Alex Langfield

A marriage of exquisite scenery and ancient history — hiking Lady Anne's Way

Mike Freedman (CC-BY-SA/2.0)

A marriage of exquisite scenery and ancient history — hiking Lady Anne's Way

Hiking Collection by Alex Langfield
7-14 days
3-6 h / day
99.1 mi
6,950 ft
6,900 ft

When Lady Anne Clifford gained her rightful inheritance in 1643 she embarked upon a momentous and laborious project: to return her great family’s holdings to their former glory. This was no easy feat, as the said holdings were in fact a multitude of expansive estates. Her family’s ancient castles and regal halls stretched from Skipton in the Yorkshire Dales to Brougham in what was then Westmorland, now Cumbria.

It was at the age of 60 that the determined Lady Anne began this epic, ambitious plan. The travels between her family’s many fortresses would take her into the limestone splendour of the Dales; on rugged, windswept highways across the fellsides; to staggeringly beautiful valleys; and finally, to the Eden Valley. It was here at her favourite Brougham Castle, to the south of Penrith with the mountains of the Lake District in the west and the high Pennines in the east, that she died in 1676.

Lady Anne’s Way is a long-distance walk of 100 miles (161 km) that follows in her determined footsteps. It is a journey bursting at the seams with both history and scenic splendour. You’ll explore the wonders of Wharfedale and Wensleydale and ramble across the high wilds of Mallerstang, before finishing in the verdant Eden Valley.

The Way was born in 1995 when passionate long-distance hiker Sheila Gordon had the idea of putting it together in tribute to Lady Anne. She was excited by the wealth of experience and sights that would greet its walkers. You can expect defiant, ruined castles braving the elements; vast, open Pennine moorland; picturesque towns and villages that welcome you with friendly northern hospitality. A new panorama awaits you beyond every pass, meander and fellside. It’s a near-perfect marriage of history and scenery.

In this Collection, I have split the Way into six stages of between 12 and 20 miles (19 and 32 km) in length, in keeping with the itinerary originally suggested by Sheila. However, there are many towns and villages offering accommodation en route, so you can take things at your own pace. Advance booking is recommended as this is popular walking territory.

Where it can, the Way makes for the fellsides and high moors, which is particularly evident during the first four stages, each containing over 1,250 feet (381 m) of elevation gain. However, gradients are mostly kind, the route is waymarked and it stays on good trails throughout.

This makes it a route suitable for most walkers, with the main challenge simply the length of some stages. You can stock up on provisions regularly in the many villages en route and you’re never that far from a pub or a café.

Each season brings its own character to the walk, though the moorland sections in the first four stages are likely to be challenging in the depths of winter. The long daylight hours of summer are a boon during the lengthier stages. Regardless of month or forecast, waterproofs are essential, as well as sturdy walking boots.

Reaching Skipton is straightforward by car, as it is at the junction of various A roads. By train, it is most easily accessed from Leeds. Penrith is on the M6, as well as the West Coast Mainline. To return to the start point by train, change at Carlisle and catch the Leeds train to Skipton — a lovely journey on the famously scenic Carlisle to Settle line.

On The Map

Tours & Highlights

    15.1 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,300 ft
    975 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This is a delightfully scenic journey from Airedale to the banks of the glorious River Wharfe, through some quintessentially picturesque Dales villages. Of historical interest en route is Barden Tower, one of the fortresses Lady Anne set out to restore in the 17th century.

    At 15.1 miles (24.3 km) and with 1,300 feet (396 m) of ascent, it is a fairly strenuous start to the Way. The villages in Wharfedale all offer accommodation should you wish to shorten your hike.

    Lady Anne’s Way begins from the first of the great residences of the Clifford family: Skipton Castle. This vibrant market town is well worth exploring, with pretty canalside ambles and hill trails all on offer.

    The route takes you east through the villages of Embsay and Eastby, ascends to Halton Edge, before dropping to beautiful Wharfedale. Just as it joins the River Wharfe, you visit Barden Tower, the ruins of one of the Clifford family’s hunting lodges. From here, follow the river north as it winds its way through Appletreewick, Burnsall and Hebden.

    Archetypal Dales scenery abounds, with dry stone walls, sloping hillsides, charming farmsteads and, of course, sheep. Here, you not only follow in Lady Anne’s footsteps but also those of the wool trading monks of Fountains Abbey and even the Romans, who used these ancient paths to transport lead to Boroughbridge.

    The stage ends at Grassington, which has plenty of shops for a mooch, as well as cafes and pubs for refreshment. The National Park Centre for the Yorkshire Dales is here, a gold mine of information about the surrounding region. Accommodation is by way of guest houses and B&Bs. Book in advance to avoid disappointment.

    12.5 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,425 ft
    1,350 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Easily-accessible paths. Suitable for all skill levels.

    This stage ventures further into Wharfedale, where the surrounding fells close in and the villages ooze yet more Yorkshire charm. Lovely limestone scenery starts to make itself known as you head out across the fellsides.

    At 12.8 miles (20.6 km), this is the shortest stage in this Collection, though it does require a hefty 1,450 feet (442 m) of elevation gain. The good news is, you get the ascent out of the way early, before enjoying splendid countryside on your way to Buckden.

    Leave Grassington and ascend north across fields to a vast area of disused mines. As you amble on past the occasional warning sign and abandoned building, think of the bustling activity that once must have taken place here and how times have changed. A trig point at Capplestone Gate signals the beginning of the descent to Kettlewell.

    The villages of Kettlewell, Starbotton and Buckden are effortlessly picturesque and offer a number of tempting places for a lunch stop. Once off the fell, the Way continues on a track running parallel to the road and river, until you cross both and join the route of the Dales Way to Buckden.

    A host of accommodation options are open to you in Buckden. It is worth booking in advance as hikers on the Dales Way will also be jostling for places. The privately run Buckden Village Stores is a great place to stock up on mint cake, chocolate bars or energy gels — whatever usually keeps your legs going.

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  • Difficult
    17.9 mi
    2.2 mph
    1,675 ft
    1,675 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    In this stage you bid farewell to Wharfedale and stride up onto the windswept emptiness of Stake Moss on your journey into Wensleydale. Lady Anne may have taken respite at the grand Nappa Hall after this, but your day continues to the west to the delightful town of Hawes.

    This is one of the longer stages at 17.9 miles (28.8 km) and with 1,675 feet (510 m) of elevation gain it is probably the toughest. Askrigg would be the obvious stopping point if you want to shorten the day.

    From Buckden, an old Roman route across the fellside takes you north into the vast open ground of Stake Moss. It is a bleak place in mist and drizzle but navigation is straightforward.

    Beyond Stake Moss, at the fork take the path to the right signed for Carpley Green. Descent is via a lane with crumbling dry stone walls on either side and great views of flat-topped Addlebrough ahead. After passing Carpley Green’s farm buildings, you skirt the flanks of Addlebrough before arriving in Wensleydale.

    Take time to explore the environs of Nappa Hall, which has slept all manner of royalty down the years. Gradients are now kinder as you ramble west through the valley to the wonderful little town of Askrigg. Mill Gill Force waterfall is worth a short detour before you continue along tracks, broadly parallel to the River Ure as it winds its way to stage end point Hawes.

    The market town is one of the highest in England and is a common stop off on the Pennine Way. With this in mind, accommodation is best booked in advance. There’s a range of guest houses, a campsite and a youth hostel on offer. The town is synonymous with Wensleydale cheese and the visitor centre is worth a look, if you have time to spare.

    17.0 mi
    2.3 mph
    1,250 ft
    1,475 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Wonderful hillwalking awaits on this glorious stage from the pastures of Wensleydale into romantic Mallerstang. The high-level walk along the Highway boasts huge panoramas as you cross from Yorkshire into Cumbria. History and legend combine at the ruins of Pendragon Castle and you can admire a statue of Lady Anne herself at the end point of Kirkby Stephen.

    This is the last of the stages with significant ascent, as the hike up onto the Highway accounts for most of the 1,250 feet (381 m) gained. There’s also 17 miles (27.4 km) to cover. To shorten, a stay at Outhgill is possible, though options are limited so book well in advance.

    From Hawes, follow the course of the River Ure until it becomes nothing more than a beck tumbling down the slopes of Lunds Fell. By this point you will have stiffly ascended the steep incline to Cotter End to gain the marvellous Highway. From here, 6 miles (10 km) of continuous high-level walking ensues with beautiful views.

    At the bridge over Hell Gill you cross from Yorkshire into Cumbria (what was Westmorland in Lady Anne’s day). The craggy hill ahead is Wild Boar Fell and to the west the rounded, green humps of the Howgills rise like ‘sleeping elephants’, as Alfred Wainwright once famously wrote.

    At the head of the Mallerstang Valley, you come across an intriguing sculpture named ‘Water Cut’ by artist Mary Bourne, the first of ten such sculptures that line the course of the River Eden. After your descent, the crumbled ruin of Pendragon Castle is next, an evocative scene of faded glory.

    With the Eden at its side, the Way now heads north for the pleasant market town of Kirkby Stephen, which has a number of good options for overnighting. Bear in mind that Wainwright’s Coast to Coast also passes through the town, so be sure to book beforehand.

    16.4 mi
    2.4 mph
    600 ft
    725 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    Easier walking in beautiful surroundings awaits you on this stage of Lady Anne’s Way. You ramble through the lush Eden Valley to Appleby, with a couple of Lady Anne’s ancient castles en route and views ahead to the broad Pennines, as well as to the fells of the distant Lake District in the west.

    From here to the end of the Way, the route sticks to the valley and elevation change is minimal. With 16.4 miles (26.3 km) to cover, it’s the kind of long day that you will want to take your time over, enjoying the surrounding countryside.

    From Kirkby Stephen, head north east on good footpaths, leaving the River Eden and making for the market town of Brough. Before the town, the ascent of a small hillock reveals a dramatic view of the ruinous Brough Castle to the backdrop of Warcop Fell. It is worth exploring the castle’s grounds (free to enter), looking out across the landscape and considering the strategic importance of such a site.

    You head west on farm tracks, minor roads and footpaths to Warcop, where you rejoin the River Eden. Cross the river at Warcop Old Bridge and make for Great Ormside, enjoying splendid views along the valley to the ever-growing Pennine Fells. After Great Ormside, amble along the western banks of the river all the way to Appleby, its castle and its many amenities.

    Every year in June, for seven days prior to the second Wednesday, Appleby is host to the biggest horse fair of its kind in the world. During this time, the town is absolutely full to the brim and you’d be lucky to find space for a tent to sleep in, never mind book a stay in a guest house. Other than during this week, Appleby has a host of options and makes for a delightful stopover.

    20.2 mi
    2.4 mph
    675 ft
    700 ft
    Expert Hiking Tour. Very good fitness required. Mostly accessible paths. Sure-footedness required.

    The final stage of Lady Anne’s Way takes you to the favourite of all her castles and the place where she spent her final days at Brougham, near Penrith. You visit gorgeous villages that seem a far cry from everyday urban cares en route and enjoy magnificent views of the High Pennines and the distant fells of the eastern Lake District.

    This is the Way’s longest stage at 20.2 miles (32.5 km), though there is little by way of elevation change. Kirkby Thore and Temple Sowerby would make for delightful stopovers if needed.

    Head north from Appleby on country lanes and, just beyond Keld Farm, use a bridge to cross the famous Carlisle to Settle railway line. You might just strike it lucky and cross when one of the steam trains is chugging along the tracks. The next village, Long Marton, is an utter delight, with an intriguing mix of traditional house styles.

    It’s onwards on lanes to Kirkby Thore and, after a short amble alongside it, you bid farewell to the River Eden, eventually crossing at Ousenstand Bridge. You pass through pastureland en route to Cliburn before skirting the south western end of Whinfell Forest: once a haunt of Lady Anne’s, now host to a Center Parcs.

    Continue heading north west until you eventually come to the historical marvels of first Brougham Hall and then Brougham Castle, where Lady Anne passed away on 22nd March 1676.

    Once you’ve had your fill of ancient history, all that remains to do is follow the River Eamont’s snaking course into Penrith, finishing your journey in the market square. As ‘Gateway to the Lakes’ there is no shortage of hiker-friendly accommodation in the town.

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Collection Stats

  • Tours
  • Distance
    99.1 mi
  • Duration
    43:06 h
  • Elevation
    6,950 ft6,900 ft

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Alex Langfield

A marriage of exquisite scenery and ancient history — hiking Lady Anne's Way