Middleham Castle, the gorge of Cover Banks, the legend of the Kelpie and some great Dales pubs.
Table of Contents
- what3words for start point: ///populate.operating.tanked
- Start / Finish Point: Middleham, Wensleydale
- Distance: 6 Miles
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Middleham is an elegant town of Georgian houses and older cottages set around two old market places, behind which lie the ruins of Middleham Castle, often described as the ‘Windsor of the North’. The castle dates back to 1190 and has played an important role in the history of England as this was once the stronghold of the powerful Neville family, Earls of Warwick, for over 200 years from where they ruled their vast Northern estates.
The heyday of the castle was during the 15th Century, especially during the War of the Roses. Richard Plantaganet, later the Duke of Gloucester then Richard III, grew up at the castle where he later met his wife Lady Anne Neville, the daughter of the Earl of Warwick – the Kingmaker. Their son Edward, Prince of Wales was born at the castle. Richard became king in 1483 but was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. The castle soon fell into disrepair and remained Crown property until 1625 when passed into private ownership. Much of the stonework was plundered in the 17th Century and went to build local houses.
Whatever time of day you visit Middleham, there always seems to be sleek racehorses either going up onto or returning from the gallops across Middleham Low Moor. Horse breeding and training can be traced back to the monks of Jervaulx Abbey; however, it was during the 18th Century that racehorse training began to flourish in this area as the wide open spaces of Middleham High and Low Moors provided the perfect gallops. This brought prosperity to the town and it was not long before a racecourse was laid out on High Moor, with races being held until 1873. Middleham remains a major centre for racehorse training.
Between Middleham and Cover Bridge, the River Cover flows through a steep-sided wooded gorge known as Cover Banks. Indeed, the name of this river is derived from the ancient British word that means ‘a stream that flows through a deep ravine’. This river is also steeped in legend for it is the haunt of the ‘Kelpie’. From the turbulent waters this horse-like creature is said to lure the unwary into riding on its back, only to disappear beneath the waters and so drowning its victim. The Kelpie is a supernatural water horse that dates back to Celtic folklore thousands of years ago.