Stage 2: Skipton to Settle – hiking a Dales High Way
Alex Langfield planned a hike.
October 22, 2020
The limestone splendour of Malhamdale awaits you on this splendid hike from Skipton to Settle. The dramatic ravine of Gordale Scar and the curved limestone cliff face of Malham Cove are the undisputed highlights on what is a strenuous 20-mile (32km) trek, with 3,000 feet (914m) of ascent to contend with before you reach the picturesque market town of Settle at the end of the day. You may not want to rush such a journey, so a stay in Hetton or Malham is ideal if you’re looking to break it in two and truly savour it.
From Skipton, you’ll stride out north, past the magnificent castle and towards the prominent twin hillocks of Sharp Haw and Rough Haw. At 1,171 feet (357m), Sharp Haw is the first summit of the day and rewards with grand views back to Skipton and west to Gargrave, as well as north to the joys that lie ahead in beautiful Malhamdale.
Descend into the charming village of Hetton, where you can seek accommodation and sustenance at the luxurious Angel at Hetton. Alternatively, there’s the Devonshire Arms in the village of Cracoe, which lies a couple of miles to the north east. A track leaves Hetton and heads for the northern end of the Winterburn Reservoir and on towards the spectacular ravine of Gordale Scar.
A detour into the jaws of the ravine is well worth it. A waterfall cascades dramatically from above and if you’re feeling adventurous you can scramble up the rocks and ascend the rough steps to the pastures above the chasm, re-joining the main path further to the west. Be warned that the scramble is quite technical, not an option for those with no prior hands-on-rock experience.
As if Gordale Scar wasn’t enough, you’ll soon be blown away by the splendour of Malham Cove. The route takes you across the beguiling limestone pavement on the top of the cliff, with gorgeous views down to the village. You’ll find it hard to resist yet another detour down the steps to Malham Beck, where you can take in the full majesty of this 230-foot (70m) walled amphitheatre of limestone – one of the Dales’ finest sights.
If you’re seeking rest and food, the village of Malham beckons. If not, you’ll merge with the Pennine Way for a short time before branching off west at Comb Scar. From here limestone scars abound and the longest ascent of the day takes you to a high point of around 1,700 feet (520m) just to the north of Kirby Fell’s summit. A long and interesting descent takes you down into Ribblesdale and to Settle, one of the Dales’ quintessential towns. Once again, you can hop on the train from Settle station and return to Saltaire, if needed.
October 30, 2020