Guide to Upper Wharfedale

Never far from the River Wharfe, the B6160 road gives dramatic views of Wharfedale from Bolton Abbey up to the river’s source over twenty miles away above Beckermonds. Throughout the valley rocky outcrops mark the hillsides, creating spectacular sights such as Kilnsey Crag.

Long established settlements

Settlers moved up the valley from the east during the 6th and 7th centuries and established the villages of Wharfedale, including Bolton Abbey, Burnsall, Grassington, and Kettlewell. Tenth-century Norse settlers created the farms and hamlets of the upper dale beyond Buckden, then a village on the edge of a Norman hunting forest.

In medieval times Fountains Abbey and Bolton Priory owned great estates in Wharfedale and monks created the pattern of roads and green lanes on the surrounding limestone uplands, with drove roads such as Mastiles Lane above Kilnsey used for moving livestock over large distances.

Following the Dissolution of the monasteries by Henry VIII the area around Bolton Abbey became the property of the Dukes of Devonshire, who developed a parkland character in this part of the valley. Bolton Abbey with its riverside setting, nature trails and the famous Strid is a popular picnic and recreation venue.

Villages and Dales landscapes

The ruins of Barden Tower recall the great Cliffords, with Burnsall dominated by its bridge over the Wharfe. Grassington is the metropolis for the dale, with June's Grassington Festival a major arts and music event. Its Dickensian Festival held on three Saturdays in December is a popular attraction. Car parking in Grassington is at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre.

Beyond Grassington, Grass Wood is an important Nature Reserve, and Kilnsey is noted for its famous crag. In the shadow of the crag, the Kilnsey Show is a leading northern agricultural show held in late August, and includes a Fell Race up and down the crag.

After Kilnsey, the main road has a branch off to Littondale, with links to Malham and Ribblesdale, and continues to Kettlewell where much of the 2003 film Calendar Girls was filmed. Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival is a popular sight in mid-August.

From Kettlewell a wild upland road crosses to Coverdale and Wensleydale, whilst Wharfedale continues via Starbotton to Buckden. Here the B6160 diverges through Bishopdale to Aysgarth in Wensleydale whilst Wharfedale passes Hubberholme's ancient pub and church, then narrows and changes its name to Langstrothdale.

The dale and road continue together, the river tumbling over limestone ledges, past Yockenthwaite to the Wharfe's source above Beckermonds and Oughtershaw.

Bolton Abbey Yockenthwaite Kilnsey Show Hubber Holme
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