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
Table of Contents
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?
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 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.
1. Glimpse of Hackfall
- Distance: 1.2km (0.75 miles)
- Time: 20–30 minutes
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Budget to mid-range: located just outside of Masham, you can often find great deals for staying at the charming Black Swan Inn on Booking.com
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
What to Wear and Pack
These are our gear essentials for visiting Hackfall Woods.
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
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
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
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.
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?
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
How Can You Help Preserve Hackfall Woods?
The usual leave no trace business.
Other Yorkshire Dales Guides
Best Villages to See in the Yorkshire Dales
- Grassington: Everything You Need to Know About Grassington
- Hawes: The 16 Best Things To Do In Hawes
- Ingleton: 10 Awesome Things To Do In Ingleton
- Buckden: The 5 Best Things To Do In Buckden, Yorkshire
- Keld: The 5 Best Things To Do in Keld, North Yorkshire
- Clapham: The Top 13 Things To Do During A Visit to Clapham, Yorkshire
- Ribblehead: 15 Awesome Things To Do In Ribblehead
Bonus Tips About Visiting Hackfall Woods
- Consider a Masham to Hackfall Woods Walk: when it comes to Masham walks, there are two routes that explore Hackfall Woods from the quaint town. For a longer walk involving the woodland, consider the Masham to Hackfall Woods out and back walk or circular walk.
- Flower walks in North Yorkshire: consider any woodland walk at Hackfall Woods as one of the best walks for seeing bluebells in Spring.
- Explore more of Nidderdale AONB: make sure to visit Brimham Rocks, Stump Cross Caverns, How Stean Gorge, Fewston Reservoir, Swinsty Reservoir, Swinton Estate, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal.
Please leave us a comment below – we’d love to hear from you!