|Distance:||26.6 miles (42.8 km)|
|Old route now:||A6108|
|Route outline (key)|
The B6270 is the road that climbs through Swaledale, perhaps the most scenic of the Yorkshire Dales. The River Swale continues to flow for many miles from Richmond to the River Ure near Boroughbridge. At the other end of the route the road continues across Birkdale Common to Nateby.
Downholme - Reeth
We start at a fork about four miles upstream from Richmond, where the A6108 starts climbing out of the valley, leaving the B6270 to follow the River Swale. Despite the proximity of the river, we run through trees, sweeping round sharp bends to cross the Gill Beck, and then burst out into the sunshine with the river on our right. The ruins of Ellerton Abbey are visible in the rolling meadows that line the river bank. The landscape beyond is one of gently rolling green hills penned in by dry stone walls, with a scattering of old stone farms and barns and woodland on the higher slopes. Between this the road meanders back and forth across the meadows on the rivers south bank.
A couple of sweeping corners take us into the tiny old-world stone village of Grinton, where a sharp right-hand bend in front of the church takes us across the Swale on Grinton Bridge. Across the river, the small village of Fremington leads us to Reeth Bridge across the Arkle Beck and so into Reeth. This is the largest village in Swaledale, but is nevertheless quickly dispatched, with the large village green making the village seem even smaller than it is.
Reeth - Thwaite
As we climb up through Swaledale, the valley steepens, and the lower slopes become ever more densely dotted with the stone barns so characteristic of the area. After a short run we pass the small village of Healaugh, where we cross Barney Beck and drop back to the Swale. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately) there is a steep flood bank topped with trees between the road and the river, but glimpses of the sedate flow are possible.
Climbing away from the river again, we pass through the scattered villages of Feetham and Low Row, with houses set back from the road behind wide verges, common land in all probability dating back to mediaeval times. From here to Gunnerside, the next proper village, the landscape returns to one of occasional farms and stone barns in small drystone walled fields with wooded slopes higher up.
In the middle of Gunnerside a sharp left turn takes us down and across Gunnerside Great Bridge over the Swale. On the far side, a wiggle takes us steeply round to the right and past the tiny little hamlet of Satron. Normal service is then resumed as far as Muker, where a sharp dog-leg takes us across Muker Bridge over the Straw Beck. Here, for the first time since the start of our journey, we leave the Swale behind. The river turns north through a steep, almost gorge-like stretch between Kisdon and Ivelet Moor. The road takes a much easier route west along the Straw Beck to Thwaite.
Thwaite - Nateby
Just before Thwaite, an unclassified route crosses the Buttertubs Pass to Hawes on the A684 in Wensleydale, but we drop down into the village, which is very picturesquely set, despite its tiny size. The lack of development this far up Swaledale may be a problem for some, but it helps retain the sense of stepping back in time. At Angram we reach 361 m above sea level, before dropping down through Keld to reach the Swale once more.
Keld seems to be the last real 'village', although it is perhaps just a dozen houses. A right turn just before the Wain Wath Force waterfall leads across Stonesdale Moor to the head of Arkengarthdale. Our road continues west, doglegging across the Swale on High Bridge, and then climbs steeply into Birkdale, the northern feeder of the River Swale. Even at this height, there are still old barns scattered in the few remaining fields and a couple of houses but before long we have climbed beyond even that.
We are now heading north west across open hillside to the headwaters of the Birkdale Beck, eventually reaching a summit of 518 m above sea level. Just beyond the summit the view across the vast expanse of Edendale to Carlisle and the Solway Firth opens up ahead, an awe-inspiring view in good weather, a wall of grey in bad weather. After the long and beautiful climb up Swaledale, the descent is rapid and barren in comparison, descending the 300 m to the B6259 at Nateby near Kirkby Stephen in just 3 miles.
On classification in 1922 the entire road was further east. It started on the A66 (now A1) just to the south of Scotch Corner and ran west through Richmond to pick up the road's current starting point at Downholme. It then continued west to Reeth, where the B6270 ended and an unclassified road continued ahead to Keld. The section from there across Birkdale Common to Nateby appeared to be no more than a track.
The eastern section of the road was upgraded to Class I status early on, becoming the A6108 later in the 1920s. It was not until 1935 that the road was extended from Reeth to Nateby, giving the B6270 its current length.