Circular heritage walk in the heart of Nidderdale

A map of the route. Walk courtesy of The Walking Englishman
A map of the route. Walk courtesy of The Walking Englishman

You can start from almost anywhere on the route which is steeped in history as you walk on paths that have been used for hundreds of years. You will walk through woodland used in the Iron Age and with luck you may just find the unique “Adam’s Ale” rock.

Winter walking has its attraction and although the flora is dormant there is much to admire. For example you’ve often heard the adage “Can’t see the wood for the trees”. Not so in winter - trees take on a special attractiveness as the limbs and branches are open to strict examination and as you’ll see from some of the images from this walk there is much beauty to behold that for the seven-eight months of the year is hidden behind a thick leafed canopy.

Hartwith, which means “stag wood”, lies central in Nidderdale and was once part of the expansive Fountains Abbey estate. The area has a long history of human habitation and there is much evidence found while doing the walk like Iron Age enclosures in woodland that you walk through along the route.

After kitting up in the National Trust car park at Brimham Rocks, head east across lush open moorland towards Riva Hill. Riva Hill is a Bronze Age site with carved rocks.

After Riva Hill, turn from east to south and track down a bridleway with the Monk’s Wall on your left hand side. The wall has a particular characteristic of large boulders, or orthostats, providing it with a solid base.

After Brimham Lodge, head across lovely rural Nidderdale to Spring Wood, the first of a number of delightful woods on the walk.

The next stage of the Hartwith Heritage Walk goes over open fields to the small hamlet of Hartwith.It consists of a chapel, a school house (more like the cottage it is now) and a church. A few distant farms complete the quietest of villages.

After Hartwith, walk west past Prospect Farm to an old disused quarry, then drop down from fields to the Ripley to Summerbridge Road at Dougill Hall (the section of the walk from Hartwith to Dougill Hall is a detour from the official Hartwith Heritage Walk).

Follow the road back to Summerbridge to rejoin the official trail.

Make your way up the steep ascent of Hartwith Bank before leaving the road to enter Old Spring Wood. On entering the wood, pass a lovely man-made pond which is richly used by ducks, moorhen and geese. After spending a little time with the animals, walk through the beautiful woodland that has been managed since the Iron Age.

In those ancient days the wood was used for grazing stock. Later on in medieval times it became a hunting ground, part of the “Chase of Nidderdale”. Now it is a quiet, serene place. Most appropriate considering the sublime setting.

After Old Spring Wood, walk though the smaller Braisty Woods before tracking down the quiet road towards Smelthouses.

Just before reaching Smelthouses, cut right along a bridleway to Low Wood House which leads to the final and the toughest part of the walk - a sapping 100 metre ascent along Monk’s Route, one of many in the area which was used by monks to access their estates.

There is an option of detouring on a track to the “Adam’s Ale” rocks where a boulder is carved out with Adam’s Ale as the spring water emerges from underground.

After Monk’s Route, emerge on the road just south of Brimham Rocks car park.

Note: some paths on this walk are not clearly marked, especially sections off the Hartwith Heritage Walk route. Navigation and map reading skills are recommended.