FROM the lovely village of West Witton in the heart of Wensleydale the walk climbs steeply to Penhill Beacon with its fabulous views, before dropping through the spoil heaps of the 18th century lead mining industry.

This is an excellent way to spend two or three hours enjoying the low winter light. In the morning in particular the views up Wensleydale with the light behind you are spectacular.

Park in the village of West Witton, there is a suitable lay by at its east end. Walk west towards the village and take the road heading south which zig zags steeply up the hillside. Height is gained quickly and after a sharp left turn the views open up over lower Wensleydale.

Carry on uphill at Penhill Farm less steeply for a further 400 metres to a bridleway heading west. If you reach the cattle grid you have gone too far.

The bridlepath climbs through a series of fields and gates till the seventh gate when a steep final climb brings you on to the open moors. From here the walk is a delight. Three hundred metres from the gate a footpath on your right leads to Penhill Beacon, a large pile of stones commanding superb views. The beacon was one of a countrywide network of beacons that in times past were designed to warn the country of an imminent invasion. They have been lit twice, once when the Armada was steaming up the Channel and much later when Napoleon had his beady eye on our lands. On a clear day look east and you may see the next beacon on the summit of Roseberry Topping.

From Penhill Beacon return to the bridlepath and follow it over the summit plateau. A short detour will take you to the Trig Point, from here stick to the rim of the plateau and enjoy the wonderful views in to Upper Wensleydale, some of the best views in the Dales. Soon after crossing a track coming in from the south it is time to pick your way downhill through Black Scar, not difficult but quite steep.

These rocky scars were formed 18,000 years ago when the last glacier retreated down the valley. Join the path under Black Scar and continue downhill. There are some remnants (old tips in particular) of the lead mining industry that dominated life in the dale over 200 years ago.

Continue over two walls to a junction of paths at a third derelict wall. Take the path to your left and head west, enjoying the views across the River Ure at Aysgarth and the moors above the village of Carperby.

The path turns to the south and before long crosses a stile and on to a lane. The lane passes through the remains of a quarry before joining a tarmac road and dropping in to the west end of West Witton. The Heifer a very popular seafood restaurant and in the past was the temporary home of a number of members of the cast of All Creatures Great and Small during the Original series.

* Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 6 miles

Height to Climb: 350m (1,150 feet).

Start: SE 063884. There is roadside parking in West Witton but a convenient lay by to the east end is best.

Difficulty: Moderate. Tricky in places with over 1,000 feet of climbing and an initial rocky descent.

Refreshments: There is a choice of pubs and a café in the village.

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.

* Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales. He has published two books on the Dales, The Yorkshire 3 Peaks and The Dales 30 mountains. Available direct from the Where2walk website.

Book a Navigation Training day (Beginners or Intermediates). The 2002 dates are now on the website

Where2walk also run Navigation weekends in the Dales and the ‘3 Peaks in 3 Days’ guided walks. 2002 dates and details are now on the website

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