“A walkers paradise – rugged villages and fast flowing streams tucked into the prettiest of landscapes.”
Beyond the town of Grassington there is a distinctive change to the character of the landscape, a classical U shaped valley. The hills close in and the villages become smaller and increasingly dominated by farms and their lands. However this is proper Yorkshire Dales and Upper Wharfedale is one of the prettiest examples of upland England to be found. Limestone scars and drystone walls litter the hillside and the Wharfe becomes faster flowing and more dramatic as it enters Langstrothdale or its tributaries join from the side valleys of Upper Wharfedale and in particular Littondale. This dale is a personal favourite of mine; if I was to live in a remote area Littondale would compete with Arkegarthdale in Swaledale as a personal favourite.
Kettlewell is the main village in Upper Wharfedale, lying under the bulk of Great Whernside but Buckden and Starbottom further up the Dale win out on the quaintness factor – perfect minatures of what a Yorkshire Dales village should look like. Kilnsey and Conistone are hamlets between Grassington and Kettlewell whilst Arncliffe and Linton itself are the main villages in Littondale – all are lovely surrounded by some of the best walking around.
Kettlewell offers an oasis of peace and tranquillity in the busy world today and although tourism still predominates it has not succumbed to rampant commercialism like much of the Lake District. The Scarecrow Festival is held in August and draws in visitors searching the village for the scarecrows and clues to the treasure but generally there is plenty to do with an excellent walking shop, quaint tea rooms and 3 excellent pubs, two beside the packhorse bridge in the middle of the village. A few miles north are Buckden and Starbottom – little hamlet/villages where walkers or cyclists will feel most at home with many routes from the door.
Below Kettlewell Kilnsey Crag is a mecca for rock climbers who can be seen scaling the overhang throughout the year with the small hamlets of Kilnsey itself and Conistone (off the main road) nearby. The Kilnsey Arms and an excellent craft centre with a farm and fishing lake add to the attractions of the area.
However it is the two small valleys of Littondale and Langstrothdale where any semblance of crowds are completely left behind. Littondale has 3 pretty villages; Arncliffe is the largest with a village green whilst Linton has a good inn and Halton Gill the terminus of the valley. Yockenthwaite in Langstrothdale is little more than a farm and some cottages but must surely be in the Top 3 photo spots in the Yorkshire Dales.
The History of Upper Wharfedale is dominated by differing agricultural practices. Terraces (lynchets) were built in the 14th century on the steep hillsides but soon cattle became the staple on the flat valley floor. The crops on the hillside became too difficult to retain with worsening weather and the Black Death combining to limit the locals’ activities. Unusually for the Yorkshire Dales mining only played a small part in its history although Kettlewell did become more important in the 18th century as a lead mining centre – remnants of the mines can still be seen on the slopes of Great Whernside. The stone barns (laithes) which dot the landscape are the result of improved farming techniques as the cattle could be wintered in safety whilst the lime kilns and better techniques for fertilizing improved the soils. Sheep, cattle and walkers now dominate the lands of Upper Wharfedale.
My favourite walks in the area are listed below – just click on the link for further details.
Wharfedale 3 Peaks. A competitor to the normal 3 Peaks – much less crowded
Great Whernside. An 8 mile circuit of this classical Dale mountain overlooking Kettlewell.
Arncliffe Circular. Discovering the 2 valleys of Littondale and Upper Wharfedale with tremendous views throughout.
Limestone Walking over Littondale. Over the moors towards Malham Tarn with far reaching views
Lovely Littondale. A riverside walk between Litton and Arncliffe in this beautiful dale.
Birks Fell, Upper Wharfedale. A rarely visited Marilyn with great all round views.
Buckden Pike & Upper Wharfedale. As well as climbing the fell the walk explores the upper end of Wharfedale.
Riverside walking in Upper Wharfedale. Visiting 5 perfect Yorkshire villages lying alongside the Upper Wharfe
Heart of 3 Peaks Country. A long walk from picturesque Oughtershaw which takes you through the heart of the 3 Peaks.
Hidden Valleys of Wharfedale. Littondale and Langstrothdale on a single walk from Halton Gill. The very best of the Dales.
Explore Kilnsey Crag. A short walk from Conistone with great views of Kilnsey Crag and mid Wharfedale.
Limestone Scenery from Conistone. To the east of Conistone is some lovely limestone scenery just waiting to be explored.
Other Things to do in Upper Wharfedale
Kilnsey Park. A trout farm, a cafe, play area and a farm shop combine with a short Kilnsey Trail through a farm for the children.
Kilnsey Riding. Stables offering a variety of horse riding for beginners and experts in the beautiful countryside.
Outdoor Clothing shop. Over and Under is an interesting outdoor shop in the centre of Kettlewell – the only one!
Updated Weather Forecast
Click here to go to the Met Office website for the 5 day weather forecast for the Yorkshire Dales.
Places to Stay
Low Raisgill B & B Langstrothdale