Walking by the river in Appletreewick

Staying at Mason’s campsite is one of the highlights of our year. Due to Covid last year, this is also Merlin’s first visit! The joy of camping so close to the river, but with great facilities, makes it one of the best sites in the UK.

Setting off on foot from Mason’s campsite, we saw gorgeous woods and river views instantly; you’ll find lots of stone skimming and paddling opportunities there as well.

Walking towards How Gill Farm, we headed through some farmer’s fields which had every different type of stile going. Merlin had lots of fun tackling each one!

Bending round to be greeted by an open expanse and views up to Simon’s Seat, we found that the climb got a bit steeper here. We then veered off up a farm lane to hunt down Brownies.

This was a real find – it offers a gorgeous setting and views, great brownies and coffee too.

We then headed into the woods again and to the stepping stones which are well worth a visit.

Walking the stepping stones having swum them twice already and nearly taken out my Daddy!

We then had lunch in the nearby field, with Merlin fetching the ball on a loop and getting in on a family portrait too!

Heading back to the trail, we curved back round the farm and onto a little road to return to the campsite. We paused at the Craven Arms pub beer garden for a swift refreshment, of course.

Heber’s Ghyll, Ilkley

Heber’s Ghyll, Ilkley

Heber’s Ghyll is a cracking family-friendly walk in Ilkley. Given it is less than 3km in length, this is a wander that really packs a punch!

The woodland surrounding the Ghyll is full of places to explore. During the spring, you’ll see it packed full of bluebells. If you take a trip there during the late summer and autumn, you’ll find blackberries to pick (and eat, of course!).

The path that leads around the woodland climbs out onto the open moor and then up onto Woodhouse Crag, where you’ll find the Swastika Stone.

The Swastika Stone, Woodhouse Crag

What on earth is the Swastika Stone? Well, it’s probably the finest example of one of the hundreds of Neolithic stone carvings found on Ilkley Moor. It’s a scheduled monument, and is pretty cool to go and see.

Dating back to c. 2800 – 500BC (at a best guess), experts are still undecided as to what purpose these ancient rocks served. Some believe that there is a religious connection, but they could equally be way markers, star charts or perhaps a bit of graffiti left by a prehistoric farmer who had a bit of time on his hands!

Had your fill of this little history mystery? Head back into the woodland at Black Beck and you’ll descend alongside the waterfalls of Heber’s Ghyll.

The waterfalls of Heber’s Ghyll

The path criss-crosses the descending water, with plenty of bridges to trip trap over. You’ll also find spots to get down to the water’s edge too, so on a sunny day, why not dip in your toes and have a splash?

However, the most important thing to know about Heber’s Ghyll when you’re walking with little ones is that it is the home of not one, not two, but TEN hidden dinosaurs. So keep those eyes peeled for some roar-some discoveries!

For the full route description, head to thereluctantexplorers.com. We’ve paired the walk up with some whinge-reducing walking activities, perfect for a magical woodland wander.

One of the resident dinosaurs of Heber’s Ghyll

The big swim – Swinsty and Fewston Reservoirs walk 

The joy of a ball in a reservoir – no chasing it with the current!

Coming into the Swinsty Reservoir car park, you’re immediately into this glorious view – a sandy beach area and the start of the circular walk. We usually go all the way around this reservoir but work is going on at the moment, so we did half of it and then continued all the way around Fewston.

These walks are the woods and water family heaven type. They feature loads of den building opportunities, logs to walk along, tree stumps to leap off and bridges to cross. There are lots of benches dotted along the route and plenty of dog swimming opportunities – for Merlin that is!

Picnic spots are plentiful and the blue sky and tall trees reflecting in the water make for an amazing backdrop.

Daddy i wanna get on!!

The large bridge crossing Swinsty gives you a great view of the scale of the reservoir.

You can see the walk mapped out below- it’s also really well signposted and easy to follow. Dogs can be off lead almost all of the walk, with just an occasional road to cross.

You can put Swinsty Reservoir HG3 1SU in the sat nav and park in the main car park.

The treat at the end of the walk was a glorious ice cream from the Dales Van – sat by the side of the reservoir obviously!

For more of Merlin’s adventures, follow him on Instagram:


Merlin the Chocolate Wizard’s Sandsend Walk

This gorgeous beach always seems to have a micro climate of it’s own – and this walk was no different. Merlin the Chocolate Wizard, a 1 year old chocolate labrador, shares his adventures in Yorkshire with you – this month it’s Sandsend Beach near Whitby.

One of our favourite ever places to visit – and Merlin, our chocolate wizard, thinks this is the best end of Whitby for him. On the A174 past Whitby and parking at the Sandsend Car Park, you can walk from the car park straight onto the beach in a minute.

There are also a few cafes on the beach front, which are great and sell beach essentials. The pub is lovely for a beer garden stop off too at any time of the year.

As you meander along the beach, the distant cliffs make for a stunning backdrop, and on this crisp, clear day in January, the blue sky was reflecting on the flat sands.

Merlin, however, just saw the vast space as a playground for a game of throw and retrieve. It is sooooo amazing here – the flat sands are great for exercise and if he could, he’d run all day!

chocolate labrador beach

Another benefit of January at the beach means it isn’t crowded, yet you do get to meet other dogs who are in the know and clued in to this lesser-known gem of a destination.

beach friends dogs
Merlin met a new very furry friend – they ran and ran; its a real dog’s paradise on this walk with so much space for playful wrestling!

Further along the beach, away from the car park, any danger from traffic on the road is avoided with a steep slope There are steps all along the face that are fun to run up and down and walk along.

The pebbles on the beach make a great stone stack and are great to play the stone rainbow game – collect one of each colour!
The swimming here is awesome – the waves are frothy and you can go wave diving to fetch your ball!

As you come to the edge of the beach, the mini cliff is a good scramble for the kids and the dog, (can you spot Merlin in the rocks?!).

sandsend rocks

Up and over the rocks, after a short stroll you enter Whitby near the theatre and the whale bones – Magpie Cafe is the place to go for fish and chips!

Catching some air on my ball leaps – it’s my favourite thing to do
A doggie mince pie to celebrate the end of the walk – wrapped up in my ruff and tumble dog towel

For more of Merlin’s adventures follow him on Instagram along with over 13,000 other fans, and look out for next month’s dog walk…