Since moving to Leeds in 2011 I have probably hiked 90% of the Yorkshire Dales. Having also relied on public transport for most of those years, I have built up a portfolio of hikes which are excellent for those reliant on public transport (and those who aren’t).
Sometimes walking routes can be very busy, so I have put together a list of ‘less popular’, beautiful, yet accessible walks around Yorkshire & the surrounding areas. I will break them down into Linear (page 1) and Circular Routes (page 2), identifying those which are accessible by public transport. If you are driving, why not park up, hop on the train and walk back to the car!
Horton in Ribblesdale – Settle via Fountains Fell & Malham Tarn
🥾 Distance: 15.2 miles 🚅 Public Transport: Leeds – Carlisle Train 🗺 Navigation: 5/5 map essential 🔴 Circular Variant: Yes (Fountains Fell and Darnbrook from Horton-in-Ribblesdale).
I did this walk a few years ago when training for a 27 mile hike. The route can be quite challenging depending on the weather conditions, so good fitness and stamina are important. This route really shows you what Yorkshire has to offer – views of the 3 peaks, Malham Tarn and views over Attimire Scar and Sugar Loaf Hill.
You start with views of Pen-y-Ghent as you skirt around it’s bottom, soon reaching the boggy moorland of Fountains Fell. Walking over boggy heather really wears down the legs (or at least it does mine). The paths are not all that distinctive once you get toward the top of the Fell, and there are open mine shafts dotted around. This is why I marked it a 5/5 for navigation. If bad weather sets in limiting your visibility, good navigation skills are a must.
Once you find your way off fountains fell, the walk back is much easier and you get the awesome views of Malham Tarn as a reward. You then get onto part of the path that makes up the first half of the traditional ‘Settle to Malham loop’. The path takes you toward Attimire Scar but you veer off toward the road, following it all the way back into Settle and toward the pub!
Settle – Horton in Ribblesdale via Pen-y-Ghent
🥾 Distance: 9.8 miles 🚅 Public Transport: Leeds – Carlisle Train 🗺 Navigation: 3.5/5 🔴 Circular Variant: No – but longer / shorter variants are possible.
This is definitely an easier route than the Settle / Horton alternative above, even with the inclusion of one of the three peaks.
I suggest starting at Settle, where you have a gentle stroll toward Langcliffe and Stainforth with mostly good walled paths. There are lots of little side streets around the villages so its important to keep checking you’re on the right path, once you are, its pretty much a lot of straight lines which makes the navigation much easier.
This route is typical of the Yorkshire Dales, rolling hills, sheep in the field with sprinklings of limestone. When you are walking out of Langcliffe you get pretty good views of Pendle Hill on a clear day.
Most of the climbing comes after Stainforth but a portion of the route is along a walled gravel track (if memory serves me correctly). As you approach the stretch toward Pen-y-Ghent the track can get quite boggy – so waterproof boots are a good idea. Once you reach Pen-y-Ghent, you are pretty much already half-way up, you arrive at the crossroads just before the scramble toward the summit. If you decide to walk to the trig point, you come off the usual way ending back in Horton in Ribblesdale.
Shorter Variant: Once at the crossroads half way up Pen-y-Ghent, you can take the path straight down to Brackenbottom and into Horton (see black arrow on map).
Longer Variant: Why not carry on to Ribblehead taking the 3 peaks path? Or give yourself a challenge and cross the railway line at Horton in Ribblesdale and go up Ingleborough taking the steep decent to Ribblehead. I did this once and was great fun!
Dent Station – Ribblehead via Dent Fell
🥾 Distance: 9.1 miles🚅 Public Transport: Leeds – Carlisle Train 🗺 Navigation: 4/5 🔴 Circular Variant: Yes – starting from Ribblehead (see my circular walks below)
This route is one I have done a few times on my own, I’m not sure why, but it always feels like a different vibe to other walks in the Dales. It takes in a lot of different features both natural and industrial. The walk starts from Dent Station, walking uphill along the road until you get onto the Fell. It’s quite bleak looking moorland on Dent Fell, and that vibe continues if you choose to take a detour to Great Knoutberry.
Otherwise, eventually you will meet a road which leads you toward Dent Viaduct – the route seems to become greener and more vibrant.
If you want more of a challenge and confident with navigation, you can take a detour and walk Great Knoutberry Hill which rejoins the main path at the road down to Dent Viaduct.
From the viaduct, you go through a farm (which does house geese) and the route takes you through woodland and a tree plantation. I’ve never seen the tree plantation active but there are a lot of felled trees so its good to watch your step.
Once you are on the ‘home straight’ and heading for Ribblehead the ground can get incredibly boggy, (I would even recommend gaiters in the winter or after a period of heavy rain). The path merges with the Whernside path, which you then follow down toward Ribblehead.
Dent Station to Ribblehead via Whernside Tarns
🥾 Distance: 9.7 miles🚅 Public Transport: Leeds – Carlisle Train 🗺 Navigation: 5/5 🔴 Circular Variant: Yes – starting from Dent Village (or Dent Station if you re-jig the route sightly)
I somehow went years without ever realising Whernside had tarns! They are usually missed because they are on the side of Whernside no-one ever seems to go. This route is definitely one of the quietest in my experience, but that also means some of the paths aren’t as well trodden, so good navigation skills are important.
Walking downhill along the road from Dent Station, you will eventually meet a tranquil riverside path. Enjoy the walk because it soon becomes the moorland heathery paths which are the bane of my life!
This is the bit I find the most navigationally challenging, however, you do eventually meet a nice gravel path that takes you a good way toward the tarns.
If you want a shorter walk, where the path splits off to ‘the Pennine Journey’, continue on the Craven Way and you will eventually meet the Whernside 3 peaks path where you can continue down the Dales High Way back to Ribblehead. You miss out on the tarns and Whernside summit but its still a really nice walk and the track is much easier.
Otherwise, turn onto the Pennine Journey to visit Whernside Tarns. Continue on the track and you will find yourself at Whernside’s trig point. You can then take the usual 3 peaks decent route back to Ribblehead.
In my opinion, you must give this one a go. I’ve hiked Whernside dozens of times and it can get a bit samey and busy with all the 3 peaks walkers. However, the route from Dent genuinely feels like you are walking a different mountain (well, at least until you hit the trig).