▨ Jamie McHale

Settle Dales Loop

Four days walking with Aileen · August 2023

Last weekend I joined Aileen for part of her walk on the Pennine Way. Aileen was walking for ten days, and I joined her for two of those days between Malham and Hawes, with an additional day of walking at each end to reach the route. I used the Carlisle-Settle train line, arriving at Settle on the Friday and leaving from Garsdale on the Monday. You can see my route on Komoot

Settle is a lovely wee town, around an hour and a half away from Carlisle on the train. After arriving, I grabbed a quick lunch from Ye Olde Naked Man Cafe and sat in the sun. The back lanes of the town were lovely, with pretty cottages and flowers.

I climbed out of Settle on the Pennine Bridleway path, between fields, horses and donkeys with views down the sunny valley.

The route goes through some valleys with some interesting rock formations, caves and dry-stone walled fields. Some cows were blocking one gate, so I had to squeeze over a wall and hop through a patch of nettles.

Once you are over the other side you get a great view down towards Malham with old farm buildings lining a walled lane.

I met Aileen at Malham YHA. We went to Beck Hall to sit by the stream and have a drink and dinner. The service was a little weird - we arrived at 5:45 and asked for a table for dinner. They didn’t give us one as they didn’t start serving until 6:00pm and wouldn’t take our order until 6:15pm as if they had a bunch of tables booked. Only one other table was there. We wondered if there would be a sudden rush, but none materialised. It was a nice place to go for a drink. Sitting by the stream in the sunshine was very relaxing. Malham itself was pretty, with a couple of pubs, a few shops and a blacksmith.

Malham to Horton in Ribblesdale

The next day we walked up and over Malham Cove, a filming location for Harry Potter. It was raining, and the limestone pavement was slippy, so progress was slow. We climbed up and over the hills, past Malham Tarn and over Malham Moor.

The view over to Pen-y-ghent was wonderful in the mist, with blues, greens and purples, the valley carving out an expanse between us.

We decided that although it was raining, Pen-y-ghent was worth the climb. It was steep, with a short scramble towards the top. The mist came and went, and was fully down as we crossed the peak.

We stayed at Holme Farm Campsite and ate at The Golden Lion. The Golden Lion was good for a drink, but the food was at the level of “hot carbs”. You should adjust expectations accordingly. The pub was busy with lots of people who had completed the Three Peaks Challenge, all looking for food. Holme Farm Campsite is a simple field, with paths cut in the grass. The amenities block looked to be recently redeveloped, a unisex set of toilets and showers, and in the same building as a…less recently developed set of toilets and showers. Only the new part felt particularly nice to use! That said, the site was well presented in a great location. I’d go again if I was walking nearby. The owner’s office is a yurt-like shed, lined with rugs and carpets. He sent us off on our way the next day with some mutterings and sayings about the weather. Thunder in May, rain in…something? 🤷‍♂️

Horton in Ribblesdale to Hawes

On the Sunday, we started with a long climb out of Horton in Ribblesdale. The Golden Lion does packed lunches, but I didn’t fancy the food there, so made do with a few bags of mixed nuts. There are few other shops there. Most of the first half of the day was spent ascending with views back over Pen-y-ghent. There were some nice high sections with an old bridge and nature reserve in a gorge at Linn Gill.

The descent into Hawes is steeper. When we arrived we called in at the Wensleydale Creamery for an afternoon coffee and snack. I picked up a couple of blocks of cheese for the family, then we made our way to the YHA Hawes Hostel. We avoided the rain, despite the threatening clouds, and the afternoon light was fantastic on the hills.

That evening we played scrabble, ate a school-dinner level meal at the hostel and went to sleep, camping in the grounds.

Hawes to Garsdale

Hawes is an attractive town, very much leaning into the Wallace and Grommit Wensleydale theme. Knitting covered the railings, postbox and benches outside the pub. There was signs for sheepdog trials as we made our way out the town, with picturesque views across the fields back.

There were many fields of sheep.

I said goodbye to Aileen as she headed north to Tan Hill, I took a left and headed east to Garsdale via Cotterdale.

The track to Cotterdale was a little less well trod, with a more undergrowth to step through than up on the higher route. The views were great down the valley as I zig-zagged through the fields. It got a little boggy underfoot in places. Other people seemed few and far between.

The trains on the Settle line aren’t that regular, so I had to plan appropriately. The 12:20 train was too early, and I didn’t want to rush. The next one was a little before 3pm. I found a nice wall to sit on and ate lunch in the sun for a while, the River Ure to my left, with the turning to Garsdale ahead. It was very peaceful.

Garsdale Station is in a beautiful location. It’s incredible that a train line runs here. I took the train back to Carlisle, happy with the four days of walking. I’d recommend this route for people who want a quick couple of days away. As Horton in Ribblesdale also has a station on the line it’d be possible to just do a weekend worth of walking. You can find the route I used on Komoot.