Single-Centre Holidays: Nidderdale

by Karen Simons

Completing a multi-day walking holiday is a great feeling. It gives the journey a purpose, and depending on your choice of mileage and fitness, can present an enjoyable challenge. The Nidderdale Way has four quite evenly spaced days of walking, each one a little different from the other, and with an added advantage that it is run as a single-centre holiday.

Nidderdale Way Map

A Single-Centre Holiday

Pateley Bridge sits at the centre of the walk and so is an ideal base. It is also a lovely little market town. It has old fashioned shops, cafés and eating places. There is a timeless feel to it, as it is very much an old farming town, proud of its heritage, with a small museum and local crafts for sale.

The bridge after which the town is named strides the River Nidd, which the Nidderdale Way follows up and down over the course of the walk. Two days out and back to the upper reaches and another two out along the gentle countryside and back high above the valley on its lower reaches.

A hiker looking out over the beautiful green scenery of Nidderdale.

Exploring Beautiful Nidderdale

Nidderdale itself is not your typical Yorkshire Dales picture postcard combination of quaint villages, stone barns and lush farmland. It is not part of the National Park but rather an Area of Outstanding National Beauty.

The walking is varied but above all extremely quiet, except when you see activities around How Stean Gorge and Brimham Rocks. There are lovely views, heather moors, river and woodland paths along with the wonderful gritstone sculptures and edges that mould the scenery.

A walker stands on gritstone overlooking a deep leafy gully in Nidderdale.

The first two days of walking in the upper reaches circle Gouthwaite Reservoir, which is a nature reserve. The Nidd is followed on both banks as you walk to and from Pateley Bridge and around Gouthwaite. At the head of the valley, you strike out across the open grouse moorland, turning at the far point across the towering dam of Scar House Reservoir. 

Yorke's Folly: two stone pillars towering over a pair of walkers on the Nidderdale Way.

Circling From Pateley Bridge

The return path visits How Stean Gorge, a spectacular ravine now used for outdoor pursuits.

At the end of the second day, as the walk nears Pateley Bridge, looping round lovely countryside, Yorke’s Folly (above) is found. Yorke’s Folly was originally three pillars, now two, built in the late 18th century to provide employment during a recession. The day ends by returning to the town from the other side of the bridge.

Stepping stones cross the River Nidd, used on this single-centre hike.

Woodland Walking Along the River Nidd

The following day, the trail heads out for the lower reaches of the river valley. The day’s walking is through woodland and mostly along the side of the Nidd. It is a relaxing part of the trail which ends the day at Ripley.

Walkers following a narrow path above the River Nidd.

Ripley is a beautiful village built as a model estate village for the castle. The castle and church are both well worth a visit. Within the churchyard is a unique Weeping Cross. The wooden cross has gone but there are still the eight kneeling niches for pilgrims at its base. 

The Weeping Cross, carved from stone, with niches at the bottom.

The Last Day of the Nidderdale Way

On the final day’s walk from Ripley back into Pateley Bridge, the trail gains height above the Nidderdale valley and heads out towards Brimham Rocks. Brimham Rocks, managed by the National Trust, is a popular spot for families and boulderers alike. The gritstone rocks have been weathered into weird and wonderful shapes, with names to identify them — although a little imagination is often required to make the connection.

The rolling countryside continues until you join Pateley Bridge’s very own panorama walk back into the town.

A walker checks her map at a stile on the Nidderdale Way.

In Favour of a Single-Centre Holiday

Perhaps nothing can beat the sense of achievement or maybe madness of walking, running or cycling many miles from one destination to another, often ending up at the other end of the country with pride and frankly amazement that you got there under your own steam.

But there’s a lot to be said in favour of a single-centre circular walk like the Nidderdale Way. You get the best of both worlds with this particular arrangement:

  • The entire trail can be walked from the base, with just a handful of simple transfers organised to suit your walking ability and preferred timings.
  • You do not have to pack-up and move each night but can settle down for a break in the same accommodation and only have to organise what you are carrying in your daypack.
  • It is ideal for a more relaxing multi-day walk.

Contours Holidays pride ourselves on our expert knowledge of the UK’s trails. We regularly set out to check our routes and directions and to make improvements on the holidays we offer. You can find several write-ups of staff expeditions in our Trail Diaries.

Interested in walking the Nidderdale Way?

Contours Holidays offer self-guided walks along the Nidderdale Way, as well as an array of other single-centre holidays. Find your holiday here:

Originally published 02/02/21

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