Riding England’s Yorkshire Dales to the Pub and Middleham Gallops

Stacey rides the Middleham Gallops and to the pub with Kilnsey Trekking riding stables in heart of the North Yorkshire Dales National Park near Skipton, Malham, Bolton Abbey and Harrogate, in the United Kingdom.

by Stacey Stearns

Kilnsey Trekking is owned by Jane and Howard Pighills, and located in Skipton, a town in North Yorkshire, England. They offer two-day rides throughout the year, including the Middleham Gallops ride.

riding horses Yorkshire Dales Engnald

Between the ears along old stone fences in the Yorkshire Dales.

They were loading the horses when I arrived, and Howard drove us out to the meeting spot while Jane and Michelle, our guide, brought the horsebox. Despite the fact that it was June, the wind was blowing and it was cold. We got to the meeting spot and saw the dirt road or track that we would head out on winding straight up and over the dales.

Jane and Michelle arrived and started unloading and getting us mounted up. My horse, Gloria, is a Noriker, with Leopard Complex Coloring – a white coat with black spots. Norikers are a draft breed from Austria; she was imported and has a brand.

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Gloria's friend says good-bye.

Our group headed out, picking our way through the rocks and up the hill through the dale. It was a sea of rocks, I thought we have rocks in New England, but this outdid even the rockiest trails in I’ve ridden.

It was windy and pretty barren up on the dales, with the rocks and scrubby grasses that the moors are known for. The first part of the track is a place that very few people other than Kilnsey Trekking take horses. We saw that part of the world in a way most people never get to see it.

Yorkshire Dales view England

A view up to the spot where we started on day one.

There are hunting blinds up here and an abundance of grouse. Oftentimes, the grouse would flutter up out of the underbrush on our approach. Obviously the grouse knew it wasn’t hunting season. We also saw lots of rabbits scurrying along in the fields. At one point there were so many rabbit holes along the side of the trail that I referred to it as the rabbit tenements or apartment complex.

We kept riding. There were scattered flocks of sheep grazing, and holes in the stonewalls so the sheep could duck from one pasture to another. The scenery was stunning; with rugged views everywhere we looked. Truth be told, I’m not sure a photo can really do justice to scenery like that.

Thunderclouds were moving in and before long the rain was pouring out of the sky, thoroughly soaking us. Coming down off the dales we rode through a couple of dairy farms with cows out in pastures on the sides of steep ledges. There is so much to absorb on a trip like this and as we rode I just took it all in. I could see the beauty of the dales and realized how fortunate I was to be riding there even when the rain was down pouring on us.

We stopped on the green in a parish called Burton-Cum-Walden, and tied the horses to the spare lead rope that Michelle knotted around the telephone pole while we went into the pub for lunch (Michelle stayed with the horses). We all wore our helmets into the pub to keep a little rain off. The looks on everyone’s faces when they realized we rode to the pub were priceless.

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The horses take a break, while we head into the pub!

After lunch and a cup of tea, we rode through town, alongside the river and small waterfall, and then over a stone bridge, before climbing back up into the dales. Soon we were at the Middleham Gallops and cantered and galloped the long side of the all-weather track.

pretty pub window view England

A pretty view from the warm pub.

We rode 13 miles, and left the horses at a local farm for the night, in an old walled garden with plenty of grass. The soaking wet riders piled into Jane’s car to head to our overnight accommodation. Cover Bridge Inn, located in East Witton was built in the 16th century on the banks of the River Cover.

There is a public footpath is on the other side of the river, which is only about 100 feet out the back door of the inn. The larger bridge just past the inn has a date from 1674 on the sundial.

As we drove through the streets on our way to the horses the next morning we passed a large group of racehorses out for their Sunday hack. We arrived at the walled garden and Michelle had our horses tacked up.

First we rode over to the Middleham Gallops. The horses certainly knew why we were there and had a little more spring in their steps. At the upper gallops we used the grass alongside the track. Gloria has a lot of speed and power for a draft horse and it was exhilarating galloping along through the grass and into the wind, with it whipping through our ears. We would gallop some and then let the horses walk to take a break, and then gallop some more.

Middleham Gallops horseback riding Yorkshire

The wind in my horse's mane. Riding the Middleham Gallops.

Next we rode back to the gallops we had ridden the day before, and rode a different section of the track, then headed down the road and back towards Skipton. This section is a long stretch of dirt road with stonewalls on both sides and lots of sheep. To the left the dales climb steeply, and the gray rock and cliff-like edges are seen up near the top.

We rode back over the stone bridge and along the river into Burton-Cum-Walden where we tied the horses to the telephone pole again and grabbed lunch at a little shop. We only rode a short distance further and then Jane was on the side of the road waiting to take us back to the barn.

There is something centering about sitting on a horse and looking between their ears at the world around me. This is my home, and it’s where everything goes right, even when it’s going wrong or pouring rain. In the end, everyone deserves to feel that same sense of peace somewhere in his or her life that I have when I’m in the saddle. Someday, there will be another horse trek with Kilnsey Trekking for me, until then I’ll enjoy the memories of the low moors and Yorkshire Dales. 

About the Author: Stacey Stearns is a lifelong equestrian from Connecticut. She lives on Mountain Dairy in Mansfield, her family's dairy farm, and enjoys trail riding and endurance with her Morgan horses