Sunday 13 August 2023

Walking the Herriot Way

 The Herriot Way

The Herriot Way is a 4 day, approx 52 mile walk in Swaledale and Wensleydale.  Inspired by a walk first described by James Herriot, the famous dales vet.  The Herriot Way is a circular walk that traditionally starts and ends in Aysgarth in Wensleydale however as I live in Keld in Swaledale, I wanted to start and finish in my own back yard!


The most important element of a long distance walk is careful planning and a good map.  Stuart Greig's pocket size guide and downloadable maps are the most wonderful resource imaginable.  Each of the four days are described step-by-step in the little book and provide almost bomb-proof directions.  The written instructions are backed up with a series of maps showing the Herriot Way path and the surrounding landscape and are annotated to keep you on the right track.  I cannot recommend Stuart Greig's guides highly enough particularly for someone like me who does not want a huge, flapping OS map and who can't use a compass!  Walking the Herriot Way

Day 1: Keld to Reeth - 12 miles

There is a choice of the high road or the low road between Keld and Reeth.  I chose the low route to ease the legs in but the views were still tremendous.  Weather was on our side too.

Plenty of stiles!

Taking a break and taking in the Swaledale scenery.

Day 2:  Reeth to Aysgarth via Castle Bolton - 14 miles

Day two was absolutely spectacular with views to die for and the most beautiful stretches of purple heather as far as the eye could see.  Grinton Moor was as sea of purple and the honey fragrance that floated in waves on the warm breeze was intoxicating.


Dropping over the top into Wensleydale.

Day 3:  Aysgarth to Hawes - 12 miles

In comparison to the other three days on the Herriot Way the walk from Aysgarth to Hawes is a pleasant ramble taking in several lovely dales villages. Askrigg was the first we came to.  Askrigg will be forever immortalised as the village of Darrowby in the original tv series of All Creatures Great & Small, home of the fictitious vet James Herriot. The building that was used as the Farnon & Herriot residence and veterinary practice is still there with the name Skeldale House etched above the front door.  The Kings Arms Hotel was used extensively as the Drovers.  The walls in the bar proudly display photographs of the stars during filming of this iconic and much loved BBC television series that brought the James Herriot stories and the Yorkshire Dales to millions of front rooms on a Sunday evening in the 1970s and 80s.
Hardraw is the last stop before Hawes and a rest and a swift drink at the Green Dragon is most welcome.  The Green Dragon is an original dales pub with stone flagged floor, range fire (even lit in August!), low beamed ceilings and a typical Yorkshire welcome.  No wonder the interior was chosen as the Drovers for the new Channel 5 All Creatures Great & Small tv series which is as popular on our screens in 2023 as the orginal series was over fifty years ago.

Day 4:  Hawes to Keld - 12 miles

The walk from Hawes to Keld over Great Shunner Fell, Yorkshire's third highest mountain, was always going to be the hardest day.  We were however blessed with the most glorious weather.  It was tough walking as the sun beamed down on the steep slopes but at each break for breath the views behind were breathtaking.

and finally to the top ..... and Swaledale opened up ahead .... beautiful Swaledale, beautiful dale.

In 2013 I went to the top of Great Shunner Fell on a quad bike.  Ten years ago I couldn't have walked there to save my life but this year, August 2023, I reached the top under my own steam relying on nothing other than my own feet, legs and lungs.  It was a fantastic feeling.  

I am now looking forward to my next adventure.  I will certainly be chosing one of Stuart Greig's walks as I love his format and his easy to follow instructions.  I feel safe in his hands and in his footsteps Stuart Greig - Lonewalker