There's a special reason for driving to Pateley Bridge via Menwith Hill, Dacre Banks and Summerbridge (apart from the views as you drive up past Fewston, that is).

On the Pateley road from Summerbridge is a butcher's shop that specialises in game and locally-reared lamb, beef and pork.

And when they're available, the shop also sells Nidderdale rabbit - the ultimate free-range meat, lean and tasty and very, very cheap.

Now you might be one of those people who feel squeamish about eating rabbit, seeing a cute, fluffy little bunny in your mind's eye.

Not me though. I grew up on the stuff and holidayed on a farm where you could see how much damage the thousands of rabbits in the fields did to the crops. To me, eating an animal which has enjoyed a good, natural and free life until stopped in its tracks by a farmer's gun is no problem.

I manage to disassociate entirely from the pet rabbit we used to have, which lived in the house for much of the time and used to jump on to my lap and fall asleep as I stroked him while watching the telly.

So we pulled up at the shop, and they did have rabbits available, so we went on our way with a nice plump one for the freezer for a remarkable £1.80.

It was a good start to what was to turn out to be a splendid walk, taking us high above Pateley Bridge and then following the riverbank back to the start.

We parked on the far side of the bridge, in the car and coach park of the Nidderdale Showground, pulled on our boots, diverted briefly to the nearby loos (always best to start a walk on "empty" when you can) then set off up the narrow High Street past the shops and cafes (including what's reputed to be the oldest sweet shop in England).

At the top, we swung round with the Ripon road and just past the Methodist Chapel on the right followed a signpost on the left up steps to begin the Panorama Walk.

This was a well-paved, broad track climbing steeply up the hillside behind houses which, as the land rose, enjoyed increasingly enviable views. How glorious to wake up in a morning, draw back the curtains and stare out across the broad valley of the Nidd!

Before long we reached the cemetery on our left, a fine last resting place for the people of the town, then continued up the path. Before long we found a small gate on our right opening on to a railed-off outcrop of rock. This was created to mark Queen Victoria's jubilee. How many thousands of people have stood on that spot since, and drunk in the views below them?

We continued our climb until we arrived at the cluster of houses known as Knott. Just beyond there, we left the paved road and turned on to a rutted track, marked the Nidderdale Way, which eventually took us on to a narrower, stony, damp track to arrive at a lane.

From here we headed uphill towards the houses of Blazefield, turning off the road just before them to join the Nidderdale Way again on a bridlepath which delivered us shortly into another quiet road (Sandy Lane).

We followed this all the way down to the bottom, to where it met the main road from Summerbridge to Pateley Bridge. We crossed the road here and strolled down through the pretty village of Glasshouses (where the people are not advised to throw stones!) with its sloping village green and attractive cottages.

At the bottom of the hill was a disused mill (soon to be converted into apartments, I believe) and just before the bridge a broad track going right past a lake where ducks, geese and swans yelled hungrily at us as we stopped at one of the benches for a lunchtime sandwich.

Up and off again, we soon joined a good, semi-paved riverside path and followed the attractive Nidd upstream, walking between the river and what used to be the bed of the railway.

As we approached the town we could hear an amplified voice calling a rhythmic, almost ritualistic chant in what sounded like a strange tongue. It was an auctioneer at the market, doing the best he could in these troubled times for farmers to get a good price for their livestock.

We were soon back in Pateley Bridge where, next to the riverside car park, a small block of flats occupied the place where the station once stood.

A lot has changed in the countryside. But much remains the same - like auction marts, and cheap rabbits for dinner.

Step by Step

  1. From car park, walk across bridge and continue up High Street, swinging round to right with it to follow Ripon Road briefly. Not far past chapel on right, go left up steps into footpath, following Panorama Walk sign. Continue up this path to gates of cemetery.
  2. Walk on past cemetery, ignoring footpath going left immediately above it. Keep on up hill, passing The Rock viewpoint, above, on right. At a junction, keep ahead to arrive at Knott.
  3. Just past houses, go left off road on to grassy rutted track (Nidderdale Way). Ignore footpath left into field and continue along this track to another fork. Ignore the tempting left-hand route and instead go right, descending, to arrive at lane. Turn left and walk up hill with care towards Blazefield.
  4. Immediately before houses on right, go right on path (Nidderdale Way again) behind a row of cottages and bigger homes. Just past gate of Rock Haven ignore another gate ahead (it leads to a house) and instead fork right to arrive soon at Sandy Lane. Turn right and walk down road to arrive at main road.
  5. Cross over and walk ahead down through Glasshouses. Just before river, go right along track past lake to arrive at riverside path and follow this back to Pateley Bridge.
Fact File

  • Start: Car park by bridge in Pateley Bridge.
  • Time for 3.5-mile walk: a couple of easy hours.
  • Going: bit of a pull at first, but then undemanding.
  • Map: OS Explorer 298 Nidderdale.
  • Parking: reasonably-priced pay-and-display car and coach park at entrance to Nidderdale showground, another car park across river, and short-stay park in town.
  • Toilets: by bridge in Pateley Bridge, and on main road just before road goes down into Glasshouses (look to left).
  • Refreshments: plenty in Pateley Bridge, and Yorkshire Country Wines tearooms at Glasshouses.
  • Return route: if you've gone the Dacre Banks way, head back by crossing the river and driving up Greenhow Hill. Just past Miners' Arms on right, the road left towards Harrogate takes you to Blubberhouses and then to Otley. It's a fine route with wide-open views in all directions.