Fairy steps to the woodland

Fairy steps to the woodland

Fairy steps to the woodland

Fairy steps to the woodland

First published in Walks by

The Limestone Link is a waymarked footpath between Arnside and Kirkby Lonsdale approximately 13 miles long. This circular walk begins at the start, then leaves it to make a loop through lovely Underlaid Wood and then return along the outward path.

Hazelslack Tower, seen twice on the walk, is a pele tower, probably built in the late 14th century to provide protection for life and livestock from raiding Scots.

The Fairy Steps climb a small limestone cliff. Legend has it that fairies used the steps to escape from a witches’ cauldron. Enjoy the magnificent view from the top of the rock stairway.

At the start of the footpath there is only off-street parking and even this is hard to find. Safer to park at the north end of the promenade at Arnside (grid ref 458789) then north on the B5282. Ignore where it turns left under the railway bridge and continue along Blackdyke Road for 1/3 mile to the signpost of the Limestone Link on the left side.

1 Walk the signposted track on the left and cross the railway line with care as requested Walk on along the fenced way through a large pasture. Pause on the footbridge over a steam where you might spot fish, and beyond bear slightly left to a signpost. Walk in the direction for the Limestone Link, which takes you over Arnside Moss, where in two large hollows there is still standing water – best to keep left of both of these for dry boots Then look for waymarks directing you up a little slope and on to the first of the many stone step stiles that you encounter on this walk. Some are easy to pass through, others are a squeeze.

2 Cross the narrow road and take the gap stile opposite. Walk ahead to a low grass-covered rise and ascend one of the several paths and walk towards a battered locked iron gate. Just before it, on the right, go through a gap stile and turn immediately left along the wall. In a few steps, go through a gap stile beside a wooden gate. This manoeuvre by-passes the locked gate - officially. Walk ahead and join a delightful track winding right then round left through a fine pasture to a gap stile.

3 Turn right and walk past the dramatic ruins of Hazelslack Tower and then follow the lane through the farm buildings. At the T-junction, cross and go on ahead along a wide track. This is a delight as it takes you through walled pastures towards Underlaid Wood. Go through a large gate and begin your climb up through the limestone woodland where the clints are covered in moss and the grykes very deep and rich with lowly sheltering plants. Ash, birch, yew, hazel, black-thorn, dogwood, guelder rose and much undergrowth stretch away on either side of the track, which is generally composed of clints worn down by the tread of many boots. Eventually, after a steady ascent you reach a wall of limestone. Just before it, wind left and then round right to climb the Fairy Steps to the top of the scarp.

4 Stand here and look over the trees to spot the Kent viaduct and estuary curving away. Here on some limestone boulders is the place for your picnic break. Then, with your back to the steps and the view, turn left to stroll a narrower track winding through the splendid woodland. When you emerge onto an open area and a grassy track turn left and, ignoring a narrow track on the left, walk ahead over wooded Beetham Fell. This brings you down to the road at Beetham.

5 Bear left and after a short distance, take a step stile into the woodland, which is more open here. At a signposted track, cross and continue on a well-signed path to go over a stile into a fine long pasture. Follow the path diagonally to the far-left corner, which gives access onto a more short rough track. At its end go through a squeeze stile into more pasture and continue beside the woodland on your right. At its end is another signposted gap stile into rough pasture. Beyond, turn left and join a short track to the lane. Cross and take the gap stile opposite and head diagonally towards the farm buildings and go through yet another gap stile into more lush pasture. Curve left to pass below Hazelslack Tower. From here you have a dramatic view of the structure.

6 Climb the stile onto the lane and cross to go through the stile opposite onto the wide track taken earlier. From here retrace your steps to the start, remembering to use the two stiles very close together to avoid the locked metal gate.

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