COLSTERDALE is one of the least well known and least visited of all the dales in Yorkshire.

I prefer approaching it from the more popular Coverdale to the west across a large expanse of moorland. The return is over some remote moorland.

I parked near the small village of Caldbergh, just four miles south of Leyburn and took the signed track heading south from Caldbergh Hall. The track can be wet in its lower slopes but improves on passing a ford and climbs steadily towards the moorlands beyond.

The track carries on past Ulfras Crags to the west before peaking out at over 400 metres (1,300 feet). Just before the high point is a junction of paths, leave the main track that bends east and carry on south then south east on a distinctive path.

The path leads you past some grouse butts, this is shooting country as many of the Yorkshire Dales moors are. The path drops to a ford at Slip Wath. From the ford the path initially climbs, then turns east as it contours the shoulder of the finely named Hanging Stone and its surprising trig point. The path then drops south in to Colsterdale.

Colsterdale is rarely visited and is now a peaceful farming community, but in 1914 it was the training ground for the Leeds Pals and other units before they headed off to fight in the First World War.

Later it was converted to a German prisoner of war camp in 1917. The camp was to the east of where this walk meets the Colsterdale road and may be worth a detour. Alternatively turn west and head up the valley, the road soon turning in to a bridleway at High House Farm. Follow the bridleway (initially on the south of the river but soon to the north) for nearly two miles in a westerly direction. The valley sides close in and there are a number of disused mining shafts, a legacy of a 14th century coal mine. It is difficult to imagine the multitude of people who lived and worked in the valley in those days but a thin seem of coal was discovered underneath the gritstone. After two miles the track turns south in to Nidderdale, but I carried on west up a trackless slope leading to the fine viewpoint at Great Haw. Great Haw lies on the watershed of Nidderdale and Coverdale with grand views on a good day. Follow the wall north from the summit, past Little Haw until the route meets a bridlepath heading north.

From here the views across Coverdale and in to the main dale of Wensleydale open up and it is a pleasure to drop the last mile in to the pretty hamlet of West Scrafton. An alternative is to carry on alongside the wall, ignoring the bridleway, as it contours to the even better viewpoint of Great Roova Crags, perched high above West Scrafton.

A shooting Hut and a trig that is little more than a stub are two of the crags other great fascinations. Finally drop directly down to West Scrafton across the open access land below the crags. From West Scrafton to Caldbergh is little more than a mile of quiet road walking.

Fact file

Distance: Roughly 13.5 miles

Height to Climb: 600m (2,000 feet)

Start: SE 093852. There is some road side parking at Caldbergh but be sensitive to the residents.

Difficulty: Hard. Although the route generally follows Right of Ways the route near Great Haw does not, it is on access land however. In cloud good navigation skills are needed.

Refreshments: Middleham is 3 miles away with a choice of pubs and cafes.

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.

Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales. Jonathan has written his own book, the Dales 30 which details the highest mountains in the Dales. He also runs one-day navigation courses for beginners and intermediates. Join his Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill weekends in the Dales. To find out more details on any of the above visit his website,