Upper Swaledale is a beautiful section of the Yorkshire Dales. It combines typical Dales scenes of dry stone walls, sheep and picturesque villages with a strong imprint of the past. This one way walk takes you through some of the lead mine workings that dominated the valley a century and a half ago.

Take the bus from Reeth to Keld. Keld is at the upper end of Swaledale and is a remote but lovely place. It marks the crossing of the Pennine Way and the Coast to Coast, so whoever you see may be on one of these popular long distance trails.

From the bus drop in to the village and turn right along a lane high above the embryonic River Swale. After 200 metres turn left, steeply downhill, on a path leading to a bridge over the river. Climb up the other side until meeting a wide bridlepath and turn right. The path contours the hillside and passes two waterfalls, the second is the impressive Kisdon Force. Soon after a switchback in the path a less obvious path leads up to Crackpot Hall, a derelict place of legend. It is an intriguing place which is safe to explore.

Continue along the path contouring the hillside as it bends in to the impressive Swinner Gill, a steep-sided V-shaped valley. Follow this to a footbridge, turn left and enter a second side valley where the path climbs on to the open moors. This is grouse shooting country, the butts on your left as you arrive at a wide landrover track. The walk is now across wide open moors with far reaching views all round. A track to your left (just after a gate) leads to the remote ‘Dales 30’ summit of Rogan’s Seat, a 45-minute detour (there and back) across the moors.

After a further third of a mile leave the obvious track and take the footpath to your left. Now you have to cross Gunnerside Gill, scene of some of the best remains of the thriving lead mining industry so important 150 years and more ago. To cross the gill follow the path to a footbridge and after crossing take the path to your right. This path follows the river for quarter a mile before turning uphill and heading for a side valley. Climb the rough track through the valley before emerging in the industrial wasteland of old mine workings. It is a barren place but full of interest. The track (now wide and obvious) continues for one mile before dropping in to the valley of ‘Old Gang’.

On reaching the river, Hard Gill, cross it and join another excellent track which you can follow alongside the river for over one-and-a-half miles to a road. Enroute it is worth exploring the remains of the old smelting mill of Old Gang, an impressive place. From the road at Surrender Bridge there is a choice of route back to Reeth, all three miles are downhill but some rougher than others. There is a quiet road leading to Healaugh which is easiest but I prefer the riverside path alongside Barney Beck.

Alternatively there are a number of paths, crossing farmer’s fields, to the north of the river which can be followed along the hillside all the way back to Reeth. I like the riverside path through the trees to Healaugh and then the final mile along the road to Reeth.

Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly 12 miles.

Height to climb: 390m (1,280 feet).

Start: Take the Little White Bus (no 30, not Sunday) at 9.25 from Reeth memorial. It takes just over a half hour to Keld. Pre-book. I believe the Dalesbus service may be running a Sunday service this summer in addition. Check with them.

Difficulty: Hard. Most of the tracks are however very good, often landrover tracks, making for some quick walking. There is a lot to see though to distract you.

Refreshments: Reeth has a number of good 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. 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 2 books on the Dales, ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’ and ‘The Dales 30’ mountains. Available direct from the Where2walk website.

• Book a popular Navigation Training day (Beginners or Intermediates). The dates are available on the Where2walk website (from April). Or choose a Navigation Training Weekend in the Dales.

• Guided Walks dates now available for 2021 including the ‘3 Peaks in 3 Days’.

His popular website, Where2walk.co.uk also features 100’s of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs