The River Aire, rising amid the spectacular limestone scenery of Upper Malhamdale, passes through the city of Leeds on its way to a confluence with the Ouse. The idea behind the Airedale Way is that it provides a link between Leeds and the Yorkshire Dales by following, as far as possible, riverside paths. There is much natural beauty in Airedale and, even in the early stages passing through the industrial towns of Shipley, Bingley and Keighley, the route is surprisingly rural for much of the way. There is history at every turn: the old stone bridges, at least one of them dating from the Middle Ages, the ancient churches, the 17th century farmhouses and halls, the picturesque villages, the mills and all the archaeology of the Industrial Revolution.
The Way leaves Leeds along the Leeds and Liverpool Canal, which shares the valley with the river as far as Gargrave, making this early section of the route more interesting. The main towns and villages along the route are Apperley Bridge, Shipley, Bingley, Keighley, Steeton, Cononley, Skipton, Gargrave, Airton, Malham and Malham Tarn. The route links with the Pennine Way at Gargrave and Malham.
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