THE village of Embsay sits impressively below Embsay Crag, a popular climb on a half day winter’s wander.

The walk is much improved by including the pretty reservoir below the gritstone crags. I would suggest leaving the bleak moorlands beyond for another day.

I prefer doing this popular walk in a clockwise direction so turn right out of the car park and head towards the Elm Tree Inn. Take the right fork road past the pub signed for Embsay Reservoir and follow the road, gradually climbing, out of the village and in to open countryside. On the left as you leave the village is an artificial pond/mini lake, the remnants of the old mills that marked the growth of the village in the 19th century. Continue on the road all the way to the west end of the dam wall.

Although we will continue along the road on the west side of the reservoir it is worth walking on to the dam for some excellent views across the water and the sailing club. Sailing is a popular activity on the reservoir and the Craven Sailing Club has made it its home, the boats clearly visible on the south west corner of the reservoir. The reservoir itself was completed in 1909 and was built to serve the local population. The workers were housed during the construction in the cotton mill just to the north. From the sailing club walk for just over a quarter of a mile to a point where the road bears left and a footpath sign to the right directs you through a gate to the north banks of the water.

Turn right at the gate and follow the bridlepath through the bracken. After 250m the path splits, take the uphill path for less than 100m to a lovely small dam and pool, the remnants of the old workings. Return to the main path at a wall, cross the stream and then after a further 150m take the left hand fork in the path away from the wall and heading towards Embsay Crag. The path is a little muddy in places and as it steepens zig zags to the left for a more gradual climb. Some people have headed straight for the summit but the slightly longer left had path is better. As the path doubles back the gritstone rocks of the summit of Embsay Crag appear.

The summit area is a great spot to linger in good weather with views over the moors to the north and Airedale and Skipton to the south and west. From the summit follow the footpath heading east as it drops down from Embsay Crag. The footpath soon meets a drystone wall and the start of the old field system above Embsay. Cross the wall and head south along a wall and downhill with a stream to your left. Pass through a gate and join a farm track leading past the farm at Boncroft. Carry on along the farm road to where it meets a road, turn right and follow it back to Embsay. On the right take a quick detour in to Embsay Kirk, the home of the original priory before Bolton Abbey, a good end to an enjoyable walk.

Fact box:

Distance: Roughly 3.5 miles.

Height to climb: 200m (655feet)

Start: SE 010538. A few metres to the east of the Elm Tree Inn is a free car park.

Difficulty: Easy/medium. A short climb adds to the walk.

Refreshments: The Elm Tree Inn is a good local pub next to the car park.

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 2) 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 based in the Yorkshire Dales:

  • He has published 3 books on walks in the Dales; ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’, ‘The Dales 30’ mountains and the New ‘Walks without Stiles’ book.
  • All are available direct from the Where2walk website.
  • Book a Navigation Training day in Long Preston, near Settle (Beginners or ‘Compass & Contours’) Dates and further information are available on the website. also features 100’s of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.