Pateley Bridge is a cute market town located in Nidderdale AONB, famous for the oldest sweet shop in England. Ah, but that’s not why I was there today. Today I wanted to try out this walk taking me from Pateley Bridge, all the way to the famous rocks and back.
I had been to Brimham Rocks a week prior, and was blown away by it. Although it has been touristised, that didn’t take away from my amazement on the place. If you would like to try a walk that just takes you around the rocks and moor, then check out my guide here.
What I’m going to do today, is first give you an overview of what to expect on this walk from Pateley Bridge, with some useful tips, a map, and full logistics. Then I will proved a step by step route description with lots of photos. At the end I will provide suggestions for other local walks.
What to expect on this circular walk from Pateley Bridge
This walk takes you first along the river out of Pateley Bridge, surrounded by trees, bushes, and prettiness. Then it’s uphill, past some pretty houses and lamas, with a bit of road walking. As you near Brimham Rocks, there will be some mud to navigate before reaching the impressive rocky wonderfulness.
The walk back to Pateley Bridge is a shorter route, and is mostly downhill (with one surprise big uphill), and an adventurous river crossing.
How long is the walk?
The walk from Pateley Bridge, to Brimham Rocks and back is 9 miles (not including exploring around the rocks).
Is the Pateley Bridge circular walk challenging?
I would rate this walk from Pateley Bridge as easy-moderate. The route itself isn’t too tough, apart from some mud, one steep surprise hill, and a river crossing over a fallen tree. The length brings it up to moderate level.
I have read that it can be a very muddy route, to the point that it’s not recommended to do after rain. I did the Pateley Bridge circular walk after a long stretch of dry, and whilst most of the route was ok, there was still one section with impossible mud.
Is the walk dog friendly?
There are a few stiles and grazing sheep about, at various points on the walk. So you would need to be able to navigate those.
Parking in Pateley Bridge
Pateley Bridge has a whole bunch of car parks. You have to pay for them, but one is free. I chose the free one obviously. It’s called Park Road car park. Post code is HG3 5JS. There are very limited spaces in this one though.
- Start/Finish: Pateley Bridge
- Where is it: Pateley Bridge is located in Nidderdale AONB, in Yorkshire.
- Distance: 9 miles
- Time: Just over 3h (add more if you want to explore more around the rocks)
- Difficulty: Easy/moderate
- Terrain: Dirt, mud, gravel, grass, mud again, tree, river crossing stones.
- Elevation: It is a bit hilly, but most are gentle….apart from one.
- Amenities: Pateley Bridge has lots, you should be able to find anything you need. Brimham Rocks has a cafe and public toilets.
- Time of year: I did this circular walk from Pateley Bridge in late spring
Map for the circular walk from Pateley Bridge
You can find my more detailed route map for the circular walk from Pateley Bridge on AllTrails.
For more from Nidderdale, you can read about the best walks I recommend here.
Route description for the Pateley Bridge circular walk via Brimham Rocks
To get to the start of the route out of Padley Bridge, walk over to the bridge, and turn left.
Walk along the river out of Pateley Bridge
You will now be following this river for roughly two miles. The trail starts off very well maintained, as you walk out of Pateley Bridge. Sometimes under tree cover, sometimes a bit more open. This wasn’t at all what I was expecting. I had envisioned a rough and rugged trail alongside the river.
The further you go, the more green it gets, as you pass by a cute bridge with an impressive manor on the other side. I can only assume this is some sort of hotel. If this is someones home, I’m super impressed.
Keep following the trail, amongst lots of bushiness and trees, past the big pond, to reach the road. At the road, cross straight over and through the wall on the other side.
Glasshouses and the hook
Once through the wall, you need to stay straight, heading towards the little conservatory type thing.
This is where I majorly freaked out. As I was approaching, I could see through the window a massive hanging hook. Like in horror movies. I envisioned someone coming to get me and hang me on that hook. Could this be it? My end would come on the Pateley Bridge walk?
The route takes you around the side of the little building, and feels like you are walking in someones private area. Maybe they kidnap walkers who enter? This was not good for my anxiety, so I power walked through. I don’t have photos for this bit because I wanted to get away as quick as possible, but if you pick up the trail once through, you should end up here:
The fields, flowers, and rugged
The trail will then take you along the edge of a series of fields, and through stone walls. I found this bit to be quite pretty. There were lots more flowers lining the trail.
The further you go, the more rugged it becomes. First a bit higher up from the river, then right up next to it again. This is much more how I expected the walk from Pateley Bridge to be.
There is a little water with stepping stones crossing coming up. I suspect that after rain, this will be a little tougher to navigate.
You need to keep on this riverside trail all the way to the end, where there is a wooden bridge crossing.
Once over the bridge, the trail will take you to the left, and out into a field. Keep going to reach the road.
The lamas, pretty cottages, and road
At the road you will find a wooden trail signpost. Follow the arrow up the side road ahead, passed some houses, to reach the woodland trail.
As I made my way along this woodland trail, very suddenly I saw the lamas. It was a shock, but also a delight.
I can’t guarantee the lamas will be out when you do this walk from Pateley Bridge, but I hope they are.
Continue up the road, lined with pretty houses, then when you reach the main road, turn right.
It’s a bit of an uphill now along this road. My least favourite thing on walks. Uphill roads. Actually, shingle is my least favourite thing. Uphill roads comes second. Luckily, it’s not too far before the road levels off.
You should soon see a house on the roadside ahead. The trail is the driveway type road to the left of it.
Continue up the drive, where you will have your first view to Brimham Rocks ahead in the distance.
Keep going until you reach the next cottages and ‘writers retreat’. You will know what I mean when you are there. I wonder if it’s an Airbnb? Or it could just be their own little place? Well whatever it is, I want it.
The potential muddy bit
Just past the writers retreat, you will have a junction. Before heading out on this Pateley Bridge circular walk, I had already decided I would take the left. Both go to Brimham Rocks. However, there was an arrow here telling me to go right, so I figured I would do that. There is probably a reason it wants you to go that way.
Continue on, as the trail guides you to the left and along a dirt trail through the trees. It hadn’t rained for a while, and was a sweltering hot day, so the ground was dry. However, I could see how this bit could be a mudfest. This must be what I had read about.
After the ‘muddy’ bit, there is a green stretch with bluebells (time of year dependant), then dirt trail again, to reach the next signpost.
The woods and the real mud
At the trail signpost, it tells you to go straight, however, I decided to take the stile on the left. The straight trail takes you more to the car park side of Brimham Rocks, and I wanted to just head straight to the good stuff (which is the stile direction). However, if it has been raining, you might want to go straight….
If you go over the stile, then go straight across the field and into the woods on the other side.
All was lovely, walking through the woods, until I hit the mud. It didn’t faze me at first, as I figured I could just walk around.
I will tell you now, you cannot walk around. The grass was just full on bog. It didn’t look like it, but as I tried to navigate through, my foot was being sucked right in, and I had to catch myself before I sunk in over my ankle.
After trying and trying, I realised, the easiest way was to just walk through the mud, which was just half boot deep.
This is what it’s like when the weather has been dry. Imagine what it’s like after rain.
The first rocks
If you have made it this far, once you reach the stone wall, follow the arrow to the right, and up the very rugged bit of trail passed some big rocks.
It can be easy to lose the trail here, so just make sure you keep the big rocks to your right, and field to your left.
You should pass by a big rock with a white arrow, which guides you to the farm.
I don’t have good experiences with farms, and at this point, I kind of wished I’d taken the other route, but I was here now, so had to suck it up.
Follow the white arrows through the farm, and then take the driveway road to lead you away from it. Then when you reach the main road, turn left.
You are close now. Keep going along this road. You need to keep an eye out for the missable little trail. It’s this one here to the right:
Follow this up, passing by more big rocks, until you reach an open green area. When you get there, turn right, and this will lead you up to the stars of the show.
Remember this bit, as you need to come back to this spot when you start the walk back to Pateley Bridge.
Passed these big rocks, you will reach a trail, where you should see a big building over to the left. At this point you can go left or right. I decided to go left, which leads up to the main path around Brimham Rocks.
At this point, I would suggest not following my map, and just exploring at your own will.
As I had done lots of exploring the week before, I just took a small loop through, and sat on a rock for my snack.
If you want to see a bit more of what Brimham Rocks has to offer, including how to find the famous Idol Rock, then check out my Brimham Rocks and Moor walk guide here.
Start the walk back to Pateley Bridge
To walk back to Pateley Bridge, as I said earlier, you need to find you way back to that trail you got here on. It might be easier to retrace your steps. I got back to it from the other direction. This is what it looks like for reference:
When you reach the green, stay straight, heading into the woods and down the hill to reach the road. At the road, turn right.
You now need to follow this road as far as it will go.
The end is at a cottage. Just before the cottage, there is a wooden gate through the bushes on the left.
Through the gate, continue down the hill, and into the woods.
In the woods, there are a few trails you can take. For this route back to Pateley Bridge, stay straight, to walk downhill through the woods, all the way to the river.
Once I reached the river, I had a look around for the stones to cross. Nothing seemed right, and then I realised it was the tree. I needed to walk across the fallen tree.
That was fun.
After the tree, follow the trail to the right, which will lead you up to a stile.
The surprise hill
Over the stile, there is a cheeky surprise hill. There is no easy way, you just need to go up, keeping to the right edge of the field. As you get higher, take a look back and you should see Brimham Rocks poking over the trees in the distance.
Keep going, with the stone wall to your right, all the way to the farm building at the top.
Go through the gates on the side, and onto the driveway road, and keep going up. Then at the junction, you want to make a V backwards.
There are two trail options in the backwards V. Take the right one, past the bench.
Views, roads, Lamas, and horse
The trail along here is quite pretty, lined with a stone wall and bushes, and a lovely view in the distance. I don’t have a photo of the view, because the sun was so bright, it didn’t photo well.
After a bit of level walking, you will start to head downhill. Then when you reach the driveway road, turn right.
I think there is a lama farm here. I wondered if it was the lamas from earlier. My bearings were completely off, so I wasn’t sure.
As I made my way along the drive, I looked down the hill and saw a field of Lamas and cows together. Lama and cow friends.
Continue along the road, past the smallest speed bump, to reach the main road, where you continue straight down it.
As you walk down the road, keep an eye out for the trail to the right.
This will take you along the edge of undulating fields, with an undulating stone wall. There are more lovely views from here. I also saw a horse, facing the wall. Like the naughty corner.
When you reach the end, there is a big metal gate. Go through it, then up to the next big metal gate.
At the second gate, I didn’t like the direction the white arrow was telling me to go. There were dogs that way. Who weren’t happy. I got flashbacks to the dog chase from the Sutton Bank walk.
Checking my map to see if there was another way, I realised that the arrow is deceptive. You don’t go that way. Instead, turn left.
This will lead you through another couple of gates to reach the road.
The final stretch of the Pateley Bridge circular walk
At the road, turn left. It’s now a big downhill. Downhill roads, I like. Keep going, all the way down, then straight over at the junction, and down some more.
I knew I was heading to Glasshouses. The location of the hook. I wanted to avoid the hook this time, so stayed on this main road all the way to the bridge.
Just before the bridge, it’s a right turn, which will be the riverside trail you came out on at the start of the walk out of Pateley Bridge. Now you simply follow this trail, which will lead you all the way back.
More walks near Pateley Bridge
I mentioned earlier, the Brimham Rocks and Moor walk. That one explores the rocks in more detail, then takes you across the moor, where you will find even more rocks. I do recommend it, and if you are feeling energetic, you could add that loop onto this one from Pateley Bridge, which would add about 2.5 miles to the walk.
Also fairly local is Hackfall Woods. They are wonderful to walk around, with follies, waterfalls, grotto and castle ruins. The landscaping at the woods was done by the same guy that did Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. I really enjoyed walking around Fountains Abbey, and got to see lots of deer.
If you like rocks, then you might like Druid’s Temple. You can easily walk to them in a few minutes from the car park, or you could try this circular route and make a bit more of a day of it. I did the bigger circular as I wanted to make it an adventure. On a hunt for the hidden temple. Like Indiana Jones.
If you want something easy, then there are a few reservoirs in Nidderdale, with walking trails around them. My favourite is Scar House Reservoir, which is a bit further north. That one has nice moody vibes. Or if you go a bit further south in Nidderdale, you will find Thruscross, Fewston and Swinsty Reservoirs.
For more, and to read a side by side comparison of them all, check out my Nidderdale Walking guide here.
Pin it for later: Pateley Bridge Circular walk guide
For more ideas of thing to do in Pateley Bridge, other than walking, you can check out the Visit Harrogate website here.