Distance: 3½ miles (5.5km)
Time: 2 hours
Terrain: A mixture of field paths, moorland bridleways, grassy tracks
and quiet country lanes, taking in the viewpoint of Embsay Crag (1,220 ft/371m).
The ascent up onto Embsay Crag is steep and rough underfoot.
Start: Embsay, car park near Elm Tree Square, grid ref 009538.
Embsay is an attractive stone-built village on the very southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the boundary of which runs along its main street.
Rising up to the north of the village is Barden Moor, a vast swathe of heather moorland that forms a distinctive block of land between Wharfedale and Airedale. Around its edges are weathered outcrops of sandstone, the most imposing of which is Embsay Crag. Viewed from the village, its summit looks like quite a climb, but do not be deterred as its mountainous appearance is deceptive, although the final climb is quite steep.
It is certainly worth the effort, as the views from the summit crags are extensive.
From the car park at the top of the village just beyond Elm Tree Square, go through the kissing-gate at the top of the car park (signposted ‘Pasture Road, Eastby Road’) then head to the left to reach a wall-stile in the top corner of the field. Continue across the next field, bearing slightly to the right and through a gate in a fence.
Go straight on, passing the school playing fields on your left to reach another wall-stile that leads onto a farm track. Cross the track over the stile opposite, then head straight on down to reach another wall-stile in the bottom left corner of the field, after which bear slightly to the right across the field to join a corner of a fence which quickly leads to a wall-stile in the corner of the field (two houses just down to your left).
Cross the wall-stile, then head straight on alongside the wall on your left and through a squeeze-stile beside a gate. Continue straight on, keeping close to the fence on your right, and down some steps onto Pasture Road opposite an old mill pond.
Turn right along the road and follow it straight on. At the junction of farm lanes, follow the road bending sharply to the right then gently rising up (ignore the turning towards Intake Farm) to reach a fork in the road at the foot of Embsay Reservoir. Take the road to the left, marked by a signpost to ‘Embsay Crag’, and follow this up, passing the parking area for Embsay Reservoir, just after which the road becomes a walled stony track.
Follow this walled track skirting around the reservoir. Go through a gate across the track at the end of the reservoir, after which continue straight on for a short distance. Just before the track bends sharply up to the left towards Crag Nook House, turn right through a gate marked by a Barden Fell & Moor Access Information board.
There is open access across this vast moorland, which forms part of the Duke of Devonshire’s Yorkshire estates, thanks to an agreement between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Trustees of the Chatsworth Settlement. After the gate, head straight on along the grassy track. After a short distance the bridleway forks just as it begins to climb up. Follow the right-hand bridleway that leads down to join a wall on your right, with the reservoir just beyond the wall.
Follow this wall down over a footbridge across Moor Beck. Just after this, head along the clear path bearing to the left away from the wall, climbing steadily up across the bracken-covered hillside, marked by blue waymarkers. Follow the clear path winding up towards the rocky
outcrops of Embsay Crag, before a final steep climb along a rough stony path onto the summit crags.
After admiring the view, head across the top of the crags along the edge of the escarpment. Follow the clear path gradually bearing down across the hillside to the right, marked by waymarkers, to join the wall on your right. Follow this wall to reach a gate in this wall to your right just after a rectangular sheep enclosure (signposted ‘Eastby’). Go through the gate, then
follow the grassy path dropping down with the wall on your right to reach a gate at the top of an enclosed grassy track just after a small stream.
Head through the gate and follow the wide grassy track down, with Milking Hill Wood to your right, to join a metalled lane beside Bondcroft Farm. Follow this lane straight on down to reach the road at Embsay Kirk. Milking Hill Wood is a wonderful copse of natural woodland, untouched since at least the eighteenth century, with oak, ash, birch, rowan and hazel lining the steep slopes of the small ravine.
At the foot of this ravine stands Embsay Kirk, the original site of St Mary’s and St Cuthbert’s Abbey, an Augustinian priory founded around 1120 by William de Meschines, lord of Egremont, and his wife Cecily, daughter of Robert de Romille of Skipton Castle. They endowed the priory with the village of Embsay and with the churches of Skipton and Carleton.
The priory moved about 1154 to Bolton Abbey, where the extensive remains can be seen today.
The information given in this walk has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a general guide. Whilst all reasonable efforts have been made to ensure that details were correct at the time of publication, the author and Country Publications Ltd cannot accept any responsibility for inaccuracies. It is the responsibility of individuals undertaking outdoor activities to approach the activity with caution and, especially if inexperienced, to do so under appropriate supervision. The activity described in this walk is strenuous and individuals should ensure that they are suitably fit before embarking upon it. They should carry the appropriate equipment and maps, be properly clothed and have adequate footwear. They should also take note of weather conditions and forecasts, and leave notice of their intended route and estimated time of return.