The Yorkshire Dales

Joanne Cowdery on 06 April 2013

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The Yorkshire Dales is a diverse and dramatic place worth exploring to retreat from the busy world. It has been a National Park since 1954, with each Dale having its own personality and mood. It can be wild and windswept or quietly tranquil. It includes some of the finest limestone scenery in the UK, from crags and pavements to an underground labyrinth of caves.

Peaceful ancient woodland, gentle undulating hills, steep ascents and sharp drops, heather moorland tops, powerful rivers and wonderful spectacular waterfalls. Stone-built villages sit amongst traditional farming landscapes of field barns, dry stone walls and flower rich hay meadows. Scattered remains of former mine workings and other rural industries which remind us of the area’s rich industrial heritage. And if you explore hard enough you can see the network of drovers’ tracks.

Our week had us based in Wensleydale. pring was very late this year, so we were lucky enough to see plenty of snow and many Swaledale and Dalesbred lambs with their mum’s. Hawes is a great place to be centred at, as you have a diverse area on your doorstep. The Dales Countryside Museum is a good starting off point as it tells you the story of the farmers, former lead miners and landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, past and present. A visit to Hawes would not be complete without a visit to the Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre. Ensure you find out which days the viewing gallery is open as its not open daily, so arrange your visit on one of the days when they are making the lovely creamy, rich cheese. They have a small museum, and a great cheese shop where you can taste all the different types of Wensleydale cheese and then if you wish purchase a block or two! Or you can see rope being spun at the Ropemakers near to the Dales Countryside Museum.

Just outside Hawes is Simonstone Hall, a magnificent country house standing in its own splendid grounds with spectacular views. It’s well worth a visit for a coffee or meal.

Malham Cove is a huge curved limestone cliff at the head of the valley. A former waterfall, it is topped by a fine area of limestone pavement. Go early in the morning, before it’s full of walkers and rock climbers!

Dentdale is a magical place; discover the cobbled streets and hidden surprises tucked away. The impressive viaducts at Denthead and Arten Gill carry the spectacular Settle to Carlisle railway with Dent station being the highest mainline station in England at 1,100 ft.

We also visited a National Trust property - Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden, near Ripon. It is a huge estate of beauty, contrasts and surprises including the largest abbey ruins in the country. It is one of England’s most spectacular Georgian water gardens with statues, surprise views, hidden temples and a deer park.

Many country pubs serve local beer and great food. The Black Sheep Brewery and the Theakston’s Brewery are the two main local Breweries which offer tours and a chance to wet your whistle!

Don’t miss the show caves – a great way to explore the wonders of the Yorkshire Dales cave network including rock formations and passages. Stump Cross Caverns at Greenhow, White Scar Caves near Ingleton, How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale or Ingleborough Cave near Clapham. Or, for the big kid in everyone, head to the Forbidden Corner near Middleham – admission is by pre-booked tickets only. This is an amazing place with a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises around each corner in a 4 acre garden.

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