The Yorkshire Dales are mainly in North Yorkshire. The area is a national park, world-famous for its picturesque combination of rolling hills, woodland, wild moorland, dramatic landscapes and gentle valleys that create unique and beautiful vistas. There are many opportunities for great walks and the lovely little Dales towns and villages provide a glimpse into traditional old-fashioned Yorkshire life.
The Dales is a collection of river valleys and the hills between them.
- Grassington - thriving little market town and great base for walks
- Hawes - another pretty, small and historic market town
- Malham Cove - stunning rock formation crowned with one of the famous 'limestone pavements'
- Masham - on the edge of the Dales, lovely little town with large marketplace and a few interesting shops and cafés
- Richmond - beautiful town perched on a cliff overlooking the river, with a lovely old centre and dramatic castle
- Settle - pretty little market town in the Dales with a traditional atmosphere
- Skipton - attractive historic market town with one of England's largest and best-preserved castles
The Romans left traces of marching camps, forts and roads through the area. The influence of later settlers such as the Anglo Saxons and Vikings are most obvious through the place names they left behind them. After the Norman invasion the Dales, like the rest of the country, were covered with a network of monastic buildings. Bolton Priory and Fountains Abbey, at their peak, controlled up to three-quarters of the Dales. In late medieval and Tudor times the Dales saw the building of castles such as Castle Bolton and hunting lodges such as Barden Tower.
The Industrial Revolution and Victorian eras had a huge impact on the Yorkshire Dales, leading to an increase in the mining of local resources such as lead and coal and the building of many of the area's stone buildings, particularly the mills. Transport was improved with the building of turnpike roads and the settle to Carlisle railway with its stunning viaducts and tunnels.
Although tourism is becoming increasingly important, the Yorkshire dales is a working agricultural landscape that has produced a typical form of dry stone walls and field barns. The major natural landscapes include limestone grassland in Wharfedale, Ribblesdale, Littondale and Malham, moorland, which covers most of the high land in the Dales, hay meadows, found in Swaledale, Upper Wharfedale, Littondale and Upper Wensleydale and limestone pavements, found around Wharfedale, to the north of Malham and Ingleborough. Rivers and riverbanks are also plentiful although woodland comprises just 1% of the Dales landscape and is mainly confined to steep slopes.
Flora and fauna
As with the rest of the UK, winter (October–March) can be wet, cold (−5°C–15°C) and windy, and summer (June–August) can be warm and sunny (18°C–28°C). However there are no guarantees so it is quite possible for rainy weather in summer and moderate weather in winter.
There are over 20 main dales, each with a differing character to offer to the visitor.
Largest of the dales, certainly the widest and also less steep-sided than most. From the Hardrow Force waterfall above Hawes, through that very pleasant town to Askrigg, noted for the TV series All Creatures Great and Small, and on to Aysgarth with its major waterfalls, to Wensley and finally Leyburn. From here, Wensleydale's river, the Ure, flows on to York. Still in Wensleydale, the ruins of Jervaulx Abbey provide a very peaceful setting.
This is many people's favourite dale and would be the longest, if the top part were not called Langstrothdale. It contains the fine villages (ordered up the river) of Bolton Abbey, Burnsall, Grassington, Conistone, Kettlewell, Starbotton and Buckden. As well as the old Bolton Priory, the nave of which survived the dissolution of the monasteries because it served as the parish church, there is Clifford's Tower and the Cavendish memorial. The Strid, a very narrow and potentially dangerous stretch of the Wharfe, lies a short way above Bolton Priory.
The name given to the Wharfe above Buckden. Hubberholme with its delightful church is the only place of note but the riverbed makes for an easily accessed paradise for children to play in, with polished smooth limestone on each side. By following the road beyond Langstrothdale, Wensleydale can be reached near Hawes after a very scenic drive.
Served by the Settle-Carlisle line, Ribblesdale is a particularly accessible dale. Mainly orientated north–south, Ribblesdale runs through fine limestone scenery with plentiful caves in the near vicinity, including the extensive Alum Pot system. The area immediately around Horton-in-Ribblesdale is much marred by quarrying and the resultant trucks that can crowd local roads. However, nestled between the Three Peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent, with its limestone cottages and fields of sheep enclosed in traditional dry stone walls Horton-in-Ribblesdale is still a much loved destination for many walkers and other Dales tourists. Full unmarked Dales beauty is restored at Stainforth and the market town of Settle.
A beautiful east–west dale north of Wensleydale and connected with it by some scenically fine unclassified roads, including the 'Buttertubs Pass', named after the shape of impressive potholes beside the road. Keld, Thwaite, Gunnerside and Reeth are the main villages with the market town of Richmond and Easby Abbey at the lower end of the dale.
Littondale is a quiet dale. The main settlements are Hawkswick, Arncliffe, Littondale, Halton Gil and Foxup.
- Leeds-Bradford International Airport - the closest airport offering a range of flights from Europe including links to the major hubs of London Gatwick and Amsterdam. There is an hourly bus link from the airport to Harrogate.
- Durham Tees Valley Airport is the closest airport for the northern section of the Yorkshire Dales, offering flights from Amsterdam, Dublin and Aberdeen.
- Newcastle International Airport is the third closest airport with links from London, Paris, Italy, France, Spain, Amsterdam, Greece and Dubai.
- England's most scenic railway, the famous Settle–Carlisle railway can be most easily accessed from Leeds station, with stops throughout the Dales including Skipton–Settle–Horton–Ribblehead–Dent and Garsdale.
- Northern provide frequent MetroTrain services from Leeds and Bradford to Ilkley and Skipton, for onward connecting buses to Grassington and Buckden in Wharfedale.
- Northern trains also run to Harrogate, for buses to Nidderdale, from Leeds and York.
- East Coast Mainline to Northallerton Station with buses into Wensleydale.
- East Coast from London Kings Cross to Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.
- TransPennine Express from Manchester to Newcastle
- The Wensleydale Railway starting from Leeming Bar travels along Wensleydale to Redmire station.
There are several regular bus routes through the dales.
Fees and permits
There are no fees to pay except the usual entry fee to attractions and campsite fees. Permits are required (as in the rest of the UK) for fishing, hunting, etc. Fishing licences are available at Post Offices.
- 1 Aysgarth Falls. A set of waterfalls and rock formations in lush woodland.
- 2 Bolton Abbey. Beautiful riverside abbey in picturesque location at the foot of the Dales hills.
- 3 Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge, ☎ , e-mail: email@example.com. Extraordinary rock outcrops within Nidderdale AONB - site owned by National Trust.
- 4 Pen-y-Ghent. Dramatic hill, a favourite with walkers.
- 5 Ingleborough. One of the highest peaks in the Dales, offering stunning views and great walking opportunities.
- Go for a walk in the hills and you can feel like you are miles away from any other human being, surrounded by the beautiful and seemingly endless landscape of green fields and hills.
- Wensleydale Railway. Ride the diesel heritage or fulfil those childhood dreams and book an experience to drive the train.
The Dales is not known as a major shopping destination, but many of the towns and villages have a range of small tourist and craft shops as well as local amenities. The markets can be treasure troves of local produce. The nearest major shopping city is Leeds, but nearer-by Skipton and Harrogate have a selection of shops.
- Hawes. Market, rope-maker's shop and a few good antique shops.
- The Old Sweet Shop, Market Pl, Hawes. A delicious wonderland filled with all kinds of sweets!
Find a traditional Yorkshire pub in any of the numerous villages, for a fair value hearty meal. Traditional favourite is Roast Beef and Yorkshire Pudding.
The local Wensleydale cheese... traditionally served with apple pie.
There are a variety of local beers to try in any local pub. Just a short journey westwards from the A1, main arterial road north, lies the village of Wensley. This village gives its name to the local dale and is a favourite spot in the whole of the Dales. Whilst here, drop into the local pub (there is only one) to sample the brews from the local Wensleydale Brewery, particularly the "Poacher" and "Gamekeeper". These are drinks to die for! But, take it easy if you want to be able to enjoy the scenery afterwards! These are brews of around 5 per cent. You can sit outside if the weather is good or sit inside and enjoy a pub interior that owes nothing to modern `drink-factory` design.
The Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company makes a variety of beers, taking inspiration from both Yorkshire and abroad. A number of pubs have a house beer brewed by the company. The brewery can be found in Askrigg, location of the TV series All creatures Great and Small.
Many pubs offer B&B (bed and breakfast), there are also B&B guesthouses, though these can be pricey, and hard to book in summer.
- Hostels. Available throughout the park.
There are numerous campsites available throughout the Dales, the cheapest way to see the Dales, though in winter weather (Oct–Mar) can be too cold, windy and wet.
There is little crime in the Dales except for petty theft from cars so leave valuables hidden. Take precautions against the weather if going out walking.
- Leeds - the largest city in Yorkshire and is easily accessible, by road or rail.
- York - historic and is easily accessible, by road or rail.