Yorkshire Dales Walks
Mill Gill Force & Ellerkin Scar
Date: 20th Dec 2014
Distance: 7.4 miles
Ascent: 1570 feet
Time: 3 hours 45 mins
With: On my own
Start Grid Ref: SD950912
A superbly varied walk from Askrigg visiting two impressive waterfalls before heading up to Ellerkin Scar for some sweeping views over Wensleydale.
Route Summary: Askrigg - Mill Lane - Mill Gill Force - Whitfield Gill Force - Low Straights Lane - Flow Edge - Ellerkin Scar - Broomber - Nappa Scar - Nappa Hall - Worton Bridge - Askrigg Bottons - Askrigg
Photos: Click on the photos below to enlarge.
Walk Detail: Whilst Wensleydale is well known for waterfalls such as Hardraw Force and the series of falls at Aysgarth one feature of the valley that is relatively unsung is the series of impressive limestone scars lining the northern side of the valley. The aim of this superb walk was to combine a visit to two of the higher waterfalls in Wensleydale, Mill Gill Force and Whitfield Gill Force, with a a walk across the top of Ellerkin Scar, one of the highest and longest limestone scars in the dale.
Starting from the small car park in the lovely village of Askrigg I decided to first visit the waterfalls. Leaving the village by Mill Lane I soon left the dead end road to follow a footpath signed 'Mill Gill Foss' - 'foss' being an older term for 'force' or 'waterfall'. After crossing Mill Gill by a small bridge the path continued pleasantly at the edge of the woods before a fork took me back down to the gill and to the waterfall itself.
This being my first visit, and not having seen any pictures of this particular waterfall before, I have to say it made an immediate impression on me. After recent rainfall the water was fairly thundering down the series of ledges and when a ray of sunshine through the trees and illuminated the scene it sealed it for me as one of my favourite waterfalls.
Reluctantly leaving Mill Gill Force behind I rejoined the main path before continuing on to the next major waterfall, Whitfield Gill Force. I'd read that this was as impressive if not better than Mill Gill Force and indeed it is marked as a tourist feature on the OS map. It was a bit disappointing therefore that as I got closer the path became increasingly muddy and slippery and at the last I couldn't get a good view of the waterfall. This was partly because of fallen trees but also because the path along the gill seemed to end short of the waterfall - perhaps the stream was so full it was obscuring the end of the path.
Once again retracing my steps to the main path I crossed Whitfield Gill via a footbridge above a lovely, smaller, waterfall before climbing up out of the woods to debouch on to Low Straights Lane. The contrast from the confined gill to the wide open views of Wensleydale from Low Straights Lane could not have been more striking. Of particular prominence were the instantly recognisable shape of Addlebrough to the south and high up ahead of me to the left my next objective, Ellerkin Scar.
At the end of Low Straights Lane I briefly joined the Askrigg to Muker road before branching off on the Reeth road for a steepish climb until reaching about 400m in height. I then entered the access land to my right via a gate and climbed up to a wall corner and the western end of Ellerkin Scar. While it was not quite as windy as the day before it was still very blustery so I took advantage of the shelter offered by the wall to have my lunch and enjoy some fine views over Wensleydale.
The following mile or so along the limestone edge of Ellerkin Scar was quite superb. Whilst care needed to be taken close to the edge the steep drops provided a dramatic foreground to some simply stunning views over Wensleydale. There was also the interesting contrast between the grassy limestone of Ellerkin Scar and the dark gritstone of Greets Edge set back on the moorland just to the north.
Due to time constraints I didn't follow the edge all the way along to the bridleway descending to Woodhall. Instead, when I found a safe enough slope, I dropped down to the grassy hump of Broomber which I then descended to reach the bridleway leading to the farm at Heugh. After an easy walk down the minor road to Nappa Scar I then took the path past the 15th century fortified medieval manor house, Nappa Hall, to Nappa Mill and then the path alongside the River Ure to Worton Bridge. The walk concluded along the soggy flagged path across Askrigg Bottoms.
This was a superbly varied walk with great some great features and panoramic views - definitely a late contender for one of my favourite walks of the year.