Dales days out
Whatever your requirements from a day out, the Yorkshire Dales can deliver. There really is something for everyone, whether you are looking for excitement and fun or relaxation and tranquillity. So what to do first? How about a day out with a difference and one you are unlikely to forget? The Forbidden Corner, near Middleham, in Coverdale is billed as ‘the strangest place in the world’.
The attraction is not easily described but features a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises. Visitors will come across the temple of the underworld, the eye of the needle, a huge pyramid made of translucent glass, paths and passages that lead nowhere and extraordinary statues. Around every corner there are puzzles to be solved and tricks to avoid. The Forbidden Corner is the brainchild of owner Colin Armstrong. It was originally built as a private folly but was opened to visitors due to public demand. Booking is essential. Not too far away are the falls at Aysgarth, a must-visit if you are in the area.
Although not particularly high, the three falls – upper, middle and lower – are still impressive, especially when the River Ure is in spate. Don’t forget your cameras as no trip to the Dales is complete without a photo of the river from the bridge. The National Park Authority runs a visitor centre near the falls and the riverbank above the upper falls is an ideal place for a picnic and a paddle. There are also several cafes at the Falls, as well as the Aysgarth Falls Hotel on the main road towards the village.
A few miles away is another popular Dales waterfall which, like the waterfalls at Aysgarth, was used in the Kevin Costner film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. At 100ft high, Hardraw Force is Britain’s largest single-drop waterfall and, if you’re feeling brave, you can walk behind the falls, although beware as the wet rocks can be very slippy. The path leading to the falls is level, gravelled and suitable for wheelchair access with care.
There really is something for everyone, whether you are looking for excitement and fun or relaxation and tranquillity
Trains and castles
If you would like a more leisurely day, the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway invites visitors to take a ride behind one of their vintage steam locomotives. The four miles of track takes passengers through stunning countryside from the pretty village of Embsay to Bolton Abbey in lovingly-restored Victorian and Edwardian carriages. Passengers can hop off mid-journey at Holywell Halt and watch the trains go by.
Alternatively, in the north of the park the Wensleydale Railway runs a regular service in the summer and weekend services at other times. If you are lucky your visit may even coincide with a steam train service which operates throughout the year, particularly on special occasions and for events. Currently the trains stop at Redmire but plans are being developed to continue the line up the dale to Aysgarth and beyond. The aim is to one day meet back up with the Settle-Carlisle line in the west. Volunteers in charge of the line also eventually hope to connect to the East Coast Main Line.
A popular excursion with visitors is to get the train to Redmire and then walk a mile across fields to Bolton Castle. The castle is one of the best-preserved examples in the country. It was originally built 600 years ago as one of the finest and most luxurious homes in the land. The castle is still in the private ownership of Lord Bolton, the direct descendant of the castle’s original owner, Sir Richard le Scrope.
Many of the castle’s rooms and features, including the dungeon, stables and armoury, remain intact and are great fun for visitors of all ages to explore, although it is not suitable for wheelchairs. On a clear day the view from the top of the tower is breathtaking. Outside the castle there is a traditional walled garden, a herb garden and a vineyard, as well as wild boar which appear at feeding time.
A popular excursion with visitors is to get the train to Redmire and then walk a mile across fields to Bolton Castle
White Scar Cave, near Ingleton, is a popular day out which takes advantage of the Park’s natural features. Tours of the longest show cave in the UK are available all year round. Underground waterfalls, stalactites, stalagmites and other natural limestone formations can be seen as the tour makes its way towards the impressive Battlefield Chamber – a huge cavern formed by glacial flood waters during the last ice age.
For the experienced caver with the right equipment, there are many more tunnels and caverns to explore. Just as impressive is Ingleborough Cave, near Clapham. The cave features a stunning range of cave formations and is good for a rainy day, with guides claiming that the wetter the weather the more spectacular the cave’s features.
Another idea for a wet day is watching cheese being hand-made at the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. As well as a museum revealing how the production of Wensleydale Cheese has evolved over the centuries, visitors can watch staff still making cheese using the time-honoured skills of cutting, stirring, pitching and salting.
Another popular Hawes attraction is the National Park Authority-run Dales Countryside Museum. The museum, housed in the town’s old railway station, tells the story of the people and landscape of the Yorkshire Dales. Displays interpret the development of the Dales from prehistoric times to the present day. The museum features regular exhibitions and events. Next to the museum is Hawes Ropemakers where you can see ropes being made in the same way they have for centuries. The company, which makes everything from dog leads to banister ropes, ships its products to 20 different countries across the globe.
Days gone by
The Dentdale Heritage Centre, in Dent, near Settle, features a wealth of information on the working lives and social customs of the Dales folk who inhabited the area in years gone by. Many of the items on display have come from the collection of Jim and Margaret Taylor of High Laning Farm, who were the centre’s founders.
In the south of the Park lies Bolton Abbey, where visitors can explore the ruins of the priory and almost 30,000 acres of surrounding countryside. The estate features more than 80 miles of footpaths along the side of the River Wharfe, through woodland and across moors. And when you’re ready for a rest there are shops, restaurants and tea rooms to provide refreshments.
Kilnsey Park, between Grassington and Kettlewell, is another family favourite. As well as a working fish farm and lakes packed with brown, rainbow and golden trout for fly fishing, there are trails, a restaurant and farm shop. Don’t forget to get some fish food as there are lots of hungry trout to be fed. The pygmy goats might like a nibble too! There is even a junior fishing pond where the younger members of the family can try to catch supper. The ponds are teeming with fish and there is every chance they will be successful!
Every year, hundreds of thousands of people come to the Dales to enjoy the fantastic opportunities for walking or cycling. The Pennine Way and Coast to Coast routes both cross the Park, with the Pennine Bridleway now also passing through the area. There are many other footpaths and bridleways criss-crossing the Park and the new open access laws mean you are now free to walk on more than 100,000 hectares of land covering 62 per cent of the National Park. In 2017, work began on the Swale Trail – a new, easy-going family mountain bike trail that will run along the length of Swaledale, between Reeth and Keld.
Natural delights and beauty spots can be found in abundance. These include the breathtaking Malham Cove, near Malham, in the south of the Park. The magnificent curved limestone cliff lies at the head of a valley, with the famous limestone pavement at the top. At the foot of the cove is a viewpoint run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and the RSPB where you can watch peregrine falcons swoop and dive. The impressive birds of prey have nested at Malham Cove since 1993. The viewpoint is open, weather permitting, every Saturday to Wednesday.
If you like wildlife there is also the opportunity to go red squirrel spotting. The native animals have made a welcome return to the Park in recent years and the Snaizeholme red squirrel viewing area at Widdale Red Squirrel Reserve near Hawes is the ideal place to catch a glimpse. Although coniferous woodland is ideal habitat for red squirrels, they can be difficult to see in such densely planted woodlands. The Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority and local landowners have created the red squirrel viewing area for the public at Snaizeholme, so you can see the delightful animals in the wild.
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