South of Pateley Bridge in North Yorkshire, the River Nidd winds its way past some attractive villages, many steeped in their industrial past. The walk itself starts a little inland with good views across the river to the east before returning via the river banks between the two villages.
Leave your car near the Royal Oak pub in the small village of Dacre Banks and take the lane just past the pub heading south before it turns into a footpath near some buildings.
The path climbs gently until it joins the dismantled railway and becomes a wide track contouring the hillside and with very good views across the river and lower Nidderdale. Old Hall is down a lane to the left but carry on south through some pleasant woodland.
The woodland stretches for nearly half a mile before emerging close to the river. Turn sharply right at the next stile and head uphill for 100 metres before turning right. The path passes above Pyefield House before dropping gradually to a footbridge over Darley Beck.
From here take the footpath directly opposite which climbs steadily just east of south towards Darley. On entering Darley, turn right towards Darley Head where you will arrive at Darley Mill, next to the Wellington pub. Darley Mill is a 17th Century converted corn mill which in 1875 was operated by a powerful, locally built iron waterwheel which only ceased to operate in the 1950s. Unfortunately (as of 2022) the mill will not be restored to its old grandeur and has been sold for housing.
Return east along the road into the village of Darley. Darley (meaning deer glade) is an award winning village with many grand Victorian and Georgian buildings. After half a mile from Darley Head at grid ref 204596, turn left on to a lane heading north towards the river. This crosses an old railway before hitting the banks of the River Nidd. Turn left and enjoy a very pleasant two-mile section of the Nidderdale Way.
The track sticks to the banks of the river and is the home of fishermen, dog walkers and those "doing the Way". The Nidderdale Way is only 53 miles in length but within this there are some lovely sections that can be taken in bite-sized chunks, this is one of them.
After only 200 metres the footpath crosses Darley Beck and then goes onto some stepping stones that cross the main river on your right. Do not take these this time, we are sticking to this side of the Nidd.
The path then crosses a number of fields but sticks close to the river. The most impressive building (it is a tough call, they are all impressive) on the opposite bank is Dougill Hall, a fine Georgian hall which has equestrian outhouses and pleasant grounds overlooking the river. The cost of some of these grand buildings is high, the proximity to Harrogate helps.
On reaching the road bridge between Dacre Banks and Summeridge, turn left. Almost immediately on your right is Holy Trinity Church, a fine building and graveyard which is worth spending some time exploring before returning to your car.
Distance: Roughly five miles.
Height to climb: 100m (330 feet).
Start: Dacre Banks SE 197622. Park considerately near the church and head towards the Royal Oak.
Difficulty: Easy. On footpaths and good tracks.
Refreshments: The Royal Oak at Dacre Banks is a fine place to eat or drink.
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 298) 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 based in the Yorkshire Dales. He has published three books on walking in the Dales, The Yorkshire 3 Peaks, The Dales 30 mountains and Walks without Stiles. All these books (and more) are available direct from the Where2walk website. Book a navigation (map and compass skills) training day near Settle or a bespoke day for a private group. The first available day for 2024 is March 23. Look for the new “Dales 30” weekend in Hawes. In addition there are guided walks across the Yorkshire Dales including the 3 Peaks. Where2walk.co.uk also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.