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Arncliffe and Litton - a circular walk

Route Summary
Distance: About six miles
Difficulty: moderate - one big climb up, and a steep downhill
Start: Arncliffe in Littondale
Finish: Arncliffe
Time: about 3-4 hours
Dogs: lots of sheep - no dogs on the access land

Littondale near Arncliffe This walk is almost a mirror image of the other walk from Buckden, but if anything it's nicer because the final stage is so much prettier. And a note to the pedants before we start - yes I know this walk is filed under Wharfedale,   and I know that the walk's in Littondale. I just don't have anywhere better to file it!

This being a circular walk, it's possible to start from either Arncliffe or Litton. I started from Arncliffe because I like Arncliffe. It's one of the prettiest villages in the Dales, but it doesn't have a car park so there's a permanent problem with parked cars crammed into every available space. Arncliffe is of course famous as having been the original location for Beckindale in Emmerdale Farm (1972 to 1976) which just shows how picture perfect it is. Filming stopped in 1976 because the locals got fed up and it was an awfully long drive from the YTV studios in Leeds.

Littondale Anyway, park anywhere you can in Arncliffe and head out of the village past the church along the road to Litton. As you come to the T-junction with the main road there's two choices of route. Either take the footpath straight opposite and head up the hill, or go left up the road for a few hundred yards and take the bridleway from Old Cotes. Both paths converge very quickly, but I prefer the one from Old Cotes as it's not as steep.

It's now one very long uphill. But the track is well defined and there are magnificent views up Littondale, so take your time and enjoy it.

As you reach the top of the steep climb, the path changes direction and heads North across the fell towards what I presume is a shooting lodge. This is where it's possible to go wrong. The main track appears to go the Lodge, and it's tempting to go through the gate in the wall beyond the lodge and continue that way. That's wrong. Before you get to the lodge the real track changes direction and heads North-East. Look at the two stone walls running up the fell, you're almost at the left hand one, and the path goes from here diagonally to  finish near the top of the right-hand one.

Again, it's a well-defined path when you find the right oneLittondale, and eventually the summit is reached. At the summit go through the gate, turn left and follow the dry stone wall that runs right along the ridge. Half-way along there's a ladder stile - cross that and continue following the wall. Seems wrong but it's right even though you slightly double back on yourself.

Continuing along the wall you come to a trig point, and shortly thereafter the Litton to Buckden bridleway crosses the wall. Turn left here and follow the bridleway all the way down to Litton. This is another well-defined path and it's impossible to go wrong.

As you come to Litton, what stands out is the huge white building in the middle - the Queens Arms. This pub went through a bit of a middling patch, but is under new management since May 2009. Which is good, because their own micro-brewery is back in production and the Litton Ale is worth stopping for.  And miraculously they open all day on a weekend. Perhaps some of the other miserable pub landlords round about should take note. Can't wait to try the beer again once the new brewer's got a few more brews under his belt.

From Litton there's two routes back to Arncliffe. By far the nicest route is to turn left and walk down the road for a couple of hundred yards than take the footpath through the meadows to the stepping stones over the river Skirfare. Uniquely in the Dales, the footpath includes a warning sign telling you that the ford can be impassable if there's been heavy rain. And trust me they're not joking. In Summer the Skirfare is like a babbling brook, but after rain it can quickly turn into a raging torrent. I once camped just upstream of here with a youth group. For two days the kids played in the river, and then it rained. A couple of hours later we had to abandon the camp because the river was just too dangerous to allow little kids to camp near. So if there's been bad weather, cross the river at Litton and continue the walk down the riverbank.Wildflower meadows near Litton But if it's been good weather, take the path through the wildflower meadows, which are absolutely magnificent in Summer.

From the stepping stones, cross over and walk down the riverbank through Scoska wood along the path to finish at Arncliffe.

But be warned, if you expect to finish the walk with a refreshing pint at the Falcon you may be disappointed as the venerable landlord is yet another one who closes at three on an afternoon. Yes, even in Summer, even on a weekend the pub is closed in the afternoon. I suppose we should expect this as the Falcon really is a relic from another age. They don't even have beer pumps, they still serve the beer from a jug on the bar. I can't comment on how good the beer is because I haven't been in years, and I finished this walk at ten past three! Once again I was gutted, absolutely gutted, but a quick drive to the Queens Arms made the world a joyful place once again. So miserable landlord, the loss was yours not mine.

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