The Head of Swaledale

Swaledale is our favourite dale. Wilder, remoter, quieter. It’s our go to choice for a local walk on a weekend. Usually we head to Reeth to walk one of the many footpaths criss-crossing the dramatic swathes of moor littered with the industrial ruins of the lead mining industry, but last weekend we ventured slightly further afield to the village of Keld, the highest village in Swaledale. Most people walking from Keld make a beeline for the famous Swaledale gorge for iconic views and the hay meadows of Muker, however, this time we opted for a walk in the opposite direction.

Keld was first settled by the Vikings and the name Keld comes from the Norse word ‘Kelda’, which means ‘spring’. It’s easy to see why the Vikings chose this place to settle down – the wild hills must have reminded them somewhat of the home they’d left behind.

We found this route in our Cicerone guide for the Northern and Eastern Yorkshire Dales. The route is a circular of around 8.5 miles – we adapted the end to cut off 2 miles and avoid Access Land which has a dog restriction in place. A similar route to the one we followed can be found on the ViewRanger website. It took us just under 3 hours to mooch around at a sedate pace with lots of photo stops: the autumn colours were really starting to come out in force.

We started out on a reasonably bright morning which became more overcast as we progressed, which eventually became a very light drizzle as we got back to the car. This didn’t curtail our enjoyment at all: the views were lovely all the way around and the weather ensured we didn’t see any other walkers at all! Look out for the many waterfalls you will pass: particularly impressive are Kisdon Force and Wain Wath Force.

The walk takes you along every kind of path possible: slippery, well surfaced, grassy and boggy. For a long stretch you follow the Coast to Coast path before reaching your turning point at Ravenseat Farm – the location of the Our Yorkshire Farm TV series. There were no film crews hanging around to give it away and I wonder how many people pass through without guessing they’re walking past a famous farm!

Dog friendly rating – 3/5. There are sheep throughout this walk so we kept ours on the lead all the way around – even when there were no sheep, there were plenty of pheasants and grouse hanging around! Aside from this though this is a great choice for a dog walk – your proximity to the river means there are plenty of spots where your dog can have a drink, and nearly all the stiles are easy to get your dog over (there’s just one ladder stile and one squeeze stile that was a bit too narrow for Coal). There are a few sections along quiet roads, but you will be able to hear any traffic coming and get yourself out of the way in plenty of time. After your walk, you’re not far from the dog friendly Tan Hill Inn, which has the rather impressive title of the highest pub in England.

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