Pateley Bridge is fairly easy to reach by public transport from Harrogate. This means that many people visit it despite it having less dramatic surroundings than many more desolate places, but it is by no means plain either, as the downhill main road winds its way down the dale. Pateley Bridge is in fact a pleasant village with lots of shops along the main road and with the amazing watermill, today turned into a pub. There is also the popular local Nidderdale Museum. The countryside is also excellent for walking and since it is not that far from Harrogate, it is a good base whichever direction you want to explore.
The small market town of Settle at the end of Ribblesdale is a hub for the south-western corner of the Dales with its many natural features like the famous hill Pen-y-Ghent and the many caves and waterfalls in the area. Tuesday is market day and there has been a market here since the 13th century so this is definately the liveliest day for a visit. The town is otherwise mostly famous for the very scenic Settle-Carlisle Railway which is at its most stunning between Settle and Appleby, including the great Ribblehead viaduct "in the middle of nowhere" which you might want to see from the ground rather than already on the train.
In the upper end of Swaledale, you find Keld, a place which is more a scattering of houses and a Wesleyan chapel, rather than a village. Set along the beginning of the river Swale, it is known for its waterfalls, but primarily for being a great place to walk in, with paths back to other Swaledale villages such as Muker and Gunnerside. There is no shop here but you will find a hostel where you can also get National park information. If you have your own car rather than rely on the bus, you can drive on to England's highest located pub, the Tan Hill inn, which is three miles up the fellside in the middle of nowhere.
This is a village lots of you will have seen without realising it, as it was the main film location for outdoor scenes of "All Creatures...", the TV series about vet Herriot. Set on its own along a fellside where a small forest meets the otherwise open Wensleydale, it is as Yorkshire as it gets with stone houses around a church. Sadly very popular with tourists due to its TV fame, you can still find it relaxing here as the village is hard to reach without your own car (there is a post van now and again) but it is even better to visit out of season.
I know my Yorkshire Dales pages are all full of histories of lead mines but well, here I go again: Stump Cross was actually discovered by miners looking for lead :))) This happened in 1860 and they never realised what a treasure they had found but luckily, someone else did, so that we can all enjoy what is today one of the most famous cavern areas in Britain. Carved out in an era when Yorkshire was full of ice age pools, water is still dripping down the limestone even if the pools are long gone. Apart from the caverns themselves which you can visit an exhibition area showing a film about the creation of this special place. With the tea room and stone shop it is all a bit touristy but nevertheless worth a stop for the magic of the underground. It is also known as the place where, in the 1960s, a Mr Geoff Workman completed an experiment on how man copes with lack of day and night changes when he stayed below ground for more than three months.
Just outside the National Park boundaries, Middleham is still very much a Dales town where it sits just where Wensleydale meets Coverdale, and with Middleham Castle, Richard III's childhood home, overlooking it all. The town is also known as "Newmarket of the North" due to all the race horse stables here. A legacy from the monks at nearby Jervaulx Abbey who bred horses for King Richard and others. Looking towards Leyburn and the Vale of York is not as scenic as further into the Dales, but you need only walk for a few hundred metres along the footpath behind the castle, up towards Coverdale and the Pen Hill moors and it is a different scenery altogether. You can see many more images on my Middleham pages as this is one of those places I could easily live in if I had a job there.
One of the prettiest villages in Swaledale, Muker has few sights as such but a setting so relaxing you need only an hour to feel like you've been on holiday for a month. OK, not in the worst July rush :))) A paradise for walkers and photographers alike...oh and for those who just enjoy life in the village pub. See more images on my Muker page.
Waterfalls are what Aysgarth is famous for, especially since Kevin Costner filmed here for a fighting scene in "Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves". There are three falls in Aysgarth and you can visit them all. If you visit my Aysgarth page you can see ducks going on a waterslide - children love to watch that and much more here, such as the strange holes created by the water. This picture is from the Upper falls which has an excellent grassy bank to picnic in. There are also the Middle and Lower Falls and you reach those on a short hike from the National Park visitors centre signposted from the Upper Falls. The Lower Fall is furthest away and for that, you need proper footwear as it is more of a forest path than the Upper which is just next to the road.
Hawes is not a sight but a small town and one of my favourites at that. It's a centre for both Dales agriculture and for walking the Pennines so there is a bustling feeling here in summer which I like, and at the same time the tourists are mainly fell walkers so there is still a calm, even if there are some coach parties here to shop and visit museums too. The main hub of Wensleydale, Hawes is a good base for touring the Dales as it is easy to reach both the castles of the East and the desolate moors of the West. It also has some interesting places to visit such as the Dales Museum and the famous Wensleydale Cheese Creamery, nowadays of Wallace and Gromit fame. Along the main road between Wensleydale and Swaledale nearby, you also find the curious geological feature of Buttertubs Pass and outside Hawes is Hardraw Force, England's highest single drop waterfall. You can read more on my Hawes page.
Walk up the Gunnerside Gill for great views, or visit the Old Working Smithy in this lovely former mining village in Swaledale which also has an excellent pub (see restaurant tips). Gunnerside really is one of the prettiest villages I know in England.
Not actually within the national park borders, Richmond is still included here because it acts as the Gateway to Swaledale from the east. Easily reached by bus from nearby Darlington along the main railway, Richmond is also a historic place with a lot of it great architecture paid for by money earned from Dales mining. The reasonably intact ruins of a huge Norman castle above the river Swale is the pride of town (and its raison d'etre). It was built by one of William the Conqueror's main men, Alan of Brittany, and is in such a good shape simply because it has never been under siege. You can see much more about this lovely town on my Richmond page.
Expanded due to the lead mining in the area, Reeth is today the biggest of the Swaledale villages and where you will find most pubs and accommodation. Set where Swaledale meets Arkengarthdale it is a good place to use for a base to drive around the area and it has good views across the dale. For the days when you want to stay in Reeth, there is the Swaledale Museum which tells stories of mining, farming and more "life in the Dales". There are also several handicraft shops here, selling art, special furniture, photos and decorations en masse. You can see more images on my Reeth page.
Bolton Castle sits on its own on a fellside, visible for miles in Wensleydale (click on the picture). The castle was built by one of the Lords of the Scrope family in the 1380s and looks like a fortress but was actually used to live in. Mary, Queen of Scots was imprisoned here for some months and when she escaped, she lost a scarf which is the reason for the village name Preston-under-Scar nearby. Or so the legend says, since a scar is also a geological feature in the Dales, no one knows for sure I think. What we do know is that when the castle was abandoned after damage in the Civil War, local families settled in it and lived here until 1898! Today, you can visit the castle and its lovely garden. See the website below for current opening hours.
The Bolton Abbey Estate comprises 30,000 acres of magnificent countryside at the south end of Wharfedale -- the estate straddles the River Wharfe (which at this point is known as the Strid) and provides great walking across moorland, woodland and riverside footpaths.
The centrepiece is Bolton Priory which dates back to the 12th century -- the Black Canons of the Order of St. Augustine resided here where they spent a life of worship to God and service to the people of the neighbourhood. In 1539 the Priorywas faced with demolition under King Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries but fortunately the last Prior, Richard Moon, was able to ensure that at least the nave of the Priory remained intact. Today the Priory Church of St. Mary & St. Cuthbert (next to the old Priory) carries on as a focus for the community's spiritual life.
Bolton Abbey is well worth a visit if just to wander around the delightful countryside surrounding the Priory -- it's easy to imagine the tranquilty of life of those who lived here so many years ago.
Skipton is known as the 'Gateway to the Dales' and Skipton Castle is its main attraction. This magnificent castle dates back to 1090 and is acknowledged as being one of the most complete and well-preserved castles in England. The castle is fully roofed and has a beautiful, early Tudor courtyard at its centre with a yew tree planted in 1659 by Lady Anne Clifford (see 'more photos') -- she was born here and is famous for her post Civil War restoration of various castles. The main entrance to the castle (see 'more photos') carries the Clifford family motto 'Desormais' meaning 'henceforth'
Visitors are given a sheet (available in 8 languages) which has 40 small sketches which take the visitor on a tour of the maze of rooms in the castle -- hopefully you arrive back at the beginning ....
The castle is open every day except December 25th -- for more details of the castle and admission charges please refer to the below website.