FOR years, as I've driven past Kirkby Lonsdale on the way to the Lakes, Sedbergh or Dent, I've seen the crowds (mostly bikers) around the caravan cafe alongside Devil's Bridge, swigging from mugs of tea or munching bacon or sausage sandwiches.

One of these days, I've promised myself repeatedly, I'm going to join them and see just what's so special about this culinary experience.

This was to be the day, my wife and I agreed as we parked in the narrow road leading down toward the bridge. But first there was a walk to be done - a walk which, if our calculations were correct, would see us arriving back at the bridge nicely around lunchtime.

Kirkby Lonsdale is a pleasant enough little town, growing fast like so many other townships along the A65. It's well worth exploring. Our route on this crisp December morning, though, led in the opposite direction.

We walked away from the ancient, three-arched Devil's Bridge (reputedly so named because it was created as the result of a pact made between the Devil and a local woman for her soul) and crossed the busy main road to walk across a field and between houses before climbing a steep field.

As with all uphill gradients tackled early on in a walk, this called for a few stops to look back and admire the fine view across to the 2,058ft Leck Fell before we descended to Wood End Cottage. There we joined a narrow rocky track that ran between hedges and tumbledown walls, being accompanied for a while (and occasionally overwhelmed) by a bubbling stream.

We part company with the stream eventually and walked past the small, pretty dam and mill race of Sellet Mill, where corn was ground until the 1940s thanks to a water wheel fed by the race.

Ducks sailed on the dam and in the distance Ingleborough dominated the skyline. Ahead of us the footpath sign pointed into a where a beige and woolly cow stood with her calf. We were soon out of the field and into another, walking around the shoulder of Sellet Bank - a large, round hill - before skirting the 16th century Sellet Hall and its cluster of houses and joining the road which led toward the village of Whittington.

Hosticle Lane is the official name of this single-track road, hosticle apparently being what the locals used to call a hospital. Bless!

When we arrived at Whittington we found it to be dominated by the Church of St Michael the Archangel, with its solid square bell tower and a churchyard dotted with seats offering fine views over the Lancashire landscape.

Our route led on through the village, past the village hall, before striking off south-east between fields on a good farm track which brought us eventually to the banks of the River Lune.

What a delightful river this is - running wide and stately between pasture land that ends in sandy banks, sometimes rippling over shallows, sometimes gliding along with a surface like glass. The grassy path followed its western shore upstream through a succession of fields, passing a bridge that carries sewer pipes over the river before returning to the side of the A65 at the modern road bridge.

Beyond that, and maybe half a dozen centuries older, was Devil's Bridge towering over the Lune which here runs deep and dark between rocky banks. And there, alongside it, was the caravan cafe.

The sandwiches - well-filled with bacon fried to a crisp at our request - were, we agreed, among the best we had ever tasted.

Step by step

1. From western end of Devil's Bridge, go through stile and cross picnic area, heading not for stile near the road bridge or even first iron gate stile on right of that, but second iron gate stile beyond that. Cross road and go through another gate stile into field. Follow path ahead to snicket between houses. Walk up to road, cross, and walk up field to meet fence and wood coming in from left. Follow this to come eventually to stile on left into yard of Wood End Farm. Go left over this then almost immediately right along farm lane to white-painted Wood End Cottage.

2. Go left just before cottage into sometimes rocky path between hedges and follow this to mill dam of Sellet Mill. Emerge via gate on right of mill and with houses ahead turn right over stile by gate with bull warning into field. Walk up field briefly with fence on left and just beyond end of bungalow garden go through gate with yellow marker.

3. Cross field to another gate with stream beyond. Across this, head half right under pylon line toward hedge corner and continue with hedge on right and Sellet Bank on left to stile on right leading into another

field. Over this, follow fence on left around wooded area toward gate leading to Sellet Hall. Don't go through gate but instead turn right and follow fence up over ridge to drop down other side to stile into road.

4. Go left and follow Hosticle Lane into Whittington. At T-junction, go left then soon right into churchyard. Walk on past tower and down steps to narrow stile into extension of graveyard. Head for gate in left-hand corner of this and continue ahead through two small fields with fence first on left then on right to walled snicket into Main Street.

5. Turn right, passing converted school and attached house, then village hall and pub. Beyond village, where road swings hard right, go left by barn into wide farm track which passes farm and tennis court before winding pleasantly into open country.

6. Where track meets a pair of gates, take one on left and head for anglers' wooden pavilion on riverbank. Walk past this and upstream to return to A65 by road bridge, cross with care, and reach Devil's Bridge once more.

START POINT: Devil's Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale

TIME FOR FIVE-MILE WALK: two-and-a-half hours

GOING: easy.

MAP: OS Yorkshire Dales Southern and Western areas.

GETTING THERE: head up A65 through Ingleton to Kirkby Lonsdale.

PARKING: near Devil's Bridge

TOILETS: near Devil's Bridge (none along the route)

REFRESHMENTS: Plenty of pubs and cafes in Kirkby Lonsdale. Also a pub at Whittington.