Shopping in the Yorkshire Dales can be a hugely enjoyable experience, not least because you often have the chance to purchase items from the person who produced them. The area has a large contingent of artists and craftspeople, as well as an increasing number of artisan food and drink producers, who take their inspiration from the Dales landscapes, history and traditions to create work that you may well want to sample or take home.
Interesting and unique independent shops can also be found in many of the market towns and bigger villages, some of which have been owned by the same family for generations. While designer labels, the latest fashions or high-tech gadgetry may not be available, there are numerous specialist shops with friendly and knowledgeable staff which sell quality local produce, unique artwork and crafts, and unusual gifts to take home.
The majority of shops can be found in the Dales’ bigger market towns of Hawes, Grassington and Sedbergh, or just outside the Park’s boundaries at Ripon, Skipton, Harrogate and Leyburn. Most of Sedbergh’s shops are on the historic and picturesque Main Street. It offers a wide range of quirky and interesting stores.
Shopping in the Yorkshire Dales can be a hugely enjoyable experience, not least because you often have the chance to purchase items from the person who produced them
Sedbergh is known as a book town, meaning it has a community of businesses involved in selling, writing, publishing and designing books and other publications. The Sedbergh book town project was started after the foot and mouth disease outbreak in order to encourage more visitors and to grow the local economy.
The company, Sedbergh Book Town, was set up with an excellent base to build upon, with a book maker, writers and several book-selling businesses already based locally. Since then more bookshops have opened and, in Sedbergh has been officially recognised as England’s book town when it was elected into the International Organisation of Book Towns.
Westwood Books, in Long Lane, is the biggest book shop in the Dales, with a stock of more than 70,000 titles, including antiquarian, second-hand and new books. Its owners say that none of the stock in the shop is for sale on the internet, so it is a book browser’s paradise. For those shoppers who grow tired of books, a visit to The Green Door may be in order. The traditional confectioners and sweet shop is located in the historic 17th-century 35 Main Street, which has been a shop for several hundred years and has been a sweet shop since the early 1900s and possibly earlier.
And for something a little different to take home, pop in to the Craftworkshop in Main Street which provides the base for a co-operative of around 20 local people as a place who meet, make, share and sell crafts – in that order. Everything is hand-made within a 15-mile radius and the shop is staffed entirely by volunteers who use the shop to undertake their respective crafts.
The Sedbergh book town project was started after the foot and mouth disease outbreak in order to encourage more visitors and to grow the local economy
Farfield Clothing in Sedbergh is well worth a visit if you are in the mood for some unique outdoor clothing for adults and children. The clothing uses fleece made in Yorkshire and now sells across Europe and Japan. And since the factory is upstairs, designs can be altered if needed.
Grassington has numerous excellent, independent shops, like renowned butchers Colin Robinson, in Main Street. The shop has its own herd of large, white cross Saddleback pigs, which are said to produce pork with an outstanding flavour and legendary crackling. They are also used for the shop’s numerous varieties of award-winning sausages. Try the shop’s dry-cured bacon and you may never buy supermarket bacon again.
Further along Main Street is the tempting Chocolace, which sells teddy bears and confectionery, as well as a wide range of gifts and cards.
Robert Bunney country clothing, in Main Street, sells quality men’s clothing, including specialist items for fishing, shooting, riding and walking. The store specialises in tweed jackets, as well as headwear and footwear.
For a truly special purchase, lovers of hand-made furniture may wish to visit The Royal Oak Furniture Company in Moor Lane. The company was established in 1977 after Janet Kent bought a dresser made by local joiners. Husband Paul thought he could do better and built one himself.
Mrs Kent then tried to sell the dresser made by the local joiners but everyone who came to see it preferred her husband’s furniture, and commissioned him to make a piece for them. The couple moved from Leeds to Otley, before taking a gamble and buying premises in Grassington in 1985. Mr and Mrs Kent remain at the helm of the company, but have now been joined by their son, Mark, who works alongside them designing new ranges and working with customers on bespoke commissions.
The clothing uses fleece made in Yorkshire and now sells across Europe and Japan, and, since the factory is upstairs, designs can be altered if needed
In Hawes, award-winning grocers Elijah Allen and Son is worth a trip on its own. The family business was started in 1860 by the current shopkeeper’s great, great grandfather, Thomas Allen. He had livery horses which he would hire out for carts, funerals and even weddings. He decided to diversify and had the good idea of filling a cart with food supplies to sell to the hundreds of navvies working on the railway line and viaduct a few miles away at Ribblehead.
Every week he packed his cart with provisions such as tea, salt, sugar, eggs and tobacco. The local butcher came as well and off they went – with a shotgun under the seat in case of trouble. These days the store boasts an outstanding array of locally-sourced food, including more than 20 cheeses from the Wensleydale Creamery and a similar number of Yorkshire bottled beers, including both Black Sheep and Theakstons from Masham, and bottles from the Yorkshire Dales Brewing Company, just down the road in Askrigg.
If beer is not your thing, try the home-made fruit cake which is something special. Elsewhere in the town, you will find a wide selection of craft, antique and speciality shops. Family owned Sturmans Antiques, in Main Street, has a large range of period furniture – usually around 70 pieces – and wide choice of Moorcroft pottery, as well as more than 50 working barometers.
Just around the corner there is the intriguing Cellar Antiques – another family business which sells everything from pots, candle sticks and clocks, but specialises in early oak furniture.
If you need a new pair of walking boots or a waterproof coat, Three Peaks outdoor shop, in Town Foot, is one of a growing number of businesses in the Dales which have branched out to sell on-line, but still maintains a well-stocked bricks-and-mortar store including clothing and footwear from brands such as Berghaus and Craghoppers.
For gifts, curios and homeware, there’s the delightful The Mulberry Bush, in Main Street. Electrical appliance retailer JR Iveson is something of an institution, with many people in the Dales refusing to buy their electronics elsewhere because of the friendly and helpful service they receive. Hawes bookshop Bloomindales is packed to the ceiling with old books, maps and other publications.
These days the store boasts an outstanding array of locally-sourced food, including more than 20 cheeses from the Wensleydale Creamery
Outside the main market towns, you may stumble on unexpected shopping opportunities in the unlikeliest of places. An example is Swaledale Woollens in Muker. The shop sells beautiful knitted clothing produced by around 30 local people who knit in their own homes using wool from Swaledale and Wensleydale sheep. The shop has revived a tradition which dates back to the time of Elizabeth I who set a new fashion by wearing hand-knitted stockings. With demand increasing, every family in the Dale – men, women and children – became involved in knitting woollen stockings.
By the end of the 19th century, however, the lead mines were gradually closing and changes in fashions, together with the arrival of knitting machines, ended most of the Dales hand-knitting trade. Swaledale Woollens opened in the 1970s. Today the shop is run by Ken and Gillian Whitehead, local Swaledale sheep farmers from the neighbouring village of Thwaite.
Easily missed, but not as easily forgotten if you do call in, is Withywood Stores, in West Witton. Fondly known as Arkwright’s by the locals, the shop has everything you could need for a weekend break in the Dales – plus a lot more besides, including delicious fairy cakes and great locally-made pies. The upsurge in interest for local produce has seen a number of excellent farm shops spring up across the area.
The owners of the Town End Farm Shop and Tea Room on the outskirts of Airton, Malhamdale, breed and rear their own grass-fed lamb, traditional breed cattle and rare breed pork, which is then served in the tea room and sold in the store. The farm shop also stocks real ales from small, local breweries including Copper Dragon from nearby Skipton.
The shop sells beautiful knitted clothing produced by around 30 local people who knit in their own homes using wool from Swaledale and Wensleydale sheep
Even further off the beaten track is another family company specialising in local produce. Raydale Preserves, in Stalling Busk, near Askrigg, was established on the family farm by husband and wife team Lesley and Derek Kettlewell in 1978. The couple converted a farm building to house a fully-equipped production area, however everything is still done by hand.
All products are made traditionally in small pans, with all soft fruits sourced from a North Yorkshire fruit farm. As well as sampling and buying the chutneys, jams and preserves, a series of walks around the farm have been created to take in the magnificent views Raydale has to offer. A percentage of the profits generated by Raydale Preserves is used to maintain the upkeep of the local landscape.
The company has already helped to restore dry stone walls, dry stone barns, a monastic sheep wash and replanted ancient woodland. Just outside the National Park on the A66 near Ravensworth is the large Mainsgill Farmshop & Tearoom which has a huge selection of local produce, as well as clothing, gifts and a whole lot more, including an excellent children’s play area for the younger family members to enjoy while you shop. You can also meet the farm livestock which includes cows, sheep and camels.
If you’ve had your fill of local produce, how about a grand piano? Yorkshire Pianos, on the Bolton Abbey estate at the southern-most tip of the National Park, claims to have the biggest selection of grand and upright pianos in the north of England. Elsewhere on the estate you will find a rare book shop, gift shops and a shop called A Good Idea which sells unique hand-painted Art Deco-style furniture and a collection of reclamation and salvage pieces.
As well as sampling and buying the chutneys, jams and preserves, a series of walks around the farm have been created to take in the magnificent views Raydale has to offer
Shopping in Harrogate
Leaving the National Park’s boundaries, Harrogate is a great place to shop – small enough to navigate easily but big enough to offer a wide variety of stores. With its history as a spa town, elegant buildings, green open spaces, museums and galleries it’s also a pleasant place to spend time exploring. Harrogate is a wealthy town and this is reflected in its shops.
As well as a town centre packed with high street names, it has an abundance of boutiques, many independently-owned, selling designer clothes, stunning jewellery, fashionable homewares and exclusive antiques. The Montpellier Quarter, just off the town centre, features numerous chic shops, as well as trendy bars, cafes and restaurants. For shoppers in need of refreshment, Bettys Tearooms, on Montpellier Hill, is enjoyable if you don’t mind waiting in line for a table.
Among the town’s more unusual stores is the Japanese Shop, in Hookstone Avenue, which is recognised as having one of the best collections of Japanese gifts available anywhere in Europe. Woods Fine Linens, in Station Parade, has been selling luxury linens since 1895, while the Cheeseboard of Harrogate, in Commercial Street, stocks more than 200 types of speciality cheese.
For cyclists, The Big Red Bike Company, in East Parade, is a treat, with a huge range to suit riders of all kinds. The shop also hires bikes for anyone wanting to take advantage of the new cycle routes around the town, which have been created as part of the Open Harrogate initiative to encourage sustainable transport. One of the routes takes in the Great Yorkshire Showground, where you will find Fodder, an impressive farm shop, deli, butcher and cafe all rolled into one.
As well as a magnificent cathedral, Ripon also boasts a good mix of national names and quality independents. Sigma Antiques, in Low Skellgate, is packed with interesting things including furniture, collectables and art. Ripon also has a Booths Supermarket. If you’ve never shopped at one of the northern supermarket chain’s stores before, call in and see what you’ve been missing!
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