Muker to Crackpot Hall loop walk with stunning Swaledale views
With the weather forecast looking good, I decided to take my dog up to Swaledale and walk what for me is one of the most beautiful walks in the Yorkshire Dales. I regularly drive through Muker on some of my Yorkshire Dales Tours but I was looking forward to being able to stop and explore the area in my own time.
There is a small car park in Muker which is signed and next to the river, it is pay and display and only takes coins but is very close to the start of the walk.
We walked over the small bridge and walked up into the village following a path which takes you up behind St.Mary’s church past quaint stone cottages. This picture postcard village is now home to 200 people but it’s history can be dated back to the Bronze age after a skeleton was found buried with flints dating back to this time.
The name itself is actually Norse in origin – roughly translating as “narrow acre” -an area where crops could be cultivated next to the River Swale. Farming was the main activity in the Dale, right through to the 1700’s when lead mining came to the Dale and this now quiet village became a busy, over populated mining hub. Many of the cottages we pass in the village had been expanded with extra stories or extensions built on to house the many miners re-locating to the area during this boom time.
We saw other examples of Swaledale’s lead mining past during the walk.
At the back of the village we come to a gate where a path can be seen taking us through Muker’s famous wildflower and hay meadows. There is a photo library image of the Yorkshire Dales showing dry stone walls and hay meadows which I have seen so often in newspaper and magazine articles about Yorkshire as it encapsulates Yorkshire so well. Upon entering the field it became obvious that this was the location used for the shot, where I was able to capture the same image on my phone. (see below).
We followed the stone path across the meadows to a small bridge crossing the river to the other bank of the Swale. We then followed a path along the river bottom for a couple of miles. This was a stunning stretch with field barns (sometimes also known as laithes or cow ‘owses!) and drystone walls and the curly horned Swaledale sheep.
I had read that there was a detour on the walk which allowed you to climb up a narrow limestone gorge called Swinner Gill, which brought you out at the top of the valley edge before dropping down to Crackpot Hall. I spotted the path just before the gorge which climbed steeply before traversing the gorge edge before dropping me down to the stream which ran through the gorge.
We followed this narrow gorge as far as we could scrambling up rocks and waterfalls. It was a magical place and truly stunning. Sadly almost at the top we reached a section which was just a step to far for us, being so steep and slippy that neither myself with my dodgy knees or my dog Bronte could make the final ascent. Disappointed we walked the half mile out of Swinner Gill back to the main path. I was glad we tried this and managed to get some lovely photos but I would not recommend this on either a very wet day or unless you are superfit and not too bothered about taking a few risks with some basic rock climbing to get up sections.
We stopped at the bottom of Swinner Gill crossing a bridge and having our lunch by an old lead mine. A pork pie I’d bought from Chris Wildman’s Town End Farm Shop and a ham and chutney sandwich was just the ticket before climbing up a path signed to Keld.
As we climbed up out of the valley there were stunning views from up high back down Swaledale. Some of these views really hit home why Yorkshire is known as “God’s own county”
On this path we took a slight detour turning right on a path which took us up to the old ruins of Crack Pot Hall. The name Crackpot Hall is a strange one and comes from the Norse for Crow combined with Pot which meant hole. As it is limestone there are often collapsed caves and pot holes in the area and we had already spotted a couple as we walked up Swinner Gill.
The ruined Hall was once a hunting lodge and then a mine workers office, before becoming a farm house when lead mining collapsed in Swaledale in the late 1800’s due to cheap imports.
We continued onwards almost reaching the village of Keld, to a small waterfall (lower Kidson Force). Here the path turned left and after a short stop for Bronte to have a swim followed the path over a footbridge before following the signs for Pennine way, walking on a path along the valley side with views down to Upper Kidson Force a slightly more dramatic waterfall with a huge limestone scar behind it.
This path along the valley side gradually descends to the valley bottom where we re-joined the path we had a originally come out of Muker on.
The path allowed us to pass a numbner of the iconic field barns and we also got to meet lots of Swaledale sheep up close and personal!
We walked back into the village passing the Literary Institute – a testament to the wealth the lead mining had bought to the village and paid for by public subscription. In its Flemish architectural style it looks out of place next to the stone cottages and was built for the self improvement of the working class of the area,
The walk was about 10 miles with our detours so a well earned pint in the Farmer’s Arms completed a cracking day.
If you are a keen photographer, like stunning scenery and industrial archaeology or just want to decent stroll, I can highly recommend this walk.