Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire Dales National Park Marker
Malham Cove, Yorkshire Dales

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.


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.


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.

Get in

By plane

By rail

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.

By bus

There are several regular bus routes through the dales.


There are no fees to pay except the usual entry fee to attractions and campsite fees, etc. Permits are required (as in the rest of the UK) for fishing/hunting etc. Fishing licenses are available at Post Offices.




There are over 20 main dales, each with a differing character to offer to the visitor.


Archway in Askrigg

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.


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 treaure troves of local produce. The nearest major shopping city is Leeds, but nearer-by Skipton and Harrogate have a selection of shops.


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.

A recent addition to the Yorkshire Dales brewing scene is the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company. The brewery 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.


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.

Stay safe

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 etc.

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Thursday, September 17, 2015. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.