Local Attractions in the Yorkshire Dales

As part of our Green Traveller's Guide to The Yorkshire Dales, Paul Bloomfield picks out a selection of historic sites, parks, shops and natural attractions in this popular National Park in the north of England.

It is, of course, the beauty of the natural landscape that draws many visitors to the Dales. Tumbling waterfalls, unusual rock formations like Malham Cove’s Limestone Pavement and cave networks are part of the attraction.


Children will love visiting open farms where they can meet the animals and learn about farmyard life. Kilnsey Park offers nature trails, while the Forbidden Corner is an enchanting secret garden of tunnels and grottoes. With its rich and varied past, there’s no shortage of historic sites too, from imposing castles and abbey ruins to 19th century mills, now restored to full working order. Several excellent museums sucha the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes tell the story of the people and the landscape.

The area’s full of skilled craftsmen too – watch the ‘bodger’ at work in Strid woods (or join one of his courses), or visit specialist shops for locally-produced goods, from White Rose Candles in Wensley to Sophie’s Wild Woollens in Dent.


Bolton Abbey

On the banks of the River Wharfe, the Bolton Abbey estate covers almost 30,000 acres, with 80 miles of footpaths along the river and through woods and moorland. The ruins of the 12th century Priory are a key attraction, and atmospheric at all times of the year. Strid wood – where the river becomes suddenly narrow – can be explored with the Bolton Abbey I Spy cards – a great way to get children interacting with the natural world. boltonabbey.com

Bolton Castle

One of the best-preserved medieval castles in the country, there’s lots to do here with archery demonstrations, falconry displays, wild boar feeding and traditional games brining the castle to life for visitors of all ages. Wander through the dungeons, old kitchens and Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom and refuel in the tea room with hog roast sandwiches or pre-order a picnic for eating in the grounds if the weather’s good. boltoncastle.co.uk

Dales Countryside Museum

For an insight into the people and landscape of the Dales, past and present, this museum is top-notch. Housed in a converted railway station there are plenty of interactive exhibits to keep children interested and everything from home life to religion, farming and tourism is covered. Managed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority the museum is free for children. yorkshiredales.org.uk

Farfield Mill

Housed in a restored Victorian woollen mill on the border between Cumbria and Yorkshire, Farfield is an arts and heritage centre and leading venue for textile arts. You can see working looms, check out the changing exhibitions, events and workshops, and buy work by local artists and craftspeople in the retail galleries (the gorgeous rugs are hard to resist). farfieldmill.org

Gayle Mill

Step back in time at this 19th-century sawmill which is full working order after a comprehensive restoration project. Join a special guided demonstration tour to see water-powered Victorian machinery in action (it dates from 1879), and get a glimpse into what life was like for workers at the mill. Book in advance. gaylemill.org.uk

The Folly

Close to the centre of Settle, The Folly was built by wealthy lawyer Richard Preston in 1679. Grade I listed, it’s a striking piece of architecture and was recently restored by the North Craven Building Preservation Trust. The Folly house the Museum of North Craven Life with exhibits on local history. Part of the building is available as a holiday let too. thefolly.org.uk

Swaledale Museum

Housed in the 19th century Medthodist Day School in the centre of Reeth the Swaledale Museum is a lovely museum run by volunteers. Any questions you could possibly have about the area are answered here in interactive style – from the geological make up of the region, to its development as a lead mining centre to the local crafts and lifestyle. swaledalemuseum.org

Grassington Folk Museum

This small but perfectly formed museum housed in a cottage on the village square dating from the 1720s takes visitors through the history of Grassington. You might be surprised to learn that the village played a key role in the Industrial Revolution, with local textile mills flourishing and bringing wealth to the area. grassingtonfolkmuseum.org.uk

The Forbidden Corner

Its claim to be ‘the strangest place in the world’ might be a bit exaggerated, but The Forbidden Corner in Middleham is definitely an unusual attraction. Originally a private folly, the bewitching garden is home to a labyrinth of tunnels, grottoes and works of art. There’s no map – just pick up a checklist and tick off what you see as you wander. theforbiddencorner.co.uk

Hazel Brow Farm

Experience the magic of a traditional family-run farm in beautiful Swaledale at Hazel Brow. Children will love meeting the animals on a guided tour – you can feed the hens, gather eggs, meet the pigs… Visit in April and you may even see a lamb being born. There’s a play area for children too and nature trail along the riverbank. Open from April to September. hazelbrow.co.uk

Kilnsey Park

Follow the Kilnsey Trail through the park to discover wildlife roaming freely – look out for ducks, geese and hen – and discover red squirrel enclosures, water meadows, a butterfly garden and working trout farm. Kids can hunt for clues and hidden objects, adults can turn their hand to fly fishing, and there’s a great farm shop stuffed with local goods and restaurant selling homemade fare. kilnseypark.co.uk

Parcevall Hall Gardens

Garden lovers shouldn’t miss Parcevall Hall at the heart of Wharfedale. Discover 24 acres of formal and woodland gardens laid out by Sir William Milner in the 1920s. Plants from around the world feature here – from Western China to the Himalayas – and the gardens continue to evolve. parcevallhallgardens.co.uk

Hesketh Farm Park

Hesketh Farm Park, a working beef and sheep farm on the Bolton Abbey estate, is a great place to while away a wet afternoon. There's plenty to keep little ones entertained, from feeding the animals and playing hide and seek in the straw bale maze, to racing around on pedal tractors. There are outdoor paddocks with lovely picnic spots, and tractor and trailer tours of the farm for sunnier weather. heskethfarmpark.co.uk

White Rose Candles

Based in the old watermill in the village of Wensley, White Rose Candles is a small family business which makes candles from bees wax and paraffin wax using traditional dipping and casting methods. Visit the workshop to see the art in practise and browse the range of varied colours, shapes and scents before you buy. yorkshirenet.co.uk/craftgde/whiterosecandles/

Sophie’s Wild Woollens

Yorkshire and Cumbria have a long tradition of knitting – in the 18th century hand-knitted socks and gloves from here were exported all over the world. Sophie’s Wild Woollens continues the tradition with designer knitwear made and hand-finished in Dent. Only fine yarns are used for the distinctive designs – perfect for cosing up in the colder weather. sophieswildwoollens.co.uk

Hawes Ropemakers

Ever wondered how rope is made? No? Well maybe you should because traditional ropemaking is actually a rather interesting, and little-known, art. See how thin strands of yarn are turned into sturdy ropes of all kinds in the lovely market town of Hawes. ropemakers.co.uk

Ingleton Pottery

The oldest established working pottery in the Yorkshire Dales, this is a small family-run business which makes beautiful stoneware pottery by hand. See potters at work in the showroom (out of season ring first to check times) and shop for gorgeous hand-fired, hand-thrown and hand-decorated items from garden pots to tableware. ingletonpottery.co.uk

Wensleydale Longwool Sheepshop

There’s been a revival of the art of knitting in recent years – but here in Wensleydale the tradition never waned. The Wensleydale Sheepshop, outside Leyburn in the heart of the Dales, has everything for knitters of all levels – as well as finished garments for those who prefer to have them ready-made – with the softest Wensleydale wool available in a spectrum of colours. wensleydalelongwool.co.uk

Andrea Hunter

In the lovely village of Hardraw, Andrea Hunter’s felt studio and gallery showcases her amazing felt creations. Using layers of material instead of paint she captures the beauty of Dales in all seasons and its wildlife. Workshops in felt picture making are also held at the studio should you want to try your hand. focusonfelt.co.uk

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

This 4.5 mile-long circular trail winds through ancient woodland and across the Dales, taking in several spectacular waterfalls along the way. After Pecca Bridge you’ll discover the five Pecca Falls, dropping some 30 metres into the river below. Thronton Force is perhaps the most impressive waterfall on the trail, plunging over a limestone cliff. ingletonwaterfallstrail.co.uk

White Scar Caves

Discovered in 1923 by amateur geologist Christopher Long, White Scar offers the longest cave tour in Britain. From waterfalls to rocks shaped like ‘witch’s fingers’ or the ‘devil’s tongue’ the subterranean landscape is varied and beautiful and includes Battlefield, one of the largest know cave chambers in the country. whitescarcave.co.uk

Hardraw Force

Hardraw Force is England's longest single drop waterfall at 100m. Visitors can climb up the worn stone steps and watch the cascade from the top. hardrawforce.com

Stump Cross Caverns

A complex limestone cave system, which runs for almost 6km, Stump Cross offers a magical world of stalactites and stalagmites to explore. First discovered in 1860 by miners looking for lead seams, the caves were opened to tourists in the 1920s. Watch a film about the caverns’ history and geology and then explore the show caves – deeper caverns are only accessible to experienced cavers. In the visitor’s centre you can see the remains of wolverines – a giant member of the weasel family that were discovered here. stumpcrosscaverns.co.uk


For information on local food and drink, nearby visitor attractions and activities, see our

Green Traveller's Guide to The Yorkshire Dales


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