A beautiful autumnal walk along the River Swale old railway crosses the river to arrive at Easby Abbey. It is possible to explore the abbey ruins before returning on either side of the river bank. I was accompanied by access champion Debbie North, who had borrowed the electronic chair available to all from Richmond swimming pool.

There is plenty of parking at the Richmond swimming pool/disused railway station to the south of the River Swale. The station itself has been converted to a fascinating and enjoyable place to visit with a café, museum, shops and even a cinema. However it is the building itself which is impressive, a sympathetic and impressive conversion but it is a shame that it wasn’t still a working railway station!

Darlington and Stockton Times: The River Swale near Easby Abbey

We borrowed the wheelchair from the swimming pool having booked it through the Access the Dales website. Access the Dales has introduced seven "hubs" across the Yorkshire Dales where you can borrow (no cost) an electronically powered wheelchair suitable for the local terrain: visit the website and see where the hubs exist. The hubs are spread across the Yorkshire Dales and are a brilliant way of getting people with mobility difficulties out into the outdoors.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Easby Abbey walk map

The walk starts by heading along the old railway. The track is easy and when we walked it, beautiful in its autumn colours. It is three quarters of a mile of easy walking along the track, heading in a south easterly direction. There are glimpses of the River Swale but it is not until reaching the bridge over the river that the views become very good. The River Swale originates 20 miles to the west and has gradually gained power as it collects all the water from Swaledale. The river looks dirty (a brown colour) but it is the peat from the slopes above the river that creates the colour. It is much "worse" after rains (of which we have had plenty) as the water run off takes considerable amounts of peat from the hillsides. We need to protect this peat.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Easby Abbey

After the bridge turn left and after 25 metres pass through a gate and soon arrive at the ruins of Easby Abbey. Easby Abbey is Premonstratensian (I think that is spelt correctly!) which is the religion of the French Catholic order of the 12th Century. However it was good old English soldiers who largely destroyed it during their stay on route to the Battle of Neville’s Cross in 1346. Like many other abbeys it was left to fall in to disrepair and now has little to remind of the once impressive working abbey it once was. It is easy to wander through the ruins, even in a wheelchair. A quick walk up the road away from the village gives views of the grand Easby Hall.

At the abbey there is a choice of walks. For those who are unable to get through stiles return along the old railway track. Alternatively walk past the abbey and join a footpath after a kissing gate that follows the northern banks of the River Swale. The views along the river towards Richmond and its castle are excellent. It is little more than ½ a mile and a short climb in the woods on the northern banks before arriving in the outskirts of Richmond.

Walk facts

Distance: Roughly three miles.

Height to climb: 30m (100 feet).

Start: NZ 176009. There is parking at the old railway station and swimming pool.

Difficulty: Easy. The tracks and paths are very straightforward.

Refreshments: There is a café at the old railway station and plenty of pubs over the river in Richmond.

Be prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL30) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

Please observe the Countryside Code and park sensibly.

  • Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company based in the Yorkshire Dales. He has published three books on walking in the Dales, The Yorkshire 3 Peaks, The Dales 30 mountains and Walks without Stiles. All these books (and more) are available direct from the Where2walk website. Book a navigation (map and compass skills) training day near Settle or a bespoke day for a private group. The dates for 2024 are now available to book. March 23 is the first. Look for the new “Dales 30” weekend in Hawes. In addition there are guided walks across the Yorkshire Dales including the Three Peaks in three days. Where2walk.co.uk also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.