Situated on the Dales Way on a bend of the River Wharfe, Burnsall is a small settlement with a large village green stretching towards the water. The fells rise into the distance, creating a lush green frame.
Ducks potter about on the river bank, interspersed with laughing children, recreating a scene that’s been played out for generations. On a sunny day they paddle on the cobbled area under the broad bridge.
The Red Lion pub sprawls along the river bank, welcoming travellers as they come over the much-photographed bridge. The pub’s cellars date back to the 12th century and are supposed to house a naughty ghost who keeps turning off the beer taps.
Before you go into the church look for the unusual octagonal clock on the tower. This was one of the first pendulum clocks in an English church, which is surprising given the size of Burnsall. There’s more information about it in the church, together with a small – and surprising high tech – little exhibition about the anglo saxon carved stones and other evidence of Viking and Anglo Saxon life in the area. As you leave the church you might also notice another unusual feature: the white gate that is weighted so it swings from the middle.
It’s worth taking the little path at the side of the church to go back towards the Red Lion by walking along the river bank. This is part of the Dales Way. Other routes will lead you on to Barden Tower and Strid Wood, part of the Bolton Abbey Estate or over to Troller’s Gyhll.
Further along the green on Thursdays to Sundays wonderful baking aromas come from the Riverbank Café, run by friendly Rachel who also bakes pizzas in the wood-fired oven on the final Friday of the month. There’s another café and ice cream shop facing the green, attracting many happy visitors during the Summer months.
Walk up the lane away from the green and you’ll come to St. Wilfrid’s church, some of which dates from the 12th century. It was repaired by Sir William Craven who was born to ain nearby Appletreewick before setting off to London to become apprenticed and make his fortune, becoming Lord Mayor of London. It’s said that the tale of Dick Whittington was based on his story. Sir William Craven also founded the school adjoining the church.