This circular walk from Muker is absolutely wonderful, and was so worth the effort….
I had only decided this morning to come out here, the main reason being, was to use up my car miles. You see, I have a monthly rental car and have paid extra for more milage allowance.
Due to being sick two weekends in a row, I missed out on some days of hiking, and had a lot of miles to spare before the end of my car month. Not wanting to waste the miles, I picked somewhere to walk that was quite far away. I wasn’t exited at driving all the way up here to Muker (150 miles round trip), but now having done the walk, it was so worth it.
I loved the area so much, I might even come back up here to try some other routes…
Update: I came back the next weekend to try this route through Gunnerside Gill. It is now one of my favourite walks in England. The weekend after, I came back again. This time I tried this route along Fremington Edge, and then this easy circular from Reeth. I recommend them both.
What to expect on this circular walk from Muker
This circular walk takes you from the small cute village of Muker, up along the top of the valley, then down and along the River Swale, passing by East Gill Force and Swinner Gill waterfalls.
The waterfall sections of the walk were noticeably more busy (as expected), however, it was fairly peaceful for the rest, particularly up along the top of the valley. Also note, I did this walk on a very sunny Sunday.
On this walk you will go past East Gill Force and Swinner Gill waterfalls. The is also the option to see Kisdon force, which I (semi-accidently) missed out, but I will show you where to go if you want to see it.
Also note, I had fully intended to see Crackpot Hall, which is the ruins of an 18th century farm house. However, I completely and accidentally missed it as well. You need to go off the main trail to see it.
Looking at my photos, I can see it from up the hill on the other side of the valley. Anyway, I already have another route planned in mind which will take me to it.
Despite missing out on a couple of sights, everything else was so lovely, so I’m not too sad.
Is the circular walk from Muker easy?
I would rate this walk as mostly easy, although, the first section out of Muker up the hill, is on the more moderate side. As this only makes up a small portion of the route, I would say it’s overall an easy walk.
There is an alternate route you can take, staying along the River Swale from Muker, (so you end up walking out and back on each side of the river), however, I highly recommend going up the hill, as the views are absolutely wonderful.
Half of the walk is on fairly rugged terrain, with lots of rocks, and some narrow sections of trail with steep drops. The other half is along easy well maintained path.
Parking in Muker
There is one car park in Muker, which is either cash payment, or by using the Ringo App. I have read bad things about this set up. Firstly that the machine doesn’t work, secondly, that it’s impossible to pay via the app as there is no phone signal.
Never fear though, as you can park for free on the street. If you drive slightly outside the village (it’s a tiny village, so it’s not that far), you can park on the river side. Through the village there is a single yellow line which must be free to park on Sundays, as it was lined with cars when I arrived.
Tips for the circular walk from Muker
- You definitely want to be wearing hiking boots for the walk along the top. If you choose to skip this bit and walk down by the river out of Muker, trainers will be fine.
- If you are able, then definitely take the route out of Muker up along the top of the hill.
- The waterfalls drop into pools of water which looked to be wonderful for taking a dip in. If this sounds like your thing, then take some swimwear and a towel.
- There is absolutely no phone signal anywhere. Even as I was driving in, for the last 30min or so, I had no signal. So make sure to look up anything you need before you arrive.
- At Swinner Gill, there are some sections of waterfall further back which you can’t see from the trail. If you are up for exploring, then you can have a bit of a scramble up to see them. I had no idea they were there until I got home and looked at my photos. I could see them from a photo I took up the hill on the other side of the valley (it’s the first photo at the top of there page).
- Start/Finish: Muker
- Where is it: Muker is located in the Swaledale area of the Yorkshire Dales. The very north part. Post code for the car park is DL11 6QG.
- Public transport: Bus 30 runs between Richmond/Catterick Garrison and Keld (via Muker). You can see the latest timetable here (pick the Swaledale shuttle option).
- Distance: 6 miles
- Time: 2h
- Difficulty: Mostly easy, with a moderate start
- Terrain: Dirt trail, rocks, grass, gravel, maintained path, a couple of bridges.
- Dog friendly: There is a lot of livestock about. No stiles.
- Time of year: I did the walk in spring
- Amenities: In Muker you have public toilets, a village store and tea shop, and the Farmers Arms pub. Half way through the walk, at East Gill Force, is the village of Keld, where you will find public toilets and a cafe.
Map for the circular walk from Muker
You can find my more detailed route map for the Muker circular walk on AllTrails
Read more: Best walking routes in the Yorkshire Dales
A guide to the circular Muker Waterfall Walk
If starting from the streetside in Muker, you want to walk past the village shop and tea room, then turn left up the side road. If starting from the car park, walk towards the village and turn right up the side road.
Continue up, following the road as it turns left and around the houses to the right, where you will find the footpath sign for Keld. Follow this.
Keep going on the main path, through the gate, then you begin your journey uphill.
The big hill
It’s a bit of a slog up this hill, as you keep on the main path as it winds its way up. As you walk higher up, you will get a wonderful view back down to Muker and through the valley.
Past the stone cottages, at the junction, turn right to follow the dirt trail on the side of the hill.
Keep going up, then at the trail sign in the photo below, leave the main path to walk alongside the stone wall on the grass.
When you reach the dirt trail, it will level off, and now you follow this all the way until you descend.
Walk along the hill side
This is my favourite section of the walk from Muker. The trail gently undulates, along a mix of grass, narrow dirt trail, rocks and more rocks. You have the most wonderful views down into the valley in both directions.
At some point along here, you will start to hear the sound of the river and waterfalls down in the valley. I found it incredibly peaceful, and only passed a couple of others whilst up here.
There was a part of me that was slightly nervous before heading out on this walk. Yesterdays walk was filled with anxiety, and a constant fear that I was in danger. It was completely random and out of character, so I didn’t really know what my mind would do with me today…
Today was perfect. I felt so happy and calm.
Head down into the valley
The trail will then takes you through a little woodland section as you start to descend. When you reach the trail sign, follow the arrow to the right, through the stone wall, and continue on the slow downhill.
At the next wooden trail sign, follow the left arrow, deeper into the valley. If you look closely, you will get a peep of one of the waterfalls through the trees at the bottom.
Along here you will reach a sign which directs you to the right to reach Kisdon Force. I didn’t take it, as I thought I might get to see it from the other side (you can’t). So go that way if you want to take a look.
Walk to East Gill Force
Staying on the main trail, it will lead you to some old railway tracks. I didn’t expect this, so it was a nice surprise.
(Note: If you want to go into Keld, stay straight on the main trail)
To get to the waterfalls, follow the tracks down the hill to the right and you will reach the first waterfall.
If you go over the bridge, then continue straight, you will reach the next small one, then a little past there, the big star of the show.
Usually I pick my spot for a snack break where there isn’t anyone else around. For the peace. But despite all the people, it was just so lovely here. So it suited me just fine.
Start the walk back towards Muker
The trail to walk back to Muker, is above the East Gill force waterfall. It’s very obvious, so you can’t miss it. The way back is pretty much all on a path like this.
There is a bit of a surprise uphill to start, but it’s not long before it levels off, and takes you on a few curves along the hillside, with a lovely view into the valley both ways.
Just past the abandoned shed, you will reach the ruins of a tractor. I only know that’s what it is because I was listening to a group of people discussing it.
To reach Crackpot Hall, I think the rugged left trail is what you need to take. As you are already here, I would go take a look.
Walk to Swinner Gill
To walk to Swinner Gill, follow the main trail, which will then take you further downhill, to reach some ruins. If you venture past the ruins to the left, you will reach the first of the waterfalls.
To see the others, you need to somehow get over it. I wasn’t paying attention when I was there, but I don’t think there is a proper trail (and I can’t see one on the map). So you would need to scramble.
Continue walking to Muker
Over the bridge, continue on this main path, which will lead you down alongside the River Swale.
(Make sure to look back of a lovely view into the valley behind).
You will now be following the river all the way to reach the bridge. I could see the trail on the other side of the river, which was quite busy. Surprisingly, this side was not. I picked the good side….or it could just be that people had started with a pub lunch in Muker, and were now heading off on the walk, with a plan to walk back on this side later.
To get to the bridge, take the right trail in the photo below. Then once on the other side, walk back along the river, and follow the sign for Muker through the stone wall.
You will now be on a paved trail across the grass, which continues like this all the way back, through some stone walls (with gaps for thin people).
More waterfall and river walks
I think the Yorkshire Dales might have the highest concentration of waterfalls in England (I don’t know this as fact, but I have seen more waterfalls out here than I have seen anywhere).
The Gunnerside Gill walk I mentioned earlier, features a wonderful rocky river through the valley, with a few waterfalls with dipping pools along the way.
If you want big views, then I highly recommend Simon’s Seat and the Valley of Desolation. The Simon’s Seat part gives you the views, and the Valley of Desolation gives you the waterfall. It is located in the south of the Yorkshire Dales. Then right next to it, you have the Bolton Abbey walk. This is out and back along a river, via the Strid which is really beautiful when viewed from above.
I really enjoyed the walk from Grassington to Burnsall. This is also quite gentle, but does feature some views, a river and a series of falls.
One of the more famous walks out here, is this Malham Cove circular. This one features two impressive waterfalls, Janet’s Foss and Gordale Scar. Due to it’s popularity, it can get quite busy, so it’s not the one to do if you want solitude.