Day out: Hebden Dale, West Yorkshire

Explore a wooded wonderland in West Yorkshire, where the industrial heritage of the southern end of the Pennines is magically revealed

Gibson Mill, beside Hebden Water
Published: September 18th, 2019 at 3:47 pm
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Enjoy a day out in Hebden Dale in West Yorkshire

The River Calder strikes through West Yorkshire’s Pennine Hills in a yawning trough of a valley, deepened by glacial meltwaters as the last ice age ended 12,000 years ago.


Feathering the main vale is a series of side valleys, hung between the high moors and the Calder. Of these, the most spectacular is Hebden Dale, chiselled into the uplands above trendy Hebden Bridge.

Crags and Chasms 

From Midgehole car park, a web of well-signed and waymarked paths and tracks threads the woods, cloughs and moorland-edge pastures. The easiest option is simply to stroll upstream beside the lively Hebden Water.

A bridge in Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire
A bridge in Hardcastle Crags, West Yorkshire ©Getty

Its flow crashes over weirs, waterfalls and through rapids where you might see kingfishers, dippers, and grey and pied wagtails among the boulders and waterside overhangs.

Green and great spotted woodpeckers haunt the woods, while summer migrants are resident until October. Much of this magnificently wooded chasm is managed by the National Trust, and at the heart of the property are the impressive Hardcastle Crags.

This series of precipices and bluffs runs along the woods’ higher levels, and can be explored on self-guided marked trails.

Ilkey Moor, West Yorkshire

Great layer-cakes of gritstone thrust above the canopy, or outcrop as ragged edges at the fringe of the purple-hued moorlands, creating a glorious panoramic horizon. Oak, lime, alder, birch and beech promise a vivid explosion of colours as autumn takes hold.

Visiting the eco mill 

Beyond the woods at the Dale’s upper end is Blake Dean, a bilberry-burnished moorland canyon where roe deer graze. Gaunt stone piers recall a timber railway viaduct built here 120 years ago during the construction of upland reservoirs at Walshaw Dean. There are intriguing plans and photos of this era in the sublime Pack Horse Inn, nearby on the moors at Widdop.

A view above Widdop Reservoir, West Yorkshire (Photo by: Getty Images)
A view above Widdop Reservoir, West Yorkshire ©Getty

Deeper in Hebden Dale below Hardcastle Crags is another majestic relic of the industrial revolution. Gibson Mill has seen life as a cotton mill and an Edwardian dancehall. It’s now the National Trust’s flagship sustainable eco-project with an excellent visitor centre, set in the woods amid packhorse trails and millponds above the river’s foaming torrents.

Useful information

For more information about visiting Hardcastle Crags, including parking information, access and facilities, visit the Hardcastle Crags page on the National Trust website.

Find out more about Gibson Mill head to


Extra information is available at


Neil Coates is a Manchester-based writer with nearly 40 walking/guidebooks published.


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