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.
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.
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.
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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