Route Description

This is a 33 mile self-guided walk, which takes the walker through the glorious scenery of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, indeed, through some of the most varied in the country, following for the most part, ancient paths and trackways St Alkelda must have taken on her journeys between  Middleham and Giggleswick in the late 9th – early 10th ­ days, plus a day to travel back to Giggleswick and a day of rest/exploration in Middleham or Leyburn before returning home = 5 overnight stays. The route however, does not follow the main road from Kilnsey to Kettlewell. Instead, we cross the river Wharfe to Conistone and walk on the quiet minor road to Kettlewell. Those who live near enough to the starting point in Giggleswick and experienced walkers able to walk the 15½ miles of  Kettlewell – Middleham can walk the Pilgrimage in one day less.  Water from St Alkelda’s holy well, Giggleswick, emerges from a pipe into Tems Beck by the T- junction on High Street, if you wish to see it.  Please note, part of the Pilgrimage walk is hilly and even challenging, but most of it is less strenuous.

If you wish to start the walk from Middleham, instead of Giggleswick, reverse the route instructions. Be aware that you will face the prevailing wind and that for most of Coverdale, you have a long uphill walk.

The  33 mile route is planned in  4 overnight stages of Giggleswick – Malham, Malham – Kettlewell, Kettlewell – Carlton in Coverdale and Carlton – Middleham.    If you are an experienced walker,  you may not need the break in Carlton and may walk on to Middleham for the third night.  The Pilgrimage walk ends  in Middleham Church. A short walk across the field from the west end will take you to the place where the holy well once was.  There is a lot to interest in and around Middleham and an extra day will prove worthwhile (extensive ruins of Richard III’s castle, 5 miles to Jervaulx Abbey, 2 miles to Leyburn). More info in the Guide book.

Mandatory  Items – OS Maps Explorer OL2 and OL30 are essential also a compass and whistle would be beneficial should the mist or fog set in, along with a basic first aid kit.

NB. There is no mobile phone signal in Coverdale until  Coverham, but there are public phones by the roadside in  Horsehouse and Carlton. Coverdale is a quiet, remote dale. It is wise to let friends and family know where you will be.

Optional Items – a pocket edition of the books British birds and wild flowers.  Add a book on mosses and lichens if those interest you. There are some interesting and unusual ones on dry stone walls and ancient stone monuments. A mobile phone would be useful in the event of any emergency.

Day 1

From Giggleswick Church go left, and along  Bankwell road 200 yards, to narrow opening to path on left.

As the path opens up, bear left toward the bridge that crosses the river Ribble by Queen’s Rock.

Cross the river and head for the centre of Settle via Kingsmill lane onto Kirkgate, continue on Kirkgate which brings you out in the centre of Settle.

Cross the road at the pelican crossing and then straight ahead keeping the Town Hall on the left, at the end of the street right onto High Street past Talbot Arms pub, then onto Victoria Street and past the Folly Museum on your left.

Continue up Albert Hill, which bring you onto High Hill Lane 200 yards on, continue on for 0.8 of mile and then turn left onto a track, Stockdale Lane and gradually, you have good views.

Look over the wall on the left to see where there was once believed to be a Roman encampment.

Continue walking along the bridleway between limestone and millstone scenery, past Stockdale farm, going east on footpath until you reach Malham Cove road, now very much in limestone country and gradually, with good views down Malhamdale.

Pause to look at the Cove. You may hear or see peregrine falcons.  Curlews and skylarks very much in evidence in the high parts of the route in spring- early summer. Go right, to head down into Malham = 7 miles from Giggleswick.

Lots to see in and around Malham – the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre, limestone platform above Malham Cove, Gordale Scar, Kirkby Malham Church. Use paths by the River Aire for the last two.  OVERNIGHT STAY


Day 2
From Malham, cross Malham beck, by village green.  Turn left on to Malham Raikes road, continue uphill to Street Gate 2½miles.

From here, on your left you are able to see the ancient field systems above and around Malham Cove and the Mountain pansies that grow around here between May and June.  Street Gate – via Mastiles Lane, a Roman “paved” route, where there are the bases of several wayside crosses – Kilnsey 4½ miles.

Panoramic views from Mastiles Lane. Note the sign pointing to the location of the Roman encampment. You will need to ford Gordale Beck, easily done, except after heavy rain. Take right path before Kilnsey Crag. Cross main road and river Wharfe to Conistone,  left to Kettlewell. Pause to look in the ancient church in Conistone.  3½ miles.  = 10½ miles OVERNIGHT STAY

Day 3
Go east to far end of village of Kettlewell, past the parish church, where you may wish to pause and ask for a blessing on the walk ahead.  Follow the sign to Leyburn. For about 4 miles the walk is quite hilly, especially up Park Rash.  Coverdale  begins over the watershed with the rise on your left, of the little  river Cover and its tributary becks. On your right, Great then Little Whernside (same name as the highest of the Three Peaks). On your left, further away, Buckden Pike. Pause at the summit  to look  at Tor Dyke, ancient earthwork fortification and  further on, the wayside cross shaft, Hunter’s Stone (more on these crosses in the Guide Book). Continue to walk on single track road and grass verges, easier when the road is not bounded by walls, *  through  Coverdale to Carlton = 10½ miles. Note the different features, like waterfalls, pack horse bridges, ancient tumuli and barrows, and how the scenery changes as you walk downhill. OVERNIGHT STAY

*Variations -on  public rights of way footpaths in Coverdale, reading from  OS map OL30:

Variations could add slightly to overall mileage.

  1. Park Foot Bridge 74N 98E to 75N 98E – 1½ miles
  2. Woodale 79N 02E via Horsehouse and Gammersgill to Carlton 84N 06E – 5½ miles

Day 4
Carlton to Middleham, cross town square to A6108, Middleham Church on left towards river Ure and  Leyburn =  5 miles.   TOTAL  mileage for Coverdale =15½ miles.
If you have time to spare, visit Coverham Church.  Walk over the packhorse bridge towards the ruins of the Abbey (in private hands). Just before you enter Middleham, pause by the race horse gallops on your left and over the wall by the path, there is an excellent view of Middleham and the ruins of Richard III’s castle.

Your final destination is the church of St Mary and St Alkelda in  Middleham.  Take the road to Leyburn.  The church is a few yards down  on your left from the town square. OVERNIGHT STAY.     TOTAL MILEAGE = 33miles

St Alkelda’s Way for Cyclists

St Alkelda’s Way may be attempted by cyclists. Cycling will be difficult in places: the footpath after Stockdale Farm-Malham Cove Road and of course, Park Rash before Coverdale proper. Mastiles Lane will prove a bumpy ride. People who live fairly near the route may choose to do the Pilgrimage in stages. It is up to individuals to decide which is best for them.

Please note- that if you choose alternative footpaths in Coverdale, you may add considerably to the mileage you have to cover before you reach the b&b you have booked, and of which there are very few between Kettlewell and Middleham (see below). This was one reason for choosing the road route as the shortest. Another is that it is the way St Alkelda must have travelled, but of course, there would be no paved road in her day.

If you are unable to book a b&b in Coverdale.You could hire a taxi from Kettlewell to Horsehouse or Carlton, and walk the rest of the way to Middleham by road or footpath near the river. www.kettlewelltaxis.co.uk Tel 07940753524 

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