The wildest part of Swaledale starts at Gunnerside – below the village the Swale runs through wide flat fields, above the village these almost disappear, and the lower slopes of the hills frequently reach the river banks. The village actually lies a quarter of a mile north of the Swale, on the banks of Gunnerside Beck. The steep sided valley for the beck runs for almost four miles back into the hills, ending close to Rogan’s Seat. Good footpaths run up almost the entire length of this valley, ending at Blakethwaite Gill. The valley is still scarred by the remains of the lead mines.
The main road up Swaledale runs along the northern side of the valley until it reaches Gunnerside. It used to continue on along that side of the valley, following the old corpse road toward Ivelet and Muker, but since the 1830s it has turned sharply to the south in the village to cross over to the southern side of the Swale. A small free car park is available just to the north of this turn, making Gunnerside an excellent walking base. A particularly fine path leaves the village to the north west, climbing up a ridge onto Black Hill, passing the superbly named Jingle Pot Edge on the way, and offering excellent views of Swaledale and the valley of Gunnerside Beck.