BIRKS is a shy and retiring mountain in Upper Wharfedale. It is rarely visited except by people crossing from Littondale in to Wharfedale which is a shame as there is some excellent walking on its wide ridge and outstanding views. It is one of the increasingly popular Dales 30 challenge.

The best climb of Birks is from the pretty village of Starbotton. Head down the lane to the south of the village aiming for the River Wharfe. Cross the river via the footbridge and take the track heading south towards the steep slopes of the mountain. After crossing a field the path starts to climb towards some woods. This is a bridlepath and therefore has gates not stiles which does make the going easier. The steepest section is soon completed, the route turns left out of the forest and continues to climb (much less steeply) on open hillside to a wall. The wall marks the high point of the shoulder and is now followed in a north westerly direction. The bridlepath continues down the far side of Birks in to Littondale.

Follow the footpath next to the wall for a mile. Where a second wall come in from the left cross ‘your wall’ at a stile and then continue to follow the wall north west. After another half a mile brings you to a trig point, a significant sight on this wide ridge of rough ground. The ground may be rough but the views are superb, a great panorama of mountains and dales including good views of the 3 Peaks.

However this is not the highest point of Birks (trig points do not necessarily mean the highest point), the highest point is a further 1 mile along the ridge (2 mile return), a small cairn on the west side of the wall. Those wishing to complete the ‘Dales 30’ mountains will need to do this. The Dales 30 are the mountains in the Yorkshire and Cumbrian Dales of over 2,000 feet high, a great challenge that takes you to some of the least visited and most interesting parts of the Dales. Get the book of the name and try it!

On returning to the trig point (150 metres to the NW to be accurate) take the initially paved path heading north. This intermittent path gradually descends the vast slopes of Birks with excellent views of Upper Wharfedale. At a stream and wall on the lower slopes turn left and join a lane leading past a farm and on to the road near the village of Buckden. At the road turn right and follow the road to the River Wharfe and take the Dalesway path just before the bridge. The walk completely changes and for the next 2 miles follows a well-used path next to or near the river. Look out for the herons on the mud flats and other wildlife before reaching the bridge opposite the village of Starbotton.

Fact File:

Distance: Roughly 9.5 miles. Height to Climb: 430m (1,410 feet)

Start: SD 954747. There is parking roadside in the village of Starbotton.

Difficulty: Hard. Any winter climb is challenging but the rewards on the long wide ridge of Birks are many. It may be muddy in places but always on paths.

Refreshments: The Fox and Hounds is a traditional, friendly pub in Starbotton..

Be Prepared:

The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL30) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.