The village itself is steeped in history and dates back at least as far as the Domesday Book. It was named after the old Norse for ‘open space among the oak’.
We parked at the Aysgarth Falls National Park car park where we paid £2.50 for up to two hours. Here there is a visitor centre (open April to October) with toilets and a café.
The visitor centre and café were both closed for the winter and undergoing some refurbishment on our visit. But the toilets were still open and very clean.
There’s an honesty box on the wall outside the toilets and inside the ladies were complimentary sanitary products courtesy of the cleaners, paid for out of their own pockets.
We went to the upper falls first from here, which is just a third of a mile from the car park. It only took us a few minutes to walk along a well-maintained path.
We had a quick look at Yore Mill, a Grade II listed building. Here there is another café and several small craft shops. The road crosses the mill bridge, from where there’s an excellent view of the upper falls or high force.
Back across the bridge, the path goes through a gate and follows the banks of the River Ure to a picnic area from where the upper falls can be explored.
There’s another honesty box beside the gate into the picnic area, a massive one that Diane initially thought was actually a litter bin.
The falls are at their best following heavy rain. Thousands of gallons of water cascade down over limestone steps carved out by the Ure over many years.
People have been visiting the beauty spot for more than 200 years, including the likes of Turner, Ruskin and another famous Wordsworth.
The upper and middle falls were both used during the filming of Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, for the fight scene between Robin and Little John – further proof to many Yorkshire folk that Robin Hood did actually come from Yorkshire and was nothing to do with Nottinghamshire!
We walked back to the car for a spot of dinner before walking downhill towards the middle and lower falls.
Just as we reached the staircase down to the middle falls, the battery failed on the GoPro video camera – it had inadvertently been left running while we ate our picnic in the car! Oops! So some footage for the vlog (video log – follow the link or watch it below) was shot on Ian’s mobile phone, and the last bit was filmed on his regular dSLR camera. We kept our fingers crossed that there would be some usable footage …
At the middle falls we were asked to take a picture of a chap and his lad, and it was then that we noticed the church up on the opposite bank, peeping out between the trees. In summer, the church may not be as visible when the trees are in full leaf, but when we visited, we could just about see it there.
The Church of St Andrew is reputed to have the largest churchyard in England. There is also a painted medieval screen inside the church that was rescued from Jervaulx Abbey.
As we were walking from the middle falls to the lower falls, it started to snow, which was lovely – of course (Ian: no it wasn’t!) – and very pretty. But there were also plenty of sunny intervals for the whole time we were there, which worked out at just over two hours. If the visitor centre is open, or if you want to explore the village and the church, allow more time.
The lower falls are only about half a mile from the car park and by the time we returned to the car we’d walked 1.7miles, or 9,467 steps, and we burned around 430 calories.
As we left the village of Aysgarth, we did quickly nip into the pay-and-display car park next to the church to take the picture above.
It took us about two hours to get there, we had around two hours in the national park, and it took us another two hours to get home again. In fact, it was still light when we got home to South Yorkshire, so that was a bonus.
It was nice to have a couple of hours out in the fresh air walking along the tree-lined river bank, but it must get very busy during the summer. Get there early in the day or out of season to guarantee a good car parking space and fewer crowds.
The upper falls can be accessed very easily and there were, in fact, several pushchairs in the picnic area. The middle and the lower falls both have steps down to them, and the lower falls has a separate flight of stairs leading out. Pushchairs can probably be carried down to both falls, but wheelchairs may have to keep to the paths, unfortunately. There are still some lovely views without going down to the waterside.