The Yorkshire Dales National Park covers a large area (almost 1800 square kilometres) of the Pennine range of hills, often known as the backbone of England, from about the level of the Bradford conurbation up to the Stainmore Pass that nowadays carries the A66 east-west trunk road. Above that point we have the North Pennines AONB ("Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty").

The dales conveniently divide into northern and southern areas, and in the south the ancient town of Skipton, with its medieval castle, serves as an excellent "Gateway to the Dales".  The three dales most easily accessible from here are Ribblesdale (yes the Ribble, although further downstream a Lancashire river, has its source well inside Yorkshire), Airedale and Wharfedale.

Each of these is beautiful, but to me the prize goes to Wharfedale. Bolton Abbey, the Strid, Burnsall, Grassington in upper Wharfedale as well as the small towns of Ilkley and Otley further downstream combine to
make this a Dale to explore for days on end, whether on foot or on wheels.
The above photo, taken in early January, shows the River Wharfe and its surrounding countryside between Burnsall and Grassington. Just imagine it on a warm sunny day with blue sky and leaves on the trees. It is spectacular.

But don't allow my praise of Wharfedale to dull your enthusiasm for a visit to Airedale. Skipton is an interesting town, especially its castle - said to be the only fully roofed medieval fortress in England. Settle, in Ribblesdale, also merits a visit too. There are plenty of places to eat in both these small towns, and a variety of shopping in Skipton especially.

Otherwise, the Yorkshire Dales are for donning weatherproof clothing appropriate to the season, plus good pair of stout boots, and getting out onto the hills. The North of England has many splendid areas in which to get away from the pressures of life, and the Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of the best.


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    Tony Barnes

    Crazy about England and its many beautiful places that relatively few people visit.


    December 2013