Harrogate sits in the centre of Yorkshire, which makes it the perfect base from which to explore the fantastic natural beauty of this part of the UK. If you’re a fan of short breaks in Yorkshire, staying in Harrogate will give you the best of both worlds: sophisticated shopping and dining, plus awe-inspiring country walks nearby.
Harrogate Ringway Walk – 20 miles/32km
This circuit goes around Harrogate, with a radius of 3-4 miles from the town centre. Although it’s classed as strenuous, the walk can be broken up into several smaller sections. You’ll amble by becks, viaducts, the River Nidd, Nidd Gorge, Birk Crag, plus plenty of woodland and open countryside. It takes you through Knaresborough, which is worth taking time out to explore. If you get thirsty on the Ringway, you could stop for a pint at the Travellers Rest (south side of Harrogate, off the Wetherby Road) or the Black Swan in Burn Bridge.
Nidderdale Way – 53 miles/85km
This challenging circular route traditionally begins and ends in Pateley Bridge, but as we’re not all Ray Mears, you can walk many shorter sections where you will still be surrounded by the natural beauty of Nidderdale. Incidentally, every year the Nidderdale Charity Walk takes place in May, which raises hundreds of thousands of pounds for various charities. There are 5, 10 and 20-mile options, plus a 2-mile assisted walk which is wheelchair friendly.
Pateley Bridge Circular 1 – 11 miles/18km
Starting in Pateley Bridge, you walk along the River Nidd until you get to Gouthwaite Reservoir, which is popular with birdwatchers. You’ll take in the village of Ramsgill, which has super views over the water, as well as the Michelin-starred Yorke Arms restaurant. There are some fantastic views over the Dales when you reach Pincher Hill, which is almost 1,000 feet high.
Pateley Bridge Circular 2 – 9 miles/14kmThis takes you in the opposite direction to the previous route, and in addition to hills, water features and woodland, it takes you through lots of lovely villages and to Brimham Rocks. The 320-million-year-old geological rock formations on this site are an outstanding feature of the area.
How Stean Gorge, Middlemoor and Nidderdale – 3 miles/5km
How Stean Gorge has been called ‘Little Switzerland’ and is said to resemble a miniature Grand Canyon. Whether or not you agree with either of these statements, it’s definitely worth visiting. The gorge has a small cave and a tunnel, if you’re not afraid of dark, confined spaces. You can book to be taken gorge walking with the trained staff on site. The walk has wonderful scenery and takes you through the villages of Stan, Middlesmoor and Lofthouse.
Blubberhouses Tree Trail – 3 miles/5km
Getting your boots on doesn’t mean you have to walk all day. This delightful route takes only a couple of hours, starting and ending at the wonderfully named Blubberhouses. As you follow the River Washburn for most of the way, you’ll catch plenty of glimpses of local wildlife. There is also a wide variety of trees, as well as several disused quarries.
Ripley and Knox Circular – 5.5 miles/8.9km
Ripley is an ancient village about 3 miles (5km) outside Harrogate. It has a 14th century castle and beautiful landscaped gardens. From this starting point you will enjoy walking along the River Nidd, as well as crossing an old pack horse bridge and the Nidd viaduct. It takes you through the tiny hamlet of Knox, where you can enjoy a drink at the pub of the same name.
Anyone coming for a short break in Harrogate is spoilt for choice when it comes to walking in areas of outstanding natural beauty, such as Nidderdale.