In June 1808, the Reverend John Pering, vicar of Skipton and Kildwick, set out from Kildwick with four companions to visit the Lake District, writes John Cuthbert, project leader with the Yorkshire Dales Community Archives.



His hand-written description of the journey through Yorkshire to Cumberland and Westmorland was discovered in 2018 by David Turner, a local historian living in Skipton. David transcribed the journal, plus letters between John Pering and William Wordsworth, and made it available in book form. He was also very generous in donating a copy to ‘Capturing the Past’, an online record of the history of the Dales.

Setting out from Kildwick: June 20, 1808. The party, consisting of Mrs Wise, Miss Froude, Mr Wise, my sister and myself, set off, in a morning that seemed to smile on the excursion. From the lofty brow of Kildwick-hill, our pleasurable sensations were heightened by the Prospect which suddenly expanded itself. Behold a fertile vale, nearly two miles in width, surmounted by a long range of very high hills with the termination of two other vales, the whole except the heights themselves interspersed with many hundreds of trees in hedgerows, and some woods: three villages besides Kildwick, and farms and cottages, bespoke no small population. The nearer part enlivened by the navigable canal, winding, with a sweeping curve, on the side of the hill; whilst, through the centre of the vale, and its rich meadows well stocked with cattle, the river Ayr (sic) made its placid and meandering course.

Having crossed the canal we proceeded on a most excellent road fringed with a profusion of wild roses under a large wood chiefly of oaks, which clothes the rising side of the hill down to the water so as to brush with its boughs the passing barge.

Through Settle and Giggleswick: Before our arrival at the town of Settle we passed a pedestrian gentleman whose appearance highly excited curiosity; which, however, we did not consider fairly within the bounds of good manners to gratify by interrogation. He had on a pair of green spectacles and carried, slung over the shoulder, and enclosed in a neat case what bore somewhat of the appearance of a long spy glass.

He seemed about thirty years of age, very active and his complexion indicated that he was a foreigner.

Settle is a decent town, situated under hills containing an inexhaustible supply of blue limestone which I have reason to suppose continues for many miles across the country, even to that vast, abrupt, lofty, and perpendicular terminating mass of Kilnsey Crag.

As we left this place, we crossed the River Ribble whose violent course is obstructed by many a rock in its channel. Some miles lower, this stream forms a charming object near Lord Ribblesdale’s mansion, which from an eminence, looks down upon the water over a wood.

Very near, we passed through the picturesque village of Giggleswick. The tedium attending the long ascent from hence is alleviated by the appearance of the lofty and almost perpendicular continuance of blue lime rock, from the fissures of which grow stunted yew trees, oaks and bushments which, at the turn of the hill become pleasingly increased to a small wood, under the craggy eminence.

But, it so happened the tedium was quite relieved by another circumstance. The pedestrian, who had overtaken us by means of delay, to change horses for the chaise, made his appearance a considerable way up the hill. I immediately stepped out of the open carriage committing the reins to my friend and determined to endeavour to overtake him and, if fair opportunity presented itself, to enter into conversation.

As he was so far before and walked fast, it was feared I should not accomplish the object but perceiving him, after having surmounted the summit, endeavouring, with his umbrella to reach something in a watery ditch I then felt confident of success and when I got up, he was still busy and standing a little in the water.

“Some curious plant, Sir, I presume,” said I.

“Not curious; the Ranunculus aquaticus.”

The journey, plus the letters between John Pering and William Wordsworth, capture the essence of Georgian England and shows the enjoyment of travel for those wealthy enough to undertake it – something done for its own sake rather than of necessity.

If you would like to learn more about the Reverend John Pering and see the whole of David Turner’s excellent book, please visit: The Reverend Pering can be found by clicking on ‘Visitor’s contributions’ This excellent glimpse into our history is one of many within the ‘Capturing the Past’ project. We collect historical images, documents and words from those who lived or are living in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Capturing the Past is managed by Friends of the Dales and was developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by YDMT and supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

If you’d like to have a conversation about contributing something, send John Cuthbert an email: