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Buckden Pike and Hubberholme - the waterfall walk

Walk Summary
Distance:About 6 miles (10k)
Difficulty:Difficult - steep climbs and the direct route involves a small rock climb. Not for the risk averse.
Start:Hubberholme or Buckden
Time:five hours or so

This is undoubtedly my favourite walk in Wharfedale. A circular route starting at the amazingly pretty hamlet of Hubberholme, walking along the banks of the Wharfe to Buckden, then climbing Buckden Pike by way of a series of spectacular waterfalls, and finally returning to Hubberholme via Cray.

Rood Loft at Hubberholme Church This is also a very little known walk. That's because the path up the waterfalls has always been just that, a path rather than a public footpath. Now it's access land so the status is no longer in doubt. Or maybe the lack of popularity is down to having to climb the third waterfall. Who knows. To be fair, there is a route round the third waterfall, but it's not half as much fun.

The walk being circular you can start from anywhere. There's a large car park in Buckden, but it does get full, and you have to pay. There's free parking for about a dozen cars available at Hubberholme, so that's where we start from. If Hubberholme's full, take the road on the church side of the bridge and there's some more unofficial parking a few hundred yards away at Stubbing Bridge.

Hubberholme is a tiny hamlet, deep in what was once a Royal hunting forest. It has but two buildings of note, the Church and the Pub. Both are things of beauty.

The church is a squat Norman structure with a delightful rugged beauty all its own. In fact it's rather like a smaller version of Linton Church, and that was old in Norman times. The church has a few claims to fame.

Hubberholme Church It has a lovely rood loft dating from 1558 which must make it one of the oldest in England. According to Wikipedia, in church architecture  a "rood" is a wooden or stone gallery designed to support a cross, and this is the only one I've ever seen in Yorkshire.

The church is also the last resting place of J B Priestley's ashes, and the pews are by Robert Thompson the mouseman of Kilburn. That's not bad for a small forest chapel!

Over the bridge from the church is The George. An ancient pub serving decent beer, but it can get awfully crowded, and it's just too early on the walk to stop for a pint.

From the George, head down the road towards Buckden. This is a nice quiet road, and after a few minutes you pass Kirkgill Manor on the left. This proudly proclaims how it was restored by Bishop Heber a former Bishop of Calcutta; one of those Victorian gentlemen who spent their days earnestly civilising heathens in every corner of the Empire. Shortly after passing the manor,  the Dales Way joins from the left, and we follow it all the way to Buckden along the banks of the Wharfe. Behind Buckden is the massive bulk of Buckden Pike which we will be climbing.

One of the waterfalls on Buckden Beck Buckden is quite unusual a village. It's very open, and linear, whereas all the other villages in a Wharfedale are more compact. Anyhow it's very pleasant, and we walk up the lane behind the Buck Inn (still too early for a pint) and enter Buckden Gill (aka Buckden Beck) a massive cleft in the side of the hill.

This is where the real walk starts. Ignore the signposted path to Buckden Lead Mine and Starbotton, and follow the stream.  The beck contains a series of three big and half a dozen small waterfalls. I've never seen better in Yorkshire, but now that so much more access land is open who knows what I might find. They make idyllic picnic spots, so idle and soak in their beauty. The first two big waterfalls are quite easy to walk round, the third less so. I always climb the third one by the fairly easy route just to the left of the fall. But if you're more sensible than me, retrace your steps until you can clamber up the left (North) side of the valley to just below the fence. There you'll find a path which takes you above the fall.

buckden pike summit The country now becomes wilder. We're out of the sheltered valley and onto exposed moorland. Continue following the stream uphill past another waterfall, and then all the way up to the slagheap that marks "Buckden Lead Mine". Climb the slagheap and enjoy the old workings. I love these old workings and find them so evocative.

At this point we're actually on a permissive footpath, which has waymarkers at intervals. As you face the mine, the path goes off at about 10 0'clock over the brow of the hill and up to the summit. If you can't see the path for any reason just head for the right-angle where the two field walls meet and climb up from there.

Buckden Pike Memorial The summit is not so much a summit as a plateau about 1200 yards long running parallel to the valley. At the northern end of the plateau is the trig point and a cairn, and at the Southern end is a memorial to a bomber that crashed in WWII killing all the crew bar one. Having climbed all this way it would be churlish not to take a good look at both.

One point to note, the cairn's on the near side of the wall while the memorial's on the far side. Near the cairn is a stile, make use of it as it's the only way over the wall. Interestingly enough, the stile's also on a bridleway, so if you're planning to do this bridleway on horseback make sure you're mounted on a top class show jumper.

After exploring the summit, we head for Cray. The path to Cray goes straight off the Northern end beyond the cairn, and is a broad well used path. If you follow it all the way it leads to the car park in Buckden, which is the most common way up the hill. We don't do that, we follow it down until we're directly above the hamlet of Cray in the valley down below. At this point leave the path and make a beeline for Cray. It's nice open country, and contains more rabbits than I've ever seen anywhere else in my life. As you reach the bottom, there's a short path leading directly down to the bridge at Cray, and finally, finally, a well deserved pint at the White Lion.

The White Lion at Cray The White Lion is one of those superb Dales pubs that's so far pretty unspoilt. They do good hearty food, accommodation, good beer, you can camp in the back garden and it's dog friendly. There are plenty of tables outside, and even though they've rearranged the inside it's not been spoilt. However, the last time I visited, dripping with sweat on a hot June day with a thirst like no other, they served me a pint so abominable I actually considered not finishing it. The beer was pale, murky and very burnt tasting. Golden Pippin from Copper Dragon Brewery it was, and if they renamed it "Toasted Whippet" it would be more apt. I've had other beers from Copper Dragon before and been well pleased, and I've had some fine pints at the White Lion, but this was beyond the pale. How it ever got past quality control is beyond me.

After leaving the White Lion the path goes behind the pub and follows a beautiful little stream all the way down to Stubbing Bridge. Keep your eyes open as the stream is generally heaving with Trout. Turn right at the bridge, head down the road and in a few short minutes you're back at Hubberholme, and if you're not driving there's the pleasant prospect of one for the road at The George.

 Pictures of Hubberholme, Buckden Pike and Cray

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Comments (9)
Thanks! Love the pictures- sorry but I'm going to use them for my coursework ^_^
posted by Virupa R 15/05/2008 20:16:57
glad you like them, hope your course goes well.
posted by Mick 15/05/2008 23:42:48
Great walk - waterfalls are very good and the climbs not too bad (I'm a walker not a climber). Must have missed the path at the top of the lead mine so followed the wall up to the top and it was pretty boggy even by Buckden standards.
posted by David G 24/08/2008 18:35:30
This is a favourite walk of mine as well particularly as it is not too well known. If anyone had the energy the walk could be prolonged by continuing from the back of the White Lion past Scar House and on to Yokenthwaite thence back by the river. Unfortunately, since this part was posted as one of the best walks in England in the Sunday Telegraph, it is now very busy. (Best to do it on a rainy February day!).
posted by Robert A. 15/03/2009 10:19:46
A favourite of mine too,in fact we are off round there tomorrow but will start from The Fox & Hounds at Starbotton, then we head about a third of the way up to the memorial then cut across the slopes of the Pike to the back of Buckden & pick up the beckside path. Follow that to the summit, pausing to explore the mine entrance etc & sample the drinking water from the beck. have never found a brige at Cray though,only stepping stones. Beer has been poor at the White Lion for sometime now, unfortunately they seem to be more interested in catering for the car bound tourists eating requirements & it certainly hasn't been the same since the interior was knocked about & it lost a lot of character. We return to Starbotton from Hubberholme following the Wharfe all the way to Starbotton Bridge. As we always use the B+B at the pub' here it's a perfect end to a cracking days stroll. Long live the Dales!
posted by Dave T. 19/03/2009 14:13:39
well spotted about the bridge - stepping stones it is.
posted by Mick 20/03/2009 16:56:27
Just returned from a weekend in Wharfedale staying at the White Lion Inn at Cray. We did this walk but started from Cray up to Buckden Pike. Thanks so much for this guide on the Waterfall Walk otherwise we would not have had such a rewarding experience. We went down the waterfalls rather than up and we were so glad we did as the ascent up the waterfalls looked quite demanding. I love the Yorkshire Dales and this walk is a must for anyone who wants a bit of everything.The walk up to Buckden Pike was strenuous enough for us and the descent down the waterfalls just wonderful with lots of places to stop and admire the views.The Buck Inn served a nice Pint and the walk to Hubberholme along the river is idyllic. A word of warning... The George at Hubberholme stops serving at 2.30pm!!! We went on to Yokenthwaite and then back to Cray which made it a lovely day's walk! We would recommend the White Lion which serves good food and good beer in a lovely friendly atmosphere.Who needs to go anywhere else?
posted by Sharon A 19/04/09 19/04/2009 21:39:11
I did the walk on Sat. 18/04/09. I saw it on this site a couple of days earlier and couldn't get out of my head that there was such an interesting way up the Pike. I walked from Hubberholme, down the banks of the Wharfe and up the path by the Waterfalls from Buckden. There was decent visibility and I found it worth the while to turn and look back at the views, which gradually unfurl during the ascent. There are six decent sizes falls and one small one (the first you encounter) on the way up. The old mine is also worth a look at. On top I visited the memorial and went down to Cray via the trig point. I took the path to Yockenthwaite (behind the pub) to Scar House and then decended to the George at Hubberholme for a well deserved pint. My dog Robson also enjoyed the walk and complained bitterly when he didn't get a beer.

posted by Mick T Barnoldswick 22/04/2009 22:26:18
There's more than one rood in Yorkshire - check out Wakefield Cathedral!
posted by Jonathan 31/03/2010 14:44:56
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