Gunnerside Lead Mines

Length: 3.36 miles. Height change: 764ft. Time: 1.5 hours

Ordnance survey link

This walk is all about industrial heritage, lead mining and fantastic views. It is quite a good walk for late afternoon into early evening. However, the walk does cross the Ghyll via stepping stones, which at the time of writing, have been washed away due to the summer floods. It is still possible to cross the Ghyll when the water is low, but after rains or in the winter, this will be impossible and dangerous. We suggest you follow the walk until you get to the crossing and if it is dangerous to cross, walk back the way you came. You still get to see lots of lead mining!

To start the walk, park in Gunnerside and take the road to Ivlet – it the small single track road which climbs up a hill opposite the main road bridge over the Ghyll.

Walk up the road, until you meet a good quality cart track on the right and which double backs on the way you came. Follow the track climbing up the hill – now you start to get great views. Follow the map and keep a watch out for a green path on the right heading off down into the valley. Follow this.

As you reach the bottom of the valley, the path opens out by the Ghyll and you will start to see some lead mining buildings and left overs. The mine is this area is known as the Francis Level mine. You will note that there is a large metal tank in the bracken. This is the Sir Francis Level air receiver. When miners first began to drive the Sir Francis Level into the side of Gunnerside Ghyll in 1864, they used hand-bored shot holes and black powder blasting. However in 1870, Sir George Denys, the main owner of the mining rights decided to speed up the process by introducing compressed air drills. This was the first use of this technology in a Yorkshire mine. A waterwheel driven compressor and air receiver were used, situated in an engine house at the mouth of the level. The exhaust air from the drills had the further benefit of ventilating the mine, which allowed the men to work without the need for airshafts. The saved further time and money.

It is a great area to explore and look at the workings. It is here that you need to cross the Ghyll. If the water is high and there are no stepping stones, return the way you came, otherwise cross where you can and follow the path back down the valley towards Gunnerside. En route you will see further workings, including the remains of an old smelt mill. Upon arrival in Gunnerside, there is the Kings Head for a quick pint or Mary Shaw’s cafe for tea and a cake.

Photos from the walk

Looking from the Ghyll towards Swaledale
Looking down Swaledale before heading up the Ghyll
The smelting mill
The Francis Level air tank

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GPS information

GPX file for use with GPS apps.