We could write a book on our favourite places in our home of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The footpaths, bridleways, rivers and open moorland could fill weeks for those who love the great outdoors, but if you only have a few days in the area, here are our top picks.
Favourite Easy(ish) Walk: The Malham Landscape Trail (4.5 miles)
The limestone scenery around Malham is one of the most famous features of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, so you are unlikely to have this walk to yourself on anything but the quietest winter’s day, but it is popular for a reason and the stunning and unique geology of the area is well worth sticking to the beaten path for.
Not far out of the village of Malham you immediately come across the huge limestone amphitheatre of Malham Cove looming in front of you (often with rock climbers trying out the challenging routes). Head straight for the cove then take the steep path, mostly stepped, up the left hand side, to bring you out on the fascinating ‘limestone pavement’ at the top, from where you have a stunning view across Malhamdale and the southern Dales.
Cross field and moor to drop down to the road before heading into another highlight of the walk – Gordale Scar, a huge gorge with a waterfall running through it. Once you have admired the gorge, backtrack to the road then head through woodland to another pretty waterfall, Janet’s Foss, before heading back across fields to Malham.
If you are feeling active, this walk can be extended – walk it in reverse and, when you get to Gordale Scar, rather than back-tracking, you can scramble up the waterfall (possible in all but spate conditions) and emerge on the moors above. Cross the moorland to reach Malham Tarn, one of only two natural lakes in the Dales, and then down the ‘dry valley’ to the top of Malham Cove and back to the village.
Once back, treat yourself to a pint or a hearty meal in one of our favourite pubs, the Lister Arms (see previous blog ‘the best pubs in the Yorkshire Dales’ in October 2014). See the link to the walk description below.
Favourite Hard Walk: The Yorkshire Three Peaks
The Yorkshire Dales don’t offer the same mountain summits as its neighbouring National Park, the Lake District, but there are still some challenging hill walks with fantastic views on offer.
The area north of Settle, on either side of Ribblesdale, is known as ‘three peaks country’ as it is home to three of Yorkshire’s highest peaks, and certainly the most well-known – Ingleborough, Pen-y-ghent and Whernside.
Each summit makes a fantastic day walk on its own and our favourite is the ascent of Whernside, to the highest point in Yorkshire. The walk starts from the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct, a stunning feat of Victorian engineering. A pretty ascent takes you to the summit ridge, from where there are fantastic views across Morecambe Bay and the Lake District to the west, as well as the surrounding Yorkshire Dales. A steep descent is testing on the knees before a flatter route across farmland back to the start.
If you are looking for more of a challenge, you can easily combine two summits or take on the classic ‘Yorkshire Three peaks Challenge’, taking in all three peaks in a 24 mile route that must be completed within 12 hours.
Routes for each peak as well as the 24 mile challenge walk are available on the Yorkshire Dales National park Website (link below).
Favourite Pub: The Foresters Arms
Good country pubs are not hard to find in the Dales so, wherever you are, it is easy to stumble across a cosy fireside at which to enjoy a pint of local ale.
However, if forced to pick a favourite, we would go for the Foresters Arms in the small village of Carlton-in-Coverdale. Coverdale is a quiet place, not troubled by tourist crowds and home to only a handful of small villages.
Part way up the dale, Carlton is a pretty linear village with several impressive properties. The Foresters certainly remains the heart of the community as it is actually a community pub – taken over by the villagers to save it from closer a few years ago.
It offers everything you could look for in a good country pub – pretty setting, warm welcome, roaring fire, a good selection of local ales and hearty but good quality meals!
Other favourites include: the Green Dragon in Hardraw, with its wonderful historic features and access to England’s highest single drop waterfall; the Bluebell in Kettlewell, which is great for cosy winters drinks by the fire and watching the world go by on the outside tables in summer; and the Charles Bathurst Inn (or ‘CB Inn’) in remote Arkengarthdale, north of Reeth, with its inviting mixture of historic character and modern touches as well as great food and a fantastic setting.
Favourite Sight: Middleham Castle
Strictly speaking, just outside the National Park, the small village of Middleham has a couple of claims to fame. Today, it is the home of many first class racing stables, including one of Britain’s most well-known trainer’s, Mark Johnston, stables. You will often see impressive race horses passing through the village heading for the gallops on the hillside behind (as well as lots of stable hands in the village pubs in the evening!).
However, it has an even more impressive history. Middleham Castle was the childhood home of King Richard III and, in the ownership of the powerful Neville family, was once the powerhouse of Northern England. Richard ruled the north from Middleham while his brother, Edward IV, was on the thrown, before becoming king himself following Edward’s death (and the disappearance of his sons and heirs, the ‘princes in the tower’).
The ruins of Middleham Castle still sit on the village edge and are in the ownership of English Heritage. You can look around the ruins, climb one of the towers for great views of the surrounding area, and learn more on the history of the castle.
Favourite Village: West Burton
Tucked away in Bishopdale, an off-shoot of Wensleydale, and set on a dead-end road, you’ll only find yourself in West Burton if you are looking for it! If you do track it down, you will be in one of the most picturesque villages in the Dales, if not the country, with an eclectic collection of period architecture lining both sides of the large village green.
The green is the heart of the village and you’ll often see children from the local school playing on it or sheep being herded across it! It is also used to host several village events during the year, including the popular May Fair and Bonfire Night.
West Burton is a peaceful place but has enough to keep a visitor entertained, including a butchers, antiques shop, a couple of craft shops and a village pub. Don’t miss ‘Cauldron Force’, hidden away on the edge of the village down a track at the bottom of the green. This waterfall is set in a stone ‘cauldron’ – picture-perfect and peaceful in summer; a raging torrent after autumnal rains! Visit at the right time of year and you can see salmon leaping up the beck to spawn in the pool beneath the falls.
As an alternative to coming by car, West Burton is reached on a fantastic circular walk from the more well-known Aysgarth Falls (link to walk description below).
If you would like some help planning your trip to the Yorkshire Dales or anywhere else in Britain, just get in touch.