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Hackfall Woods: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting

Hackfall Woods: Everything You Need to Know About Visiting

Hackfall Woods is a gorgeous and unique woodland on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB). In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about visiting Hackfall Woods.

Read about the best things to do in the Nidderdale AONB

What Is Hackfall Woods?

Hackfall Woods is a semi-natural woodland garden that’s owned and managed by Woodland Trust. Indeed, Hackfall Woods is no regular woodland. In the 18th Century, John Aislabie bought Hackfall. His son, William Aislabie, then turned the ancient woodland into a wild romantic garden, adding follies, grottos, waterfalls and a fountain!

Given its beauty, the woodland inspired many 19th Century writers and painters, like William Wordsworth and J. M. W. Turner, respectively. More recently, Historic England awarded the woodland Grade 1 historic landscape garden status. Because of its significance, the woodland has received numerous other awards, whilst receiving generous funding from the Heritage Lottery Fund to help with maintenance. These days, the Woodland Trust works with the Hackfall Trust to help maintain the woodland.

Also, because of the larger number of birds, flora and invertebrates, Hackfall Woods is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Certainly, you’ll see an abundance of birdlife, trees and plants during a visit.

Overall, Hackfall Woods is a beautiful and intriguing place to visit. So, where exactly is it located?

Dan at Hackfall Woods

Where Is Hackfall Woods?

It’s located near Masham in North Yorkshire, England. The woodland falls inside the Nidderdale AONB, which falls within the Yorkshire Dales but outside of the national park parameters. Some of the biggest towns near the woodland include Richmond, Ripon and Harrogate.

The Best Masham Hotel

Kings Head Hotel

Kings Head Hotel by Chef & Brewer Collection is the best accommodation in Masham. Overlooking the Market Square, this country inn is set within a charming Georgian building, built in the second half of the 18th century.

The Best Things to Do at Hackfall Woods

There are many natural and human-made attractions to see at Hackfall Woods. The best way to explore all of these attractions is by doing one of the many woodland walks.

The 4 Hackfall Woods Circular Walks

There are four main Hackfall Woods walks.

Below, we’ll briefly detail each of these walks.

FYI – except for the Hackfall Explorer, the difficulty of the other walks is easy. Also, each walk shares the same trailhead – the Hackfall Woods Car Park.

A screenshot of the Hackfall Woods walks
Hackfall Woods Walk map

1. Glimpse of Hackfall

  • Distance: 1.2km (0.75 miles)
  • Time: 20–30 minutes

This is the shortest and easiest walk, where you’ll enjoy a terrific view from Lover’s Leap and visit The Ruin. Certainly, this walk will give you a small taste of the area’s beauty.

2. Cascades and Follies

  • Distance: 2.4km (1.5 miles)
  • Time: 1 hour

If you want to chase as many cascades and waterfalls as possible, then you’ll want to do the Cascades and Follies route. Other than seeing Forty Foot Fall and hidden waterfalls, you’ll also see most of the follies, including Rustic Temple, The Grotto, Mowbray Castle and The Ruin.

FYI – if you’re interested in follies, you’ll want to see the most famous folly in the area – Druid’s Temple at Swinton Estate.

Druid's Temple
Druid’s Temple

3. Riverside Rambler

  • Distance: 4km (2.5 miles)
  • Time: 1.5 hours

The route predominantly follows the picturesque River Ure. Along this route, you’ll see Forty Foot Fall and you’ll also see quite a few follies, including Rustic Temple, The Grotto and Fisher’s Hall. Additionally, you’ll head to Hackfall Woods Beach.

4. Hackfall Explorer: The Best Hackfall Woods Walk

  • Distance: 7.2km (4.5 miles)
  • Time: 2.5–3 hours
  • Accumulated elevation gain: 150m
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • GPS-guided map: AllTrails

In our opinion, The Hackfall Explorer is the best of the Hackfall Woods walks. During this walk, you’ll see all of the main attractions as you loop around the entire woodland. Personally, this is the walk that Beck and I did and highly recommend. By doing this walk, you won’t miss out on any of the attractions in the woodland.

Hackfall Explorer Details: What You’ll See

Let’s look at all of the main attractions you’ll see by doing the Hackfall Explorer Walk. Beck and I did the walk in a clockwise direction and this is reflected below.

Limehouse Hill

From the woodland’s car park, you’ll join a trail that descends onto a wide grassy field. Soon, you’ll enter dense woodland, full of lofty trees. The first major attraction of the walk is at Limehouse Hill. This is a lookout that provides splendid views of the River Ure.

Dan at Limehouse Hill at Hackfall Woods

Hackfall Woods Beach and Sandbed Hut

After enjoying the views from Limehouse Hill, you’ll descend a series of switchbacks. The trail eventually leads to the hidden Hackfall Woods Beach. If there was to be a Hackfall Woods swimming opportunity, this would be it. At the secret beach, you can enjoy some wild swimming in the river. Of course, care must be taken, especially if the river is in spate.

Opposite the beach, you’ll find the Sandbed Hut. Admittedly, it was nothing special. No efforts were made to restore this structure.

Sandbed Hut at Hackfall Woods

The Grotto: One of Many Hackfall Woods Follies

After visiting the river beach, you’ll then head towards The Grotto. This is the first of the impressive follies that you’ll see in the woodland if you follow the Hackfall Explorer route in a clockwise direction. Opposite The Grotto, you’ll find a faint trail leading to Forty Foot Fall.

The Grotto at Hackfall Woods

Forty Foot Fall (Hackfall Woods Waterfall)

By following a vague trail, you can climb up towards the multi-levelled Forty Foot Fall. Even during summer, the trail was very muddy. So, you’ll have to be in an adventurous mood to go chase this waterfall.

Admittedly, it’s best to explore this waterfall after rainfall for a fuller-looking series of falls. Although, in this case, you’ll have to battle even muddier trails!

Rustic Temple

Near The Grotto and Forty Foot Falls, you’ll find Rustic Temple, which is yet another folly. Rustic Temple is positioned opposite the Fountain Pond.

Rustic Temple at Hackfall Woods

Fountain Pond and Hackfall Woods Fountain

The Fountain Pond is definitely one of the major attractions at Hackfall Woods. The fountain itself was originally built in 1756 and restored in 2010. It’s actually possible to activate the fountain using the pump. According to the information board, around 6–10 pumps are required to activate it.

After many rounds of attempts, unfortunately, Beck and I didn’t see the fountain in action. It just didn’t seem to work. A local soon walked by and mentioned the fountain had been out of order for a little while. Well, at least we gave it a go!

Other Hackfall Woods Waterfalls

After visiting the Fountain Pond, it’s time to explore some cascades and smaller waterfalls. To find some hidden falls, you’ll need to do a quick detour from the Hackfall Explorer and briefly join one of the permissive paths heading along Grewelthorpe Beck. There are countless unnamed cascades and falls along these paths. Once you’ve chased enough of these falls, re-join the Hackfall Explorer and head to Fisher’s Hall.

A small cascade

Fisher’s Hall

Fisher’s Hall is perhaps one of the most elaborate follies in the woodland. Why it’s called the Fisher’s Hall remains a bit of a mystery. Some people think it was named after the head gardener, William Fisher. Others believe it was built as a resting place for local anglers!

Fisher's Hall at Hackfall Woods

Raven Scar

After passing Fisher’s Hall, you’ll cross stepping stones and continue to follow the River Ure. The trail eventually bends right and you’ll ascend a steep set of steps alongside the epic Raven Scar. The section between Raven Scar and Mowbray Castle was our favourite part of the walk as the woodland seemed most wild and untouched.

Raven Scar at Hackfall Woods

Mowbray Castle

Eventually, you’ll reach Mowbray Castle, which is the most elaborate folly at Hackfall Woods. Remember, this isn’t a real castle, it’s just a folly! At least, Mowbray Castle is one hell of an impressive folly.

Alum Spring

After exploring Mowbray Castle, you’ll reach Alum Spring, which is one of the most beautiful water features in the woodland. Water has been redirected to create the cascades there. After exploring Alum Spring, you’ll head towards Grewelthorpe, passing a series of other small waterfalls. You’ll soon arrive at another sharp bend, which continues towards The Ruin.

Alum Spring

The Ruin

After walking by Hackfall Farm, you’ll eventually arrive at The Ruin. This is actually a Landmark Trust building, where it’s possible to stay! Indeed, The Ruin is the only accommodation option in the woodland.

The Ruin at Hackfall Woods

Lover’s Leap

The final attraction, found near The Ruin, is Lover’s Leap, which is an extraordinary viewpoint. From Lover’s Leap, have a seat and enjoy the magnificent views out towards the North York Moors. To complete the walk, you’ll simply head back to the car park, where you’ll enjoy more widespread views of the area.

Lover's Leap

Things to Know Before You Go

Let’s look at some useful things to know about visiting Hackfall Woods to help plan your trip.

How to Get to Hackfall Woods

The easiest and quickest way to get to Hackfall Woods is to drive there yourself.

Car Hire

If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

Hackfall Woods Car Park

In terms of Hackfall Woods parking, there is just one main car park that’s located off Thorpe Road. This is the road between Grewelthorpe and Masham. The car park is fairly spacious with enough room for around 20 or so vehicles.

Hackfall Woods directions: simply pop Hackfall Car Park into Google Maps.

Hackfall Woods postcode (car park): HG4 3BS

Public Transport

Unfortunately, public transport options to Hackfall Woods are very limited. During summer, the Eastern Dales Bus 285 runs a Sunday service. Otherwise, no other buses or trains go directly to the woodland.

The closest train stations to the woodland are Leyburn (22km away) and Thirsk (30km away). If you visit on a day outside of when the Eastern Dales bus is running, you’ll need to get the bus to Masham from Leyburn or a bus to Ripon from Thirsk. From there, perhaps, it’s best to get a taxi to Hackfall Woods.

As you can see, it’s much simpler to drive yourself to the woodland, if possible.

Booking Trains


Trainline is one of the best online platforms for booking trains. By using Trainline, you can easily find the best available prices and times for your journey. We always use Trainline to book our train journeys in the UK and in Europe.

Where to Stay Near Hackfall Woods

Black Swan Inn

Black Swan Inn

Budget to mid-range: located just outside of Masham, you can often find great deals for staying at the charming Black Swan Inn on

Kings Head Hotel

Kings Head Hotel

Mid-range: located in Masham Town Square, Kings Head Hotel has been thoughtfully renovated to combine traditional Georgian splendour with modern day comforts

Swinton Park Hotel

Swinton Park Hotel

Luxury: located on Swinton Estate, Swinton Park Hotel is an incredible four-star luxury castle hotel, which is actually a Grade II listed heritage building

What to Wear and Pack

These are our gear essentials for visiting Hackfall Woods.

Osprey Skarab 30
Osprey Skarab 30

The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.

Osprey Ultralight Raincover
Osprey Ultralight Raincover

A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.

GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle

The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.

BUFF Original Ecostretch
BUFF Original Ecostretch

The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.

FAQs About Hackfall Woods

Below, you’ll find frequently asked questions about Hackfall Woods.

Is Hackfall Woods Free?


Who Designed Hackfall Woods?

William Aislabie.

Why Are There So Many Follies at Hackfall Woods?

William was certainly fond of a follie! He simply wanted to create lots of interesting Roman ruin-looking structures, which acted as talking points for when people visited and saw them.

Where Do You Park For Hackfall Woods?

You’ll park at Hackfall Woods Car Park.

How Long Is the Hackfall Woods Walk?

The Hackfall Explorer, which is the main circular walk around the woodland is around 7km (4.5 miles).

When Is Hackfall Woods Open?

There are no Hackfall Woods opening times. After all, it’s a woodland, albeit it’s an extravagant one! It’s open 24/7, 365 days of the year.

Are There Any Toilet Facilities at Hackfall Woods?

No, you’ll need to head to the nearby town of Masham.

Is Hackfall Woods Dog Friendly?


Is Hackfall Woods Good For Kids?

Yes, Hackfall Woods is great for kids and families. At the car park, you’ll find the ‘Nature Detectives Trail’ handout, which kids can use to explore and learn about the woodland.

Where to Eat and Drink?

There are no facilities or amenities in the woodland. You’ll need to head to Masham, where you’ll find plenty of nice pubs and a lovely cafe and tea room. Certainly, we recommend visiting Masham – it’s a charming town.

Read more: Masham Things to Do Guide – this is your one-stop resource for Masham tourist information

Beck in Masham

How Can You Help Preserve Hackfall Woods?

The usual leave no trace business.

Other Yorkshire Dales Guides

Hardraw Force

For more information about the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales, click the button below. Otherwise, to help you get started, read our 42 Best Yorkshire Dales Walks or 48 Best Yorkshire Dales Waterfalls guides.

Best Villages to See in the Yorkshire Dales

Bonus Tips About Visiting Hackfall Woods

Please leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!

Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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