Burnsall is one of the loveliest villages in the Limestone Dales. It is on a bend in the Wharfe, and fells and moors rise on each side. Stone built houses of various periods and styles line the streets and there is little of recent construction disfiguring the place.

Bonny Burnsall, as it is affectionately known, is renowned throughout the world for its Sports and most of all for its Fell Race. The race is on record as the oldest Fell race but Games and Sports are referred to in Elizabethan times. In those days it would be very much an impromptu affair probably arranged for the benefit of children and women of the area.

The Green

The fell race was started after a discussion in the Red Lion and one local character Tom Young is said to have run up naked. As many men would only have one suit in those times the record of the later Lakeland races have references to runners running in the nude - doubtlessly receiving admiring glances from the young lady spectators.

The road north from Bolton Abbey (the B6160), following the Wharfe, takes one past the Strid, where the river narrows dangerously and people have lost their lives in the rapids, then through Barden Tower with Simonís Seat rising to the east, until the breath-taking view of Burnsall in the valley below, looking much as it has for hundreds of years (OK, forget the cars), makes one feel that, despite everything, Yorkshire and England are still incredibly beautiful.

The Red Lion

A nineteenth century stone bridge with five arches crosses the river next to the Red Lion Hotel, an agreeable inn, in front of the green where a maypole can sometimes be seen.

St Wilfridís, the square towered church, dates from the sixteenth century though there are older windows and a Norman font and Anglo-Saxon fragments from before the days when the Danes settled these parts. Burnsall is thought to have been an early centre of Christianity and there was probably an Anglo-Saxon church here on the same site. The present church has a lych gate and the churchyard is sheltered by old trees.

Red Lion Cottages

River Wharfe

Sir William Cravenís grammar school, south of the church, dates from 1602. It has mullioned windows and looks like a fine manor house. It was Sir William who paid for the restoration of the church and re-built the bridge at the time.

Sir William Cravenís biography is almost that of Dick Whittington. He was born in nearby Appletreewick in one of two cottages which were later knocked together to make the village chapel. His parents sent him to London to be apprenticed to a draper. He became hugely successful in this trade, made his fortune, was knighted and in 1611 was made Mayor of London. His son married the sister of Charles I. He became Earl of Craven, Craven being the Saxon kingdom based on Skipton. And he shared his wealth with Burnsall in the days before income tax when responsible citizens did generously endow in this sort of way.
There are many pretty villages in the Limestone Dales and your drive through Wharfedale should then continue to Linton, Grassington, Kettlewell and Buckden. On the way back you might like to take a longer look at the Red Lion. Iíve always found it most acceptable. In 2001 it was the Fat Badgersí Inn of the Year. Whatever that means.

Kettlewell Village Store