Skip Navigation

Hackfall visitor information

This ancient woodland has been restored to its former glory and boasts original features such as grottos and glades, rustic temples and waterfalls, as well as carpets of bluebells in spring and an impressive number of woodland birds.

This amazing place lies at the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales, within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The 47 hectares (120 acres) of ancient semi-natural woodland sit within a steep rocky gorge of the River Ure. Here the Grewelthorpe Beck tumbles down the gorge through a series of pools and weirs into the mighty river.

The land at and around Hackfall has a fascinating history and was first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as belonging to the Saxon landowner Gospatric (Earl of Dunbar). It passed through the hands of several knights of the realm as a reward for supporting the King, though if they later displeasured him, he was inclined to take it back!

Hackfall was turned into a beautiful and wild romantic garden in the 18th century by William Aislabie who added follies, grottos, waterfalls, and a spectacular fountain, after his father, John Aislabie, bought the site in 1731.

The site is also a fascinating place for the keen naturalist. Hackfall has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the large number of birds, plants, insects and other invertebrates that make their home here. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of blue as a kingfisher heads downstream or hear the whistle of an otter; while in spring and summer you will be able to enjoy a variety of woodland plants, including bluebells and ramsons.

This wonderful place has inspired artists, poets and writers for centuries, from romantic landscape painter Turner to modern-day Masham artist, Ian Scott Massie. Download the Hackfall 'art swatch book (PDF 3.3MB) and be prepared to be inspired too.

Setting

Situated on the edge of the beautiful Yorkshire Dales within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Hackfall covers 47 hectares (nearly 120 acres) of ancient semi-natural woodland within a steep rocky gorge of the River Ure. It is 29km (18 miles) from Harrogate, 9.7km (six miles) north-west of Ripon, 4.8km (three miles) from Masham, and on the doorstep of the village of Grewelthorpe.

OS Explorer 298, Landranger 99, SE231775. 

Nearest postcode: HG4 4DY; co-ordinates 54.22256, -1.655965

Access and walks

There is no wheelchair access to Hackfall because of the terrain, and unless visitors are reasonably fit they will find the walk back up the slope challenging.

The wood is accessible on foot from four separate entrances. The two most popular are at the top of the site, 110m (340ft) above the river at the bottom of the wood. These are either on steep slopes, or have steps. Some paths along the top of the wood are more exposed. To access them, start from the Grewelthorpe to Masham minor road. The southerly one can be reached by following the road from Grewelthorpe for approx. 200m towards Masham (north) and then turning right (east) into Hackfall. This entrance has no barriers and the path follows a shallow slope, with some steps.

The northerly entrance is approximately halfway between Grewelthorpe and Masham and is along a Public Right of Way (PROW) next to a car park. The entrance from the car park is through a kissing gate. Direct access from the road is over a step-over stile. The path heads in an easterly direction down a track and through a kissing gate into fields.

Once in the field, turn right, contouring along the slope to enter the top of the wood over a step-over stile. Alternatively, continue down the fields on the public path to enter the lower part of the wood through a kissing gate. This route is closest to the main features in the wood, but does then descend a steep slope.

Many paths have been improved and upgraded, but those within the wood, the paths are compacted earth and can be very muddy, particularly in wet conditions. Walking boots are recommended. Slopes vary but can be up to 1:8 (12%) for considerable distances. The high path in Common Wood at the Mickley end of Hackfall is at the top of a very steep slope and particular care should be taken here.

The other two entrances are on a PROW following the riverside paths, and require a much longer walk in, preferably with a map. OS 1:50,000 series, map no. 99, covers the area.

To explore Hackfall at a reasonably leisurely pace, we suggest you allow at least two hours.

The Ripon Rowel medium distance circular path is 50 miles long and passes through the wood, where it is way-marked. You can pick up printed copies from local Tourist Information Centres or pubs/cafes in the area. Alternatively, the Aislabie Walk takes you through picturesque landscapes of Studley Royal,  Laver Banks and Hackfall.

Download the Aislabie Walk booklet (PDF, 2MB) by Mark Reid for more information. Or download our Hackfall walks leaflet which contains four detailed walks around Hackfall: Walk 1 - A Glimpse of Hackfall (30 mins); Walk 2 - Cascades & Follies (1 hour); Walk 3 - Riverside Rambler (1.5 hours); Walk 4 - Hackfall Explorer (2-3 hours) 

You will find a leaflet dispenser on the gate post on the way out of the car park which has a supply of free guide leaflets in it. The leaflet has some useful information and a map, or you can download a map to help you to plan your visit.

Directions

By car
Hackfall is 9.7km (six miles) north west of Ripon, north of Grewelthorpe. From Ripon, take the A6108 north-west to Masham. From Masham, turn left out of the market place near the community centre onto Church Street. Follow the road around a left hand bend onto Park Street (past HSBC bank on the right and the Co-op). Head out of Masham on Thorpe Road (past I’Anson feed mill) and over the River Burn bridge towards Grewelthorpe for approx. 1.6km (one mile).

The new, free, Woodland Trust car park is on your left (Post code HG4 3BS), approx. 0.85km/½ mile before Grewelthorpe Village. If that is full, additional car parking and maps are available at the Crown Inn from where there is a footpath into Hackfall which takes around five minutes to walk. Alternatively, Grewelthorpe village is a short walk away from the main southern entrance, and it may be possible to park there.

By bus
Bus service number 159 between Ripon and Leyburn runs approximately three times per day, stopping at Grewelthorpe.  

By train
The nearest railway station is Leyburn at 22.5km (14 miles) away, while Thirsk station is 30.5km (19 miles) away.

For further information on public transport, visit traveline or telephone 0871 200 2233.

Entry into our woods is free but please donate now to help us care for them.