The Yorkshire Dales is renowned for its impressive landscape, rich industrial heritage and contrasting scenery. The National Park is a labyrinth of drystone walls weaving their way over the moorlands and crisscrossing the narrow valleys. Quiet rural roads meander between the delightful villages, passing through miles and miles of farmland as they go. The region's geography is an attraction in itself; the vibrant yellow of the Rape Fields brighten the countryside, and the area is a haven for rare and fascinating flora and fauna. In the spring, many areas of the Dales are covered in buttercups and orchids amidst an array of other beautiful flowers. It's no wonder this corner of northern England has loyal visitors returning year after year.
Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales
The historic and lively market town of Kirkby Lonsdale enjoys a picturesque setting on the banks of the River Lune in the southeast corner of Cumbria. It has recently been named the western gateway to the Yorkshire Dales since the new boundary extension, which saw much of the town incorporated into the National Park. The enchanting cobbled lanes, hidden square, and grand buildings make it an enjoyable place to explore. However, it is often the quirky independent shops, exquisite eateries, and picture-postcard surrounding countryside that people remember most fondly from their visit.
The Land of Caves, Waterfalls and Mountains
Venture a little further into the National Park and you come to the land of caves, waterfalls and mountains. Ingleton is a small village with a lot to offer and is a haven for outdoor enthusiasts. Walking, climbing, caving and potholing abound in this area, and there are plenty of experienced guides ready to take you on an adventure. Serious walkers visit from all over the world to take on the legendary Three Peaks, a 26-mile daylong circular walk that takes in the area's three principal peaks. For those with less ambitious plans, Ingleton Waterfalls is a gentler amble and has plenty of picnic and paddling spots to enjoy. Ingleborough Cave and the nearby White Scar Caves are both impressive, nationally acclaimed show caves offering guided tours suitable for families. Visitors with children may also enjoy the BMX pump track and outdoor swimming pool, both excellent, well-kept facilities in the heart of the village.
You don't have to be a thrill seeker to enjoy a trip to Ingleton though; the area offers fascinating exploration for geologists and nature lovers, too. There is an abundance of limestone features to discover and a chance to see the ancient base rocks that form the Peak District, as well as a whole host of unusual wildlife. In fact, the area is so rich in unique geological features and plant life that Natural England has declared the Ingleton Glens a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
Lush, Rolling Countryside
In contrast to the wild moorlands and the steep climbs you can expect in some areas of the Yorkshire Dales, Wensleydale is a characteristically vast open valley of lush rolling countryside. The area offers much to explore, with gentle riverside strolls revealing the sights (and sounds) of numerous awe-inspiring waterfalls; England's highest waterfall, Hardraw Force, and the lower but equally attractive stepped falls of Aysgarth, are two of the most visited. The valley also offers more challenging hikes enjoying moorland scenery and panoramic views.
Following the epic start of the 2014 Tour de France, the Wensleydale valley has an ever-increasing number of cyclists and offers everything from challenging ascents to more moderate family rides. Hawes is the area's principle market town, but many other villages are worthy of a visit, including Askrigg, Bainbridge, and Aysgarth, all of which have their own distinct characters and attractions.
England's last true wilderness
The beautiful Mallerstrang Valley was once described by David Bellamy as "England's last true wilderness" due to its wild and peaceful nature. Both the River Eden and the Settle to Carlisle railway follow the valley, which is also home to the Mallerstrang Wild Horses - keep a sharp eye out when travelling through to see if you can spot these small groups of animals grazing in the area!
If you enjoy a bit of storytelling and legend, don't miss out on a visit to Pendragon Castle, said to have been founded by King Arthur's father. The site has seen many changes over the years, suffering a couple of fires as well as attacks from raiding Scots. It was restored in the 1600s by Lady Anne Clifford, and Lady Anne's Way, which passes through the Mallerstang Valley, takes in Pendragon and Lady Clifford's other castles, Brough and Brougham.
The Settle to Carlisle Railway
On a scenic drive from Ingleton to Hawes, you’ll find the most notable structure on the iconic Settle to Carlisle Railway, Ribblehead Viaduct. Built in the late 1800’s and consisting of twenty-four colossal stone arches, it is certainly a sight worthy of a detour. The little station nearby offers you a chance to ride the rails, and there is a footpath which takes walkers right up to the base of the arches on a pleasant stroll around the area. Longer walking routes are also available for those wanting to explore more of this dramatic landscape.
England's Book Town
Like Kirkby Lonsdale, Sedbergh and Dent sit over the border in Cumbria and yet form part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Often referred to as England's Book Town due to its large number of independent bookshops, Sedbergh is a charming place to visit. The drive to the town from any direction is a treat in itself, and with its position nestled at the foot of Wainwright's beloved Howgill Fells, Sedbergh is a walker’s paradise. The knitting and wool trades have been an important part of the town's history. The market dates back to the 13th century and was once the centre of the area’s thriving industry. Today, the town retains much of its historic charm, and its cobbled streets and fascinating buildings offer a pleasant afternoon of exploration. Fairfield Mill, on the outskirts of town, was a hub of activity in the 19th century when dedicated workers packed its four floors spinning the wool for which the town thrived. The techniques used in the industry can still be experienced today with a visit to the open exhibition that was created by local people to tell the story of their heritage. Fairfield Mill is also home to resident and visiting artists, and with the weavers' cafe serving delicious food, it makes for a relaxing outing.
Not far from Sedbergh is Holme Farm, a traditional Dales working farm that offers an opportunity to hold and feed the animals, as well as learn more about farming and food production through demonstrations. It is always a hit with children both young and old, and the farm nature trail provides an enjoyable family walk while giving you a chance to see some of the area's diverse natural wildlife.