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Buckden Pike Circular – a hike up Yorkshire’s 7th Highest Peak

Updated: Mar 14, 2023

As I’m off in May to the Highlands of Scotland for a few days walking with some old friends, it has motivated me for the need to get a bit fitter. Whenever I know I am going to do a bit of long distance walking, it’s always good to get some miles in your legs, so at the weekend I decided to climb Buckden Pike.

I took my wife and dog on the hike, and being a Sunday I booked a table for lunch at The Buck Inn in Buckden for 1.30pm as added incentive. The walk I planned was just over 8 miles, so estimating on a walking pace of about 2 miles an hour and taking into account a climb – I thought 4 hours should do it.

So we drove to Buckden and after arriving by 9am, parking up, putting on boots and using the toilets we headed out of the car park for 9.10am.

We followed the path at the end of the car park gradually climbing up away from the Buckden Wood Lane below which would have led to the village of Cray.

The climb starts off quite gently and there are some lovely views into Langstrothdale and Hubberholme.

The path then bears right and follows Buckden Rake for a short stretch along a bridleway.

A short way along there is a sign taking you off on the right to Buckden Pike. There is no stone path here and you walk on a grassy footpath across the fields at an angle, gradually gaining height as you cross fields and through gates in dry stone walls.

It is always good to look back and check your progress and Hubberholme looks far more remote than it did earlier!

Passing a random National Trust sign in the middle of nowhere reminding you that you are in Upper Wharfedale we continued climbing. There were great views and there were cloudy blue skies and the sun kept coming out.

We walked past a small limestone scar and as we gained more height we noticed a smattering of white on the ground where because the temperature was lower, a hard frost existed on the ground.

The views continued to be stunning, but the path itself got whiter with a scattering of snow. With us setting of so early ours were the only footprints on the ground.

As we got even higher we could see we were going to head into the clouds. The path eventually met a long dry stone wall where the path ran parallel to the wall, rising steeply to the summit of Buckden Pike.

This stretch was quite touch and the steps up very slippy with the snow.

As we approached the summit, visibility dropped as we entered a thick mist and the temperature noticeably dropped. The sun and blue skies had disappeared and we found ourselves in a white, misty world with a strong wind blowing snow and ice at us as we headed to the trig point and the cairn marking the summit.

Buckden Pike is Yorkshire’s 7th highest peak and is 2,302 feet (702m) high. When I have been up before you could see the lead mine known locally as Buckden Gavel, but the mist meant that this was invisible today.

There is a sign post at the top, and we followed a path which had been laid by the Yorkshire Dales National Park made of old flagstones from the Mills in Bradford. It was signed to the War Memorial.

This was a flat walk along the summit but it was still freezing, blowing a gale with poor visibility. The path was originally part of a Roman Road between Bainbridge and Ilkley.

There was a stile which we climbed over as we made a quick stop at the War Memorial Cross.

The Memorial Cross is dedicated to five Polish members of the Royal Air Force that sadly died when their aircraft - a Wellington bomber crashed into the moor during January 1942.

It crashed in a snowstorm and with visibility so poor for us it was easy to see how this could have happened.

Apparently the rear gunner Joseph Fusniak survived the crash, following the tracks of a fox down from the Pike to the White Lion pub at Cray to alert the emergency services.

In 1973, he decided to build the memorial to his fallen comrades.

If you note on the bottom of the memorial there is a bronze fox as a reminder of the fox whose tracks Joseph followed off the peak to safety.

It was too cold to stop for long but the next section of the walk was particularly difficult. The path went down-hill following a wall but there wasn’t really a path and we just had to make our way down through a number of peat hags. I didn’t take any pictures of this section as I was too concerned about my footing!

We still couldn’t see clearly but eventually met a path on the right hand side which was a bit more defined.

Gradually we descended below the cloud level, across Starbotton Fell and occasionally the sun came through brightening up the valley below.

We descended past the head of the valley where Cam Gill Beck travels into Starbotton. This is known locally as Walden Head.

We could see clearly again, but the earlier blue skies had disappeared and we had a bit of drizzle.

As we dropped down into Starbotton, Wharfedale gradually came into view and there were some stunning views down the Dale showing the ancient field boundaries and dry stone walls.

It had been a long descent and both our knees were sore. Our black lab Bronte was showing no signs of tiredness and continued to run around covering five times more ground than we did.

Eventually we entered the pretty village of Starbotton with its stone cottages, coming out on the main road between Kettlewell and Buckden at the Fox and Hounds Pub. A lovely little Dales pub I have frequented before which does great food and beer with a warm friendly welcome.

In Starbotton we turned left and walked down the road before picking up a path on the right down a walled lane to the River Wharfe.

We crossed the narrow bridge and followed the path to Buckden.

It was lovely to see large areas of Snow Drops which had flowered on the south sides of the dry stone walls.

We fooled the relatively flat path in the valley bottom, which gradually moves away from the Wharfe before returning to it closer to Buckden.

The path runs past a number of farms and field barns (or as Yorkshire folk know them as “Cow ‘Owses”.

We eventually met the packhorse bridge at Buckden and climbed up to return to the car park. The walk had taken just under 4 hours for 8.13 miles with over 2000 feet of ascent.

We changed our boots and I put on a dry shirt from my rucksack before heading to the Buck Inn. We were seated next to a warm stove and after a well-deserved pint of Timmy Taylors Landlord and home cooked Steak & Ale pie I felt replete.

It was a great days adventure. The only issue being when we left the pub we had stiffened up and hobbled back to the car for our journey home!


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