We used to call in to the Cavendish Pavilion car park en route back home from university drops to Leeds, walking upto Barden Bridge and down the other side. This walk extends this to Howgill, and back over Barden Moor, on good paths/tracks and through different landscapes, to make an interesting 7.8 miles circuit. The car park is £10 per whatever, so if this grates, you could park more cheaply at Barden Bridge, or for free off the road to Appletreewick near Howgill.
Take the path to Barden Bridge by the Wharfe through delightful woods, marvelling at the Strid, where the broad river is constricted to a few feet, most of it going in deep, cavernous (and dangerous) channels. At Barden Bridge cross it and continue easily on the Dales Way till it turns right and comes to a road. Cross this onto a track which leads upto Howgill and on up steeply through a plantation to the open moor. Continue on the track by the plantation edge, then as it swings east over Barden Moor. Eventually you can see Simon’s Seat higher over to the left, and the rocks of “Rocking Stone” straight ahead.
Follow the track now south, down into another plantation, then take a signed permissive path left down a steep path to the apparently poorly named Valley of Desolation, a splendid, wooded, steep sided little beauty. In fact the name relates to a storm of 1826 when many trees were destroyed by landslips. The path becomes a track over to the right when the valley opens out, follow this to the road and back to the car over the “Wooden Bridge”. This could be extended for more interest over Simon’s seat by turning left at Howgill onto a track, Howgill Lane, and turn right up a path just before Dalehead Farm, steeply it has to be said, to the Seat, a jumble of large gritstone boulders; then carry on over the moor to join the track of the main route near its apex. This adds 1.3 miles and 220 feet of ascent, and is worth it. The map below includes this addition. Simon’s Seat is so named allegedly by Druids following Simon Magus, who claimed to be one of the three wise men. As do I.
In our plague times, you need a pre-paid time slot for a single car park, and look at the website for details of the current one way path system. The cafe is open for take aways only.