A fells walk to a great pub: the Butchers Arms, Yorkshire Dales

If I were to sum up Crosby Ravensworth in only a couple of words, then it would be: “community spirit”. This is clear from the starting point of this circular walk, at an old stone bus shelter opposite the 1920s village hall.

In lieu of a village shop, this shelter has become one – thanks to a bunch of residents who stock it on a daily basis. Inside, a woman happily chats away, talking me through the various goods on sale. There are home-grown vegetables (today’s selection includes sugar snap peas and carrots), a bric-a-brac section raising funds for the kids’ play area, and quail eggs, which are free-range and a bargain at £1.25 for half a dozen. A cork noticeboard is decorated with posters advertising monthly yarn club meet-ups, a plumber’s services and nearby pilates classes.

Despite being home to only a few hundred people, Crosby Ravensworth, which is in Cumbria but at the northern end of the Yorkshire Dales national park, is a surprisingly happening place. Indeed, at the end of this walk, the Butchers Arms is a buzzy, community-owned pub bought back by local residents following a campaign in 2011, having closed a couple of years before.

From the shelter, I set out and pass St Lawrence’s Church on my left. The stone remains of a large cross, believed to be from AD700, sit in the church grounds and it’s likely that settlers gathered around this monument for worship before a church was built.

In fact, “Crosby” historically means “settlement by the cross”. Back at the bus shelter, a national park noticeboard suggests that the Vikings could have completed the village’s moniker by adding the nickname of a person known as Hravnsvart (“raven black”).

The fissured and rugged slabs of limestone are alien and otherworldly, like craters on the surface of the moon

The route bears right, passing through an entrance in a dry-stone wall and on to a well-trodden track via a farm gate to the left, through a field which offers views of the Butchers Arms back to the right. I reach another gate then, sharply to my left, clamber over the first of many stiles on this walk.

From here, I go through another couple of fields, striding through the overgrown grass with a gurgling stream, Lyvennet Beck, to my left. I reach a narrow wooden plank crossing to hit the road, taking the left over a bridge before an immediate right, through another couple of fields, via more stiles, so that Lyvennet Beck is on my right.

A warning on a gate reads: “CAUTION, cows with calves can be aggressive.” This leads down into a dip where bracken thrives, and crosses Lyvennet Beck, before a gentle ascent up a gravel track.

I go right around a farm, marked as Crosby Lodge on the map, walking through more fields adjoined by dry stone walls. It’s a serene setting: cloudless blue skies and bushy trees. On my left, I start to see jagged outcrops of weathered limestone rock, a feature of this walk. These dramatic scars of rock – a series of clints and grykes – are known as limestone pavement; jutting out of the green hillside they lend a desolate feel to an otherwise gentle dales landscape.

I see an expanse of moorland ahead, the purple heather in full bloom, and head through a gate, before taking a sharp left over a stone stile and along a drystone wall. Down to the left, in a miniature valley, lies a large pile of rocks marking one of several sites believed to have been Robin Hood’s grave. Here, I pause for a water break, pondering whether this legendary outlaw could really be buried some feet below me.

I continue, the wall still on my right, gently climbing along the side of Crosby Ravensworth fell. About a mile to my left is the silhouette of the Black Dub monument – shaped like a small obelisk – to which an optional path leads. This is engraved with an inscription detailing how, in 1651, Charles II and his troops stopped for a drink, at the source of the Lyvennet, on their march from Scotland.

I press on, down a dip and over a stream, before gently climbing towards two large and distinct granite boulders. More limestone pavement lies above them, protruding from the grassy landscape.

I veer left, reaching one of several summits on this fell, marked as Wicker Street. Here lies the highlight of this walk: the largest section of limestone pavement. The fissured and rugged slabs of rock look otherworldly, like craters on the surface of the moon. I hop along the pavement to the grass on the far side, where a leaning wooden post marks the way onto a defined path, formerly a Roman road.

Navigating the route I find is difficult at times, with the many stiles easy to miss or confuse. My GPS on my iPhone and OS map become my best friends, getting me back on track whenever I go awry.

Related: On the Coast to Coast from Cumbria to North Yorkshire: Wainwright route gains national trail status

Once the Roman road is reached the way back is straightforward, however. I follow the road for just over half a mile, through desolate moorland and with views of Cross Fell on the horizon, the highest mountain in the Pennines.

This leads onto a gravel track to the right for about another mile before I reach the tarmac road heading back into the village. There’s an egg-shaped cairn on the right, an art installation by the artist Andy Goldsworthy. Finally, I reach the Butchers Arms, ready for a feast.

Google map of the route

Start Village hall, Crosby Ravensworth (free parking available)
End Butchers Arms
Distance 7.5 miles
Time 4 hours
Total ascent 355 metres
Difficulty Moderate

The pub

Outside the Butchers Arms, locals and cyclists chat happily around tables. The friendly atmosphere reflects its community-owned status, with 300 stakeholders.

Inside, there are several local brews – I tried the Corby Ale, which is light and refreshing. A pamphlet lying on a bookcase alongside board games details the history of the pub, believed to date to the 18th century.

For a pub, the menu leans to the adventurous side, while paying homage to some of the classics, such as the battered haddock with dripping chips. A roasted tomato galette starter arrived on a bed of rocket dressed in balsamic vinegar, with a puff pastry that’s delightfully crisp and buttery. (There are plenty of vegetarian dishes, but vegans dining here should speak to the friendly waiters for their options.)

For the mains, the pan-fried chicken breast comes doused in a cream sauce, served with fondant potato and crispy kale. For dessert I choose the baked raspberry and coconut cheesecake: decadent, rich and delicious.

Where to stay

While the Butchers Arms has no rooms of its own, nearby Crake Trees Manor – a working family farm – offers double bedrooms in a wonderful old stone converted barn, with breakfast provided each morning, alongside self-catering cottages, shepherds’ hut-style cabins, camping pitches, a stable bunkhouse and glamping pods. There’s a wood-fired hot tub, too.

Doubles from £210 (two-night minimum stay), craketreesmanor.co.uk