For two contrasting wild swims combined with a pleasant short walk, head for the River Ure north of West Witton in Wensleydale.
Visiting Redmire Force
First walk north-west along a bridleway from the village to Redmire Force, a trio of waterfalls deep in the trees. It’s a popular spot but most swimmers approach from, and stay on, the more readily accessible opposite bank. You can paddle in pools at the top of the falls or, with care, slide straight into the much deeper water at the bottom.
Accessing the River Ure
For a more peaceful, gentler swim, walk downstream for about three-quarters of a mile to a bend in the river (grid ref SE 053 899) which causes the water to back up and create a large, gradually shelving pool. It’s screened and sheltered by a steep, wooded bank and there’s also a stony beach backed by grass, perfect for picnicking. You can easily swim right across the river to rocks on the north side.
I almost hesitate to share this spot because it is so undiscovered. My family visited twice on scorching days last summer and practically had the place to ourselves. It was the perfect place to while away an afternoon. On one occasion, a herd of cows came down in single file for a drink and then marched back up again to their meadow. A magical moment.
Pubs in West Witton
You can walk back via Wanless Park and Flats Lane (making a total distance of five miles) or continue east on the river to the grand Lords Bridge, the former main access to Bolton Hall, and return via Back Lane (6.5 miles). Finish your outing in West Witton with a drink or meal at either the Fox and Hounds pub (with beer garden) or the upmarket 17th-century Wensleydale Heifer hotel, a favourite haunt of fabled Dales vet, James Herriot.
Words: Paul Kirkwood