Home > Walking in the Dales > Circular walk from Swinton Bivouac near Masham to Leighton and Roundhill Reservoirs and back via Ilton in the Nidderdale AONB


Circular walk from Swinton Bivouac near Masham to Leighton and Roundhill Reservoirs and back via Ilton in the Nidderdale AONB


Nidderdale AONB was our destination and our route began just over four miles from Masham travelling to Upper Nidderdale. On a good autumn morning we parked and set off on our walk from Swinton Bivouac, along to Leighton and Roundhill Reservoirs, up on to the moor and back down to Ilton and returning to the bivouac for lunch. If you’re feeling adventurous and have energy to spare do go and seek out the Druids Temple in the nearby wood. Weird and wonderful! We have done most of the walk before but this time we made it shorter about eight miles with a different route up onto the moor. Again stunning views, down the length of Leighton Reservoir and once on the tops, across to the North York Moors, we could even make out Roseberry Topping in the far distance. Varied terrain so please wear your stout boots, be prepared for anything on the moor and take plenty to drink and good snacks to nibble and don’t forget to take the map after you’ve planned your route beforehand.

Swinton Bivouac is at High Knowle just off Knowle Lane, (18015, 78675) park and retrace your way back to Knowle Lane, cross the road and follow the Ripon Rowel Walk in a north westerly direction. Follow the way markers and your map to Leighton Hall and the road again, turn left once on the road. Follow the road down to the reservoir, over the bridge, up the rise but leave the road when you see a cattle grid in front of you and the driveway for Roundhill House. At Roundhill House turn left to go over the dam. Quite a structure as you approach and time to stop and stare at the massive stones on the dam wall between Leighton Reservoir and Roundhill Reservoir. Building was completed in 1913 but you can find more information on Wikipedia here and here about the history of both dams. You’ve probably noticed a strange stone tower as you’ve been walking, this is Carlesmoor sighting tower used to triangulate the end points of a water tunnel from the reservoir to Harrogate. It is one of several Colsterdale Towers. It would have been nice to have been able to take a closer look but no footpath. It is on Open Access land but I tend to be a stickler for staying on the route.

Once over the dam wall there are two gates in front of you, take the left hand gate but then veer to the right and start to climb. Keep going up and up, past White Lodge Crags, it does eventually flatten out you’ll be pleased to know, continue on until you come to a barrier at the junction of another track (15523, 75396) then turn left onto here. Have a breather and take a while to have a look around, the moor is vast and we said we really should return when the heather was in flower. As we stopped and stared we could see a wall of water coming down from the west, we thought it might have passed us by, but no we got the full force so waterproofs out and nothing more to do but continue on until it stopped. We were at least going in the right direction with the wind more or less behind us! As you know the English weather can be so unpredictable so always be prepared.  Continue along for about a mile and a quarter to where the track forks and take the lower one heading north east (17453, 76126). Keep going downhill on this track to Ilton, follow the road round to the left once in Ilton, back onto the Ripon Rowel Walk, and progress down Ilton Bank. Keep going on the road until you come a wooden footbridge over the stream right in the valley bottom. Over here and to the end of the wood, Sole Beck Plantation, where you’ll find a finger post indicating you are on the Ripon Rowel Walk and heading for Knowle Lane. Follow this to the left, High Knowle will soon come into view and where you started from.

A welcome lunch at the bivouac, excellent soup and warm focaccia bread! If you would like to stay nearby we have lovely cottages in Masham, Grewelthorpe and near to Kirkby Malzeard, all very much in the vicinity, check out availability online or call me Nadine or my daughter Joanne for friendly help and advice on 01969 663559. See you soon!

Country Hideaways

Written By Nadine Bell

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