The Pennine Way spans 268 miles, an undulating backbone of the north that begins in the village of Edale in England’s first National Park, the Peak District, and ends in Kirk Yetholm in the Scottish Borders.
Immortalised in literature, film and television, the verdant hills and melancholic moorlands have provided the backdrop to some of the classics of our time. Visitor’s can hop on and off the mesmeric Pennine Way, hiking around some of Britain’s most diverse and captivating countryside and for food, history and literary patrons, the Yorkshire Dales is a real sweet spot.
Primitive hunter-gatherers can be traced back 12,000 years in the Yorkshire Dales with hunting tools such as flints excavated from Victoria Cave in Ribblesdale. In the 18th and 19th century, the Yorkshire Dales was one of the main lead mining areas in England and today scattered remains of former mine workings, mills and other industries demonstrate the region’s rich industrial heritage.
What is most striking, though, is its beauty; quaint marketplaces and charming villages are cocooned between humpbacked valleys criss-crossed with ancient stone walls. Traditional buildings of locally quarried stone unify this corner of the country and the patchwork valleys, rivers, farmsteads and pastures are beguiling.
Driving into the dales, the road winding between the broad, sweeping dales and the icy blue-white sky filling almost every inch of the panorama, it feels as though little has changed since the first farmers started tending these fields. Modern cities (the dales are handily located an easy drive from historic York and Harrogate) feel a world away. Along the twisting road from Redmire, one of Britain’s best-preserved medieval castles still proves an imposing entrance to Wensleydale.
Bolton Castle was originally built by Sir Richard Le Scrope and its scars bear testament to over 600 years of history. Made famous by Mary, Queen of Scots who was imprisoned in the castle after her escape from Scotland, the chambers in the south-west tower where she is thought to have stayed and are open to the public. Inside visitors can also explore the Old Kitchens, Dungeon, Solar, Nursery and the Armory while the castle grounds, maze and ornate gardens will ignite a taste for the outdoors.
Amid forested ravines, waterfalls helter-skelter through the dales. Some of the most famous are found at Aysgarth, where the River Ure cascades down a triple flight of limestone clefts. Picnic or head to the tea room on the bridge for a Yorkshire brew and look out for film crews – Aysgarth’s scenic falls are a favoured backdrop for film and TV and Robin Hood Prince of Thieves was filmed here. A few miles away Hardraw Force, England’s highest single drop waterfall, tumbles to the earth in the garden of the Green Dragon public house in Hardraw. The inn dates back to the 13th century and visitors can stop for a hearty feed in view of the cascading waterfall.
It’s not only its diverse natural landscape that make this part of England so attractive but today it’s recognised as a hotspot for artisans and fine food producers. A host of revered restaurants, inns and cafés have also emerged with Yorkshire now the most Michelin-star spangled place outside of London in the UK.
Around four miles from the Aysgarth, Yorebridge House offers upscale lodgings with beautiful views and an excellent dining room. A boutique hotel near the town of Bainbridge, the family-run staging post goes above and beyond – staff will even pick guests from the local village train station on arrival. The hotel was once a school house and many original features remain. Rooms are contemporary and stylish, with a few enjoying private courtyard gardens, river views and hot tubs. Two minutes down the road, the hotel also offers a gorgeous Barn Suite. Attached to the owner’s house but still extremely secluded and private, the now-luxury barn dates back to 1650 – though the entire house plot actually dates back to 1304 and is thought to be the first ever building erected in the dales.
Should you be able to prise yourself from your room at Yorebridge, fabulous walking trails, cycling routes and bridleways forge off in just about every direction. Over the hills, Lake Semer Water is a picturesque spot with its own host of green lanes to choose from. For foodies, the Wensleydale Creamery, made famous by the Wallace and Gromit animations, is close by and an excellent introduction to the region’s booming gourmet reputation. Within four miles of Yorebridge’s front door, there are five food and craft markets each week and tea rooms, farm shops and producers abound.
The dale’s unofficial capital is the picturesque enclave of Reeth. Located slap bang between two of the finest dales Reeth’s huge village green is flanked by shop, homely bakeries and afternoon tea emporiums. Pack a picnic and hike along the Arkle Beck to Arkengarthdale or yomp along the waterway and stop for lunch at the Charles Bathurst Inn.
For those heading east from Arkengarthdale, perhaps to the North York Moors Crathorne Hall was the largest country house built during the reign of Edward VII and is now a country hotel and great base for exploring. The hotel has a rich political and historical heritage and was home of Lord Dugdale, who served in Churchill’s post-war cabinet (then known as Sir Thomas Dugdale). As a private residence, Crathorne hosted conservative Prime Ministers, Prince Charles, The Queen Mother for a small lunch party in 1968 and musicians such as Yehudi Menuhin and composers such as Benjamin Britten stayed at the Hall when they performed at the nearby Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond.
Many visitors head west, across the dales and on to the Lake District. Near the Lancashire and Cumbrian borders, the Ingleton Falls trail offers beautiful forested walks and great views of the Falls while the 70m high curving limestone cliff of Malham Cove is a magnet for hikers and climbers alike.
On the western edge of the dales, Hipping Hall is a 3 AA rosette gem. The lovingly resorted hotel dates back 350 years and is a culinary crossroads – geographically sitting in the county of Lancashire, a stone’s throw from the Lake District and framed by the Yorkshire Dales, its kitchen sources delectable local produce from all three corners. Hipping’s beautiful beamed dining room is understated and elegant, with a huge tapestry hanging at one end. Here the food is the star and Head Chef Oli Martin combines unique flavours and textures with exquisite flair. You know a restaurant is good when even the bread and butter (whipped and fluffy) is the talk of the table. Unusual flavour combinations – the mushrooms on toast comes with a sour dust and Juno custard that is showstopping – elevate this menu, while the local seasonal meats (Goosnargh duck, Hartshead beef and Cumbrian red deer in our case) are stunning. For food lovers, Hipping is a must-visit.
Crathorne, Yarm, TS15 0AR
Tel: 0845 072 7440
Cowan Bridge, Kirkby Lonsdale LA6 2JJ.
Tel: 015242 71187.
Bainbridge Hawes, Bainbridge, Leyburn DL8 3EE.
Tel: 01969 652060.
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