These delicate fingers of rock on opposite banks of the Dove are one of the scenic highlights of the dale. Amazingly, the 25m- high leaning finger of Ilam Rock has several rock climbing routes up its precipitous sides, while Pickering Tor has a gaping cave at its foot.
Both were left stranded as free-standing pillars of hard reef limestone when the softer rock was eaten away by the glacial meltwaters of the last Ice Age. Artist JMW Turner captured Ilam Rock in a popular painting, which undoubtedly contributed to our view of this as a sublime landscape and reinforced it as a place of interest to visiting tourists over the years.
The path now swings east opposite Hall Dale to pass the impressively-yawning water-worn cavities known as Dove Holes. Beyond here, the riverside path passes a number of weirs before running under the impressive vertical cliff of Raven’s Tor. A gentle meadowland path, rich in lime-loving flowers such as rockrose and thyme, now takes you into the hamlet of Milldale, which is reached by crossing the narrow Viator’s Bridge
This trail was originally developed by Roly Smith for the Royal Geographical Society’s Discovering Britain.
Roly is a keen walker and the author of over 90 books on the British countryside. He has been recently described as one of Britain’s most knowledgeable countryside writers.
Thanks are also due to Dan Seagrave for use of his photograph of Dovedale and Thorpe Cloud (CC BY-NC 2.0 via Flickr).
Dovedale is managed and cared for by the National Trust.