Secrets of the Three Dales Way

by Gosia Giernalczyk

The Three Dales Way is a circular walk that starts and finishes at Burnsall, covering 32 miles. It’s the perfect walk for anyone wanting to explore the Yorkshire Dales and admire the varied landscapes along the way. There are rivers, waterfalls, bridges, barns, fields, farmlands, uphill and downhill sections. The changeable landscapes and natural diversity found along the Three Dales Way are breathtaking.

A great example of the architecture in Yorkshire: a pale stone house nestles amongst the trees beside the river rushing in the foreground.


I have never been to the Yorkshire Dales before and was not too sure what to expect from this part of the country. Having arrived in Burnsall on Tuesday afternoon, I could not believe how different this village looks to anything I have seen before.

Gosia takes a selfie on the Three Dales Way with Burnsall Bridge, a stone bridge with multiple arches, in the background.
The views from Burnsall Bridge over the river and the green hills of Yorkshire beyond, with a white house sitting partway up the slope amongst fields split by low stone walls.

Burnsall is located on the River Wharfe in Wharfedale, within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. One of the main attractions of the village is Burnsall Bridge, which was built in 1609. From the bridge, there are amazing views of the valley.

In the village we can find a picturesque green, a parish church, a chapel, a café, an ice cream shop and the Red Lion Pub, complete with a large outside sitting area from where it is possible to enjoy views over the river.

The Red Lion Pub on the Three Dales Way in Burnsall. It's a long stone pub with big three-paned windows and wooden benches outside, seen here in early evening.

I felt there was something unique about Burnsall, especially the river itself, the level of which changes dramatically from one day to another. As the Three Dales Way starts and finishes at Burnsall, there is enough time to enjoy the village’s beauty and peacefulness.


As The Three Dales Way follows a part of the River Wharfe and the River Skirfare and crosses a few streams, it encounters a good number of bridges.

The first bridge, which I mentioned earlier, is Burnsall Bridge. It looks very majestic. Later, the trail crosses a few more bridges, from which we can enjoy river views. When I was walking along the trail, the level of the water was rather high, and the rivers looked very powerful.

The river rushes powerfully over a weir and beneath a bridge.
A view over Hebden Suspension Bridge on the Three Dales Way, a narrow pedestrian bridge hung between two spindly towers.

I will definitely remember the Hebden Suspension Bridge, which was officially opened in 1885. Walking along this bridge was quite exciting. Another impressive bridge was the footbridge over Linton Falls.

There were also a few other smaller wooden and stoney bridges. I really enjoy looking at bridges and water.


Walking along the Three Dales Way not only let me enjoy the natural side of Yorkshire, but also the region’s interesting architecture. Smaller and bigger cottages, complete with beautiful gardens, could be found in many different locations along the trail.

The Three Dales Way visits several villages of varying size. The trail starts at Burnsall and soon reaches Grassington, where you’ll find plenty of tea rooms. As there are few things better than a cup of tea and a cake, I had to stop in Grassington in one of the tea rooms.

The front of the Rustic Rabbit tea room in Grassington. It's a stone end-of-terrace building with woodwork painted in pale pink.
A view of The Devonshire pub in Grassington as viewed by Gosia on the Three Dales Way, made of honey-yellow stone with black accents and several picnic benches outside.

Another two villages which I will remember for a long time are Hawkswick and Arncliffe. According to data from 2012 and 2018, only 70 people live in Hawkswick and 80 in Arncliffe. These were two of the smallest, quietest and most mysterious villages I have ever seen.

The Kettlewell Village Store is another stone building with its wood detailing painted in vibrant colours, in this case teal and pink.
A view of the big square tower of St Mary's Church at Kettlewell on the Three Dales Way.

One more village that should be mentioned is Kettlewell. It was surprising to find out that a small village like this has three pubs, so there are enough options to enjoy an evening with a pie, a pint and a roaring fire. In Kettlewell, I also found a village shop and St Mary’s Church.

Malham Cove

One of the biggest attractions located on the trail is Malham Cove, a limestone formation which was formed at the end of the Ice Age. Dramatic by nature, the cove has been the set for many movies, including Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Wuthering Heights.

A view along the path leading to Malham Cove, itself a towering limestone cliff in the distance, with a dark stream bubbling away alongside.

A photo of the limestone pavement atop Malham Cove, where the limestone has split into deeply-cut pavers.
The knobbly stone path that leads up to the top of Malham Cove. Walkers descend it, with stunning views of the green valley below.

Walking on the top of the cove and along the valley was an amazing experience. Malham Cove is a unique place where it is possible to admire geological diversity.

Open spaces

The Three Dales Way threads its way beyond the riverbanks and through villages to tour more open spaces. As I explored this trail, for many hours I enjoyed wide views, tranquility and nature, without meeting too many fellow walkers.

Yorkshire's green hills, split into patchwork fields by stone walls, are a common view on the Three Dales Way.
A stony farm track between two stone walls leads into the mist ahead.

The Yorkshire Dales has surprised and charmed me, and I would like to get back there again one day.

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.

Gosia, Database Team Manager at Contours Holidays, stands at the seaside with a sandy beach behind her.

Gosia Giernalczyk

Database Team Manager

Organises database team work. Google Maps and research enthusiast. After work you can find her learning salsa and bachata on the dance floor, enjoying nature and architecture on a walk, or watching a movie at a small cinema with big vision.

Read more blogs by Gosia Giernalczyk

Originally published 03/05/24

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