Roundhill and Leighton reservoirs were built by the Harrogate Water Corporation between 1895 and 1911 and now look entirely natural in their setting. Sighting towers which helped engineers during their construction are still there, and the most prominent above Arnagill Crags is a major landmark. The Druid’s Temple, a recommended short detour, though often called Yorkshire’s Stonehenge is actually a folly built around 1820 by the owner of nearby Swinton Hall, William Danby. The walk across Ilton Moor on an unmade road is particularly pleasant when the heather is in bloom. The reservoirs host goosanders and little grebes, while crossbills are occasionally seen in adjacent woods.
1. From the car park follow the rough track to the right of Swinton Bivouac, which curves left behind the farm. Turn right over a stile and follow the field edges down to Sole Beck Plantation, turn left to follow a track which emerges on a tarmac road. Turn right and walk up the hill with care to Ilton.
2. Opposite the telephone box go right onto an access road. After it bends left, turn right at The Firs and follow the unmade road across Ilton Moor. When it joins another track go right. When this track descends gently towards Arnagill Beck look for a path on the right.
3. Follow this path round the edge of Ilton Moor. Eventually it provides good views over Roundhill Reservoir. Drop down to a gate, use footholds to climb over, and continue downhill to another gate. On the other side turn left, cross the dam and follow the road out to a road. Turn right and walk with care to Leighton Hall Farm.
4. Turn right to follow a signposted bridleway. The route bears right behind the farm across a small field, and joins a rough track which bends right into trees. Cross Pott Beck and pass through more trees to branch right on the Ripon Rowel path. Follow it as it skirts Broadmires Wood and Knowle Plantation, and cross a field to Knowle Lane.
5. Turn right to walk up a narrow lane to visit the Druid’s Temple, a 1/4 mile detour from the path in total. Finally, retrace steps to Knowle Lane and turn right back to the car park.
Difficulty Rating: 3 stars
Time: 4 hours
Distance: 8 miles
Maps: OS Explorer sheet 298 (1:25000) Nidderdale.
Parking: High Knowle Farm (Swinton Bivouac) HG4 4JZ. Take Swinton/Ilton road west from Masham. Beyond Ilton the Druid’s Temple is signposted on the left along Knowle Lane. Before the Temple, cars are directed left to parking area.
Public transport: No convenient bus service available for this walk.
Refreshments and toilets, Swinton Bivouac; Masham.