Nidderdale­ inc Pateley Bridge & Masham

Jonathan’s View

“The mark of man has created a unique landscape of water & moorland.”


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Despite being outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park Nidderdale holds much of the park characteristics and frankly should be included. This would offer the area some additional protection or management which would only do good. However I was pleasantly surprised to find a dale full of interest with some excellent walks and very much its own character. The 3 main reservoirs do tend to dominate the landscape though and at times it is difficult to get away from these vast areas of water – think a toned down Haweswater for those more familiar with the Lakes. The waters that fill the reservoirs flow off the massif of Great Whernside which places the valley with regard to Wharfedale.

Pateley Bridge is the self-proclaimed capital of Nidderdale and signifies the divide between the upper and lower areas and is certainly my recommendation if staying. There are some pretty villages towards the Upper Nidd whilst to the south and east the land opens up. Masham itself makes some claim to Nidderdale as does the historically significant Fountain’s Abbey. So I have included them in this section.

Pateley Bridge is a large village with plenty to see and becomes very busy in the summer months. I am always pleasantly surprised when I visit with some excellent cafes and pubs and a most enlightened parking policy. The nearby campsite is large which, coupled with the proximity to day trippers from the A1 and Harrogate, is why the village facilities sometimes seem over run. Originally Pateley Bridge was a lead mining centre but now tourism dominates with the pretty main street leading up a hillside with a good selection of shops, art galleries and old fashioned shops including the ‘oldest sweet shop in England’ and the ‘best butchers’. A good base to explore and return to after a good walk.

Middlesmoor, Ramsgill and Wath are all pretty villages up the valley from Pateley Bridge each offering a much quieter stay and each have excellent pubs/inns. Middlesmoor stands at the head of the road (there is no exit from upper Nidderdale) and clings to the sides of the moor whilst Ramsgill and Wath are further down the valley bordering Gouthwaite Reservoir, Ramsgill within a short stroll of the renowned Bird Sanctuary whilst Wath is approached by an attractive stone bridge and set far enough away from the main road to offer probably the most peaceful stay in the dale.

Masham boasts the largest market square in Yorkshire (the Sheep Fair at the end of September is quite a sight) and is undoubtedly a town rather than a village. The Georgian façade certainly suggests a thriving town in the past and certainly from the late 18th century this was the case due in part to the enormous sheep market. There are some fine old shops and excellent walks from the town but Masham is probably most famous for being the ‘home of brewing’. The thriving Black Sheep Brewery is set near the town centre, the older Theakston Brewery nearby and both have some excellent tours ideal for anyone who is starting their own home brewing business. Incidently the beer Theakston’s Old Peculiar comes from name given by an archbishop who rarely made the journey north and referred to the town as ‘a Peculiar’ – it stuck!

The history of Nidderdale was dominated by the Cistercian monks of Fountain’s Abbey up till its dissolution in 1536. Much of their wealth came from the wool trade which outlasted the monks and continues to be a main feature of the dale and its life. Woollen mills sprung up during the industrial revolution, resulting in the damming of many of the streams and tributaries in Nidderdale but it was in the 20th century that the building of the reservoirs completely altered the  landscape forever.  Scar House and Angram were built during the early part of the century with Bradford the destination for their water and Gouthwaite later on. The reservoirs do tend to dominate the area with their large expanse of water but it certainly makes Nidderdale unique with its large nature reserve and good walks on the higher moors. Nidderdale was awarded Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty status in 1994. The only difference between the AONB and the nearby National Park is the requirement in the National Park for recreational activity to be taken in to account within its plan.


My favourite walks in Nidderdale are detailed below, simply click the link for further details.

Discovering the Upper Nidd. An 11 mile airy walk past 2 reservoirs and moorland of Upper Nidderdale.

Brimham Rocks. Explore the unique rock formation of Brimham Rocks near Pateley Bridge.

The beautiful River Nidd. Below Pateley Bridge Nidderdale offers a more tranquil and beautiful face.

Countryside of Pateley Bridge. A mid length walk to the west of Pateley Bridge visiting some ancient workings.

How Stean Gorge. An extraordinary section of a tributary valley which travels through a deep, spectacular gorge.

Fountains Abbey & Studley Park. A walk though the grounds of this splendid abbeyand the neighbouring royal park.

The River Ure at Jervaulx Abbey. A 7 mile walk starting in the Jervaulx estate with delightful stretches of riverside walking

Thruscross Reservoir. Circle this attractive reservoir lying near Harrogate and Blubberhouses.

Dacre Heights near Harrogate A long walk linking Thruscross Reservoir with the lower River Nidd

Lower Nidd at Dacre Banks . A lovely section of riverside walking between Dacre Banks & Darley

Ripley Castle. Without entering the grounds this walk has appeal and views over the countryside of Ripley

Lost world of Dallowgill. I was unaware of the existence of this lovely area of woodland and pasture near Kirkby Malzeard

Hackfall Woods from Masham. Explore these beautiful woods and gardens from Masham and via the banks of the River Ure.

Druids Temple at Masham. The countryside near Masham holds many secrets including the Druid’s Temple.

Other Things to do in Nidderdale

Stump Cross Caverns. Highly popular and reasonably priced these caves near Pateley Bridge are well worth a visit.

Nidderdale Llamas. Take a llama for a walk, an unusual experience. It will even carry your picnic bag!

Black Sheep Brewery. An interesting tour of this relatively new brewery in Masham is renowned as one of the best in Britain. The beer is excellent too.

Tea Rooms at Jervaulx Abbey. Lovely tea rooms & home made cakes, perfect after exploring the remains of Jervaulx Abbey

Nidderdale Museum.. An historical journey through past and present times within the valley of Nidderdale. Based in Pateley Bridge

The lovely towns of Ripon and Harrogate are only a few miles distant and any stay in Nidderdale should include a visit. I would have included How Stein Gorge and Fountain’s Abbey but there are walks already described above.

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Places to Stay

Lyndale Guest House, Pateley Bridge

Talbot House, Pateley Bridge

Sweetheart Tea Rooms, Pateley Bridge

The Moorhouse, Dallowgill

Morton House & the Stable Block, Masham (S/C)

Thorpe Cottage

High Grange Cottages, Bedale

Park House B & B, Jervaulx Abbey

King’s Mead S/C, Ripon

Cottages in the Dales

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