Stage 1: Danby Dale and Westerdale Loop — Esk Valley Walk
Includes an off-grid segment
Navigation instructions may be limited.
176 yd in total
Alex Langfield planned a hike.
March 15, 2021
The first stage is something of a baptism of fire, easily the most strenuous on the Walk. It’s an 18.4-mile (29.6 km) circuit, up through Danby Dale, onto the high moors to the source of the Esk at Westerdale Head and back down to Castleton via Westerdale.
With 1,625 feet (495 m) of elevation gain, it will certainly get your heart pumping. It’s possible to split the stage in two by staying at the remote Lion Inn, which is about 8 miles (13 km) into the walk.
From Castleton Moor station, you cross the River Esk, turn right down the High Street and pick up a track through Didderhow Farm. From here, head south on field paths and on tracks through Danby Dale. After passing to the west of the village of Botton, the ascent onto the moorland begins.
The path snakes up past farm buildings and joins a public bridleway due south to reach the moorland plateau. Your arrival on this enchantingly open and stark landscape is greeted by Fat Betty, an intriguing, white-painted standing stone. I’ve plotted a short detour to the west here to visit Young Ralph Cross, an emblem of the national park. This moorland section can be boggy, even in summer.
Retrace your steps to Fat Betty and continue south to the scenic Blakey Ridge, with Farndale to the west and Rosedale to the east. The marvellously situated Lion Inn is the only facility en route and makes for a superb lunch stop. After the inn, the Walk engages in a hairpin turn and follows the edge of the escarpment to the head of Westerdale.
The many streams that trickle down the hillside here are the sources of the River Esk. You venture north, alongside the ever widening main stream on its journey to meet Hob Hole Beck and become the River Esk proper, just to the west of Castleton. You skirt the moorland to the west of Westerdale, pass Dale View farm, before crossing the young River Esk and following signs for Castleton.
Once back in Castleton, the Downe Arms has bed and breakfast rooms and serves good food. There are a few other private rentals in the village. The Eskdale, near the station offers fine dining in its Restaurant 1865.
March 22, 2021