THIS is the kind of walk that is full of surprises. It begins in bustling Otley, it climbs steeply upwards via hundreds of stone steps, and at the top is the wonderful Surprise View, which on a good day - sadly not on the day I visited - gives magnificent views of the valley Otley sits in and across to the distant countryside.

Near to the top is a vaccary wall, just like the one I saw a few weeks back in the Sabden Valley. Made me wonder just how many people pass it without any idea how many hundreds of years old it is and how it once enclosed cattle.

The climb up the steps to the top is quite something. I once read of a hearty fellow several decades ago who successfully completed a challenge to hop his way up the steps to Surprise View. When I lived in Otley and was heavily pregnant, past my due date, I was told to eat a hot curry and climb up the steps to Surprise View. I struggled to the top, but my son did not appear for another week. No surprises there then.

Step by step

1. Start off with a pleasant walk through Wharfemeadows Park, with the River Wharfe on your left and head in front of the waterside terrace of houses, to the river bridge. Cross over bridge and head into town, follow the road and head straight across at the traffic lights into Kirkgate. At top of Kirkgate, cross over into Station Road, passing grand former Methodist chapel on right. Continue to top of road, passing over old railway track and cross over Otley bypass by metal footbridge.

2. You will start climbing now. The narrow path comes out onto a road (Birdcage Walk) cross over it and follow sign to Yorkgate. Continue upwards, via steps. You will pass sign to Chevin Park on right, continue upward right to the top at Surprise View, where you can stop for a rest.

3. With the car park behind you, and the magnificent view of Otley in front of you, go left and follow the path, which stays closely to the wall on your left. There are several paths leading off, but stick to the one close to the wall.

4. The path drops down into Wilson's Wood. Head down through the middle of the wood, bearing slightly to the right to the other side, where you will pick up the marked footpath. The path goes steeply downhill, and can be a bit tricky underfoot, at the bottom, beware. It comes out on a fairly busy road that is not at all easy to cross, sightlines being a bit obscured. Turn right along road, passing West Chevin Business Centre on right.

5. Turn right onto Birdcage Walk and continue along until you meet the footpath to Yorkgate you went along earlier. Left, back down footpath, across metal footbridge over bypass and back into Otley.


Start/finish: Otley

Distance: about five or six miles, allow three hours

Difficulty level: Easy, apart from the climb up the steps, which can be slippery and are something of a fitness challenge

Terrain: Roads, woodland, grassy paths

Livestock: Sheep about at top of Otley Chevin, beware, farmers here have lost sheep to out of control dogs.

Stiles/gates: Nothing difficult

Refreshments: Otley

Parking: Otley

OS Map: OS 297 Lower Wharfedale and Washburn Valley