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Walking and camping in Swaledale

Camping in Swaledale at Muker

Recently I managed to fit in a quick break camping in Swaledale. Ok, the weather wasn’t the best and it only totally cleared when I was heading back to my car for the drive home – typical! Even so, changeable weather can produce some great photographs. And there were enough gaps in the coulds to allow me to get some photographs.

There are a few campsites in Upper Swaledale and I chose Usha Gap campsite just outside Muker as I had stayed there before. It is basic, which for me is fine, and has a couple of fields so has plenty of space in which to camp. Tent pitched and dinner eaten, it was time to head off for an evening walk.

A walk from Muker to Keld to Thwaite

First walk on my tour of upper Swaledale was a circuit of Kisdon, the hill separating Muker and the nearby village of Keld. Leaving Muker along the valley path I walked through the fields that earlier in the summer would be a riot of colour due to all the wildflowers. However as it was late on in the summer the hay crop had long since been harvested and the fields were just a carpet of grass. A walk though the meadows in flower is described in a more recent blog entry, written in 2016.

On its way to Keld the path passes Hartlakes, reputedly one of the most haunted buildings in the Dales. Its other name is Boggle Hall, ‘boggle’ referring to the old name for a spirit that moves from house to house. Regardless of whether or not someone believes in all that it can’t be disputed that this is a remote and stunning part of the valley to live in!

Hartlakes summer Swaledale sunset
The ruin of Hartlakes near Muker

A few miles later, having completed a loop of Kisdon Hill, I thought I’d climb it and try and catch a decent sunset. I managed to climb above one of the old, disused lead mines that scatter this part of the dale, only to be left slightly disappointed. The Upper Swaledale photo below was the best I could manage, given the light. Not bad but could have been so much better had the western horizon been clear of clouds.

Upper Swaledale summer sunset from Kisdon Hill
Upper Swaledale from Kisdon Hill

A walk over Lovely Seat and Great Shunner Fell

After a night’s sleep, the following day I started early and headed up onto Muker Common on the southern side of the Valley. My first target of the day was Lovely Seat, one of the higher points on the common. Lovely Seat is a remote, rarely climbed peak on the ridge separating Swaledale from neighbouring Wensleydale. Climbing out of Muker, the route initially climbs through fields. Once past them though, the walk deteriorated into a wade through bogs. It was worse than climbing Meugher from Wharfedale and thats saying something!. I suspect this route is not often used and I can see why.

On the summit of Lovely Seat there is rather appropriately a lovely seat made out of stone. Sadly it is facing east when the best views are definitely to the north and west, looking over Upper Swaledale. Strange.

Heading west off the summit, the path improves and leads down to reach the Buttertubs Pass road. From there it continues up to the summit of Great Shunner Fell – a great vantage point with wide open views across the tops of the northern Dales.

Great Shunner fell summit shelter in summer
The shelter at the summit of Great Shunner Fell

Great Shunner Fell to Muker on the Pennine Way

The route from Great Shunner Fell back down to Muker is along the Pennine Way track. It really is an arm-swinging descent with no route-finding issues whatsoever – a broad track all the way.

On reaching road at the small hamlet of Thwaite the route back to Muker is through a series of attractive, small, drystone-walled fields.

Thwaite fields and drystone barn in summer
Swaledale meadows near Thwaite

All that was left to do was quench my thirst with a quick drink at The Farmer’s Arms in Muker, pack my kit up and head back home. Looking back on it, it had been an enjoyable weekend camping in Swaledale.

To see other photos from this area of the Yorkshire Dales feel free to view my Swaledale landscape photos.

Walking and camping in Swaledale was last modified: April 6th, 2017 by Gavin Dronfield