Walking in the Yorkshire Dales has many pleasures; the variety, history, excellent path network, pretty villages and iconic scenery to name but a few. It does not have steep, craggy fells, deep lakes or views across the sea. I have outlined by Top 10 reasons why walking in the Dales is such a rewarding experience; spend time here and find out for yourself.
1. Outstanding scenery:
Almost goes without saying that the world famous combination of dry stone walls, isolated stone barns, white washed sheep and green fields peppered across rolling countryside makes the views across the Dales as good and distinctive as anywhere in the country. It did not need those stunning images from the Tour de France to back up what anyone who has visited knows already, although it did help those who have not. Bring your camera.
2. Challenging fells
This may not be the Lakes, Scotland or Wales but there are some excellent mountains within the Dales. Thousands come to take on the 3 Peaks Challenge but very few take on the other fine mountains in the area. It is why I am heavily promoting the Dales 30 which are all the distinctive fells in the Dales and Howgills. Having completed these (and some summits are tricky to find in often wild and remote countryside) I discovered that my knowledge of the area was vastly improved.
3. Pretty villages and Market Towns
One of the real pleasures of walking in the Dales are the natural and unspoilt villages and small market towns that are an intrical part of every walk. Whether you start and finish in one or just pass through they are always full of interest, pretty to look at and possess loads of character. I could spend pages on them but I am resisting this and just naming my own personal favourites (in no particular order!)
Muker – hay meadows, Farmers Arms, tea shop, river, head of valley.
Clapham – Ingleborough caves and hill, New Inn, river walks, norber erratics.
Appletreewick – River Wharfe, 2 traditional inns, pretty cottages and hall, walks on the moor.
Askrigg – village green and church, Herriott filmed here, waterfalls and views of Wensleydale.
West Burton – side valley of Wensleydale, large village green, immortalised by J Turner.
Arncliffe – on the river in Littondale, limestone scars, fishing for brown trout.
Buckden – favourite Dales climb, superb limestone, Buck Inn, historical interest.
Dent – cobbled streets, quiet dale, artists centre, riverside walks.
Middleham – castle, cobbled streets, horse training centre, views of the valley.
Reeth – walks each direction, great pubs, village green, industrial past.
4. Historical interest
History in terms of the landscape and in terms of the people who lived and worked in the area form a massive part of walking in the Dales. In many case the geology dictates how people have made their living, best seen in the old industrial lead mining industry that pepper the valleys of Swaledale, but also in man’s own influence. The monks of yesteryear build the many abbeys of the area (in various states of disrepair) whilst castles such as Middleham and Castle Bolton add a real historical feel to any walk. Check out our ‘Walks through History‘ section.
5. Good paths network
A lot of work by the local councils and in particular the National Park authority goes in to maintaining what is an excellent network of paths. Problem areas are repaired, waymarking increased but the real pleasures of the area footpaths is the underfoot terrain. Due to the nature of the underlying bedrock and the general lack of traffic makes for many easy walking routes, soft underfoot and a real delight after the many blister inducing paths in the Lakes
6. Peace and Quiet
Because many fewer visitors visit the area than other tourist hotspots the walking is usually peaceful and quiet. On most of the walks described on this website you will be unlikely to see a soul, even on a summer weekend. Yes there are a few busy routes (Malham, the 3 Peaks and Ingleton being examples) but the vast majority are not. This not only makes the walking so much more pleasurable but it also gives the wildlife and nature a chance to thrive (anyone seen a red squirrel recently?).
7. Long Distance Walking
Everyone knows that the Pennine Way runs through the Dales but there are other long distance routes that give a wonderful introduction or deeper understanding of the area. The Dalesway is most popular and follows the River Wharfe all the way to its source before dropping down to the Lake District but the Bracken Way is my favourite, a circular walk taking in all the ‘best bits’ whilst visiting every main dale and many of the smaller ones.
8. Limestone and its pleasures
Limestone walking is wonderful. The paths that form on limestone can often be walked on slippers they are so soft and comfortable whilst the scenery is spectacular and unique. Limestone walking is mainly found in the south and west of the area in the forms of pavements, scars and deep sink holes leading to a vast underground network of caves (the best in the country). Malham Cove is probably the most spectacular example of limstone but anyone who has ventured on to the flanks of Ingleborough will also fully appreciate its pleasures.
9. Do not ignore the outlying areas
The Yorkshire Dales are one thing but there are 3 other areas worth a mention in how I always perceive the Dales, to me they are all onewith the National Park having an imaginary boundary that really does not exist for any visitor. Nidderdale and the east is one such area, an AONB and really is a key part of the Dales mix, the Forest of Bowland is another AONB to the west and has some excellent walks whilst the Howgills and the area around Sedbergh up to Kirkby Stephen is a real favourite of mine. They are all the ‘Dales’ to me.
10. Beer, pubs and all that
It would be remiss of me if I did not include one of my great pleasures of walking in the Dales; returning to a nice country pub and a pint of fine, real ale. Excellent meals are also served but the quality and variety of the beer is the best in the country, without exception. The image (quaint to some, essential to others) of a pint in front of a roaring fire in a country pub of character is best experienced in the Dales; others may try it but they fail to create the real authenticity of the Dales.
Enjoy your walking
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