This former packhorse bridge now known as Viator’s Bridge, gets its name from a passage in the classic book The Compleat Angler. First published in 1653, and never out of print since, it was written by Izaak Walton and his friend, local squire Charles Cotton.
As they cross this bridge, Viator (Walton) asks of his companion, Piscator (Cotton):
“What’s here the sign of a Bridge? Do you use to Travel with wheel-barrows in this country? …why a mouse can hardly go over it: ‘Tis not two fingers broad.”
In the book, the Dove is much praised for its qualities as a pristine fishing river. It is the fact that the Dove flows on limestone for much of its life, which gives it its unparalleled purity, making it an ideal habitat for trout and other aquatic wildlife. As you walk along the banks of the Dove, now part of a National Nature Reserve, you may also see glimpses of dipper, grey wagtail and kingfisher, with rainbow and brown trout, lamprey and freshwater crayfish finding their home in its clean, crystal-clear waters.
The corn mill which gave Milldale its name is long gone, and most of the traffic in this remote little spot now consists of walkers. A small barn near the bridge serves as a National Trust information point, telling the story of their Dovedale estate.
Cross Viator’s Bridge and follow the road into the village of Milldale.
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.