Yorkshire Dales Walks
Rye Loaf Hill & Grizedales
Date: 18th July 2015
Distance: 10.5 miles
Ascent: 2130 feet
Time: 5 hours 30 mins
Start Grid Ref: SD819637
A super walk revisiting three of the summits to be found in the limestone country between Settle and Malham including the shapely Rye Loaf Hill.
Route Summary: Settle - Castle Hill - Banks Lane - Warrendale Knotts - Stockdale Lane - Rye Loaf Hill - Kirkby Fell - Nappa Cross - Grizedales - Gorbeck - Jubilee Cave - Clay Pits Plantation - Banks Lane - Settle.
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: In the limestone country between Malham and Settle there are three summits over 500m in height; Kirkby Fell, Rye Loaf Hill and Grizedales. While no footpath crosses the top of either hill they are located quite close together and can be easily reached from the Pennine Bridleway. The last time I visited them was on a walk from Malham back in 2007 so I was well overdue another visit.
On this occasion I was joined by Tim from Bowland Walks who is gradually discovering the delights of walking in the Yorkshire Dales. Starting from the Ashfield car park in the centre of Settle we set off crossing the market square before leaving the town by climbing up Castle Hill to briefly join the Highway and then heading up the grassy Banks Lane. By this point we were already enjoying long distance views south-west over the town towards the Bowland moors.
For the next few miles we enjoyed a steady walk eastwards on the Pennine High Way. Along the way we passed below the spectacular limestone scenery of Warrendale Knotts and Attermire Scar. After passing above Stockdale Farm we took a gate in the wall to the south to drop down and cross Stockdale Beck. As we began the steep climb out of the other side the sun finally managed to break through the cloud and as we made our way up on to Rye Loaf Hill we were treated to some lovely views of Stockdale.
Our line of approach seemed to become steeper and steeper the nearer we got closer to the small gritstone outcrops to the west of the summit. An eye shaped gap in the highest of these outcrops made it look, to me at least, like the head of a stone giant staring out over Stockdale. Rye Loaf Hill has one of the smallest summit areas in the Yorkshire Dales and features a superb 360 degree panorama that includes the Yorkshire Three Peaks, Pendle Hill, the Bowland fells and much else besides. It was also extremely windy so after taking a number of pictures we continued on our way heading east to our next summit, Kirkby Fell.
After crossing the moist depression between the two hills we next had to find a suitable place to cross an intervening wall, made awkward by a the addition of wire above the wall. This safely accomplished it was then a pathless walk up to the summit. This seemed to be unmarked and was situated between a small cairn on an outcrop with a good view towards Malham Tarn and a large flat cairn to the south which was placed above a superb panorama of Malhamdale. It was here that we decided to stop for a bite to eat.
After lunch we headed north to a wall corner where a stile allowed us to cross over to the other side and join the meeting of two bridleways. After a brief detour on the one heading north so that we could visit Nappa Cross we then returned back to the Pennine Bridleway / Dales High Way where we had to pass a number of cows grazing by the next gate. Once through the gate it was then an easy climb on grass to the top of Grizedales the highest, but in many ways the most innocuous looking, of the three summits.
The most interesting feature of Grizedales is a small limestone scar running from north to south just to the west of the unmarked highest point. The summit was again a good viewpoint with the Howgill Fells even making an appearance. Walking north above the limestone scar we eventually dropped down to a wall corner where we again had to take care crossing over the wall. Continuing on north we encountered more cows, this time accompanied by calves and a bull. Fortunately the latter was more interested in mounting one of the cows.
Joining the Gorbeck bridleway it was then a steady walk west on a track that was a vast improvement to the muddy mess it was when I had last walked along it in 2005. After a couple of miles we reached Jubilee Cave. After having a careful look inside the cave we then took a good track dropping down to the steep road climbing out of Langcliffe. We soon left this to follow a nice grassy bridleway which led us back to Banks Lane and the start of the walk.
This was a very enjoyable walk though there were a few too many cows about for my liking and there were also a couple of awkward wall crossing. For those who aren't as bothered about summit bagging a slightly longer variation sticking to bridleways for almost the entire route would make a good alternative option. It would also be easy to include visits to Victoria Cave and Warrendale Knotts, two other fine features on what is a great area to explore.