Barefoot Shepherdess Walks

Polly Checkland Harding
Courtesy of The Shepherdess

Barefoot Shepherdess Walks, Firbank, Sedbergh, LA10 5EL – Visit Now

Guided walking days with the Barefoot Shepherdess are a unique introduction to the Yorkshire Dales, the Lakes and beyond. Bespoke days and week-long trips are bookable by individuals, groups and organisations, and the guide is Alison O’Neill, the Barefoot Shepherdess herself. A qualified walking guide for over a decade, O’Neill has garnered recommendations from famous figures including Clare Balding and Stuart Maconie; Maconie describes O’Neill’s “natural affinity for these places, the landscape, history, wildlife, culture and people”, as well as her detailed knowledge of the Yorkshire Dales.

This, after all, is where O’Neill was born – into a farming family that ignited her love of nature and working with the land. When her father and grandfather both sold their farms in the 1970s, O’Neill dreamed of eventually establishing one herself and making small scale farming a viable endeavour. The opportunity came in 1999, when she took on the tenancy of Shacklebank farm, a promising 37 acre plot, but with the odds very much stacked against her: heavily pregnant, O’Neill had no sheep, cows, tractor or trailer, and only £60 in her pocket.

These are the stories O’Neill has to tell on walks, talks, and when people arrange to visit the farm itself – now a successful operation creating natural tweeds from three native sheep breeds. Explore the Dales and Lakes with her, and you’ll be guided by a woman who’s lived her life in the landscape, equipped with expert knowledge, a passion for nature and many a yarn up her sleeve for the long miles. Discover lesser-known routes, insights into the natural world, and the history of a woman who’s established a successful business in the face of great challenges.