Most visitors to the Washburn Valley to the south west of Harrogate walk enjoy walks beside the string of reservoirs built to supply tapwater to Leeds in the 19th century.
However, this route starts from the most visited, Swinsty, and quickly leaves the shore to follow part of the footpath linking Harrogate with the Dales Way long distance path at Ilkley. Beyond the popular Sun Inn the walk passes through some delightful countryside before dropping down to John O’ Gaunt reservoir, which takes its name from the remains of a former royal hunting lodge passed later on. Nearby, Beaver Dyke reservoir has been decommissioned. The return is over largely unfrequented fields. Watch out for green woodpeckers near Bank Slack, red kites over farmland.
1. From Stack Point car park turn right on the road and cross the causeway. On the other side take a footpath on the left signposted Dales Way Link. Follow this through woodland on a gradually rising path, then through fields to reach the B6451 road. Turn left to the Sun Inn.
2. Cross with care, go round the pub’s right side and find a gap leading to a path past a converted barn. In the garden of another house fork left down to a kissing gate. Angle left over a field of junctus rushes to another kissing gate and follow the rising path past Bank End farm to join the terrace walk along Bank Slack.
3. At a junction of paths above John O’ Gaunt Reservoir bear left and take a path into a dip. Through a gate keep ahead on a path above the reservoir then drop down to the dam. Cross to the other side and take the path slanting right uphill. Pass through the yard of Haverah Park Top. The remains of John O’Gaunt Castle are on the right.
4. Follow the path downhill and take a footpath on the left leading uphill to East End Manor. Keep to the left of trees and buildings, cross the access road and continue over two fields diagonally. Cross a stile and walk with a wall on your right. A former chapel is passed before Brown Bank. Pass the farm and find the path leading to a gate and steps. Follow the path to cross a stile onto Watson’s Lane.
5. Turn right and walk a short distance along the lane to go left on a clear path along three field edges then bear right to join a green road between houses at Bland Hill. Turn right on Broad Dub Road, walk down to the B6451, go right again and cross with care to a stile. Follow the path downhill through fields to Pinfold Lane. Turn right, go left on Smithson’s Lane and cross the causeway back to the car park.
Difficulty rating: 2 stars
Distance: 4 miles
Time: 2 hours
Map: OS Explorer (1:25000) 297 Lower Wharfedale & Upper Washburn Valley
Parking: Yorkshire Water Stack Point car park, Swinsty Reservoir, at bottom of Smithton’s Lane leading off B6451 Otley-Darley road. Approx postcode HG3 1SU.
Public transport: No bus service convenient for this walk.
Toilets: Yorkshire Water Swinsty Moor Reservoir car park.
Refreshments: Stack Point and Swinsty Moor car parks (ice-cream kiosk) in season; also Washburn Heritage Centre signposted from footpath at Stack Point, open weekends and Bank Holidays); Sun Inn.