|Length||6.5 – 7 miles|
|Difficulty||Tiring. Some steep sections over Blea Moor and through a wood. Can be muddy if the weather has been wet.|
|Type||Circular, out via Gearstones, along the Dales Way. Back along the line of the Settle to Carlisle Railway.|
|Time required||4 hours|
Map of the walk
Arriving by train: From Ribblehead station: turn right past the Viaduct and start walking along the Blea Moor Road (B6255) towards Gearstones.
Arriving by car: Park at Ribblehead along Bea Moor road (B6255) and walk away from the Viaduct, towards Gearstones.
You’ll walk past the Settle & Carlisle Railway Trust building and an outdoor activity centre and, after about a mile, as you approach a bridge, you’ll see a footpath signpost on the left. It sits at the start of a tarmac track leading towards some distant houses on the moors.
This is part of the Dales Way. Take the track until you reach the houses. The path heads across the front of them onto the moors. Depending on the weather, it can start to get pretty wet underfoot from now on.
The path will bear right and follow a drystone wall (on your right) for a while. The path is pretty obvious but it’s uphill for much of the way, with styles to clamber over from time to time. A hill called Knoutberry Bank is on your left.
Eventually you’ll walk past another farm (High Gayle), the pretty garden they have created out of the wilderness and, a short time later, you’ll join a much more defined path which turns left and heads further into the moors. The landscape here is very dramatic – rolling, barren hills, a few sheep and cattle on the hills, the odd car travelling on the road far to the right.
The path, which goes across Gayle Moor and Stoops Moss, with a hill called Bea Moor Moss on your left, has the feel of an old green lane, one that might have been made of stones in years gone by. It’s flatter than the previous part of the walk, and easier going but no less boggy in wet weather. Keep following this path and you will eventually hit a very minor road (turn left through the gate) that takes past Mossy Bottom Wood. The road takes you under a rail bridge and into a hamlet. Follow the road through the hamlet and turn left at Bridge End Cottage.
The path will now take you back in the direction you’ve come, but the other side of the stream (Hazel Bottom Gill). You’ll walk through the edge of Dent Head Farm and up towards the wood, passing the rail tunnel entrance (or exit, depending on which direction the train is travelling!).
The walk up through the wood is pretty steep so it’s a relief to get to the top. You’ll now follow the line of the rail tunnel, walking past the 3 or 4 ventilation shafts and the huge mounds of spoil that were pulled from the ground when the tunnel was built. After the pull up through the wood, it’s pleasant to be out in the open and walking downhill.
The path takes you to the left of the rail line, when it reappears from underground, and it becomes progressively well made, with a nice easy drop down to the Viaduct. Once there, it’s a short hop back to the car or station, possible via the Railway Inn or the tea room at the station if you feel you’ve earned refreshments.