I AM writing this as the gales sweep across the country. Maybe that is why Ilkley Moor comes to mind. Certainly this is an airy walk, enough to blow the cobwebs away, as well as being extremely enjoyable and full of interest.

The Cow and Calf, half a mile from Ilkley town centre, makes for the best start. Step straight out of the car and you are straight in to some unique and stunning scenery. A short walk takes you in among the rocks. Made of millstone grit, a type of sandstone common amongst this area of the Dales, the Cow and Calf (Hangingstones) consist of two large boulders named because one is large and the other small ie: Cow and Calf. According to legend, the Calf was taken from the Cow when the giant Rombald was fleeing an enemy and stamped on the rock as he leapt across the valley.

Many climb the boulders and enjoy the scramble, but an alternative is to take the path just to the east/left of the rocks, a simpler and easy, short climb on to the moors. Head south west to a footbridge across Backstone Beck.

Follow the path on the western side of the stream as it turns from south to a more south westerly direction. Nearly half a mile from the bridge there is a crossways of paths, turn south and continue the steady climb to join a short section of the Dalesway Long Distance footpath.

This leads to the well preserved small stone circle of the Twelve Apostles. It is a good spot and the stone circle is much better preserved than most.

From the Twelve Apostles turn due west for three-quarters of mile on a good track to the summit of Ilkley Moor, marked by a trig point and cairn. Strictly speaking this is the summit of Rombald’s Moor, the best known part of Ilkley Moor.

It always brings to mind the legend of the famous folk song Ilkley Moor Baht’at, which in essence describes a young lady telling her man that he should really wear a hat while walking on the moor or he will perish and end up being eaten by worms ie: he will be lost on the moors and his body ends up in the ground.

Continue from the trig continue heading west for thre-quarters of a mile past the Thimble Stones towards the twin pylons of Whetstone Grange. From here follow the main track north towards Ilkley. For three-quarters of a mile it heads steadily downhill until it meets a secondary path going east/west. From here keep heading east with great views across Ilkley and in to the southern Dales on your left. After one mile the land steepens below you, this is Ilkley Crags and the best part of the return walk.

At the crags I quite enjoy taking a track downhill for 200 metres at its western end and then following this path underneath the impressive crags. You can remain above them though.

Whichever you choose the paths lead to the footbridge over Backstone Beck and the short return back to the Cow and Calf.

Fact box:

Distance: Roughly 6 miles

Height to Climb: 270m (885 feet)

Start: SE 132467. Park at the car park at the Cow and Calf.

Difficulty: Medium: The moors can be confusing in misty and windy conditions and there is a large choice of paths.

Refreshments: There is a welcoming café at the Cow and Calf car park, a pub opposite or a short drive in to Ilkley.

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 297) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass (essential on this walk). 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 in the Yorkshire Dales:

• He has published 2 books on walks in the Dales, ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’ and ‘The Dales 30’ mountains. Available direct from the Where2walk website.

• Book a Navigation Training day (Beginners or Intermediates), First available date 27 March. All dates and information on the website.

• Where2walk also run Navigation weekends in the Dales and the ‘3 Peaks in 3 Days’ guided walks. Full details also on the website

Jonathan’s popular website, Where2walk.co.uk also features 100’s of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs