Hardcastle Crags is a breathtaking wooded valley in West Yorkshire. At the heart of the valley is the charming 19th century cotton mill called Gibson Mill. There are many walking trails throughout Hardcastle Crags, which allow exploration of natural wonders within the valley as well as historical attractions at Gibson Mill. In this guide, we’ll tell you everything you need to about visiting Hardcastle Crags. In particular, we’ll go into great detail about the circular Hardcastle Crags Walk, which combines multiple trails, whilst being a popular route option.
Table of Contents
What Is Hardcastle Crags?
Hardcastle Crags is a beautiful wooded valley and National Trust site located in the South Pennine Moors. In this valley, you’ll find a group of rugged rock formations protruding from the woodlands. It’s these crags (AKA The Crags) which give the area its name – Hardcastle Crags!
By doing a walk around Hardcastle Crags, you can explore these magnificent masses of rock, which are now one with the woodlands. Most of the rocky masses are either covered in moss, plants or ferns, with only a few boulders and rocky surfaces seemingly free of this entanglement.
So, where exactly is Hardcastle Crags located?
Where Is Hardcastle Crags?
Hardcastle Crags is located in the Borough of Calderdale in the South Pennine Moors area of West Yorkshire in the northwest of England. Please click on the image below to access an interactive map of the area on Google Maps.
Hardcastle Crags Walks
There are numerous walking trails at Hardcastle Crags. Let’s talk about each trail individually, before we recommend a walk that combines numerous trails. To help get your bearings, please use the trail map below.
- Mill Walk (Orange Riverside Trail) – starting from Midgehole Car Park, the Riverside Mill Walk follows alongside the pretty Hebden Beck. The 2km trail ends at Gibson Mill.
- Mill Walk (Orange Upper Woodland Trail) – also starting from Midgehole Car Park, the Upper Woodland Mill Walk is a more challenging trail. You’ll climb up through the pine forest, following along a rocky stone outcrop with exceptional views of Hebden Valley. The 2km trail ends with a steep descent to Gibson Mill.
- Estate Track (Grey Trail) – the approx. 1.8km even-surfaced path is a wheelchair-friendly track connecting Midgehole Car Park and Gibson Mill. This is the most direct route to Gibson Mill. It’s a glorious tree-lined path, which is also very spacious.
- Railway Trail (Purple Trail) – the 5.5km circular trail connects Gibson Mill and a viewpoint at Blake Dean. This is the longest and hardest walking trail at Hardcastle Crags.
- Crags Constitutional (Green Trail) – the approx. 2km circular trail connects Gibson Mill with the Hardcastle Crags.
It probably goes without saying, but most people will combine a number of trails to do a longer walk. Personally, Beck, Lauren (my twin sister) and I did a circular walk that combined three trails. This included starting with the Riverside Mill Walk, then following the Crags Constitutional trail, before returning via the Estate Track. Another popular option is to return via the Upper Woodland Mill Walk instead.
Essentially, it’s each to their own. For a longer circular walk, you’d consider doing the Railway Trail in addition to the two Mill Walks.
Hardcastle Crags Walk: Stats and Map
Let’s talk about the Hardcastle Crags Walk that we did (combining the Riverside Mill Walk, Constitutional Crags and Estate Track), which is a popular route option. Below, you’ll find trail specs and a link to a GPS-guided map for this walk.
- Type: Loop
- Distance: 6.45km (4 miles)
- Time: 2–2.5 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 160m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Midgehole Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
FYI – we personally recorded the GPS-guided map that we’ve linked to above. You’ll note that to reach the highest point of The Crags, you’ll do a short out and back extension of the Constitutional Crags trail. Certainly, it’s worth doing this short out and back walk in order to access the viewpoint at The Crags.
Hardcastle Crags Walk: Trail Description
In the trail description below, we’ll cover the highlights of the Hardcastle Crags Walk that we did. It all starts at the Midgehole Car Park.
Midgehole Car Park
You’ll find a Lower and Upper Midgehole Car Park at the western end of Midgehole Road. Basically, it doesn’t matter which car park you use. You’ll first pass the Lower Midgehole Car Park, so most people park there. If anything, the Upper Midgehole Car Park functions as an overflow car park. So, head there if the Lower Midgehole Car Park is full.
Stepping Stones Across Hebden Beck
From Lower Midgehole Car Park, you’ll easily find the trailhead for the Riverside Mill Walk. Immediately, the walk enters captivating woodlands. Certainly, it’s a gorgeous area of dense woods. The trail weaves and undulates alongside Hebden Beck. So, you’ll get a good look at the river stream, which narrows and widens as it flows through the landscape.
The trail terrain changes throughout the Riverside Mill Walk. You’ll constantly swap dirt (and sometimes muddy) trails for rocky sections for sets of steps. The constantly changing trail type keeps the walk exciting as you never quite know what you’ll be walking on around the corner.
Eventually, you’ll arrive at the stepping stones which cross Hebden Beck. Many people stop here to walk along the stones. Make sure you give it a go! It reminded us of the brilliant Dovedale Stepping Stones we crossed during the Dovedale Walk in the Peak District.
Once you’ve skipped along the Hebden Beck stepping stones, it’s time to head to the impressive Gibson Mill.
Gibson Mill is a Grade II listed building on the National Heritage List for England. It was first used as a cotton mill when it was built in 1805 during the Industrial Revolution. The mill was driven by a water wheel and produced cotton cloth up until the late 19th century.
In the early 20th century, Gibson Mill was used as a place of entertainment for locals. There was even a cafe and refreshment rooms on-site! Unfortunately, the site fell into disuse after WWII. Thankfully, the mill was acquired by the National Trust in 1950, which gradually restored Gibson Mill to what it is today.
Today, Gibson Mill is a completely sustainable site, which is totally self-sufficient in terms of energy production, water generation and waste treatment. It has absolutely no link to the national grid in the UK, although there is a phone line installed. The combination of technologies used for self-sufficiency means Gibson Mill is a unique mill in the UK. Indeed, Gibson Mill is the National Trust’s flagship sustainable building. The site provides insights into creating renewable energy and living greener.
At Gibson Mill, you can roam and explore the site. In terms of natural delights, you’ll find pretty cascades next to the mill.
Additionally, you’ll find a lovely cafe called the Weaving Shed Cafe (AKA the Hardcastle Crags Cafe), which is the perfect place for a hot beverage. Also, you’ll find a small shop and inside the mill’s building, there are three floors filled with continuously changing exhibitions. Certainly, if you’d like to learn more about Gibson Mill’s history, head to the education areas inside the mill’s building.
FYI – you’ll also find self-sufficient toilets at Gibson Mill.
After exploring Gibson Mill, it’s time to continue the Hardcastle Crag Walk. Basically, at Gibson Mill, you’ll begin following the Crags Constitutional Track. Following in a clockwise direction, initially, the Crags Constitutional Track runs alongside Hebden Beck. You’ll notice increasingly luscious surroundings with more beech woods and ferns starting to appear.
You’ll mostly follow a winding stony path, which can get a little slippery and muddy in parts. The trail crosses two bridges and finally arrives at a third bridge, which takes you over Hebden Beck. From this bridge, the trail steeply ascends through the beech woods. This is the steepest and hardest part of the walk. Eventually, you’ll reach a flat trail. Following along this trail, you’ll notice the wooded rocky outcrop growing in prominence. The outcrop seems to loom larger as you continue your walk back towards Gibson Mill.
Eventually, you’ll find a trail junction, to your right, where you’ll do a short out and back walk. This uneven and steep trail passes many spectacular boulders and steers you to the viewpoint atop The Crags. From this viewpoint, you’ll enjoy wonderful views of Hebden Valley and Hebden Dale. Near the viewpoint, you’ll also find a stunning layered boulder, which looks almost handcrafted.
After exploring The Crags, you’ll rejoin the flat Crags Constitutional Track, which ends back at Gibson Mill. From there, you can finish the Hardcastle Crags Walk by doing the Estate Track or the Upper Woodland Mill Walk.
Estate Track vs Upper Woodland Mill Walk
As mentioned, personally, we followed the Estate Track back to the Midgehole Car Park. This was a pleasant, even and wide track, weaving through the woodlands. This track provided a nice chilled finish to the walk.
But, for something a little more adventurous, we recommend taking the Upper Woodland Mill Walk to finish the Hardcastle Crags Walks. That way, you’ll enjoy even more fantastic views of Hebden Valley, especially from a rocky outcrop called Slurring Rock. As we walked along the Estate Track, we looked to our left, over towards the Upper Woodland Mill Walk. Admittedly, I experienced a bit of FOMO for missing out on the more adventurous route. But, as they say, there’s always next time!
Hardcastle Crags Walk Recap
Undoubtedly, Hardcastle Crags is an outstanding natural space in West Yorkshire. If you’re looking for a beautiful wooded area, in the west of Yorkshire, we highly recommend heading to Hardcastle Crags. On top of that, Gibson Mill is a phenomenal restored historical attraction worth checking out in its own right. So, whether you’re in it for nature or history, the Hardcastle Crags Walk should be an enjoyable one.
Now that you know all about the Hardcastle Crags Walk, let’s look at some practical tips for visiting.
Useful Things to Know Before You Go
There are a few useful things to know before visiting Hardcastle Crags. Let’s start with getting to Hardcastle Crags in the first place.
How to Get to Hardcastle Crags
The quickest and easiest way to get to Hardcastle Crags is to drive there yourself. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Rental Cars for good prices. The website is user-friendly and booking online is super easy.
Where to Park For Hardcastle Crags
You can park at either the Lower Midgehole Car Park or the nearby Upper Midgehole Car Park. These are both pay and display car parks. Because Beck and I are National Trust members, parking was free. If you’re not a National Trust member, you’ll need to pay £5 for parking. Please note that only cash is accepted.
Another parking option is at the Clough Hole Car Park, which is another pay and display National Trust Car Park. This car park is located near Gibson Mill. From the car park, you’ll follow a trail down to Gibson Mill. Indeed, you could start the Hardcastle Crag Walk, discussed in this guide, from the Clough Hole Car Park. Otherwise, the Clough Hole Car Park is a great parking option for those solely interested in visiting Gibson Mill.
It’s possible to get to Hardcastle Crags using public transport. You can get a train to Hebden Bridge station and then a bus (B3 Bronte Bus) to this bus stop in Hebden Bridge. From there, you’re looking at an approx. 1.5km walk to get to the Hardcastle Crags. Feel free to check the train times and prices here. We recommend using Trainline and Google Maps to help plan your journey.
Despite public transport being an option, we recommend driving (if that’s possible) as it’s much simpler and less time-consuming.
Hardcastle Crags Facilities and Amenities
You’ll find exceptional facilities and amenities at Hardcastle Crags. At the Lower and Upper Midgehole Car Parks (which also include disabled parking), you’ll find toilets and picnic areas.
At Gibson Mill, you’ll find more disabled parking, toilets (including disabled toilets), a cafe, a shop and exhibition areas inside the mill’s building. Given the valley is a wonderful natural space, which seems far removed from suburban areas, you’ll find all of the necessary amenities in the wooded valley.
Other Things to Do in West Yorkshire
Of course, there are many exciting things to do in West Yorkshire. After visiting Hardcastle Crags, it would make sense to check out the charming town of Hebden Bridge. If you’ve watched BBC’s Happy Valley, you’ll be happy to know that the show was set in this pretty little town. When it comes to things to do in Hebden Bridge (other than just wandering around), you’ll find plenty in the way of endearing shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.
If you want to do another brilliant walk in West Yorkshire, we recommend visiting Stoodley Pike. Perhaps, we enjoyed the Stoodley Pike Walk even more than the walk described in this guide! Additionally, Lumb Hole Falls is another popular natural place worth exploring.
Lumb Hole Falls
Lumb Hole Falls is a popular waterfall to visit in the South Pennines area. You’ll find the small waterfall located here, north of Hardcastle Crags and Hebden Bridge.
Visit Yorkshire Dales National Park
If you’re looking for more naturally beautiful places to visit in Yorkshire, then you’ll have to go to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Below, we’ve listed some of the best places to visit and walks to do in the Dales.
- Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge: climb Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside during this ultimate hiking challenge.
- Aysgarth Falls: explore the truly sublime Lower, Middle and Upper Aysgarth Falls in North Yorkshire.
- Cauldron Falls (West Burton Falls): a gorgeous lesser-known waterfall that’s near Aysgarth Falls.
- Hardraw Force: it’s one of the most famous waterfalls in Yorkshire after featuring in Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.
- Ilkley Moor: a famous moorland in West Yorkshire that falls just inside the Yorkshire Dales National boundary.
- Simon’s Seat and Bolton Abbey Waterfall: explore the awesome rocky outcrop at Simon’s Seat and the underrated Bolton Abbey Waterfall in the Valley of Desolation.
- Ingleton Waterfalls Trail: of course, there are many waterfalls to see along the Ingleton Falls Trail.
- Cautley Spout: England’s highest waterfall above ground, can be seen on a walk around Howgill Fell.
- Brimham Rocks: although technically located in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s another outstanding National Trust attraction.
- Conistone Pie and Dib Circular: a lovely circular walk taking in the limestone landscape surrounding the small town of Conistone.
- Settle Caves and Waterfall Walk: from nearby Settle, you’ll visit Catrigg Force, Attermire Scar and Scalebar Force.
Other Yorkshire Dales Guides
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Hardcastle Crags.
Is There An Entry Fee to Visit Hardcastle Crags?
No, it’s free to visit. You’ll only need to pay for parking if you’re not a National Trust member.
How Long Is the Hardcastle Crags Walk?
This depends on which trails you choose to explore during your walk. The circular walk described in this guide is 6.45km and is a popular route. For more information about trail distances and details, read the Hardcastle Crags Walks section.
What Is the Difficulty of the Hardcastle Crags Walk?
Overall, we rate the walk, described in this guide, as easy. Trail navigation is simple and straightforward. Whilst, elevation gain is fairly minimal. Of course, there are some short steep sections on uneven terrain that are sometimes muddy and slippery. So, take particular care if you’re an inexperienced hiker.
Is Hardcastle Crags Pram-Friendly?
Yes, some of the trails are pram-friendly. The Estate Track between the Midgehole Car Parks and Gibson Mill is pram-friendly. You’ll find the walking paths around Gibson Mill are also pram-friendly.
Is Hardcastle Crags Wheelchair Friendly?
Yes, the Estate Track between the Midgehole Car Parks and Gibson Mill is accessible for those using wheelchairs or mobility scooters. There is also disabled parking (and toilets) at Gibson Mill. Although, the disabled parking is quite limited there so it’s recommended to call and book a parking spot in advance (call 01422 846236).
Is Hardcastle Crags Dog Friendly?
Yes, you’re welcome to bring doggo on a walk at Hardcastle Crags. There are water bowls in the yard at Gibson Mill, whilst you’ll find a dog waste bin near the mill. Of course, keep a close eye on your dog in the woodlands to help preserve the environment. Plus, you’ll need to keep pooch on a lead at Gibson Mill.
How Far Is Hardcastle Crags From Hebden Bridge?
Hardcastle Crags is only 2.5km (1.5 miles) north of Hebden Bridge. It’s only a quick five minute drive between the two places.
What to Wear and Pack
Below, you’ll find our hiking gear essentials.
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.
Heymondo is one of the best budget travel insurance providers on the market. They provide comprehensive travel and medical insurance that won’t break the bank. Whether it’s single trip insurance, annual multi-trip insurance or long stay insurance, Heymondo offers affordable travel and medical insurance to suit all of your needs. Personally, we use Heymondo travel insurance and highly recommend it. To find out more about Heymondo travel and medical insurance, read our Heymondo travel insurance review.
Don’t leave for your trip without booking travel insurance. We all know accidents can happen and having Heymondo travel insurance could save you thousands of dollars if something goes wrong. Click the button below to receive a 5% discount!
- Hardcastle Crags bluebells: the valley is a great place to go bluebell chasing during the spring.
- Read the Hardcastle Crags poem by Sylvia Plath: this place has inspired people for generations. There’s even a poem written about it. Maybe reading the poem will inspire your visit!
- Other Hebden Bridge walks: there are plenty of nice walks around Hebden Bridge. The Hebden Bridge Circular Walk and the Switzerland of Yorkshire Circular Walk are two popular routes in the area.
Sharing is caring – please share this blog post with your mates on Facebook.