Guide to the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales is famous for outstanding scenery, unspoilt countryside, diverse wildlife habitats, and a rich cultural heritage. In recognition of these features, 1769 square kilometres in the counties of North Yorkshire and Cumbria was designated a national park in 1954, and this was extended in 2013.

The Pennine hills in the north of England traverse the Yorkshire Dales. To the south of the Dales is West Yorkshire while to the north thinly settled uplands stretch to the Tees and beyond into Scotland. The scattered farms, villages and small market towns of the Dales have generated their own community spirit.

Ancient settlements

People have lived in the area for over 10,000 years. Early farmers cleared the woodland and developed the fields, creating the patchwork of dry-stone walls and barns so typical of the Dales. In the northern parts, lead mining has left a legacy in the form of disused mineral workings.

The timeless way of life for Dales farmers of sheep on the fells, hay meadows in the valley bottoms has created a landscape appreciated by residents and visitors alike. As the economics of farming have worsened, a growth in home working, aided in some areas by fast broadband, has helped maintain the spirit of communities.

Dales of different character

The Southern Dales of Wharfedale and Littondale are less remote, and attract day visitors as well as staying guests, many coming through the market town of Skipton, the 'gateway to the Dales'.

The Northern Dales of Swaledale and Wensleydale provide rugged scenery for walking and sightseeing, centred on the market towns of Hawes and Leyburn in Wensleydale, and Reeth in Swaledale.

The scenery of the Western Dales is dominated by the Three Peaks of Ingleborough, Whernside and Penyghent, with underground cave systems carved out from the limestone by water erosion over the millennia. Villages and small towns such as Ingleton and Settle have their own charm.

Nidderdale in the Eastern Dales offers a more gentle scenery, with towns such as Ripon and Knaresborough closely associated with the nearby spa town of Harrogate. Throughout the Dales there is a variety of accommodation, and varied attractions for the visitor to enjoy.

The Yorkshire Dales can be visited all-year-round. On this website you can find snug country pubs, friendly bed and breakfasts, well-equipped cottages, and country hotels. In the Dales you will find a fascinating landscape and many things to see and do.

A typical dales landscape Sheep on the fells Halton Gill, a typical Dales village
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