Industry and Castles

This walk is fairly easy and takes about 30 mins. It has a few steps up, a shallow ascent and a steeper descent which might be slightly slippery in wet weather especially if there are dead leaves on the ground.

Mill Bridge
The walk begins at Mill Bridge. From the town centre go up the High Street on the left hand pavement, towards the church and Castle Inn on its left.  Follow the road left opposite the Castle Inn and keep walking until you see Stainforth Butchers on your left and a pedestrian crossing.  Go over the crossing and stand in a little nook just to your left, by a ramp down to the canal. STOP AND LOOK. If you look over the stone wall here you can see on your right the canal and on your left Eller Beck as it emerges from beneath High Corn Mill. This area is Mill Bridge, named after the mill.

Roman Road
The busy road next to you was once known to locals as Kendal Road as it went to Kendal, and first built by the Romans. It was much lower as there was a ford not a bridge. The fine building on the opposite corner is now The Coach House. It was the Royal Oak inn and has stables at the lower level. Next to it are old terraced houses also at the lower level. In the other direction, the Roman road crossed town near the Town Hall and under the Bowling Club to join what is now Shortbank Road at the other end of town, beyond Newmarket Street. It went eastwards over the moor to Addingham, Ilkley and York.

High Corn Mill and Skipton Castle
Go down the ramp to the canal and little garden which was created by Skipton Civic Society from derelict land. The Society raised funds to buy it, then made the garden and donated it to the town council. You can go down to the beck and peer under Mill Bridge to see where the ancient ford was.  Continue along the towpath behind High Corn Mill and at the end of the mill STOP AND LOOK.  There is a waterwheel on your left. On your right looms Skipton Castle and at this end of it is the outlet of the kitchen privy. From inside the castle you can look down this. Castles were evacuated regularly for what was called ‘sweetening’. The lord or lady and most of the household would go off to their second home for a few weeks whilst workers dug out the muck below the privies and took the refuse away. During this process, the stink would fill the castle.  The castle was first mentioned in 1130 when it was wooden. By 1241 it had been rebuilt in stone.

Springs Canal

Towards the end of the canal STOP AND LOOK.  Above you is the ‘modern’ extension to the castle.  Springs Canal was built in 1773 by the earl of Thanet to take stone from his quarries.  It is a branch off the Leeds and Liverpool Canal.  Over the canal is a metal chute and a flat area like a path,  this was the railway which was steam hauled and the stone was tipped into chutes and down to the barges.  The earl’s family complained about the noise.  On your left across Eller Beck is the overflow outlet from a former mill pond.  Continue and go over Eller Beck on the narrow bridge. You may see a heron on the river here, or a kingfisher or dipper.  Steps take you out to the top of Chapel Hill.

Old Sawmill
STOP AND LOOK. On your right you can see the stone sign for the woods and the gated lane past the Old Sawmill (now a house) into Skipton Woods, also called Castle Woods.  The woods were used for timber for centuries, hence the once water-powered sawmill.  There is a public right of way past the Sawmill although it looks like a private drive.  If you want to and have boots or good shoes on, you can divert from here into the ‘semi-ancient woodland’ and see the millpond there which fed mills in lower Skipton. The woods are run by Woodland Trust and although the paths are of crushed limestone they can be muddy after wet weather.

Park Hill
Instead of going right into the woods we go in a slow ascent up the road. On your left are cottages then views over the castle, and down into the ravine with a mill leat, Eller Beck and Springs Canal. On your right is the bulk of Park Hill.  Before you reach the chapel, STOP AND LOOK.  On the left below you is a car park. This is on the site of the millpond for High Corn Mill; it was filled in and the water piped through it in the early 2000s. The water came off Eller Beck in a mill leat.   In the Civil War the Roundheads had batteries here and higher up Park Hill, but they never defeated the castle; it was the last place in the country to capitulate. Eventually Lady Anne Clifford accepted that the Roundheads had won the war and ordered her garrison to give up.

On your right just as you reach the chapel is a lane that leads to the path onto Park Hill, also known as Battery Hill. The path goes up to a famous viewpoint from which poets, photographers and artists have depicted the views over Skipton, Sharp Haw and Embsay Crag. It is now part of the Dales High Road long-distance path.

Chapel
STOP AND LOOK. On your left is the old Wesleyan Chapel. John Wesley the founder of the Methodist church preached at the bottom of the hill and in 1796 a small chapel was built. It was rebuilt in 1811 because the congregation had grown to one hundred.

Image0163

High Corn Mill
Descend to the yard of High Corn Mill on your left.  STOP AND LOOK.  In the corner of the mill yard is a door which, if it is open, will take you through to the waterwheel. You can pull a lever and watch the wheel turn, please push the lever back up afterwards. High Corn Mill was built 1785 on the site of an older mill. Over the road is Wright Wine Co. and on their building is a plaque commemorating John Wesley’s preaching.

Mill Bridge
Turn left at the end of the mill to return to Mill Bridge. From here you can continue on this side towards the Castle Inn, up steps to the churchyard (or stay on level to go on narrow pavement round the yard) to get to the castle. Or use the crossing to return to the centre.