Perfect for spending relaxing, quality time with family and friends, the Yorkshire Dales promise a slower pace and a charming insight into rural life, yet are within an hour’s drive of cities including Harrogate, Leeds and York. Look forward to hiking and cycling amidst sublime scenery from the fells to the waterfalls, and some great local produce.
Richmond is situated at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is a thriving market town, as well as one of the main tourist hubs in the region. You won’t want for anything here: there are plenty of shops, art galleries, an indoor and outdoor market, a wide range of places to eat and a cinema. It’s also particularly attractive with leafy gardens, an elegant Georgian quarter, riverside walks along the River Swale and an array of historical monuments to discover, most notably the impressive Richmond Castle which was constructed from 1071 onwards.
Of course, a close-up look at Richmond’s Norman Castle is an absolute must, but Friary Tower is worth your time too. Dating from the 15th century, it is one of the town’s oldest landmarks and is set in the delightful Friary Memorial Gardens. Do also take the riverside walk to the ruins of Easby Abbey which is an English Heritage Site. Just beyond the town there are moorlands, woods and mountains for adventurous types to explore, whilst the nature reserve at Foxglove Covert is a great place for a family picnic. Meanwhile, the Sunday craft fair in Richmond’s market hall, (from Easter to autumn) is great for picking up new treasures.
The ancient Yorkshire city of Ripon is steeped in history and tradition, with many superb Georgian and medieval buildings. Overlooking proceedings is the beautiful, gothic cathedral, whilst the city’s Hornblower undertakes a unique horn-blowing ceremony in the main square each night at 9pm, and has been doing so for over 1,100 years. There are plenty of facilities here including a renowned race course, museums, an eclectic selection of shops and a good variety of places to dine, as well as canal and riverside walks. Should you want more, the spa town of Harrogate is about a half an hour drive away.
An attraction that you should definitely make time for is Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal. Surrounded by the pretty countryside of North Yorkshire, this World Heritage Site makes a great day out and highlights include spectacular monastic ruins, a Georgian water garden and Studley Royal deer park. Meanwhile, Newby Hall and Gardens is a good place for all the family thanks to its adventure playground complete with miniature train and pedal boats. The city also holds regular arts exhibitions and The Ripon International Festival, held in September, showcases culture from around the world, while the cathedral hosts a programme of music events.
Reeth is the main town of upper Swaledale, which is perhaps because of its past industrial importance – at one time it produced over 10% of England’s lead. Though relatively small, today it attracts visitors with the spectacular scenery that surrounds it including the River Swale, hills and moors. It’s also a great place for cycling and only an 11-mile drive away from Richmond. The vibrant Swaledale Festival, hosted here over May and June, is a reason for music lovers to visit and the village green is bordered by numerous pubs and restaurants making it an ideal stopover for refreshments.
To find out more about Reeth’s heritage from the iron age, to lead mining and its association with knitting, head to the town’s Swaledale Museum. Or, visit the small but interesting market held on the open green on a Friday. For cyclists, walkers and horse riders, there are plenty of exciting routes leading from the town, many of which will get you closer to wildlife including migratory birds. On your return from your pursuits, there are several pubs and cafes in which to refuel – just head for the row of 18th and 19th century buildings by Reeth Green.
Pateley Bridge is a small market town in the heart of Nidderdale, which is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Along its pretty high street are plenty of shops that sell local produce and a fantastic old sweet shop that opened in 1827. There’s a real community feel here, and beside the river there’s a recreation ground, playground, bandstand and picnic area. Make this your base for settling into Dales life or visiting local attractions with relative ease. Pateley Bridge is also under half an hour’s drive from the city of Harrogate where you can shop ‘til you drop and visit the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms.
Being the starting and finishing point of the circular, 53-mile Nidderdale Way route Pateley Bridge is a great place to embark on a walking, cycling or horse-riding adventure. If you’d like to get a true sense of rural life, time your visit for September’s Nidderdale Show when the whole town celebrates the local region and traditions. It’s also the month to join one of the Pateley Bridge Walking Festival’s guided walks and if you do, on your return how about picking up one of the town’s famous pies to take back to your cottage for lunch? Most years, Pateley Bridge also hosts a popular and fun 1940s themed weekend.
Middleham is set where Coverdale and Wensleydale meet, a very pretty spot. This small town is an enchanting blend of cobbled lanes, Georgian and Victorian buildings, tea shops and art galleries that centre around two market places. However, Middleham’s two claims to fame are its imposing 12th century castle, which was later the childhood residence of Richard III, and its rich racehorse training heritage that spans over two centuries. Go to Middleham for history, romance and some fantastic walks and cycling routes.
After you’ve perused the exhibition at Middleham Castle, head up to the viewing platform for fantastic vistas across Wensleydale. You might catch sight of race horses galloping across the countryside – there are several hundred stabled in the area, some of which have been winners at Ripon, Thirsk, Wetherby and York races. For a lovely walk explore the moorland, or go cycling in the Yorkshire Dales on a route that was part of the Tour de France in 2014. Families should visit the fantasy garden at Forbidden Corner, but if you’re looking for a great place to dine, try The Saddle Room which features a fabulous wine cellar.
Masham, in Lower Wensleydale, is a small but busy market town, complete with a twice weekly market held in the town square and an annual sheep fair. With a handful of charming pubs, restaurants and two family-run breweries, as well as a grocers, wine shop and deli, there are plenty of places to tempt you whether you want to dine in or out. Meanwhile, there’s a delightful village church and town hall with a programme of events including cinema nights, while the creative scene includes craft shops and the Uredale Glass Studio, as well as links to the artist Turner who loved to paint the nearby woods.
Masham is a place to indulge in the local produce. If you want something tasty to cook at your cottage for dinner, then the Wednesday and Saturday market is a great place to try before you buy. Beer lovers should visit the Black Sheep Brewery and Theakston’s which are both in the town. Black Sheep’s restaurant serves particularly delicious fare in. For a special occasion drive to Swinton Park Hotel for dinner at its historic restaurant, whilst family fun can be had here with the Falconry Experience. If you need a walk, stroll through Hackfall Woods where a number of intriguing 19th century follies can be found.
Malham is a small and pretty village in the Pennines hills and mountain range, located at the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales. Running through the heart of the village is a picturesque stream, while there is a smattering of delightful places to grab a bite to eat, so you won’t go hungry if you don’t feel like cooking. Here, traditional limestone dry stone walls separate the farmland into a beautiful patchwork of shapes dotted with barns and meadows. The top reason to visit includes witnessing some of Mother Nature’s finest handiwork, from breathtaking crags and cliffs, to stunning wildlife habitats.
Much of the landscapes surrounding Malham are designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest and The National Trust owns a lot of the land. The gorge at Gordale Scar and the huge, curved, limestone rock at Malham Cove – a favourite spot for walkers, rock climbers and bird watchers who come to spot Peregrine Falcons, should be on your ‘to do list’. They’re spectacular sights and both featured in the Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows films. There’s also a great walk up to Janet’s Foss waterfall and Malham Tarn nature reserve. When it comes to lunch, treat yourself to a home-cooked meal at The Lister Arms which has a delightful beer garden and was voted ‘Yorkshire’s Favourite Pub’ in 2019.
Grassington is a much-loved and bustling Wharfedale village with a cobbled marketplace and is the ideal choice if you’re looking for somewhere with plenty of facilities to hand. There’s a small, but quality range of one-off and family-run shops from jewellery makers to craft studios, as well as a good array of places to eat and drink including hotels, pubs, cafes and even a couple of bars. There’s always a good atmosphere here, with the added bonus of a truly stunning view of the south Yorkshire Dales in every direction, as well as opportunities for outdoor activities literally on the edge of the village.
Lovely walks are there for the taking beside the River Wharfe and Linton Waterfalls, whilst if you like to fish you can purchase a permit from the village Post Office and try your luck. Perhaps horseriding is more your thing, or head for a hike in the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – you won’t be disappointed. Nearby tourist attractions include Bolton Abbey and Stump Cross Caverns, as well as Skipton, the gateway town to the Yorkshire Dales. Back in Grassington, there is always something special happening, from the festival of art and music held in June, to the Dickensian Christmas Market in December.
Bainbridge is a peaceful village in the Yorkshire Dales, complete with an idyllic village green. It’s also one of the oldest settlements in the region and was an important crossroads for the Romans, so history buffs should take the pleasant walk to Brough Hill where the raised outline of a Roman Fort can be seen (though do note, the fort itself has long gone). A great place for a relaxing luxury self catering cottage holiday, Bainbridge has a village shop, a butcher and tea shops to provide the essentials. It is only several minutes’ drive from the village of Askrigg and the market town of Hawes.
Bainbridge and its surrounding streams, the River Bain and Semerwater (the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire), are popular for water sports such as windsurfing and canoeing. However, when you’re in need of liquid refreshment, complete with a roaring log fire on chilly days, order a drink at the Rose and Crown so you can say that you’ve been in one of Yorkshire’s oldest hotels. However, for fine dining the 3AA Rosette restaurant at the stunning manor, Yorebridge House, is a must. If you have the family in tow, The Forbidden Corner in Leyburn and the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes make great days out for all ages.
Askrigg is a small and very traditional village in Wensleydale, set within a lush valley between two moors. Put on the map as the home of country vet James Herriot in the popular television series, ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, it is certainly a place to observe the traditions and spirit of the local rural community. The village itself features the quintessential cobbled streets you’d expect, while the market town of Hawes (the springboard to the wonderful Wensleydale Creamery) is just 5 miles away.
Askrigg is an excellent place from which to take a scenic hike. So, pack a picnic and start with the circular Yorkshire Dales walk from the village to Castle Bolton. The route takes in the River Ure, the three stunning waterfalls at Aysgarth and Carperby Moor. On your return, be sure to pop in to the cosy Kings Arms (the set of the Drovers in ‘All Creatures Great and Small’) for a great pub lunch and a pint, or treat yourself at the old fashioned sweet shop, where ice-cream is served in the summertime.
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