On a lonely site high in the Yorkshire Dales stands a unique and historic place. With its exposed beams, stone-flagged floor and welcoming fire, the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest public house at 528m (1,732ft), is a place where walkers brush shoulders with inquisitive tourists. This walk takes you to the head of Arkengarthdale on the edge of Swaledale, where winds rush across moorland, and where you can stop at a warm pub to refuel or rest your weary head.
A. Waterfall start
The grey-stoned hamlet of Keld lies at the head of Swaledale. Here, cascading waterfalls enhance the River Swale’s beauty. Park in the farm car park with its honesty box (£2 long stay, £1 short stay). Walk to the start of the footpath, signposted Muker. At the fork, turn left, cross the bridge and climb to reach another fork, where you turn left on to the Pennine Way, Britain’s first long-distance footpath.
By a house where two grey stone paths diverge, follow the grassy track uphill, right. Watch for the acorn logo, and stride out across the moor. You will join a track with Pennine Way signs, which direct you to the Tan Hill Inn. You are now in traditional Swaledale sheep-farming country – barns (some call this the Valley of the Barns) are scattered like confetti across the grassy hillsides.
B. Have a lofty tipple
Back in 1085, William the Conqueror’s surveyors, when compiling the Domesday Book, wrote the area above Reeth off as wasteland. Although records of the Tan Hill Inn’s early days are sketchy, in 1586 William Camden in his guidebook, Britannia, notes a solitary inn. The current building dates from the 17th century.
After some refreshment, turn right out of the inn and take the moorland road, left. A footpath leads right to a junction of streams. Cross, and continue along the left-hand bank. Cross the stream and head up the opposite hillside. At the crest, turn left, following the direction of the finger post.
C. Line of nine Romans
To your right, you can see the stones of the Nine Standards Rigg – a line of cairns that stand on the edge of the escarpment north of the summit of Hartley Fell. One theory suggests that the cairns were erected by the Roman army to look like troops from a distance. Continue along the moorland path and cross a stile, where the path drops down into the valley. As the river comes into sight, you will be treated to some splendid views, eventually crossing the burbling waters via the road bridge. Turn left and back into Keld.
How to get there
Keld lies on the B6270 between Kirkby Stephen and Richmond.
Find Out More
Tan Hill Inn
Swaledale DL11 6ED
Swaledale DL11 6LL
B&B on a working farm.
Dales Countryside Museum and National Park Centre
Station Yard, Hawes, Wensleydale DL8 3NT