“Pretty Yorkshire villages set amongst classical limestone scenery.”
I have lived in Ribblesdale for well over 10 years and it is certainly the area I am most familiar with, walking around the Settle area on a daily basis. The Ribble itself is not the most attractive of rivers but the area it flows through is one of the most scenic in the Yorkshire Dales. The area is characterised by limestone outcrops and scars which combine with some of the best dry stone walls and the prettiest villages to offer an enticing area for any visitors. The A65 offers a quick route from the south which undoubtedly gives the area’s businesses a head start on its neighbours but this does not denigrate the area at all; in fact driving in to Settle on a late summer’s evening with the pink glow on the limestone cliffs is a sight rarely bettered throughout the country. The walking can hardly fail to be a joy and my favourites are detailed further down the page.
At Settle the Ribble itself heads directly north, through Horton in Ribblesdale to the famous old viaduct at Ribblehead but the prettiest villages of Clapham and Austwick are on a separate valley which follows the A65 towards the Lake District. Ingleton is a popular village and marks the end of ‘my’ Ribblesdale with the River Doe passing below the slopes of Ingleborough on its way to Chapel-le-dale. The area starts at Long Preston to the south as this is where some of the best walks start.
Settle is a bustling market town situated right on the edge of the National Park. It is easily accessible (just off the A65 and with a regular bus and train service) and has great character. The views are dominated by the 500 foot limestone scar of Castleburg Crag which itself can be climbed by a myriad of footpaths on its steep slopes. The marketplace and the two storey historic building known as the Shambles is full of character but comes to life on market day (Tuesday) but the real joy of Settle is the hidden alleyways and walkways which lead to little surprises such as the Folly which often has exhibitions of local interest on its site.
Whilst in Settle it is well worth taking a walk over the Ribble and in to the neighbouring village of Giggleswick. Dominated by the famous Giggleswick School (founded in 1512) a walk round Giggleswick is a lesson in history with grand old buildings and sites straight out of 19th century Britain. The Riverside project on the Ribble provides an excellent short walk bankside where the sterling work of the YD Millenium Trust is providing a great habitat for birds and animals alike.
Settle is still unspoilt, many of the shops are of great character and charm and I would thoroughly recommend a stay here. Car & Kitchen offer a selection of good quality nicnaks, Cave & Crag does what it says on the tin but with a knowledgeable personal service added. The Naked Man is rightly one of the most famous tea shops in the Yorkshire Dales but the other ones are equal in terms of friendly service and character whilst there is a good choice of pubs (Golden Lion is my favourite – Thwaites superb) whilst No 13 is a wine bar providing a different, more sophisticated drinking experience.
Long Preston is the most attractive of the villages that line the A65 between Skipton and Settle and is also the base for a number of very good walks. Unlike the other villages it lies within the National Park boundary and has benefited through a more enlightened housing policy. The highlight of the year is the Maypole dancing on May Day by the local school children and crowning of the May Queen on the village green.
Ingleton has a lot going for it; it sits under the fine hill of Ingleborough, has some excellent walks from the door and in particular sits at a cross roads where access in to the central Dales is quick and easy. The centre of the village is an attractive cobbled street with some interesting shops and a good choice of genuine traditional Yorkshire Dales places to eat. Just do not be put off by the outskirts of the village which does the centre of the village little justice. As a base though to explore the area it is unbeatable and for those who want to treat it as this I would heartily recommend it. It is also a good centre for those activists who want a holiday caving or white water rafting with Ingleton providing a lively base for the younger amongst us. As much as any of the larger villages Ingleton offers attractions for all types of visitors.
Further up from Ingleton towards Ribblehead is the small hamlet of Chapel le Dale, a pretty place that offers an excellent place to stay for those wanting to complete the 3 Peaks from an alternative (and quieter) start point.
Austwick is an attractive village, situated only 1/2 a mile off the busy A65 but could be in a different world. The access from the A65 does make the village busy at weekends in the summer months, particularly in and around the pub, but avoid these weekends and the village is a delight. Most of the buildings are of traditional Yorkshire stone and centred around a small green, near the Game Cock Inn. The best area of the village though for a visitor is up on Town Head which has excellent views and with best access to the fells. Most of the walking from Austwick is north out of Town Head but if you are staying for more than a couple of nights there are some excellent low level walks to the neighbouring villages and hamlets. All the walks though are set against the backdrop of the limestone hills formed along the Craven fault line. Today the village has a store/post office (and long may it continue), a high quality country furniture outlet at the Smithy, 2 churches, a primary school and the Game Cock Inn. The Game Cock is a traditional Dales inn with good beer (Thwaites), a beer garden, wood beamed interior, solid pub grub and variable service. It is fine but if you are after high quality dining in an elegant country house then cross the A65 and visit the Traddock.
The small village of Clapham does great justice to the bulky Ingleborough which dominates it in so many ways and so much more than Ingleton further up the A65. The village itself is split through the middle by Clapham Beck which coupled with the fine Yorkshire stone and commanding views make the village desirable both to stay in but also to live. A grand pub overlooks the river and the village also boasts a more comprehensive village post office than is usually the case, a couple of tea shops, a gallery and a local crafts shop – all of which help make Clapham a great place to stay. Above the village and south of Ingleborough is the fantastically named Clapdale (who would not want to visit somewhere named Clapdale?) where Clapham Beck winds its way through an artificial lake, a world famous caving network to the summit of one of the 3 Peaks. Ingleborough Cave is undoubtedly the draw to Clapham but further up the path is narrow Trow Gill and the geologically challenged Gaping Gill. Here Fell Beck falls 104 metres in to a network of caves before it emerges nearly 1 mile later at Beck Head Cave, a neighbour of Ingleborough Cave.
About Stainforth and Langcliffe
A largely undiscovered village up the Ribble valley only 1 mile north of Settle, Stainforth and Langcliffe tend to be bypassed on the way to Horton which has the attraction of being the base for all 3 Peaks of Yorkshire. The name is derived from ‘stony ford’ which originally linked two separate settlements on each side of the river. On the East bank Stainforth was developed by the Cistercian monks of Sawley Abbey with the estate being efficiently run and prospering during the 14th and 15th century. However Little Stainforth, under private ownership, on the western side of the river gradually declined until 1670 when Samuel Watson replaced the ford with an attractive packhorse bridge, which is still the focal point of the village. Stainforth Hall was built in the 17th century and, although converted to a farm now, is still an excellent 3 story building but the real gem of this very attractive village is the Craven Heifer, situated right bang on the packhorse bridge. The Heifer is an excellent example of a traditional Yorkshire pub, nothing flamboyant, just good pub grub, light snacks and a fine pint of bitter. Langcliffe is nearby and has a lovely village green and is close enough to walk in to Settle along an attractive back lane with superb views of the Settle scar.
About Horton in Ribblesdale
Horton in Ribblesdale (meaning settlement on muddy ground) can be found on the B6479 which points due North from Settle where it divides from the A65. Horton has suffered over the years for 2 main reasons; the first being that, unlike the prettier and quieter villages of Langcliffe, Austwick, Clapham and Stainforth it was never bypassed and secondly because it has had it too easy. Horton is famous as the start and finish points of the well publicised 3 Peaks challenge (climbing Pen y Ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough all within 12 hours – 22 miles and 5,000+feet of climbing) and as a consequence does not have the need to work for its visitors. The visitors come and the visitors stay; they all visit the famous 3 peaks cafe, they drink in the 2 pubs and stay in the very good bunk house. However this all leaves Horton really looking a little drab, grey and frankly to me a little uninteresting. Today Horton in Ribblesdale stretches for over 1/2 a mile along the B6479 with a pub at either end of the village. The Crown stands to the North, tucked away behind the packhorse bridge, serves bar snacks and evening meals whilst the Golden Lion offers a wide range of accommodation from a bunk room to more expensive options. Aside from the 3 Peaks challenge Horton can be used as a base for exploring the western dales with the caves and general scene round Ingleborough offering an added attraction to the hill walking.
The history of Ribblesdale lacks much of the glamour of its neighbours with only limited industrial activity despoiling the landscape and affecting the lives of its people. Agriculture has always dominated the lives of the people with the villages and towns acting as staging posts and fortifications depending on which stage of history we are looking at. Initially a classic English feudal system operated with local lords collecting rent from those around them, less usual for the area was that pastoral farming was mixed with the tending of fields of corn and barley. Farming is still very popular along the valleys although tourism has now taken over as the number 1 earner.
Heart of 3 Peaks Country. A 14 1/2 mile walk over the watersheds of 3 of the major Yorkshire Dales; Ribblesdale, Wharfedale and Wensleydale.
Whernside from Ribblehead. The iconic viaduct at Ribblehead dominates the views on this walk up Yorkshire’s highest mountain.
Pen y Ghent from Horton. The most popular route up the smallest of the Yorkshire 3 Peaks.
Ingleborough and Gaping Gill. The finest route up Ingleborough from Clapham and via Gaping Gill & Ingleborough Cave..
Ingleborough from Ribblehead. An excellent climb over Simon Fell to the best of the 3 Peaks
The Waterfalls of Ingleton. A deservedly popular walk which discovers a series of waterfalls flowing down two rivers.
Great Coum via Gragareth. A 15 mile high level walk which also includes a lovely section down the picturesque Leck Beck.
Historic Villages near Settle. Taking in the best section of the Ribble and returning via the limestone scars above Settle.
Settle Loop. A 10 mile walk through the limestone scenery between Settle and Malham Tarn on an excellent track.
Limestone hills above Feizor. A perfect stretch of limestone walking and scenery lies between Feizor and Stainforth
Long Preston Deeps. This walk takes in the ecologically sensitive area on flat lands by the Ribble.
Catrigg Force from Stainforth. An easy walk from a lovely village to a perfect minature waterfall.
The Norber Erratics from Austwick. A geological masterpiece through the limestone scars and erratics of the area above Austwick.
The Lanes of Long Preston. The old road to Settle and Langber Lane combine for this pleasant 1/2 day in the moors above Long Preston.
Other Things to do in Ribblesdale
Settle Carlisle railway. This 72 mile journey through stunning scenery is an engineering marvel. Stop off at any of the dramatic stations.
The Courtyard. Near Settle on the A65 lies a some excellent shops and a brasserie for those after a bit of pampering
Watershed Mill. A unique visitor centre including the Edinburgh Woollen Mill, a local shop selling bottled beer and a golfing shop.
Falconry Centre. Providing an insight in to the art of falconry and information on a variety of Birds of Prey.
Ingleton Pottery. Tours and demonstrations are available in this excellent family run work shop.
Daleswear. There is no greater choice of walking gear in the Yorkshire Dales than this warehouse on the A65 at Ingleton.
Ingleborough Cave. There is a network of over 1/2 km displaying a great cave of stalagtites and mites..
Folly at Settle. A museum opens in the summer showing images of the history of the district in a superb building
Updated Weather Forecast
Click here to go to the Met Office website for a 5 day weather forecast for the Ribblesdale area.
Places to Stay
Newton Bank Cottages, nr Skipton