Kilnsey is a small village located in the heart of Wharfedale and is noted for its impressive limestone cliff. Situated 12 miles north of Skipton and easily accessible from the motorway network as it’s just 25 miles from the M65 at Colne or 40 miles from the M1 at Leeds.
Leaving the motorway and driving along narrow, winding roads can be hard work so don’t expect to get anywhere very fast but with such stunning scenery to admire along the way, it’s definitely worthwhile.
As we approached the village, the imposing Kilnsey Crag came into view. This towering 170ft high limestone cliff is situated close to the road and it’s rare to pass by without seeing some climbers scaling its seemingly sheer rock face and the challenge of its 40ft overhang. The crag was shaped by glaciers that once filled the valley and with the action of water and ice eroding backwards a large overhang was created. Along with nearby Malham Cove and Gordale Scar, Kilnsey Crag is rated as one of the big three limestone crags in the Yorkshire Dales for climbing enthusiasts, with rock climbers coming from far and wide to attempt one of its many ascents. Parking along the road in front of the crag is no longer allowed as passing motorists enjoyed stopping briefly to watch the rock climbers causing bottlenecks through the village.
On the hillside to one side of the crag lies the Kilnsey Park Estate so we decided to call in and take a look around. There is ample free on-site parking and visitors are able to explore parts of the estate without needing to purchase a ticket.
The Kilnsey Estate has a long tradition of fish farming and has been a working trout farm since 1978. It’s now become a popular visitor attraction offering trout fishing for all abilities.
Tickets need to be purchased for fishing permits and to explore the nature trail to find out how the natural spring water is utilised to rear high quality rainbow trout. The fish are processed using traditional methods from lake to plate ensuring that the trout can be enjoyed as fresh as possible.
The estate provides a filleting and packaging service for those skilful or lucky enough to catch a fish, ensuring that it can be easily transported and is ready to be cooked on arrival home.
The Cafe By The Lake was doing a brisk trade and looked attractive with brightly coloured parasols out on its terrace. The menu includes a selection of locally sourced fresh produce including their signature dish, ‘Pink fish and chips’ featuring the estate’s home reared rainbow trout.
Next to the cafe lies the Estate Shop so we popped in there for a look around, discovering a wide selection of food on offer including trout pâté, fresh and smoked fish along with some outdoor clothing, fishing paraphernalia and gifts.
We enjoyed wandering around the estate watching families having fun trying to land a catch, the children at the ready with their nets whilst over on the opposite side of the park more serious fishing was taking place in the two larger spring fed lakes.
Wildlife wander freely around the park and we came across ducks, geese, hens and even two shaggy angora goats called Solomon and Rembrandt up high in their skyway paddock.
For such a tiny village, Kilnsey hosts one of the Yorkshire Dales premier one day agricultural shows, regularly attracting several thousand visitors. A highlight of the show is the Kilnsey Crag race covering a distance of 1.2 miles (1.9 km) including a strenuous climb of 330ft (100 m), with competitors having to dash up and down the side of the steep crag. Other activities include dry stone walling, sheep shearing, cattle classes and Dales handicrafts. The event is held at the end of August each year but with sadly no show taking place this year due to the pandemic, plans are already afoot to make it even bigger for 2021.
We then returned to the car for the short journey onto the neighbouring village of Kettlewell, located three miles to the north. As this is another little beauty spot we expected it to be difficult to find somewhere to park on a Sunday lunchtime but we struck lucky as another car was just leaving as we approached.
Kettlewell is slightly larger than Kilnsey and equally picturesque with its old stone bridge in the village centre crossing the river. In bygone days cotton and lead mining played a big part in village life having been replaced in more recent times by hill farming and tourism.
The village boasts three country inns, with The Blue Bell being the original coaching inn located on an ancient route through Kettlewell to the north. We decided to call in to The Racehorses Hotel for a bar snack and discovered that it used to be the stable block for The Blue Bell Inn. From our seats out on the pub’s terrace we were able to see the old mounting block on the side of the bridge that was used to climb onto the horses.
It was pleasing to see so much activity with families enjoying a gentle stroll and a bite to eat whilst the more energetic hikers tackling the Dales Way long distance footpath were having a well earned rest and a pint of beer. With Kettlewell having such a good choice of accommodation, the village makes an ideal base for a break in the Yorkshire Dales. Kettlewell would also make an excellent overnight stop on the second day of the Dales Way as it is a leisurely ten mile hike from Burnsall.
After enjoying our lunch, we explored the village centre with its picture perfect stone cottages adorned with rambling roses, its village store and post office. Kettlewell is a place where time has stood still but in the nicest possible of ways.
In the small war memorial garden we noticed the original set of village stocks. Stocks were to be found in every town and village in England for over 500 years with their last recorded use being in Newbury, Berkshire in 1872. They were always positioned in squares and market places so that as many people as possible could view the offenders who had been punished by placing large wooden boards around their wrists and ankles. In those days public humiliation was seen as a deterrent to others for committing crimes.
It was then back to the car for the journey home after a very enjoyable outing to the Dales villages of Kilnsey and Kettlewell.
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