What To Do

Healaugh and the River Swale from Reeth


Map based on Ordnance Survey mapping by permission of Ordnance Survey on behalf of the Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office. © Crown Copyright.

Distance 5.5 miles (8.8km)
Allow 4 1/2 hours
Map OS Outdoor Leisure Map 30
Terrain Easy
Parking Large parking area in Reeth

The Buck Hotel (01748 884210) is in the beautiful Swaledale village of Reeth. Once a coaching inn and also frequented by northern cattle drovers, the hotel has been in existence since c1750. The premises were formerly known as the Buck Inn. An a la carte menu of home-cooked, traditional meals is served all year in the restaurant and bar, at lunchtime and in the evening. Traditional hand pulled real ales are available.

These days Reeth is solely dependent on tourism but 150 years ago everything was quite different. At that time the village was the centre of much leadmining activity and around 7,000 people lived and worked in the area.

From the cobbled area leave the village via the ginnel beyond Barclays Bank. At the end of the ginnel turn Ieft then right into a lane which passes the doctor’s surgery, before veering left, downhill to a gate alongside a barn. Notice the “terraced” areas in the adjoining field. These are Anglo-Saxon field systems, known as strip lynchets. Crops were grown on these terraces by the early inhabitants of Swaledale during the 6th-7th centuries. The strip lynchets can be seen to greater effect from across the river.

Another prominent landmark in the early part of the walk is Reeth School. The school stands proudly above the terraced fields and the doctors’ surgery. It was built originally as a Quaker Foundation in 1780 by the brothers Raw. From the gate veer right across the fields towards the suspension bridge. Cross the bridge and turn right, following the river upstream for a long mile, until the path joins a metalled road which is followed to the right unerringly to Scabba Wath Bridge (G.R. 006 983) – a superb triple-arch construction, which carries very little traffic these days. Cross the bridge, turn left through the stile, eventually following on the main road (take extreme care) for about half a mile (800m) until a gated stile, signposted Healaugh, is encountered on the right, close to a cottage (G.R. 001 985). This is the turning point of the walk.

A degree of common sense is called for throughout the ensuing mile to Barney Beck Bridge. The path is clearly indicated on the map – but not on the ground! The secret is to locate the gap stiles in the walls. From the previously mentioned stile swing right, heading east, across six enclosures, making towards Barney Beck High Bridge (G.R. 014 988) – the third bridge of the outing. A gated stile leads from the fields, down to the bridge. Cross the bridge and follow the narrow road into the village of Healaugh, a Saxon name (Heah) meaning a high-level forest clearing. Notice the well-tended telephone box en-route. Careful inspection reveals a carpet, waste paper bin, ash tray, directories and a display of fresh flowers. Wonderful local pride! Do leave a donation.

Continue through the village, heading towards Reeth then leave the road on the right beyond the last building. Here (G.R. 019 991) a choice of routes is presented. It’s decision time! One route meanders through the meadows directly ahead, linked by a series of stiles, following a well trodden route, and eventually rejoins the lane close to the doctors’ surgery. The other option lies down to your right through a gate. Walk along the field close to the wall. This leads to the river – turn left and follow the river back to the suspension bridge before retracing earlier footsteps into Reeth. Each is a pleasant, uncomplicated way to finish off this ramble.

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.