This is a Dales classic, following the River Ribble most of the way from Settle to the village of Stainforth, passing the much-photographed Stainforth Force, then returning via a lovely green lane and an optional visit to another waterfall, the spectacular Catrigg Force. (Allow at least 20 minutes for the detour).
The route is easy to navigate, being part of the 73-mile Ribble Way northwards from Settle to Stainforth and for the return leg using a stretch of the 205-mile Pennine Bridleway. Note that the track from Stainforth to Catrigg is steep, although walkers are rewarded with superb views over Ribblesdale. Ravens and peregrines are seen in this part of the Dales; along the river expect herons, dippers and kingfishers.
1. From Settle Market Place walk north, go under the railway viaduct and cross the Horton-in-Ribbesdale road with care. Over the bridge, turn right to follow the Ribble Way. This eventually forks left from the riverbank and crosses a field to emerge on a back lane.
2. Turn right to follow it with care past the hamlet of Stackhouse, and take a signposted path on the right which returns to the River Ribble. Go left at the riverbank and continue with the Ribble Way past the waterfalls of Stainforth Force. At Stainforth Bridge turn right and follow the lane up to the B6479 Settle-Horton road.
3. Cross with care, turn right and walk down the road to turn left into Stainforth. At a T junction go right and opposite the pub turn left onto a back lane. Go left again and walk past a small green to find a signposted track on the right signposted to Catrigg Force. It rises steeply uphill and at a gate a chance to visit the waterfall is offered on the left.
4. Continuing the route, go through the second of two gates and follow a track which bends right. Through another gate take a faint path angling right, signposted Pennine Bridleway, and follow it to Upper Winskill. Turn left here to continue along the bridleway to a metalled road.
5. Turn right and follow it downhill. Just past a sharp right-hand turn look for the signposted bridleway on the left and follow it downhill to emerge at Settle Market Place.
Difficulty rating: 3 stars
Distance: 8 miles
Hours: 3 1/2 hours
Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer sheet OL2 (1:25000) Yorkshire Dales Southern & Western areas
Public transport access: Trains from Leeds and Bradford; 580/581 buses between Skipton & Kirkby Lonsdale. Times on Traveline, 0871 2002233 (charges apply).
Refreshments & Toilets: Settle & Stainforth