People have been doing the Waterfalls Walk since the days of stovepipe hats and crinolines, and this steep, tree-hung circuit of the two moorland rivers that rush together in Ingleton village to form the River Greta continues to be one of Yorkshire’s prime outdoor attractions.
First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
I’d always assumed that any walk so popular must be a bit tame – but not at all. The twin gorges of the River Twiss and Doe may be well-trodden, but they’re far from commodified. The combination of thick woods, waterfalls, churning narrows and thread-like paths exerts as much magic on today’s walkers as it did on Victorian holidaymakers in search of swoonsome thrills.
Setting off from Ingleton along the narrow path that shadows the River Twiss, we were almost at once enclosed in the dark walls of a gorge, with the river running fast among mossy stones splashed with dipper droppings. Beside the path lay a money tree, its hide as scaly as a lizard’s with tens of thousands of copper coins hammered into the boughs for luck. The trail climbed the wall of a canyon above swirling holes where the south-going river chased round and round before escaping, sculpting semi-circular hollows in the rock walls with a continuous swallow and gurgle. Its cold breath and smell of stone and earth came up to us as we crossed the gorge on lattice footbridges under which the peat-charged water sluiced as dark and frothy as a gush of porter.
A roe deer went bounding up the bank, its white scut bobbing a warning. A long view upriver showed Pecca Falls crashing down a staircase of slippery rock steps. Beyond the cascade the trail left the trees and followed a curve of the Twiss. A wonderful view opened ahead towards Thornton Force, pride of the walk, descending a series of rapids before hurling itself in a 50- foot freefall into a smoking pool. Above this thunderous weight of water we followed a walled lane into the mist. Unseen and offstage, sheep bleated, a farmer whistled and a quad went puttering over an invisible field by Twisleton Hall.
Below the farm the River Doe echoed and hissed in its own steep walled canyon, leaping down towards Ingleton and its confluence with the Twiss through S-shaped channels carved through the shale by the force of water alone. We crossed above potholes boiling with toffee-coloured bubbles, and skirted backwaters where the surface lay marbled with scarcely moving patterns of foam. Below the white wall of Snow Falls the path snaked past another money tree and on through mossy old quarry workings, to emerge at the foot of the gorge with the church and houses of Ingleton lying beyond, as muted and dreamy looking as any faded Victorian lithograph.
Start & finish: Waterfalls Walk car park, Ingleton, N. Yorks LA6 3ET (OS ref SD 693733)
Getting there: Bus – Service 80 (Lancaster-Ingleton), 581 (Ingleton-Settle). Road – M6 Jct 34 (A683, A687) or Jct 36 (A65) to Ingleton. Waterfalls Walk is signed in village.
Walk (4½ miles, moderate/strenuous, OS Explorer OL2): From car park follow waymark arrows up River Twiss, along lane via Twisleton Hall farm (702751) and down River Doe.
Conditions: Continuous slippery paths and steps.
NB – Online map, more walks: www.christophersomerville.co.uk.
Refreshments: Frumenty & Fluffin teashop, Main Street, Ingleton (01524-241659)
Accommodation: Croft Gate, Chapel-le-Dale, Ingleton (01524-242664; www.croft-gate.co.uk) – quiet, friendly and immaculate B&B
Waterfalls Walk: Open 9 a.m. daily; £5 entrance/car park pp; £11 family; complimentary leaflet guide
More info: Ingleton TIC (01524-241049); www.visitingleton.co.uk; www.yorkshire.com
Readers’ Walks: Come and enjoy a country walk with our experts! Dates, info etc.: http://www.mytimesplus.co.uk/travel/uk/1867/times-walks. Next walk: Lake District, 8 April