Why Wharefdale hotspot is an exertion location

Burnsall is a magnet for walkers and runners but despite its popularity still retains its charm. Picture: Gary Longbottom.
Burnsall is a magnet for walkers and runners but despite its popularity still retains its charm. Picture: Gary Longbottom.
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Some would argue that Wharfedale is Yorkshire’s most attractive dale. It’s scenery is stunning, with the rugged aspects of Simon’s Seat and Burnsall Fell both sights to behold.

Burnsall itself, a small village near Bolton Abbey, has a long history which can be traced back to the 7th century when a wooden church was established by St Wilfrid of Ripon on the site of the present building to bring Christianity to the pagan-worshipping locals.

Before he built his church, Wilfrid is said to have preached from a rock overlooking the Wharfe, known locally as St Wilfrid’s Pulpit and marked on the OS maps of today as Wilfrid’s Scar. It is a few hundred yards upriver from the village.

The present St Wilfrid’s Church dates, in part, from the 12th century, but it contains relics – a Norse-Danish font and Viking hog-back tombstones – from an earlier house of worship, one probably used by the original Norse settlers.

As well as the village’s heritage and its beautiful setting, this is a place where energetic pursuits are enjoyed.

The Burnsall 10-mile road race is part of the annual Burnsall Feast Sports which has been held since the early 20th century, and the Burnsall Classic Fell Race dates back to circa 1870 when a group of villagers allegedly discussed the idea in the local pub.

It led to one local, as the story goes, testing the course in moonlight by running naked to the top of the hill and back again.

Fortunately, kit expectations now extend to clothing but it remains a very short 1.5-mile route.

The more sedate practice of walking is perhaps the village’s biggest draw, Burnsall being an ideal spot to hike through hills and along the River Wharfe, with one atmospheric walk along the river of about eight miles running through Strid Wood and on to Bolton Abbey.

The Dales Way long distance footpath runs through the village on its way to Grassington via Loup Scar and other popular walks lead to the hidden village of Thorpe, Cracoe, Hebden, Parcevall Hall Gardens and the spectacular Troller’s Gill.

Ed Williams has lived in the village for 30 years and is the parish council chairman.

He said: “When it’s sunny thousands of people are parked in the village but it’s still peaceful because people disappear into the hills and young people play in the river.”

Locals have learned to live with the popularity, he explained, saying nearly all the local farmers now operate a B&B or open fields for cars.

Mr Williams is also the warden and an organist at the present day St Wilfrid’s Church – where roof repairs are currently due for completion next month and in aid of which a Christmas fair is being held in the village hall on December 2.


Sir William Craven was born into a poor family at nearby Appletreewick in 1548. He was packed off to London on the back of a cart, aged 14, to start an apprenticeship with a London cloth merchant.

Craven rose to become Lord Mayor of London in 1610 but he did not forget his roots and founded the grammar school at Burnsall in 1602 and paid for the restoration of Burnsall Bridge in 1612.