Gunnerside Gill and Kisdon Force

A Melbecks walk posted on 19/05/19 by Alwayswiththehills. Update : 28/05/19

A walk of two distinct halves.
The first part of the walk ascends gently along the side of Gunnerside Gill, to take in the remains of the abandoned lead mines. It crosses the moor to Swinner Gill mine where a short detour takes in a waterfall and cave. The walk then curves around towards the village of Keld.

The second part of the walk descends to the waterfalls and then through the gentle valley curving around into Swaledale where it passes through typical Yorkshire Dales farmland.

Technical sheet
Calculated time Calculated time: 7h30[?]
Distance Distance : 13.4mi
Vertical gain Vertical gain : 1870ft
Vertical drop Vertical drop : 1883ft
Highest point Highest point : 1893ft
Lowest point Lowest point : 735ft
Average Difficulty : Average
Back to starting point Back to starting point : Yes
Walking Walking
Location Location : Melbecks
Starting point Starting point : N 54.379379° / W 2.077126°
Download :
Gunnerside Clock Unusual barn Waterfall as East Gill joins the River Swale near Keld Crackpot Hall


There is limited parking in Gunnerside village. There is no parking meter, rather you pay £1 min a day as a voluntary donation in the box beside the village hall. This is the building with the blue clock face.

(D) From the parking, cross the bridge and turn immediately left. Walk up the lane until you reach the gates to a private house. Take steps on the right up and then the path around the side of the house. This will lead you over fields and into re-generated woodland. (We did the walk in mid-May and the woodland was still ablaze with drifts of wild bluebells and white wild garlic) Enjoy the walk through the woodland and then emerge to cross fields and come to the Sir Francis dressing floor where the crushed ore was sorted.

(1) Take time to read the information board and explore the site then continue on the path which starts to slant upwards and away from the river. As you walk upwards into Gunnerside Gill, you will see more old mine workings, buildings and spoil heaps on the other side of the valley, in particular, the entrance to the Dolly Level is very obvious. Opposite this level, you will join a path from the right, continue straight on, cross a stream and arrive at the Bunton (or Bunting) Level. Look out for the wheel pit on the left, explore the remains of the buildings and admire the views.
Just after the Bunton Level, there is finger post marking the intersection of four paths. In fact, there are more paths than this which join at the mine. Continue straight on for Blakethwaite Mine,

(2) After the stone bridge, ignore the path going up left and continue contouring the hillside with the smelt mill and river down and on your left. You will start to gradually descend towards a lovely small waterfall and some ruined mine buildings located beside the river and above the waterfall.

(3) Take the smaller path on the right of the stream and ascend again to a level section with the ridge above you. Ahead of you and on the moor top is an obvious roofed building. Have a good look around and make a note of this intersection as it is easy to miss on the way back.

(4) Turn back on yourself and follow the path along with the level until you can turn back left again and ascend to the top of the ridge.

(5) You will join a good track at the top; this is an active grouse moor and there are good tracks for the shooting parties. Follow the good track towards the obvious roofed building which is a shooting hut. From here you can get views up the valley on the left towards the two Blakethwaite Dams.

(6) Follow the track around the head of a broad gully containing a stream and keep going to an obvious metal gate/enclosure. Keep an eye out for the wall of the topmost dam, an obvious tree also marks this spot, this is important for the next section.

(7) Now, you will leave the main track. You will see the retaining wall of the topmost dam, head for it and cross a small stream. We took the bank on the far side of the stream and followed it down with one steep and wet section to bring us out at the lower dam. However there is a faint track leading to the top dam, so once you have crossed the stream continue towards the wall and top dam. This is probably easier than the way we took.

(8) From the top dam, take the obvious wet path down to the lower dam. We ate our sandwiches here, it's a good spot.

(9) From the lower dam, take the path with the stream on your right and a small crag on your left. It will contour the hillside and you will see some dry stone wall enclosures below you. Keep on the level and into the broad gully to join a path going down to the enclosures. (See photo to get a sense of this route) Continue along the path which will start to ascend again and will bring you back to (4) Descend back down to the mine working above the waterfall (3)

(3) Cross over the river and take the path, contouring around to the lime kiln and the Blakethwaite Smelt Mill. Have a good look around.

(10) Now take the good, broad path heading upwards. Just before stream the path zig-zags back on itself and ascends the hillside, crossing the stream and then more faintly (marked with some cairns) up to the Lownathwaite Mines and a junction with another good track. This is the steepest part of the walk.

(11) Follow the good track west, flat at first and then downwards to where it starts to curve around the hillside. Look out for a finger post and a well-paved path on your right.

(12) Take the path paved with sandstone flags. This path is preventing erosion of the peat and follow it down to Swinner Gill mine.

(13) From the mine, descend to the arched bridge over Swinner Gill and then walk up the bed of the Gill between crags. You will arrive at a small waterfall with a cave on its left. (Swinner Gill Kirk) You can explore the entrance to the cave with a headtorch but the roof is low and it is wet. If the Gill is flowing with water this part of the walk may not be possible and will be more dangerous as the smooth limestone will be slippery.

(14) From Swinner Gill Kirk, retrace your steps to the bridge and then take the path with the stream on your left to contour the hillside. Pass through a gate and turn the corner of the fellside to arrive at more spoil heaps and a barn. Take the path down and then cut across the field to get a view of the valley looking over the abandoned Crackpot Hall. The name sounds grand but it is a farm that was abandoned due to subsidence.

(15) From Crackpot Hall, take the path towards Keld. The path enters a wood and you will be able to hear the waterfall of Kisdon Force beneath you. The path comes to a junction, turn left and walk down past a small waterfall towards a bridge. It is at this point that the character of the walk changes.

(16) Cross the bridge and go immediately through a gate on the left to enjoy a view of the small waterfall. Retrace your steps back to the bridge and go up the track with sandstone sets to a signpost and junction with a path on the left.

(17) Take the path on the left until you come to another finger post pointing the way to the waterfalls. (18) take the path to enjoy the view and return.

(18) Follow the path down through woods, passing some abandoned farms and barns to enter grassy meadows beside the river. Enjoy the flat walk through the meadows always keeping the river on your left and ignoring any paths on the right. You are heading to an obvious bridge.

(19) Take the single file bridge to the far side and ascend the steps to a path. Turn right and follow this through woodland and down to an obvious farm. You are now entering typical 'Dales' farmland, the walls marking the often narrow fields are crossed by stiles or gaps with sprung gates. I lost count of the how many there are between here and Gunnerside but there are a lot. Follow the path across the fields to where it runs beside the river and go through a gate.

(20) The path splits here, take the left-hand path uphill, passing a barn and towards the top of a wood. The path will bring you to Calvert House farm. This is the last uphill part of the walk.

(21) Head down crossing numerous fields to Ivelet. In most places, it is obvious where you are going next as you will see the next stile or sprung gate.

(22) Take the road through Ivelet and then the path into woods, cross a footbridge and the take the path across more fields towards Gunnerside.

Waypoints :
D/A : mi 0 - alt. mi 0 - Car park in Gunnerside village
1 : mi 1.13 - alt. mi 1.13
2 : mi 2.49 - alt. mi 2.49
3 : mi 2.86 - alt. mi 2.86
4 : mi 3.12 - alt. mi 3.12
5 : mi 3.27 - alt. mi 3.27
6 : mi 3.46 - alt. mi 3.46
7 : mi 3.75 - alt. mi 3.75
8 : mi 3.89 - alt. mi 3.89
9 : mi 3.97 - alt. mi 3.97
10 : mi 4.95 - alt. mi 4.95 - Lownathwaite Mines
11 : mi 5.53 - alt. mi 5.53 - Fingerpost
12 : mi 6.39 - alt. mi 6.39
13 : mi 6.81 - alt. mi 6.81 - Swinnergill Smell Mill
14 : mi 6.96 - alt. mi 6.96 - Swinner Gill Kirk
15 : mi 7.52 - alt. mi 7.52 - Crackpot Hall
16 : mi 8.32 - alt. mi 8.32
17 : mi 8.44 - alt. mi 8.44
18 : mi 8.59 - alt. mi 8.59
19 : mi 10.54 - alt. mi 10.54 - Bridge
20 : mi 11.23 - alt. mi 11.23
21 : mi 11.73 - alt. mi 11.73 - Calvert House
22 : mi 12.41 - alt. mi 12.41 - Ivelet
D/A : mi 13.4 - alt. mi 13.4 - Car park in Gunnerside village

Useful Information

There are few shelters on this walk with the exception of the ruined mine buildings where it will be possible to shelter from the wind. You could take water from the streams but there is still a high level of heavy metal content in the water that seeps from the old lead mine workings.

Most of the paths are good but the going is rougher on the way to the Blakethwaite Dams. It can also be wet underfoot so I would recommend walking boots rather than trainers. There are many rabbit warrens and rabbit holes on the walk, it would be easy to twist an ankle so again boots would offer more support.

It can be bleak on the moors and even on a sunny day a shower followed by a breeze can chill you so pack a raincoat just in case.

If taking a dog please keep it on a lead, especially when there are livestock in fields. Follow the country code and close gates behind you.

This walk can be shortened by missing the dams out, by returning from the smelt mill or my returning from Swinner Gill. It's always good to have a plan B if the weather is not great.

Hikideas and this author cannot be held responsible in the case of accidents or problems occuring on this walk.

During the walk or to do/see around

This walk is continually interesting the highlights are:-

  • The regenerated woodland just outside of Gunnerside which is a lovely tranquil place.
  • The old mine workings that are of historical interest:-
  • Sir Francis, The Bunton Level, The Blakethwaite mine, dams and smelt mill. Later Swinner Gill mine

Some nice information about these mines and others in the area can be found here.

  • Swinner Gill Kirk is an interesting aside.
  • Crackpot Hall
  • Kisdon Force
  • The return through the typical Dales farmland.

There is a pub The Kings Head' in Gunnerside and a super little tea shop in Muker which is the next village up the valley.

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