Hardraw Force was an impressive classic plunge-type waterfall that contrasted from the neighboring Aysgarth Falls in many ways. For starters, this was a singular waterfall with a satisfying 30m drop instead of a series of smaller waterfalls and cascades. By the way, that drop was said to be the highest singular drop waterfall in England that’s above ground though I often wondered about that claim considering we swore we had seen other taller waterfalls above ground in England as well. At least we know for sure that there were taller underground waterfalls even within the Yorkshire Dales itself such as the Gaping Gill, which I would have the fortune of visiting a day later.
Secondly, the experience was rather unusual in that we had to get through a pub to even get onto the walk to the falls. We actually had lunch in that pub and inn called the Green Dragon Inn, and I’d have to say that this pub could very well have been the closest thing to the quaint and cozy public house that Rick Steves had us sold on in his DVDs, except we never really encountered the singing of local folk songs and the families (including toddlers) playing along. Instead, it was a place that provided some thick wooden tables and chairs in a tight area all within the heat of the fireplace with people ordering up some hearty soups, sandwiches, and pies over some ales. It was just what we needed to take shelter from the wind and rain that came over the area upon our arrival.Once we paid the admission (I think we paid 3 pound per adult in cash only though the food and drinks could be purchased electronically), we then walked out the back of the pub and onto what looked to be a driveway. We then walked past the gate for the Heritage Centre, where the footpath then veered past what looked to be a campground, then past an open area where it appeared some trail improvements were being made, before the trail finally followed along the Hardraw Beck stream leading right up to the head of the mini-gorge where the Hardraw Force made its impressive leap. There were some trees within the scar that helped to break some of the rainfall, but at least the weather allowed me to take some meaningful tripod photos given the even light from the cloudy skies.
Overall, Julie, Tahia, and I took our time and spent about 45 minutes on the walk, including all the picture-taking. We probably could have lingered here a bit longer, but the onset of bad weather hastened our visit.
Meanwhile, I had noticed that prior to doing the waterfall walk, there were public footpaths signposted Simonstone. These footpaths flanked the Green Dragon Inn property and passed through other private pastures along stone walls. And from my brief survey of these footpaths, I had no way of being able to tell that the Hardraw Force was so close by, which I’d attribute to the presence of the Hardraw Scar. Bottom line was that there didn’t seem to be a way of experiencing the falls (let alone even knowing if it was there or not) without getting through the Green Dragon Inn.
Finally, you might be wondering why this waterfall (and many others in the region) has the word “force” in its name. The explanation comes from the Viking heritage of the region, where depending on which part of Scandinavia you’re familiar with, you might recognize the words “foss” or “fors” (meaning waterfall), which ultimately evolved into the English adoption of word that turns out to have nothing to do with Star Wars or the physics term.
We approached Hardraw Force from Aysgarth Falls. So we’ll describe the driving route in that manner. For directions on getting to Aysgarth Falls from York, see the Aysgarth Falls page. The town of Aysgarth was said to be 56 miles (90 minutes drive) northeast of York.
From the village of Aysgarth on the A684, we drove west on the A684 for another 10.7 miles (going past the town of Hawes) towards a tight and easy-to-miss turnoff for Bellow Hill Road on the right. We followed the nearly single-track narrow road for about 0.5 miles into the small village of Hardraw where we saw the Green Dragon Inn. The car park for the falls was closed when we were there, but we were fortunate to find some street parking though it really didn’t seem like there was that much space for public parking unless you’re willing park further away and walk a bit.
This drive between Aysgarth and Hardraw took us about 30 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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