Coverdale is a quiet dale which links the more popular Wensleydale and Wharfedale. The walk itself is towards the Wensleydale end and links a number of very attractive villages (Horsehouse, West Scrafton and Gammersgill). The embryonic River Cover is a constant companion.

The walk starts in Horsehouse but could just as easily start further down the valley in Carlton. No real excuse except I have always liked the pub, truly traditional!

Start by heading towards the River Cover, the path found on the lane opposite the impressive church. Head stile to stile to follow the path as it is not obvious on the ground. On leaving the village bend to the left and cross the first stile and cross the following field diagonally.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Church at Horsehouse

A second stile leads to the river banks and a footbridge leads on to Hindlethwaite Hall. The hall is an impressive 16th Century building, now self-catered accommodation.

From the lane at the entrance to the hall take the footpath continuing in an easterly direction diagonally uphill. This is the main climbing on the walk.

To occupy your mind you could work out how many different types of stiles there are, from narrow slits, to gates and ladder stiles (apparently being phased out by the National Park). However with every step the view up and down the dale improves, a classic dales scene and very satisfying.

After about 300 feet of climbing and a mile you will arrive at the converted farm buildings of Swineside. Head through the buildings and climb on to a farm lane.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Coverdale walk map

Turn left and follow the lane for one mile to the village of West Scrafton. To your right is one of the largest areas of moorland in the Dales, a wild place and home to grouse, sky larks and curlews. You may see red kite and buzzards.

The village has a fascinating history but amongst other events it is thought to be the birthplace of Lord Darnley, who married Mary Queen of Scots. Head to the riverside and keep close to the western bank, drop down on a path to Caygill bridge, past a dingly day on your right. From the bridge climb towards Carlton on the path to the east of the small stream, entering the east end of the village via a farm lane.

It is worth walking all the way through the village heading west, the buildings are lovely to look at and full of character. On leaving the village, the road bends sharply left, follow it to the next right turn but then join the footpath heading initially downhill to the river.

The paths soon turns right and contours the hillside for a mile with fine views across to your outbound route. On arriving at your final village, Gammersgill, take the first path on your left which leads down to the riverside. This final one and a half miles of riverside walking is delightful, if in places a little muddy.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Coverdale Gammersgill

It completes a walk that typifies all that is good about the hidden and less visited dales. On meeting the bridge over the river where the walk started climb in to Horsehouse.

Walk facts

Distance: Roughly seven miles.

Height to climb: 220m (720 feet).

Start: SE 047812. Horsehouse in Coverdale.

Difficulty: Medium. This would be easy except there are a number of stiles and the path may be muddy near the river after recent rains.

Refreshments: Thwaite Arms in Horsehouse (evening opening or lunch weekends) or the Foresters Arms in Carlton.

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 first available day for 2024 is March 23. Look for the new Dales 30 weekends in Hawes and Sedbergh. also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.