Aysgarth Falls

Wensleydale / Yorkshire Dales National Park / Richmondshire District, North Yorkshire County, England

Rating: 1.5     Difficulty: 2.5
Aysgarth Falls seen from the A684 bridge over the River Ure at Aysgarth

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INTRODUCTION

Aysgarth Falls was actually a series of three main waterfalls, which the signs referred to them as Upper, Middle, and Lower. Rather than being dramatic drops over a cliff, these waterfalls were really more like cascades that might be friendly for photography enthusiasts (we saw many visitors bringing DSLRs and tripods) who would look for the kind of texture and silkiness that this falls can produce. When we were there on our visit, the River Ure had a bit of a tinge of brown because it was running at nearly full spate given the many days of rain that had hit much of Northern England and Scotland in early- to mid-August prior to our arrival (definitely a result of the remnants of Hurricane Bertha).

We began our visit from a well-established car park at the National Park Centre in the town of Aysgarth (see directions below). We first targeted the Upper Aysgarth Falls, which was 340m west of the car park and visitor centre. Following the trail at the far west side of the car park, the dirt trail descended alongside the Church Bank Road before continuing straight past a fence away from the road bridge over the River Ure. The dirt trail then continued for a short distance to another fence where there was an honesty box asking hikers to pitch in 1.5 pound per person.

The Church Bank Road bridge over the River Ure and the attractive buildings around it Just beyond this fence, the trail then took us to an open somewhat grassy area where there were picnic tables as well as some unfenced views from near the brink of the Upper Aysgarth Falls. From this vantage point, the falls looked short but wide and had somewhat of a small horseshoe shape to it. When we had our fill of this spot, we headed back to the road bridge on Church Bank Road, and found out that perhaps the best view of the series of cascades comprising the upper falls could be had from here (see photo at the top of this page). Unfortunately, the bridge supporting bi-directional vehicle traffic was narrow and not really meant for pedestrian traffic so we were doing this at our own risk to safety.

By the way, this bridge also presented nice photo opportunities because the buildings nearby looked attractive, as well as the views of the River Ure looking downstream (in addition to the upstream direction towards the Upper Falls). It probably took us a solid 30 minutes to enjoy the Upper Falls. Then, we returned to the car park, where we continued towards its other side, which the signs indicated to be 230m to get to the Middle Falls and 830m to get to the Lower Falls. Along the way to the trails leading to those falls, we had to cross the Church Bank Road where the blind turn there made it a deceptively dangerous crossing if there happened to be cars going fast. We really had to hold onto our daughter to ensure we all could cross safely together.

The rolling hills and valleys seen along the trail to the Lower Falls Once we got through the fence on the other side of the road, we then descended a slope before taking a spur trail that descended steps towards a lookout of the Middle Aysgarth Falls. In the distance high up a hill on the other side of this waterfall, we noticed some kind of church-looking structure mostly concealed by the surrounding trees. We weren't sure what it was, but I'd imagine you don't often see churches or abbeys near waterfalls like that, which was why it stood out to us. In any case, the view of the Middle Falls was mostly at an angle. It didn't appear safe to try to attain a more frontal look, especially with the River Ure running at full spate.

Continuing on the main trail further downhill, the terrain eventually started to open up into a partial field with some wildflowers in bloom. There were also some expansive views of the kind of rolling hills and valleys that I guess gave the Yorkshire Dales its claim to fame. By the way, the word "dales" was said to be derived from the Norse word "dal" or valley (owing to the days when the Vikings were here). This word was quite familiar to us thanks to our time spent touring both Norway and Iceland. In any case, there were a pair of trail signed trail spurs leading through the trees and closer to the River Ure. We took the further spur, which briefly brought us further downstream of the Lower Aysgarth Falls before we walked in the upstream direction to finally get our looks at the last of the waterfalls.

Once again, we had to keep an eye out on our daughter because there was nothing to keep anyone from getting dangerously close to the River Ure in full spate. Furthermore, we were able to appreciate partial views of the small but gushing multi-tiered falls, but we were never really able to get a real satisfying all-encompassing look given the viewpoints available to us. When we had our fill of this falls, we backtracked the way we came to get back onto the main trail leading uphill back to the car park, but we very easily could have continued walking along the river trail upstream before that trail would loop back towards the other of the two trail junctions branching off the main trail.

All told, we spent about 90 minutes in all to take in the three Aysgarth Falls. However, we very easily could have picnicked here and spent even more time if we were so inclined. Another thing Julie noticed that seemed to impress her was how family friendly the toilet facilities were considering we thought we were deep in the countryside away from a lot of civilization. We also had ourselves freshly baked scones on the go from the cafe at the National Park Centre though I wondered if we merely got lucky with the timing as it would turn out that most of the scones we would have for the rest of the trip lacked that wonderful contrast of crunchiness on the outside and soft on the inside.

In a bit of a Hollywood twist, a sign here said that this falls was a filming location of the movie Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner (oh I can just hear that Bryan Adams song in my head now). In any case, my memory regarding where this scene happened fails me since this was too long ago, but I'm sure if I ever chance upon a re-run of this movie while channel surfing, I'll be looking for it.




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PHOTO JOURNAL

Prior to visiting Aysgarth Falls, we had spent some time in the charming former Viking town of York, which had features like the impressive York Minster as well as the Shambles shown herePrior to visiting Aysgarth Falls, we had spent some time in the charming former Viking town of York, which had features like the impressive York Minster as well as the Shambles shown here
Looking down at the twin towers of York Minster from the topLooking down at the twin towers of York Minster from the top
We visited Aysgarth Falls on a long day of driving from York to Kendal while visiting waterfalls along the way. Kendal was a great base to explore the Yorkshire Dales as well as Sizergh CastleWe visited Aysgarth Falls on a long day of driving from York to Kendal while visiting waterfalls along the way. Kendal was a great base to explore the Yorkshire Dales as well as Sizergh Castle
The National Park Centre for Aysgarth FallsThe National Park Centre for the falls

Heading to the west side of the car park in the direction of the Upper Aysgarth Falls.  Note there were still plenty of parking spaces at the timeHeading to the west side of the car park in the direction of the Upper Falls. Note there were still plenty of parking spaces at the time

Julie and Tahia making their way past the fence as the trail deviated from the Church Bank Road to the leftJulie and Tahia making their way past the fence as the trail deviated from the Church Bank Road to the left

The fence and honesty box on the way to the Upper Aysgarth FallsThe fence and honesty box on the way to the Upper Falls

Our first look at the Upper Aysgarth FallsOur first look at the Upper Falls

At the brink of the Upper Aysgarth FallsAt the brink of the Upper Falls

Picnic tables near the Upper Aysgarth FallsPicnic tables near the Upper Falls

Looking downstream along the River Ure from the Church Bank Road BridgeLooking downstream along the River Ure from the Church Bank Road Bridge

Julie and Tahia about to cross the blind turn at Church Bank Road to get to the trail to the other two waterfallsJulie and Tahia about to cross the blind turn at Church Bank Road to get to the trail to the other two waterfalls

Julie and Tahia descending steps towards the overlook for the Middle Aysgarth FallsJulie and Tahia descending steps towards the overlook for the Middle Aysgarth Falls

Looking across the Middle Aysgarth FallsLooking across the Middle Falls

Across the River Ure at the Middle Falls, we noticed this intriguing church-like structureAcross the River Ure at the Middle Falls, we noticed this intriguing church-like structure

Continuing on the fairly busy trail towards the Lower FallsContinuing on the fairly busy trail towards the Lower Falls

Julie and Tahia now got to a part of the trail where the scenery opened up and revealed some of the scenery that I think the Yorkshire Dales were known forJulie and Tahia now got to a part of the trail where the scenery opened up and revealed some of the scenery that I think the Yorkshire Dales were known for

The series of cascades comprising the Lower Aysgarth FallsThe series of cascades comprising the Lower Aysgarth Falls

Julie hanging onto Tahia at Lower Aysgarth Falls, especially since there are no railings or preventative features to keep her from getting dangerously close to the edgeJulie hanging onto Tahia at the falls, especially since there are no railings or preventative features to keep her from getting dangerously close to the edge

Lovely view of the River Ure downstream of the Lower Aysgarth FallsLovely view of the River Ure downstream of the Lower Falls


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VIDEOS OF THE FALLS


Sweep of the uppermost of the waterfalls from near its brink


360 degree sweep of the Upper Aysgarth Falls as seen from the bridge over the River Ure on the Church Bank Road


Right to left sweep of the Middle Aysgarth Falls


Right to left sweep of the Lower Aysgarth Falls from near its brink. Video ends with a downstream view towards more of the River Ure under some mix of rain clouds


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DRIVING DIRECTIONS

We approached Aysgarth Falls from the east driving from York. So we'll describe the route I think would make the most sense in this direction. As you'll see later, the actual route we took wasn't the best way even though we followed the signs.

From the York City Centre, we took the A59 roughly 13 miles west to the A1 (a high speed motorway). We would then drive north about 23.5 miles on the A1 until we exited at the A684 near Leeming Bar. Then, we would follow the A684 nearly 20 miles to the Church Bank Road intersection in the town of Aysgarth. Turning right onto Church Bank Road, the way meanders another 0.4 miles (going over the River Ure on the bridge mentioned above in the description) before reaching the turnoff on the left for the National Park Centre. When we arrived at 10am on a Saturday morning in mid-August, the car park wasn't busy. However, when we returned 90 minutes later, the car park was practically full. There was a pay and display charge of 2.5 pounds for 2 hours, which was enough for us. It's 4.2 pounds if you want to park for longer than that.

Finally, the actual way we went to get to the National Park Centre from York involved deviating from the A684 onto an obscure B road a short distance west of the village of Wensley. We did this because there was a sign pointing in this direction to the falls. But in hindsight, this B road was much narrower and slower going, and it might have costed us an additional 20-30 minutes on the drive that took us 1 hour and 40 minutes from York. I still don't know why there was a sign that misled us like this, but I did notice that this road passed by the Bolton Castle (which we didn't visit) near Redmire. If not for this detour, the overall drive should've taken about 75 minutes.

As for some geographical context, the city of York was 72 miles (90 minutes drive) northeast of Manchester, 87 miles (over 2 hours drive) east of Kendal, 208 miles (4 hours drive or 2.5 hours by train) north of London, and 234 miles (4.5 hours drive) north of Bath.




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ITINERARIES

For more information about our itineraries involving this waterfall, check out the following links.




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MAP OF THE FALLS



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TRIP REPORTS

For more information about our experiences with this waterfall, check out the following travel stories.




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TRIP PLANNING RESOURCES





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NEARBY WATERFALLS




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