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North Yorkshire and the Dales cultural attractions

North Yorkshire and the Dales is a destination steeped in arts and culture. To discover artists working in the Northern Dales, follow the Swaledale and Wensleydale Arts and Crafts Trail. They are a diverse group working with a wide variety of materials including wood and wools, metal and glass, clay and candle wax, rope, felt and copper. The artists’ workshops can be found at Muker and Reeth in Swaledale, and Hawes, Hardraw, West Burton and Wensley in Wensleydale. The Dales Centre is a collective of designers and makers in working studios and workshops. They include sculptor Stef Ottevanger who makes individual sculptures of pets, sheep, horses and wildlife cast in bronzed resin. Another sculptor based at the Dales Centre is Michael Kusz at Graculus Sculptures, whose work is inspired by the magical and mythical, while the nearby Nutmeg Company produces 3D cross stitch designs.

For music lovers, the Swaledale Festival has been attracting crowds to the Dales since the early 1980s. It features more than 50 events spread over a summer fortnight, including classical, folk, jazz, brass bands, poetry, drama, art exhibitions and guided walks. Sedbergh, which has been given the title of England’s book town because of the number of book shops and book-related businesses it contained, holds several literary festivals and events throughout the year, including a festival of books and drama in September.

Richmond has a number of excellent galleries, including those of painters Mackenzie Thorpe and Lucy Pittaway, who both have large followings around the country. The town plays host to a number of popular festivals throughout the year, including the Walking and Book Festival, which takes place every autumn. The Georgian Theatre Royal is Britain’s most complete Georgian playhouse. Ripon Cathedral is a beautiful church with a history reaching back to the 7th century. It is open every day and is free to enter. The cathedral runs several choirs which perform at public events and concerts. The church is also the venue for the Great North Art Show, an annual exhibition in August and September which featuring contemporary art by professional and emerging artists with connections to the north of England.

The North York Moors has a vibrant arts scene with numerous venues and events planned throughout the year. The annual Ryedale Festival, which takes place in July, welcomes performers from all over the world, both established and emerging. The festival makes use of spectacular venues in and around Ryedale, including Castle Howard, Hovingham Hall, Duncombe Park, Birdsall House and Sledmere, as well as in Ampleforth Abbey and Scarborough. Grassington Festival, which has been running for more than 30 years, provides a lively mix of music, dance, street theatre, workshops, talks, walks and creative challenges.

Our picks

Ripon Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral

Minster Rd, Ripon HG4 1QT

Ripon Cathedral is a beautiful, ancient church with a history reaching back to the 7th century. The first stone church was founded by St Wilfrid and dedicated in 672. The crypt remains from this time and is a highlight of any visit. Not to be missed are the medieval choir stalls which inspired Lewis Carroll, the author of Alice in Wonderland. You can also follow in the footsteps of Wilfred Owen, the war poet as he recuperated here during the First World War and wrote many of his famous poems, before returning to the front to die. Ripon Cathedral has a strong musical tradition with a choir, who sing six services each week as well as several special events throughout the year. The cathedral holds several services a day and a series of musical concerts – open to all who may be interested. Visit website

Georgian Theatre Royal
Stage performance

Victoria Rd, Richmond DL10 4DW

Built in 1788, the Georgian Theatre Royal is Britain’s oldest working theatre in its original form. The theatre has a full programme of live performances and you can also take a historic guided tour. Tours run Mon-Sat from mid-February to the end of October. They run on the hour from 10am until 4pm. Visit website

Dales Countryside Museum
Dales Countryside Museum

Burtersett Road, Station Yard, Hawes DL8 3NT

The Dales Countryside Museum is a fascinating museum that is managed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. It tells the story of the people and landscape of the Yorkshire Dales past and present, and stimulates visitors to think about its future. The museum collects and shares the stories and objects that are special to the people and communities linked with the Yorkshire Dales. Visit website

Farfield Mill

Garsdale Rd, Sedbergh LA10 5LW

Four floors of inspiration await you at Farfield Mill, a vibrant arts and heritage centre. Housed in a restored Victorian woollen mill on the edge of Cumbria and Yorkshire, it is now the leading venue for textile arts in the North West. Heritage displays, working looms, regularly changing exhibitions, craft demonstrations, art and craft for sale by resident and visiting artists, workshops and events – plus delicious food in Weavers Cafe. Visit website

World of James Herriot

23 Kirkgate, Thirsk YO7 1PL

James Alfred Wight, who wrote under the pseudonym of James Herriot, became one of the most popular writers of the 20th century. His books, a series of stories based on his experiences as a young veterinary surgeon working among the farming community of North Yorkshire, sold in their millions throughout the world. Their great success resulted in two feature films in the mid 1970s, followed by a television series, All Creatures Great and Small, which enjoyed global success in the late 1970s and early 80s. Alfred Wight died in 1995 but his books still sell, the television series is still played throughout the world, and thousands of visitors continue to flock to the World of James Herriot, which was established in 1999 in his hometown of Thirsk, North Yorkshire. Visit website

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Image credits: ©Arkady Chubykin/PixHound/; Dales Countryside Museum; Grassington Festival;

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