Village fetes, fell running, a famous old pub, the most photographed bridge in the Dales, and the peculiar sight of deckchairs and sandcastles on the adjacent river beach, produced by a convenient, day tripper-luring twist in the River Wharfe, are all things you’ve probably heard of or experienced in Burnsall.
However, Burnsall also serves as a jumping-off point for a tangle of other trails in the Dales. Start your lung-busting fell walk, relaxing river meander, village-to-village rural trail or any number of other possible outings from the village green.
This time, we’ll be sneaking down the side of the Red Lion for a circle walk along the river that includes a famous suspension bridge, some road walking, and stunning vistas.
If you arrive early or during the week, you can park for free just next to the village green. Field parking fees are likely to be grudgingly paid by latecomers and weekend visitors. Summertime in Burnsall can be extremely hectic, so plan accordingly. This isn’t the trail for you if you’re hoping to transcend your physical body.
The rest of us can take a well-traveled trail to the River Wharfe’s lovely waters, which are teeming with large brown trout and many little fry this summer. Keep the river on your right and take in the breathtaking scenery as you travel for 45 minutes to a world-famous suspension bridge, complete with rock scars, kingfishers, flycatchers, and dippers, and fast rock-crashing river currents that mysteriously turn into a peaceful, mirror-like serenity.
If you want to cross the Wharfe, take the well-preserved wrapped steel cable bridge built in 1885 by William Bell of nearby Hebden and prepare for some creaking and wobbling in the spirit of Indiana Jones (although there are some stepping stones nearby for the ultra-intrepid!).
“It’s a pretty sight”
On the other side is a lovely cafe where you may enjoy some coffee and a pastry. Get ready to do a little road walking. When you’re full, head along the road to your right until you reach a stile on your right, which is about half a mile from the restaurant. Jump over it and continue along the well-defined trail that leads left over the forest. At some point, you’ll be treated to a breathtaking panorama of Burnsall and the surrounding countryside. There are seats neatly placed along the path to let you rest and take in the scenery.The trail will eventually loop back down towards Burnsall. To go back to the other side of Burnsall’s bridge, you’ll have to do some impromptu fieldwork over a few of fields. The final stage is to climb the stone steps onto the bridge, and then make your way across. If you’re lucky, or just feel like staying until dusk, you can watch the renowned Burnsall bats hunt for insects over the lake near the historic bridge. It’s a beautiful sight, and a fitting conclusion to a scenic stroll.
RANGE: 2.40 km
Level of Difficulty: Low
Duration: 100 minutes
Burnsall may be found on the B6160, which connects Kettlewell and Bolton Abbey.
REFRESHMENTS: The Red Lion is a charming watering hole with a beautiful beer garden right on the river. While the setting calls for something extraordinary, the food is merely adequate at best.
In addition, Troller’s Gill in Appletreewick is surrounded with myths and legends. Barquest, the fearsome ghost dog with “eyes as big as saucers,” is supposed to haunt this dark and foreboding gorge. All sorts of delicious nasties are rumoured to be hiding in the crevices. They’re all here, from rock-throwing sprites to mad goblins to “flesh-eating boggarts” who feast on human flesh. Nice.
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