Jonathan Smith runs Where2walk, a walking company in the Yorkshire Dales.

Jonathan has written his own book, the Dales 30 which details the highest mountains in the Dales.

He also runs one-day navigation courses for beginners and intermediates. Join his Learn a Skill, Climb a Hill weekends in the Dales.

To find out more details on any of the above visit his website,

GUNNERSIDE Gill in Swaledale is the site of the most intensive lead mining in the Yorkshire Dales.

The walk follows an interesting path through the gill before climbing towards the mines of Old Gang. The return over the moors is largely trackless and tricky to follow in bad weather.

Car parking is tight in Gunnerside on a popular day but we squeezed in and headed for the path that starts just to the east of the river (signposted).

The path follows the river closely for 500 metres through some attractive woodland before emerging in to the tight V-shaped valley of the gill. The first signs of the industrial past appear here in the form a derelict storage building.

For nearly one mile the path sticks to the river (with the odd diversion) before starting to climb up the hillside.

It is at this point that the full character of Gunnerside Gill is revealed and the fascinating industrial history laid out.

There is no place like it in the Dales, the deep sided valley itself no doubt key to the mining success. Mining was started here in the 15th century but only became widespread in the 19th century.

The streams on the valley sides were repeatedly dammed and the water released in floods revealing the iron ore below. This was dug out and transported to the crushers on the valley floor.Spoil heaps and preserved buildings remain, particularly on the eastern side where you will be walking.

After crossing a small stream the path emerges at a ruined smelting mill with perfect views across the gill. It is a fine picnic spot with two comfortable stones set up for the occasion! The views to the ruined small valley of Lownathwaite opposite sum up the desolation.

From here there is a choice of routes.

A cross road of paths (signed) lie just beyond the building.

If you want to spend more time in the valley continue up for half a mile towards Blakewith dam and cross the river. The return (marked on the map) climbs to a good track high above the western side of the gill. Alternatively (and more interestingly) turn right and scramble steeply up the shattered valley (signposted Surrender Bridge). Emerge in to a desolate and unique landscape, full of slag heaps and bare rock, reminiscent of a film set from Star Wars.

On reaching the flatter line walk 500m through the desolate lands to a gap in the wall on the right and a signpost saying you are entering moorland of Scientific Interest.

The path starts off well but this managed grouse moor (beware the Glorious 12th!) has destroyed any remnants that might have been a path.

Head south across the moor (keeping the high land, point 578m, initially to your right) for three quarters of a mile till the land starts to steepen downhill.

A path appears on the ground as you drop towards the rounded corner of a wall. Follow the path to a more substantial track near Whin Hall.

The track then heads left before doubling back as a road serving the various converted farm buildings.

The houses all have outstanding views up Swaledale; one of the many pleasures of this walk is to descend to Gunnerside whilst enjoying these views.

Fact File:

Distance: Roughly 6.5 miles

Height to Climb: 440m (1,440 feet)

Start: SD 951982. There is parking near the Smithy, on the west side of the stream.

Difficulty: Medium/Hard. The walking is straightforward along the gill but rougher and largely trackless on the moor.

Refreshments: There are 2 cafes and the Kings Head pub. The cafes were open but the pub not when we were there. It’s lovely when it is!