The actual source of the River Aire is at Malham Tarn, around 5 miles east northeast of the town of Settle in West Yorkshire. The head of the River Aire is about half a mile south of the village of Malham, at the confluence of the Malham Beck, which flows from Malham Cove down through the village of Malham, and Gordale Scar which flows through the Gordale Scar gorge.
The river flows in a southerly direction, passing between the villages of Kirkby Malham and Hanlith, then continuing on past the villages of Scosthrop, Airton and Calton.
The River Aire maintains its southerly heading absorbing a tributary, the Otterburn Beck, about 2 miles downstream of Calton, then on past the parish of Coniston Cold. Approximately a mile downstream of Coniston Cold, the river passes under the Leeds and Liverpool Canal and heads off to the east and into the idyllic village of Gargrave.
After leaving Gargrave from the east the River Aire heads southeast, passing the western flank of the town of Skipton, where it meets 2 tributaries, the Broughton Beck and the Eller Beck, and continues on past the village of Cononley.
Around a mile downstream of Cononley the river starts to head east again, taking it between the villages of Kildwick (on the north bank) and Cross Hills (on the south bank), just downstream the Aire receives a tributary, the Eastburn Beck.
The river flows past the northern edge of the parish of Steeton, then heads southeast once again passing the eastern flank of Keighley, where it meets another one of its tributaries, the River Worth, and then flows west of Bingley.
Downstream of Bingley the river heads east again, flowing between the towns of Baildon on the north bank and Shipley on the south bank. It then heads northeast as far as the village of Esholt, then returns to a southeasterly course taking it past the villages of Thackley and Apperly Bridge, past the Bradford suburb of Greengates and the Leeds suburbs of Horsforth and Kirkstall.
The River Aire continues on its southeasterly course, which takes it past the town of Rothwell on the west bank and the village of Swillington on the east bank. It continues past the villages of Methley, Mickletown, Great Preston and Allerton Bywater, then onto the town of Castelford, where the River Calder
joins the Aire.
The Aire then heads off in an easterly direction for about 3 miles, before turning southeast flowing near the towns of Pontefract and Knottingley. From Knottingley the river heads northeast passing the villages of Beal, Kellington and West Haddlesey.
Just downstream of West Haddlesey the river turns to the southeast, flowing past the villages of Chapel Haddlesey, Temple Hirst, Hirst Courtney and Gowdall.
Downstream of Gowdall the river begins to head east once again, passing between the villages of Snaith on the south bank and Carlton on the north bank.
It meanders it way east across to the village of Rawcliffe, from which it heads northeast passing the villages of Newland and Airmyn, just downstream of Airmyn the River Aire meets its confluence with the Yorkshire Ouse
and the end of its journey.