drops down into Wharfedale and follows the river to Kettlewell. I love that stretch of road. The river near Yockenthwaite was the perfect spot for an early lunch.

On reaching Kettlewell I stopped for a coffee to get me up Park Rash. For starters it was scorching hot and I’m sure my head looked like a tomato. I had to walk up the short sharp switch back at the bottom.

At the top the road underlates through Coverdale. From Wensley I cycled up to Castle Bolton and through Askrigg on my way back to my tent. After campsite teaI watched the sunset across the valley and the sky fill with stars.

Day 2 - 11 mile walk from Hardraw to Hawes, Gayle and onto Burtersett

On Wednesday I set off early to explore Wensleydale by foot.

Leaving the campsite I crossed fields to Hawes. At the back of St Mary’s Church the footpath crossed fields criss crossed with dry stone walls and dotted with barns. I love the view across the valley.

At Burtersett I popped into the art gallery and asked about other interesting routes. They suggested continuing on to the stepping stones across the River Ure near Catriggs Farm. From there I walked up to Cote Pasture and along to Sedbusk and Simonstone.

I’m not very good at sitting still. More so, if I’m camping on my own. Once it cooled off, I went for a 20 mile ride through Appersett and towards the Ribblehead Viaduct. Sadly I ran out of steam, and light, to get as far as the viaduct itself.

Day 3 - A short walk near Hardraw and an 11 miles walk from Bolton Abbey to Aysgarth Falls

I expected to be packing up my tent in heavy rain. It had rained during the night but there was only light drizzle before it became clearer. I think I got a glimpse of a red squirrel in the copse behind my tent but annoyingly didn’t have my glasses on!

The morning light was stunning so I had a quick walk across the fields near Hardraw, before heading to Castle Bolton to meet a friend to walk to Aysgarth Falls.

We walked from Castle Bolton, through West Bolton to Carperby and on to Aysgarth Falls. I’d been recommended this walk and the Mill Race Teashop from a fellow walker I’d met the previous day. Next to the tea room we discovered the newly opened Yore Mill Craft Shop and Gallery.

We extended our route back by walking along the river from behind St Andrew's Church. This tok usto the stepping stones at the end of Stony Stopp Lane. As the water levels were very low, we were able to cross and carry on up to Redmire and back to Castle Bolton.

Amazingly we dodged the storms that were due that day. Until the drive home that is! It was all a bit hairy on the motorway!


A 9 mile walk from Bainbridge to Semerwater.

October 21

I didn't used to like solo walking but one of the positives has to be the people I meet along the way. I tend to speak to anyone I see. And the fact that I don’t feel guilty about stopping to take photos all the time too!

I’d been recommended the news around Semerwater, so I planned a walk from Bainbridge. A short walk from the village brings you to the lake. Semerater is The Yorkshire Dales 2nd largest natural lake. I loved the view across to Addlebrough, so say in the middle of a field I stopped for lunch. From there the footpath rose up onto the Moorland before returning by the old Roman road Cam High Road.

It had rained a lot that week, so I stopped off at Aysgarth Falls on the way home. The Fall’s were much fuller than my walk there in September and full flow. I was delighted to spot a curlew on my drive home too.

As well as the Yorkshire Dales I’ve done 3 camping trips to the Lake District. The first camping was in Langdale in May, then Glenridding in June and near Derwentwater and Keswick in July. I’ve taken hundreds of photos for inspiration that I’m sorting through and will make into blogs. I have so many fabulous tales to share. I’ve already started creating a new series of Lake District linocut prints. The first of which will be exhibited at The Great Print Exhibition at the Rheged Centre near Penrith. I’ll be adding those onto my website in the next month.

I’ve started jotting down ideas of places I’d like to go to for inspiration in 2022. Now if only I was braver about driving a camper van. I’d love to hire one to travel around Scotland.

If you have any ideas of places to see and places to stay do get in touch.



About the artist

Michelle Hughes is a North Yorkshire landscape artist. Much of her work depicts the Yorkshire landscape and Yorkshire coast, including the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors.

Michelle loves exploring the British countryside by bike or on foot, camera in hand, capturing ideas for her next prints. Back in her garden studio, Michelle creates simple but stylised silhouettes based on her photographs, and hand carves these shapes into lino. She hand prints with an etching press, using oil-based inks to create tonal blocks of colour. Michelle’s original linocut prints are limited editions.

345 views0 comments