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The Yorkshire Dales are located in inland northern England and form part of the Pennine hills. 'Dales' means valleys and there are many dales, each with its own river. The area is about one hour's drive north from Manchester airport or three to four hours from London.
The Dales borders onto the English Lake District and is less than two hours drive from the Scottish border. The major metropolitan cities of Leeds, Bradford and Manchester lie just to the south and to the east is the plain of York, with its superb ancient city, and the Yorkshire Wolds.
To any lover of the British countryside and the great outdoors, the matchless beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, made famous in James Herriot's books about a country vet, needs little introduction.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park offers the visitor a wonderful mix of landscape - from the remote fells and moors, bare limestone scars, cliffs and gorges to the green hillsides and lush pastures of the Dales; from the unspoilt villages and historic market towns to the intricate pattern of dry stone walls. It is an area of many moods.
It can be described as wild, expansive, tranquil, charming and, at times, even awesome. However you wish to describe it, the Dales unquestionably includes some of the finest upland scenery in the country, making it ideal for outdoor recreation or touring between the area's many picture postcard towns and villages.
No other English landscape so closely unites the wild and domestic. The rugged high sheep-dotted fells butt directly on to the enclosed beauty of the dales. The heather-clad moorland tops are criss-crossed by paths and ancient green lanes. At the head of each dale is a scattering of farms whilst further down, the dales widen out to accommodate sheltered villages, green meadows and ancient broadleaf woodland.
Lower down still are great castles and abbeys, such as Middleham Castle and Bolton Abbey. Linking all will be a pure rain-fed river, possibly with dramatic falls and rapids, such as Aysgarth Falls and the dangerous Strid on the River Wharfe.
A delightful blend of stunning natural beauty, traditional experiences and fascinating sites. Its is a land of breath taking scenery where rich heritage lies around every corner. Above all it is a quiet, peaceful and unspoilt environment in which to relax and unwind. Whatever your interests, whatever your age, you will find it a unique place to explore.
The area offers great outdoor entertainment, boasting some of the finest walking country in Britain, not to mention a labyrinth of complex and challenging potholes and crags. Angling, shooting, mountain biking, trekking or more unusual outdoor pursuits such as para gliding, are well catered for in the Dales.
The Dales are very easily accessible to the walker and the area has long been a favourite destination for hill walkers, taking advantage of the truly remarkable scenery, punctuated by welcoming country pubs. The long distance Pennine Way path cuts a route through the western Yorkshire Dales and The Dales Way goes from Ilkley in mid-Wharfedale up to Bowness in the Lake District.
Each dale has its own river with its own character. All contain good populations of Brown Trout and Grayling, providing a real challenge for the fly fisher. A special set of flies have been developed for the area very different, for example, to those used in the south of England.
There are a number of historical sites to visit in the area. The peace of the Dales led to the foundation of the now ruined abbeys at pretty Bolton Abbey, near Skipton, and Fountains Abbey, near Ripon, Britain's largest monastic ruin and now a World Heritage Site. Today, Fountains Abbey forms an evocative backdrop to the Studley Royal Water Gardens, one of the most stunning landscape gardens in Britain.
Wharfedale - River Wharfe - is our favourite dale. Its landscape is a mixture of rugged hills and hay meadows, populated by small traditional stone villages. Grassington is upper Wharfedale's main town.
Malhamdale - River Aire - is famed for its more craggy appearance. The dale is home to some of the finest limestone landscape in the country, from echoing caves, to deep potholes and dry valleys. The huge Malham Cove presents a scene never to be forgotten and above it is Malham Tarn, one of England's largest mountain lakes.
Nidderdale - River Nidd - has been designated officially as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The River Nidd idles through a landscape that is both dramatic and idyllic by turns. Pateley Bridge is the only market town in the dale and has a history dating back to the 14th century.
Ribblesdale - River Ribble - is better known as the Three Peaks area because of its three towering summits of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. Great walking and great views for the energetic. Settle and Ingleton are the two market towns in this dale.
Wensleydale - River Ure - is breathtaking, with broad, fertile meadows skirting hidden waterfalls, giving way to soaring high fells. Hawes, Leyburn, Masham and Middleham are the main ancient towns in this large dale.
The Dales are well endowed with an excellent selection of traditional English pubs. Some have been in business for hundreds of years, changing little in all that time. Many also offer superb food - often dishes using locally produced ingredients. The pubs are an essential part of the Dales experience and form a welcome rest and recovery point on most countryside walks. There are also a surprising number of excellent restaurants in the Dales.
Wuthering Heights - A short drive from the Dales the dramatic Pennine moorlands were the setting for the passionate novels of the Bronte sisters. Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte spent most of their tragic lives at Haworth Parsonage near Keighley, now a museum. The scenic Keighley and Worth Valley steam railway, used in the film The Railway Children, runs through the village.
York - Only an hours drive from the Dales you should try to fit in a day visiting the amazing historic City of York, alongside London, perhaps the UK's ultimate historical showpiece. York has a myriad of ancient buildings the most famous being the huge York Minster, one of the greatest cathedrals of Europe. Take a stroll along the top of the roman city walls or even a boat trip down the river. The shopping is excellent and don't forget to stop off for a break at Betty's for traditional tea and cakes.
The Lake District - worth a week in its own right. England's highest mountains and largest lakes. Fantastic rugged scenery and walking.
The Forest of Bowland - immediately to the east of the Dales this area of Lancashire has outstanding scenery and walking.
As with many parts of the UK the spring and the autumn are good times to visit the Dales. The lush fresh green of spring, the colours of autumn and fewer visitors make it heaven to be in the Dales at these times. There are a few spots that get busy in the peak summer months but for the walker, horse rider, cyclist or fly fisher its still very easy to get away from people to fully appreciate the tranquility of the Dales. One of our very favourite times to visit is in mid-winter. Winters can be cold in the north of England but to walk in the Dales with frost or snow on the ground can be a wonderful experience for those prepared with the appropriate gear to keep warm and dry. Even the Grayling fishing can be really enjoyable and productive in very cold weather.
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