This well-wooded walk is close to the spa town of Harrogate and provides wide views over the surrounding North Yorkshire countryside.
The Old Bell is on Royal Parade, more or less opposite the Pump Room Museum and close to the entrance to the Valley Gardens. There is pay and display parking nearby. For free parking the best bet is to park on or near Kent Road beyond the meter/disc zone. The No.36 Leeds/Harrogate/Ripon bus service is every 10 minutes much of the day.
1. Go through the gateway of the Valley Gardens and along the path beside the stream. Go past Bogs Field (where 36 mineral springs, each one unique, come to the surface) and continue on a broad path up the hillside.
Keep on the main path as you approach the Pine Woods, cross a road and go up the access road to Harrogate Indoor Bowling Club. Turn left after the greenhouses, past a stone water tower on the left and a charming square stone tower on the right (now used by the Astronomy Society). An extensive view unfolds leftwards across the Vale of York to the North York Moors and the Wolds.
2. Retrace your steps to the greenhouses and go straight on through a gap beside a metal gate. Soon slant left across a wide grassy area to join a broad path into the Pine Woods. Wide views appear on the right (information board and telescope), including the Pennine hills enclosing Nidderdale backed by Buckden Pike.
3. Turn right along the tarmac road at Harlow Carr Gardens (turn left for the entrance) then soon go left down a road marked “private” to the former Harrogate Arms. Go to the left of the former pub, turn right at the metal gate, cross a foul-smelling stream (another sulphorous Harrogate spring) and follow a wooded path. Shortly after a footbridge, turn right by a Harrogate Ringway sign (the Ringway is followed for the next two miles), descend steeply to cross a footbridge and boardwalk, then follow the woodland path as it climbs to a gap in the fence then bears right close to the fence/wall. Climb steps up to a footpath sign, and turn left along the top of rocks to Birk Crag, a splendid airy place.
4. Continue down a steep, stepped path, then bear right on a level track through attractive woodland to reach Cornwall Road. Turn left, ignore Oakdale Mews, then soon turn sharp right by the Ringway sign along a broad unsurfaced road. Turn left between houses 72 and 72A and follow the path down to Oak Beck at the Iron Bridge. Harrogate’s oldest bridge, not made of iron but reputedly used for carrying ironstone to nearby Kirkby Overblow. Keep the stream on the left as you follow the path down the wooded valley before it climbs up to a road.
5. Turn right up the hill (leaving the Ringway), then at the T-junction go up the footpath straight ahead. Turn right along Kent Road, then first left down Kent Avenue, with the large bulk of St Wilfrid’s Church (Grade I listed) straight ahead. Turn left at the church, then turn right and along Clarence Drive to the Valley Gardens.
l This walk appears in Guide to North Yorkshire Pub Walks. The book is £5.95 available from Countryside Books at www.countrysidebooks.co.uk or call 01635 43816. A 10 per cent discount is available to Harrogate Advertiser readers on all walking and cycling titles published by Countryside Books by using the code YORKSWALKS10.