To the south of the Yorkshire Dales National park, the beautiful dale of Wharfedale offers an unspoilt area of natural beauty which gives a great introduction to the Dales. With much to offer either as part of a scenic drive, exploring on foot, or as a part of a longer stay in the dale, we encourage you to consider spending some time in this wonderful area. Having spent a few days exploring over the New Year, here are my tips to get the most out of your next visit.
Our favourite village: Kettlewell
The largest village in Upper Wharfedale, the charming village of Kettlewell is the picture perfect Dales village (so much so that it was used as the location for the film 'Calendar Girls'). It boasts tea rooms, a couple of excellent pubs and an extremely well stocked village store (which is also home to a model village in its basement!).
Ever a popular base for exploring the great Yorkshire outdoors, the surrounding area is filled with excellent walking and cycling routes. The more adventurous may want to attempt the ascent of Great Whernside which looms over the village. It will also be an excellent place to watch 'Le Tour de France' Yorkshire Grand Depart which passes through the village in July 2014.
Favourite Walk: Following the Dales Way between Kettlewell and Grassington
Ideally this walk is started from the attractive Linton Falls (only a short walk from the popular stopover of Grassington). This seven mile stretch of ‘the Dales Way’, a popular long distance route, offers excellent panoramic views over the lush, green valley. The route predominantly follows the limestone escarpment above the valley and is generally very well marked (although one short section out of Grassington has a number of criss-crossing paths which can be a little confusing so it's worth taking a map).
Soon after a sharp ascent out of Grassington, take time to explore the ruins of the medieval villages that spread out over the network of fields. After taking in the rolling dales scenery over the next couple of miles, take a break at Conistone Pie to enjoy spectacular views down the valley and across to the limestone outcrop of Kilnsey Crag. Begin your descent down through a short wooded section before crossing a series of wonderfully typically sheep fields separated by dry stone walls before arriving into Kettlewell for some well-earned refreshments. A bus service runs up and down the Dale so you can hop on a bus back to Grassington.
Favourite site: Bolton Abbey
The magnificent ruins of Bolton Abbey enjoy a prominent position on the banks of the Wharfe. It is not hard to understand why the Franciscan monks chose to build here nearly 900 years ago - it truly is a place for peace and tranquillity.
The ruins of the 12th century priory (one of the most intact in the country) are undoubtedly the star of the show. However, there are a variety of other attractions within the estate which will make a visit to Bolton Abbey a memorable day out. For example, visit unspoilt Strid Wood and take in the dramatic ‘Strid’, a point where the broad river Wharf is forced at great speed through a narrow gap in the rocks. For those looking for more than a gentle stroll, the ascent to the summit of nearby Simon's Seat is definitely worth the effort of the eight mile walk.
Also not to be missed are the famous stepping stones, 57 in total, which provide a fun way to cross the Wharf and approach the ruins. In summer, families can paddle or swim in the shallow sections of the river. Don't forget to take a picnic (including some of the lovely Wensleydale cheese made at the nearby Hawes Creamery!).
Favourite pub: Red Lion Inn, Burnsall
This pub offers all that a good Dales pub should - a great range of local ales (try the Timothy Taylor) and excellent food, a cosy bar area filled with a variety of stuffed animals and a more modern dining room behind. The menu is varied and offers a good selection of dales produce (especially local meats and game).
This pub has developed an excellent reputation and can get very busy so it is worth ringing ahead to book a table, especially at weekends. It also had a very good wifi connection, which can be useful as mobile phone reception is not always strong in this area!
Favourite viewpoint: Conistone Pie
Conistone Pie, an unusually prominent limestone outcrop, sits high above the valley. Standing on top of it, you get fantastic views up and down Wharfedale. If you aren’t tempted to reach it by taking the Dales Way (mentioned above) it is easily reached from the small hamlet of Kilnsey (which is notable for the limestone crag towering over the village). This relatively short - although steep - walk leaves Kilnsey and passes over a picturesque stone bridge to the hamlet of Conistone before climbing up to the ridge through a narrow gorge in the Limestone, known as Conistone Dib.
For those looking to enjoy the spectacular views of this area without the effort, we recommend taking the road out of Kettlewell into adjoining Coverdale, which offers lovely views back over Wharfedale before leading into the relatively unknown, but equally beautiful, Coverdale.