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Yorkshire Dales Walks

Thorpe Fell & Elbolton

Date: 11th June 2014
Distance: 6.9 miles
Ascent: 1767 feet
Time: 3 hours 30 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SE031610

Walk Summary:
An evening walk from Burnsall on to Elbolton and Thorpe Fell with great views over Wharfedale from Numberstones End near the end of the walk.

Route Summary: Burnsall - Dales Way - Kail Lane - Thorpe - Elbolton - Thorpe Fell Lane - Thorpe Fell - Numberstones End - Air Scar Crags - Back Lane - Bunsall

Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.

Burnsall Bridge
Burnsall Methodist Chapel backed by Thorpe Fell
Loup Scar
Stepping stones across the River Wharfe
Meadow below the B6160
Heading along Kail Lane towards Elbolton
The grassy lane leading on to Elbolton from Thorpe
The entrance to Elbolton Cave, also known as Navvy Noddle Hole
The top of Elbolton looking towards Thorpe Fell
Grassington from Elbolton
A yellow mountain pansy on the slopes of Elbolton
Kail and Thorpe
The trig point on Thorpe Fell Top
Ingleborough from Thorpe Fell Top
Enjoying the late evening sunshine from Numberstones End
Numberstones End
Wharfedale from Air Scar Crags
By the cairn above Air Scar Crags
Evening over Thorpe Fell
Late evening over Wharfedale


Walk Detail: Earlier in the week I'd been out for a shortish late afternoon walk from Burnsall on to Langerton Hill. It wasn't the most inspiring walk I've ever done in the Dales but I did spot, on the opposite side of the Wharfe, what looked like an interesting path up or down Thorpe Fell via Air Stones Crag. Back home that evening I plotted a potential route that would also include a visit to Elbolton and a stretch alongside the Wharfe on the Dales Way.

A few days later I made the decision to go out after work and try out this route. It had been an absolutely beautiful day and the forecast was for a similarly lovely evening. It was therefore utterly typical that within minutes of arriving in Burnsall a thin blanket of high cloud appeared overhead covering up the blue sky and turning it to white. Trying to put my disappointment to one side I decided to walk my route anti-clockwise so as to be high up towards the end of the evening. This proved to be a good decision.

Setting off north from Burnsall on the Dales Way I enjoyed the stretch along the River Wharfe, especially notable was the limestone Loup Scar. At this point there was still some brightness but as I as left the river behind to head towards Thorpe, initially across some pastures and then by following Kail Lane, the cloud got thicker and by the time I reached Thorpe there wasn't enough sunlight to even cast a shadow.

Rather than making directly for Thorpe Fell from Thorpe I first made a detour on to nearby Elbolton. Elbolton is one of the so-called Cracoe Reef Knolls, a group of limestone hills along the northern edge of Cracoe Fell and Thorpe Fell that are the remnants of an ancient coral reef. Elbolton is the only one of the reef knolls whose summit can be reached via access land on what proved to a fairly short but very steep grassy climb.

The top of Elbolton is marked by a well built cairn that features a great view north to Grassington and up Wharfedale towards Great Whernside and Buckden Pike. Not far from the summit there is also a small fenced off area which is the entrance to Elbolton Cave, also known as Navvy Noddle Hole. Apparently there is quite a drop down into the cave itself and with a plank covering the entrance it did look a very uninviting place.

As I retraced my steps back to Thorpe I spotted some yellow mountain pansies, one of a number of wild flowers growing on Elbolton's slopes. From Thorpe I took Thorpe Fell Lane which as its name suggests leads up on to Thorpe Fell. Unfortunately this fine path didn't lead all the way to the summit so near the top of Hesker Gill I left the path for a long trudge through the pathless heather to the trig point.

This was the first time I'd visited the trig point on Thorpe Fell for almost nine years. Pausing to eat a sandwich I was pleased to see the sun begin to break through over Ingleborough to the west. Indeed visibility was much better than the murky conditions of my first visit and included the likes of Buckden Pike, Great Whernside, Meugher, Simon's Seat as well as Ilkley Moor with Ilkley itself also clearly visible.

Setting off again I retraced my steps north to reach a track which I followed east towards Numberstones End, passing on the way a prominent shooting hut. Just as I left the track to make my way to Numberstones End the sun finally broke through the cloud. For the next half an hour I was treated to some dramatic views over Wharfedale that were enhanced by some quite gorgeous late evening sunshine. Particularly memorable were the views from the crags of Numberstones End and, a bit further along the path, the view from the large cairn above Air Scar Crags.

By this time the sun was setting beyond the higher hills of the Dales so it was time to make my way back down to Burnsall. However, the path that I'd seen so clearly from Langerton Hill a few days before proved to be a lot harder to locate from the top of Air Scar Crags and ultimately I descended on a much thinner path to the east before slanting down to the intake wall. I then crossed a few narrow pastures before dropping down to Back Lane which I then followed back in to Burnsall.

This is a walk I'd definitely do again though next time I'd be inclined to climb Numberstones End first as it is easier to find the path from the bottom than it is from the top. Still doing it the way round I did ensured I got the best part of the evening and that period of golden sunshine on Numberstones End and Air Scar Crags will remain long in the memory.

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