Distance: 23.5 miles. Elevation 4300 ft.
This is a circular route around the Holme Valley, Holmfirth, West Yorkshire.
My starting point was in Armitage Bridge (HD4 7NR) as there is a free carpark with ample spaces, plus a little café if you’re back in time. I’d recommend starting to walk this route as early as possible as it’s a long day out.
You will also need to carry a map, or use the OS app, as the signage isn’t great and the signs that are there are sometimes difficult to find or hidden by trees.
First 5 miles.
The start from Armitage Bridge takes you out of the little village through lovely quiet woodland towards the village of Honley. In this first 2 miles you get a good idea of the terrain for the rest of the route, it’s lumpy. You approach the village down the cobbled street, cross the road and head out the other side towards Oldfield. Once through here and across a few fields you then crest the hill and get the first view of most of your intended route as you look towards Digley reservoir and Holme Moss in the distance. There are plenty of stiles and walls to climb in this first 5 mile as you weave your way across rolling fields, up steep footpaths, pass through various small villages and hunt for footpath signs that take you down residential drives and through gardens.
This is my favourite part of the walk. You join the road again near Digley reservoir then head up to the right towards the main carpark. As you start to climb the hill you then take the footpath on your left which circles the whole of the res, this part of the route is generally the busiest as the footpath around Digley is popular with walkers and families (2). About ¾ of the way around the reservoir you will go through a gate, cross a stream, and the path heads up the steep field to the right (easy to miss the small sign here) and across to the small village of Holme. As you pop out at the cobbled square in the village the route takes you to left, but if you turn right and walk 50 yards along the road you will find some public toilets (for a donation) and a little take away café attached to the side of the pub. Each time I have done the walk I’ve bought a coffee, water and some snacks from here. Once refreshed you walk back the way you came to re-join the route.
As you turn right through the small gate to re-join the route be sure to look back over your shoulder at ‘The Underhill’, a house built in to the hillside which is designed around a large internal swimming pool (it’s worth googling to see the inside). You’ll then enter a lovely section of natural woodland and rugged paths until you pop out with Ramsden Res on your right and follow the path between that and Brownhill reservoir on your left.
Once across the res path take a sharp right back on yourself then a footpath to the left just before the carpark which climbs up through the trees before following a track around curve of the hill in which you have a wonderful view of the valley and down towards Holmfirth.
When you hit white gate road you cross straight over and head down the bridleway past a caravan park on your right.
This next section of the walk is different again. The natural woodland that you’ve passed through previously is replaced with rows and rows of man-made pine woodland and as you follow the path through the trees it does feel like it has been placed here.
The dark woodland floor is completely void of light from the trees. Not the standard Yorkshire woodland that we’re used to. Watch out for mountain bikers in this section as the top part of this forest has some great mountain bike trails. Head over the stile at the end of this track and take a left along the road until a junction where you take the bridleway on your the left. Halfway down this track is the footpath to the right across a field. Keep an eye out for a miniature gate on your right that is not well signposted otherwise you’ll miss it. If you hit the trees you’ve gone too far. The route then follows paths down the side of farm land with a view of the boating lake to the left and the small, exposed village of Hade Edge, before crossing a poker straight footpath into Hepworth village.
From here the route drops down some stone steps then climbs back up, crosses the A616 and takes the footpath to the right along Meal Hill Lane. The next part of the route has been diverted, although at the time I walked the route the OS map had not been updated, and you’ll need to pass the new houses on the right, take the footpath into the wood, fight your way through an overgrown path and a stile (which is the only HVC signpost) and head up the fields behind until you cross through someone’s garden at the top and up the stone steps next to their garage.
This path then brings you out on Scar Hole Lane which is where they hold the national cycling hill climb championships. If you’re in the area when this event is going on it is well worth a trip to watch. The event is roughly a mile long and at an average gradient of 11% it’s really hard going to cycle up. Follow this road up for approximately 100 yards before taking the bridleway to your left. Where you turn there is a bench on your right where you get a wonderful view of Meal Hill house with its lake in the garden.
This next bridleway gives you some of the best views of the whole walk, be sure to keep looking to your left and behind you as you follow this path along, and you’ll eventually see Emley moor mast come into view in front of you.
The first time I did this walk the mist was so thick that I didn’t see any of these views. What a great surprise it was when I did it in better weather eventually. The best that West Yorkshire has to offer.
The next section of the route takes you across various fields, through gates and over multiple stiles until you reach the village of Thurstonland, where you cross over the road and take the path between the houses.
This section of the walk can be really windy as the air blows up the valley and almost blew me over the second time I walked this way around, although on a clear day the views are wonderful and you keep following the easy to walk footpaths through the fields until you reach the village of Farnley Tyas (the pub on the left here is a good stop for a drink).
From here you only have 3 miles left of the walk but it is not to be underestimated. The path drops down sharply into the wood (passing a bench with a great view of castle hill as per main image above) before heading UP steeply through various fields until you reach Victoria Tower at the top, it’s quite a slog on tired legs. Just what you need after walking 20 miles.
Once at Victoria tower you can spend some time admiring the panoramic views of Huddersfield and beyond then finish your legs off completely with a descent down 200 steps to the West of the tower where you will join the road, follow the road for approximately 100 meters, before taking the footpath to the right and dropping back down to the valley bottom and ending back at carpark.
All in this is a wonderful route although I do recommend starting early as the elevation profile does make for tough going over that distance. It’s also worth taking walking poles if you use them. It’s definitely best walked on a clear day as the views from some of the higher footpaths show the best of the Yorkshire countryside.