Keld is the most westerly village in Swaledale, and because of the unusual shape of the end of the valley feels even more isolated than it really is. Muker is only just over two miles away to the south east, but Kisdon hill entirely blocks the view. Keld is surrounded by some of the wildest scenery in the Dales.
To the north bleak moors climb up to Tan Hill, the highest Inn in the country. To the west are the upper reaches of Swaledale and the remote valleys of Birkdale and Great Sled Dale, finally leading over the hills to Cumbria. To the south west is Great Shunner Fell, the third highest fell in the dales. To the south is a dry valley that contains the main road through Swaledale, and isolated Kisdon Hill. To the east the River Swale runs through a limestone gorge, dropping over a series of waterfalls including Kisdon Falls, before emerging into a dramatic steep sided valley that curves around Kisdon.
To me Kisdon Hill is the defining feature of this part of Swaledale. At Muker the Swale turns north, running to the east and north of the hill, while an almost equally dramatic valley runs south and west of the hill, isolating it from the surrounding moors. Until 1580 the corpse road ran across the flanks of Kisdon to the nearest burial ground at Grinton, just south of Reeth, fifteen miles away. In that year a church was build in Muker, dramatically shortening the sad journey. A more modern route, the Pennine Way, now runs around the eastern side of the hill, just missing Keld.
The village gets it's name from the old Norse "Kelda", for spring, stream, bog or quagmire. Spring or stream seems a rather inadequate description of the Swale as Keld as it rushes over a series of waterfalls!
Keld is at the western end of the Friarfold ore vein, which runs east towards Arkengarthdale. The scars of the mining industry can be seen on the hills east of the village.