Car-free Guide to the Yorkshire Dales National Park
Updated: Jan 11
As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to the Yorkshire Dales, here is our guide to travelling to and around the Yorkshire Dales without a car.
A. Getting to the Yorkshire Dales without a car:
By Train: The famous Settle – Carlisle railway now starts from Leeds, conveniently linking the fabulous scenery of the Yorkshire Dales with destinations across the country. Both Leeds and Carlisle are served by numerous regular mainline and local trains; a further line runs via the Dales between Leeds and Morecambe.
Stops close to, or within, the Yorkshire Dales National Park include Skipton, Gargrave, Hellifield, Long Preston, and Settle Junction; here the two lines fork – on the Morecambe line, you can alight at Giggleswick, Clapham, or Bentham; whilst the line to/from Carlisle continues on via Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, Dent, and Garsdale.
It is hoped that in a few years, the recently-reopened Wensleydale line will link Northallerton (on the East Coast mainline) to Hawes (and connecting down to Garsdale on the Settle – Carlisle line) via Leyburn and Bedale, as well as various other smaller stops; for the moment it provides a scenic railway journey across part of the Park (more details below).
By Coach or Bus: Both National Express and Megabus run services from destinations across the country to towns in and around the Yorkshire Dales, such as Skipton, Ripon, Harrogate, Northallerton, and Lancaster; as well as an even larger number of services to nearby Leeds for onward connections to the National Park.
B. Getting around without a car:
By Train: Along the Leeds – Settle – Carlisle and Leeds – Morecambe lines, short hops between different destinations in the Dales can be made (see above for list of stations), the Settle – Carlisle line in particular being known for the beautiful scenery that one can see en route.
Whilst the Wensleydale railway is not currently fully connected to the national rail network, its heritage trains are a wonderful way to step back in time and travel along the beautiful Wensleydale valley. Near Skipton, the Embsay and Bolton Abbey steam railway takes you back in time and through some lovely scenery, including the wonderful Bolton Abbey, the starting point for some great walks.
By Bus: The Dales is a large geographical area, and correspondingly, there is a wide network of buses running across the National Park and connecting it to nearby population centres and transport hubs. Various routes run from Skipton, Ilkley, Harrogate, Northallerton and other places well located for visitors arriving by train from the rest of the country. The extremely useful Dales Bus website groups together information about all the different routes and timetables in once place. Links down the side allow you to access the latest timetables for year-round routes, Summer-only bus services, and Winter-only bus services: these are updated regularly. You can also plan your journey by bus and public transport across the Dales with Traveline Yorkshire.
On Summer Sundays and Bank Holidays, you can take the Malham Tarn shuttle bus from Skipton railway station up through some of the Dales’ loveliest scenery to beautiful Malham Cove, England’s highest lake, Malham Tarn, and the famous limestone pavements.
Cycling Cycling in the Yorkshire Dales offers something for just about everyone: from short, flat routes along quiet country lanes along the valley bottoms, to challenging long distance routes and dramatic off-road terrain for mountain bikers. So much so, in fact, that the Grand départ of 2014's Tour de France will travel through the National Park! Be sure to check out the gradients and terrain before setting out, as well as the weather forecast!
Mainline train services usually offer space to keep your bikes, however these spaces are limited and should always be reserved in advance to avoid disappointment, by calling up the train operator, or heading to your local railway station ticket office. Sadly, however, there are not currently facilities to bring bikes by bus to or around the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
The Yorkshire Dales now offers the fantastic option of electric bike hire, an eco-friendly way to allow technology to take some of the weight of your legs and enable you to explore the Dales by bike, maybe even getting up some steeper slopes than you might have imagined! Electric bike hire and charging is available at various points across the National Park, with e-bikhire.com: check out their site for more information, including bike hire points.
There are, of course, plenty of places for traditional bike hire: and often these cycle centres can offer you more than just a couple of wheels for the day. Pop by for friendly local advice, accessories, repairs and more – here are some of the cycle providers operating in the National Park: Dales Bike Centre Off the Rails Mountain Bike Skills Cycle Adventure
You can find a further list of bike providers and businesses in the Yorkshire Dales here.
The choice of routes for cyclists in the Dales is practically endless: check out some great day routes here, or some lengthier cycle touring itineraries, as well as a selection of cycle routes for families. Serious Mountain bikers can get some inspiration for mountain bike trips around the Yorkshire Dales too. The ultimate Dales cycling experience is the 130-mile circular Yorkshire Dales Cycleway, which takes in some of the most spectacular scenery in the National Park.
For more information, discover what Sustrans has been doing for cyclists and sustainable travellers in the Dales and across the country, and check out Greentraveller’s guide to cycling and horseriding in the Yorkshire Dales, the YDNPA's website: Cycle the Dales, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s cycling page.
Maps and further information You can download a useful map on the Yorkshire Dales website, but for more maps, guides, information and expert local advice, head to one of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s visitor centres. The five centres are located in Aysgarth Falls, Grassington, Hawes, Malham, and Reeth.