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West Witton
White Scar Cave

West Witton

OS grid reference:- SE 062 884

The small Yorkshire Dales village of West Witton is situated in the magnificent scenery of Wensleydale and looks down on the River Ure. It is located 4 miles to the south west of Leyburn on the A684 road, which runs from Bedale to Hawes.

Numerous paths from the village lead to stunning walks in the surrounding countryside. Redmire Force, located on the River Ure, is a series of small but highly attractive waterfalls just a few miles from the more famous Aysgarth Falls. Penhill, the hill above West Witton is topped by a beacon, once used to warn the local population of a Spanish invasion, a waymarked footpath leads to its summit.

The houses in the village are situated along the main road. West Witton has as a hotel, the Wensleydale Heifer (pictured left) which dates to the seventeenth century and is the Yorkshire Dales' First Boutique Hotel, it boasts a restaurant specialising in seafood.

There is also a pub, The Fox & Hounds Inn, which offers excellent home cooked meals and a range of fine cask conditioned ales including Theakston's and Black Sheep. There are also tea rooms at the quaint Candle Cottage and a village store.

The original village church of St. Bartholomew dates back to Saxon times. After a major restoration was carried out in 1875, only the Saxon north wall and sixteenth century bell tower remain of the earlier building. During the restoration, a Saxon carved stone cross was discovered in the church wall, this is now on display above the pulpit. The vestry contains an interesting window depicting the arms of the Abbot of Jervaulx.

West Witton is famous for its ancient "Burning of Bartle" ceremony, which is held annually at 9 p.m. on the Saturday nearest 24 August (St Bartholomew's Day). A larger than life effigy of 'Bartle' is carried through the village, complete with glowing eyes. Custom dictates that Bartle stops at various places to recite a doggerel poem, before being burnt at Grassgill End accompanied by singing and cheering.

The doggerel runs:-

'On Penhill Crags he tore his rags; Hunter's Thorn he blew his horn; Capplebank Stee happened a misfortune and brak' his knee; Grisgill Beck he brak' his neck; Wadham's End he couldn't fend; Grassgill End we'll mak' his end. Shout, lads, shout.

The Witton Fell race takes place the day before while on the day following the ceremony a 'Fun Day' is held, this includes various events including children's sports, fancy dress, a falconry display and other entertainments. The exact origins of this unique ceremony are lost in the mists of time. It is said to relate to either- a pig thief who was executed in the eighteenth century after hiding in the hills, or to St Bartholomew, or a giant who roamed the area.

The ruins of nearby Penhill Preceptory , around 2km to the west of the vilage, stands on the northern flanks of Penhill, it once served as a house of the Knights Templar which was used from about 1142 to 1308-12. It makes an interesting short walk from the village.

Towns and Villages of Yorkshire