There’s just the one – Sharp Haw (347m) – on the very southern edge of Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s the conical summit you can see above Skipton approaching from the bypass. I must have driven past it thousands of times and, until now, have never been up. You can get to this route pretty easily by public transport if you live anywhere in the Aire valley between Skipton and Leeds. I’d normally have a mountain weather forecast here, but look at the date and take a guess about the weather…
From Skipton train station, Susan, Harvey and I walk across the carpark and turn right up the main road into town. We head up towards the castle, turn left along onto Mill Bridge, crossing to the north side of the road as we get to the far side of the canal. Chapel Hill draws us northwards up hill. As the lane bears round to the right, we join a footpath
that continues northwards over pasture. We cross a wall over a stone stile at the top and pause for a view of Sharp Haw summit, perched on the horizon like a tiny pap of Glencoe.
The path drops down past sheep (once again, gentle reader, livestock are not a reliable navigational feature) to the A65 (the A65 is). Do take care here because it can be very busy, though it wasn’t at this juncture. The three of us scarper across the road onto a golf course. The PRoW is marked with yellow capped posts that we follow until we are crossing arable farmland and then a long straight track leading to Brackenley Lane (this is oddly busy with 4x4s as though Embsay is being deserted). Turning left on the tarmac, we follow the road until we reach Grassington Road, which we cross briskly to more sheep pasture.
The footpath takes us due west north west to a much less busy road called Bog Lane. We turn right and then follow the road to the left. When it turns right again, we take a farm track west northwest(ish) across unimproved pasture. As the track bears around towards the west, a footpath runs on across the pasture. We’re onto shallow peat here, dry and dusty after this hot weather. You can practically feel it giving up carbon into the atmosphere as we walk. Around us there are soft rushes, but not much else in the way of real peatland foliage. Perhaps there was a bog here a long time ago.
We veer towards northwest and the path drags us up toward the summit cone. Someone has ambitiously run a a drystone wall across it and, given the gradient, the stile is more of a ladder. Oddly there is also a bench here made from what appears to be stainless steel.
The view from the summit trig point is tremendous – a brilliant panorama of somewhere I’ve been passing through for most of my adult life but never really stopped to look at. Inevitably, Pendle Hill is lurking off to the southwest in that Lancashire, but we paid it no heed. Airedale and Cravendale is spread out around us.
We stop for some lunch on the north flank, among bilberries, looking northeast across to Rough Haw. You could trot out there and back if you had the time or inclination but we
haven’t so we don’t. Maybe next time. Ever the trailblazer, Harvey smashes gender stereotypes with his pink water bowl.
We drop down the northwest ridge and to our left, the ground is boggier – more rushes and now cottongrass in bloom (though it’s looking a bit knackered). We handrail a wall separating bog and woodland before dropping through a gate and down a hairpin track through commercial forest and rhododendrons. Eventually this comes out next to another stainless steel bench – must be a Skipton thing – where we turn southeast to join a vehicle track running through the pines.
The trees are far enough downhill of us that we have lovely views down the canal and across the vally. The track is sufficiently clear at its sides that enough light is let in to allow flowers, which attract bumblebees.
The track draws us around the contours of the hill, past a big hut with a veranda and some tables and what looks like a generator. No idea what that is, but looks like it should
be selling ice creams. It is not. Damn it. As the path loops around to the east, we drop off the side, through trees and back into rough pasture. Cutting across a dried up stream-bed, we reach walled arable farmland. We hand rail the wall downhill aways until a public footpath takes us back across to Bog Lane, below where we joined it last time. We turn downhill and then take another footpath southeast across pasture to a lane below a static caravan park. Following this south, come out on White Hills Lane, turning southeast and recrossing the A65, this time excitingly (but less dangerously) on a bridge. Again, I’ve been under this bridge an awful lot – it’s oddly thrilling to be on it.
At the far side, where White Hills Lane becomes Raikeswood Road, we turn right into Raikeswood Drive and right again into Rockswood Drive. A vaguely semicircular route takes down through Skipton’s outskirts to Aireville Park where we turn southeast again onto the tarmac track. This draws us over the canal and drops us opposite the station.
In my pack (a Macpac Amp 25): Montane Flux belay jacket, Klättermusen Vidblåin smock, OL Sheet 2, Silva mirror-sighting compass, Benchmade Presidio lock-knife, Highgear AltiTech 2 altimeter, iPhone, Veho Pebble phone-charger, 1.5 litres of water, Terra Nova 2 person emergency shelter, first aid kit, a lot of food. I wore Montane terra trousers, Isobaa Merino 200 zip neck hoodie, Millet Super Trident GTX boots.