Settle, in the Yorkshire Dales – only an hour car drive from Bradford or Leeds, 29 miles from Leeds/Bradford Airport and it has a railway station in the centre of the town and one close by in Giggleswick, making it a very easy to reach town.
Settle is a market town which is a honey pot for walkers and for visitors who want to experience the world famous Settle-Carlisle railway. It is a very old town, thought to date back to the 7th century, its name originally being Angle after the Anglian settlers – meaning Settlement. In 1249 Settle was granted a Market Charter from King Henry III to hold a market each Tuesday in the town. It was from this date that Settle became a place of trading and as a result the population grew. The town today has lots of little independent shops and a market is still held every Tuesday throughout the year on the square.
As a keen walker and living in Bradford, I was a regular visitor to Settle. In fact in 2003 Andy and I were married at The Falcon Manor in Settle and Andy spent his last night of freedom in the Golden Lion with several pints of nerve calming beer. For several years my friend Mel and I would drive up to Settle every six weeks or so to go to the hairdressers in the town and spend a girly day in the Yorkshire Dales. Saying all this, I can honestly say that in all the times I have been to Settle I have never ventured further out of the town, on foot, other than going to the pub so I was looking forward to the town walk that I was going to complete today. I was told that it would lead me into a new world of discovery.
I was joined on the walk by Debbie Boswell who works for the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust as the Discover Ingleborough Officer for the ‘Stories in Stone’ project.
The Stories in Stone project has been developed by the Ingleborough Dales Landscape Partnership, led by Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust and mainly funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. The project focusses on conservation and community projects around the Ingleborough. The area covered by the project is roughly triangular, with Ribblehead and its impressive viaduct at its northernmost point, the small market town of Settle to the south, and Ingleton village to the west. The landscape here has a unique character. Much of it results directly from the rocks, the effects of the ice ages and the way people have influenced the land since the ice melted.
The main aims for the Stories in Stone project is to ‘restore, protect and celebrate the area’s natural, built and cultural heritage and to ensure that this ancient landscape is protected for future generations’. When then project come to a close by the end of 2019 there will be been over 90 different projects involved within Stories in Stone. The walk that Debbie was to take me on encapsulates many of the aims of the Stories in Stone project. I really enjoyed the variety of points of interests that this walk provided and I certainly learnt a lot about Settle – a town that I thought I knew well!
Our first stop and point of interest was the Victoria Hall in Kirkgate. This little theatre is a Grade II listed building. Once called Settle Music Hall, it is now England’s oldest surviving music hall. It is believed to be one of the earliest music halls in the country which has had continuous use as a performance venue since it opened in 1853. Settle Music Hall opened on the11th of October with a concert by Settle Choral Society. Victoria Hall was renovated in 2000 and is a popular venue for locals and visitors. There is a varied programme of events happening at the theatre throughout the year.
From here our route then took us underneath the railway bridge and into the Millennium Garden. This quiet little haven of wildflowers, benches and picnic tables was created and given to the people of Settle when the supermarket was built. The garden is looked after by a volunteer group and it is a great little spot for a bit of downtime and to rest weary feet.
From the garden we walked a little further into Kings Mill. The old mill building, which has now been converted into trendy riverside apartments, was once used as a snuff mill and then converted into a cotton mill in the 1800s. It was rebuilt in 1830 after it was destroyed by fire. There is a lot more information about the history of the cotton mill on the Settle website with information about the development of the cotton industry in this area and how the River Ribble was a source of power to operate the mills. It is a very interesting read.
Once we had turned onto the courtyard at Kings Mill you could hear the thunderous roar of the River Ribble as it cascaded over the weir. We stopped on the Memorial Bridge for a while simply to watch and listen to the river. A fantastic sight to see and hear – tonnes of flowing water which has drained off from the hills and into the river – a result of all the recent rain that we have had.
The River Ribble, which begins its life near to the Ribblehead Viaduct, flows for 75 miles from its source in Yorkshire, passing through Lancashire, and flows out into the Irish Sea at Lytham St Annes. Debbie explained that the river is not always as torrential as it was on this day. Debbie told me that in the summer months it is known for the local children to swim in this part of the river. Sounds like a great pastime and something I would have enjoyed as a child. Just upstream of the Memorial Bridge there is a huge rock in the middle of the river, locally known as Queen’s Rock. It lies on the South Craven Fault.
The Memorial Bridge which connects Settle with the village of Giggleswick commemorates the members of the parish of Giggleswick who gave their lives in the First World War, the Second World War and the war in Afghanistan. There is a plague on the bridge on honour of these people.
We were now leaving the town of Settle and following the path along the riverside. This riverside path was upgraded in 2009. The basis for this project was through community consultation held in 2003 as part of the newly formed community group START (Settle Area Renaissance Team). A 650m stretch of single-track muddy path was upgraded and this improved ‘access for all’ along this section of the river, strengthening the link between Settle and Giggleswick village. It also created a safe route to the high school.
What I noticed as we walked along this path was how quickly the noise of the river faded once we were away from the weir. Here, where the trees line the path, birds can be heard singing. It is a lovely spot and a great place to watch the ducks swim happily on the river. It really is a multi-sensory walk which is totally free of any stiles. It is a perfect walk for any type of wheels, be it a manual wheelchair or a pram. It is very family friendly. Since this path has been upgraded it is now being used much more regularly by people walking between Settle and Giggleswick.
Soon the path opens up with views across the playing fields of the famous Giggleswick School. This boarding school, which dates back to 1499 is home to the Giggleswick School chapel. The chapel dome can be seen from miles around. The chapel, built to commemorate the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria, was a gift to the school from Walter Morrison of Malham. It took 4 years to build and was opened in 1901. The chapel is open to the public by prior arrangement. It is well worth a visit to see inside the dome and observe the magnificent stained glass windows, wood panels and marble floors.
Just before entering the village of Giggleswick there is a lovely community park, with picnic benches which are designed for wheelchair users to use. There is also an accessible roundabout for the children. The playground is continually expanding, with hopes of getting a wheelchair accessible swing on the wish list.
Giggleswick is a beautiful little village with the church taking centre stage. It is worth having a look around this 15th century church as it is steeped in history. There is a lovely collection of quaint cottages in the village which was once home to the late Russell Hartley, who started his career as an English Teacher at Giggleswick school and later became a TV presenter.
The road out of Giggleswick is quite steep, but there is an alternative route around the village to avoid this incline. The route joins the main road back into Settle and crosses back over the river before turning off left to follow the river path back into Settle.
This town trail is just short of 2 miles in length and it really does encourage visitors to explore Settle beyond the town centre.
Unfortunately, due to the age of the buildings in Settle, many of the shops and pubs are not wheelchair accessible. However the Golden Lion, one of our Stay in a Pub friends, is step free, although the toilets are not wheelchair friendly. The accessible toilets in Settle are in the carpark near to the petrol station. There are also accessible loos in Booths Supermarket.
For a ‘perfect cup of tea’ I would recommend the Watershed Mill, which is just outside of Settle. The mill is wheelchair accessible and a good place to pick up a few bargains.
King William the Fourth Guest House which is located right in the middle of the Settle has a ground floor room with an accessible wetroom. It’s a great place to stay and you will be guaranteed a warm welcome from owners Jackie and Chris.
A ten minute drive away in the village of Ingleton is Lundholme Farm which has self- catering cottages, one of which is wheelchair friendly (NB. visitors need to be able to transfer from their wheelchair onto a portable shower stool and have some ability to shuffle a few paces into the shower as the bathroom is not quite a full roll in wetroom). Malcolm and Hilary, owners of Lundholme Farm have also have a caravan site on the farm and are in the process of building an accessible shower and toilet block.
Settle Station is a big tourist attraction. The maroon and cream Victorian buildings are typical of the stations along the Settle-Carlisle line. There is the old footbridge, signal box and the water tower that all date back to the days when the train travel was the way to go. The signal box at Settle Station was restored by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle Line and is open to the public on Saturdays and, by appointment, at other times. It is possible to travel on the Settle-Carlisle trains with a wheelchair as most of the trains do have wheelchair spaces. The train is run by Northern Rail which is worth knowing so that you can book passenger assistance. For those of us who cannot use the footbridge, a member of the station staff will see you safely across the line.
Things to do further afield from Settle is an accessible walk around Malham Tarn. An all- terrain wheelchair is available to hire from the National Trust offices at the Malham Estate. The route can be found in our wheelchair friendly walks section on TOG.
Gordale Scar in Malham and Malham Cove are also both accessible.
For a longer, more challenging all terrain wheelchair trek then I suggest the Settle Loop. The Settle Loop is a well-established route which was designed originally for cyclists and horse riders. It is a 10 miles circular route, which includes a steep climb and rugged terrain in places. The route wanders through the Limestone uplands and the magnificent scenery around Settle. You will see glimpses of Malham Tarn and Pen-y-Ghent on this walk. By the very nature of this walk you will need a sturdy 4×4 all- terrain wheelchair such as the TerrainHopper. For details of this walk please visit our wheelchair friendly walks section.
This area of the Yorkshire Dales, around Settle, is truly spectacular. The whole area is surrounded by limestone scenery, hills and dales. There is a little something for everyone be it sight-seeing, walking, exploring the area or simply relaxing. Settle makes a good base for whatever you decide to do.