British Isles Slow Travel

Six reasons to visit the Yorkshire Dales

Here are six of our favourite reasons to visit the Yorkshire Dales, an amazingly diverse part of England’s largest county.

What makes the Yorkshire Dales so special? We think it’s down to the stunning limestone landscape, the preservation of a distinct culture and the quirky local characters that live here. So why not take a trip to this diverse region of England’s largest county?

Discover the thriving village communities

The Oldest Sweet Shop in England Pateley Bridge Yorkshire Dales by Nidderdale Chamber of Trade/Kirsty Shepherd
The owners stand proudly outside their thriving village store – The Oldest Sweet Shop in England © Kirsty Shepherd, Nidderdale Chamber of Trade

The village is the beating heart of Dales life. Whilst elsewhere people are fighting hard to restore the past traditions of their local community, such traditions have never been lost in large parts of the Yorkshire Dales. Whether you pay a visit to a cosy English pub or a thriving village shop, there’s no better place than the Dales to get lost in an old-fashioned rural life.

Witness quirky local events and festivals

Swaledale Festival Reeth Yorkshire Dales by Swaledale Festival/Guy Carpenter
The annual Swaledale Festival held in Reeth is a celebration of music and the arts © Guy Carpenter, Swaledale Festival

Shows, fairs and festivals allow locals to let their hair down and express themselves and some events are more than a little eccentric. ‘There’s nowt so queer as folk,’ as they say around here. Why not check out the sheep racing at the annual Masham Sheep Fair, the Knaresborough Bed Race or the Swaledale Festival on your next visit to the Dales? 

Get active in the great outdoors

Canoeing How Stean Gorge Yorkshire Dales by Steam Gorge LLP
Taking to the water is a brilliant way to explore How Stean Gorge © Stean Gorge LLP

The Yorkshire Dales National Park may be prime walking country, but there are plenty of other ways to enjoy the fresh air for those who enjoy a bit more of an adrenaline hit. Your method of transport doesn’t matter – try biking, canoeing, horseriding or even, for the fittest amongst you, fell running.

Sample the local produce

The Courtyard Dairy Austwick Yorkshire Dales by The Courtyard Dairy
The Courtyard Dairy in Austwick has an an excellent cheese shop and museum © The Courtyard Dairy

‘Beasts’ (to use a fine Yorkshire-ism) are the lifeblood of the Dales – cattle in the valleys and sheep on the fells, all tended lovingly by hardy Yorkshire farmers. It’s the same farmers who cultivate a wide variety of local produce that visitors to the Dales can enjoy. Cheese-lovers in particular will love this county, since several of the dales give their name to the variety which is produced most locally. Wensleydale is the most famous, but Coverdale, Swaledale and Ribblesdale all have their own distinct recipes.

Explore the historic hotspots

Bolton Castle Wensleydale Yorkshire Dales by Welcome to Yorkshire
The ruins of Bolton Castle are especially well preserved © Welcome to Yorkshire 

It’s testament to less peaceful times that all of the dales possess at least one castle. Some are mere humps and lumps on the ground, many are stately ruins and one or two, such as Skipton Castle, still host the occasional battle. There’s plenty for the history buff to explore on a trip to the Dales. To find out more about the historic highlights of the Yorkshire Dales, click here.

Spot the local flora and fauna

Red grouse Swaledale Yorkshire Dales by Andrew Locking/
The red grouse is the more famous of the two resident grouse species © Andrew Locking

The wild is never far away in a place dominated by limestone. It’s there to climb up, delve into, walk over or simply sit on to marvel at the landscapes and wildlife of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Look out especially for the peregrine falcons that soar overhead or the resident grouse species which populate the moors. 

More information

Check out our guide to the region to discover even more reasons to visit the Yorkshire Dales: