Hackfall Woods is an attractive broad-leaved woodland which is ripe for exploration. The River Ure is at the foot of the woods and the walk from Masham takes you over Horsecourse Hill with its good views and the pretty village of Grewelthorpe.

From Masham market place head down to Millgate and join the Ripon Rowel Walk which is well signposted. The Ripon Rowel walk is 50 miles in length, Masham being its most northern point.

On meeting the River Ure turn right and follow the riverside path. After half a mile some shallow steps lead into a small area of woodland. Turn right/west until meeting a road. Cross the road bridge before returning to the banks of the River Ure. This short diversion is the only way of crossing the River Burn.

For the next one and a half miles the path follows the riverside over a number of stiles. The building on the right is Nutwith Cote Farm, an 18th Century manor house.

Before entering Hackfall Woods itself the path climbs through some estate woodland before arriving at a kissing gate which marks its entrance.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Hackfall Woods

Hackfall Woods forms a woodland to the south and west of a loop in the River Ure. It was a very popular walk for the Victorians in particular. William Wordsworth was inspired and JW Taylor wielded his paintbrush here.

Earlier the Aislabie family had bought the land and built a number of stone follies in the woods. The Woodland Trust took over ownership in the 1980s and with the help of a lottery grant, managed to preserve the trees, paths and wildlife of the woods.

I followed some signs in the woods which took me to the viewpoints at Limehouse View, Fisher’s Hall and Sandbed Hut. Mowbray Castle (the most impressive folly) lies on the southern fringes of the woods. There are many paths in the woods and how much you see will depend on how much time you have. If you do lose your way it will not be for long. Just follow the stream uphill from the most western part of the Ure (the bulge) and you will soon emerge out of the woods (next to the sewage works) and the village of Grewelthorpe.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Hackfall Woods walking map

On entering the village it is worth having a short excursion to explore the village so turn left at the three-way cross road and admire the well preserved house (and possibly the pub!). The name of Grewelthorpe comes partly from the name of an original family, the Gruels.

Return to the three-way road junction and take the left fork north west for 300m and a footpath on your right. This footpath climbs steadily through three fields to the trig point at Horsecourse Hill. There is some higher land (marginally) to your right but the views across the area to the south and west in particular are wonderful.

Just beyond the high point on the path enter Nutwith Common mixed woodland.

Darlington and Stockton Times: Hackfall Nutwith Common

The woodland trail drops steeply down to the road between Grewelthorpe and Masham. Follow the road for one and a half miles back to Masham. The road is generally quite quiet but there is a path on the right side for the first half mile. As you arrive at the River Burn you can also avoid road walking by returning to the River Ure for a pleasant end to the walk.

Spring is a fantastic time for the walk with a carpet of bluebells in the woods.

Walk facts.

Distance: Roughly 8.5 miles.

Height to climb: 150m (490 feet).

Start: SE 224808. There is parking in the central market place.

Difficulty: Medium. Some short steep sections and muddy at this time of the year. 

Refreshments: There are plenty of cafes and pubs in Masham. The Crown Inn at Grewelthorpe is also worth a stop.

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 302 and 298) 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 is March 23. Join our Dales 30 Weekenders in Hawes and Sedbergh. Where2walk.co.uk also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.