After my Saturday hike from Hebden Bridge to Cononley, I woke up in my tent in Cononley at about 6am. It was a comfortable night and my sleeping mat and winter sleeping bag passed the tent. It was to be a glorious morning – almost cloudless, an unusual for this type of year sunny weather.
The distance to be traversed that day was slightly larger than the day before. I first had my breakfast inside the tent, then packed it all up and by about 7.15am was on my way.
First, I needed to make back up the same hill from which I had come the previous day – on the roads leading to Cononley, back to Stansfield Brow. The sun was rising and I got some beautiful views just from the roads:
After the initial 1.7 miles to the south-west of Cononley, I reached the crossroads with Stansfield Brow. Continuing to the west from here would get me to Lothersdale, but in order to get back to the Pennine Way, I actually took a north-western route from here, getting back to the Way slightly later. I first took Babyhouse Lane to north-west, climbing further up.
After 5 minutes, there is a path across the fields to the west leading to Tow Top Lane; it’s then down past a farmhouse (with two excitable dogs there) and soon one connects back to the Pennine Way on the approach to Hewitts Lane, now very close to Pinhaw Beacon (1273ft / 388m), a peak with wonderful far views within Elslack Moor. From Hewitt Lane, it’s further up some fields to the north – the road changes to a single-track path, and then along a fence onto open moorland to the west. It is only one mile, so no more than 20 minute walk.
The peak afforded unparalleled views all the way to the mountains of the Lake District to the west / north-west and 360-degree crystal clear skies views and I stayed up there for about 15 minutes.
Now it was downhill all the way to the village of Thornton In Craven. First down the path you can see in the photo above, to the west onto Clogger Lane. I was struck by how different these parts looked in this crisp sunny weather – previously, I had walked this stretch on the Pennine Way in 2018, but it was cloudy and most of the hills and mountains on the horizon could not even be seen!
Soon, a narrow (and wet in this weather) path veers off Clogger Lane and takes the walker down the green fields to Thornton In Craven, consistently in the north-western direction. There are beautiful views of the many villages down below and the surrounding countryside everyone one looks here.
It is about 3 miles from Pinhaw Beacon down to the village; I had now walked about 6.5 miles from Cononley. In Thornton In Craven, the Way crosses the very busy Colne and Broughton Road and in 5 minutes, now walking north on a quiet tarmac road, one begin approaching the Leeds and Liverpool Canal. There is one steeper climb just before reaching it, but flatter part of the route, with fewer elevations for the next 9 miles now begins (flatter simply means by comparison to before – this is not the flatlands of Hull and East Yorkshire!).
Once I’ve reached the canal, I made a proper stop for food and drink. The canal looked strikingly pretty in the morning sun, with all manner of leaf colours on the trees lining its banks, and with boats and kayaks lazily making their way in both directions.
The trail takes the walker north alongside the canal, but it’s a short stroll, less than a mile, before leaving its lazy waters and following paths across the fields to the nearby town of Gargrave, 2.5 miles to north-east.
Gargrave is a pleasant town – the kind of place to holiday in in the summer – there’s a train station, too. Malham, with its famous Cove, is very close to the north from here. That’s where I was now heading – to Malham, although I wouldn’t be going to the Cove itself that day (that’s for the next day on Wild Yorkshire Way).
The route leads north west out of Gargrave on Mary House Lane, but it’s soon up 200 feet on a field path to Harrows Hill.
Over the hill, the views of the hills towards Malham to the north start appearing as you walk across the fields slowly descending to River Aire down below.
It’s a very pleasant and mostly flat walk along the banks of River Aire for the next few miles via Airton and to Hanlith a small village just south of Malham itself; the route crosses the river twice over two bridges.
In Hanlith, there is a short but very steep climb up a street before the final 1-mile descent towards Malham. Malham is popular with tourists and a great place for families, so this area is more populated by leisure walkers.
In the picture above, Malham Cover can be seen in the distance, and you might be able to make out the village of Malham just below it.
In Malham, I found a nice bench and got some more food and drink into me before proceeding – now just 5 miles left to Settle. I would be leaving the Pennine Way now. Essentially, I was now walking to the nearest train station.
The route led up west towards Pikedaw Hill (460m) and then over the fells towards Settle. I knew it would be a climb, but that was truly a mighty tough one – just one mile or so up, but took me three times as long to actually climb up (to be fair, I was getting somewhat tired after walking for approximately 18 miles.
The walk is to the west of Malham, first up along Long Lane, but soon a path appears first through some fields and deserted farmhouses; it looks definitely idyllic.
Soon, the walk becomes more strenuous rising quickly overall by 800ft within one mile, with inclination between 15 and 22% – but the views (mostly here below to the east towards Malham – Malham Cove in the photo is to the left, hidden by the ridge – and the surrounding hills). Truly stunning.
The route never goes up to Pikedaw Hill itself, but the views are entrancing anyhow! I dropped down to sit on some rock to just take it all in.
Now it was just a little bit further up, but a gentler slope, onto a field with some cattle grazing. There are some caverns in the area, but I didn’t get to see them as I was too far away from them on a different path (should be able to see them next time as I’ll be walking from Settle back to Malham on my next leg).
Now it was a long descent down to Settle – there was to be only one short climb up over the next 4 miles. The vistas and landscapes are nothing short of spectacular for the next 2 or so miles – a huge and wide unbroken chain of green fields and hills on the horizon. The setting sun simply added to the magic of it all.
As you can see, there is a series of buildings down below on the way – the path goes around it (to the right of the buildings) and then links to Stockdale Lane – from where you get this spectacular view:
There would be a way to walk into Settle on Stockdale Lane, but my path took me off it and I could admire the nearby Warrendale Knots (with some caves up there) from a series of fields below them.
It’s difficult to imagine walking here that there’s a large town less than 15 minutes’ walk from here, but over the last climb, Settle comes into view – down below, surrounded by the magnificent countryside, in the sunset light, I cannot imagine a better and more satisfying end to this slightly shockingly good weekend.
It was good timing, too – I arrived at the Settle railway station just 15 minutes before my train and just managed to get a cup of coffee from the station cafe, now winding down and becoming acutely aware of my recovering feet!
It was a wonderful, awe-inspiring day and the weekend of walking.