Our Expert's Guide To The Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales is a large upland area covering parts of North and West Yorkshire. Designated a National Park in 1954 and covering over 860 square miles, there is plenty to explore whether you’re a climber, walker, fell runner or wild swimmer.
The dramatic landscape was forged thousands of years ago during the ice age and is known for its wild prehistoric scenery. With deep ravines, underground caves, plunging waterfalls and serene lakes, as well as signature dales, each with a unique character, the Dales offers endless opportunities for adventure.
We caught up with our Harrogate Store Manager, Tom Parkin, who spends much of his free time out in the Yorkshire Dales, to discover the must-see and do places.
“The most famous climbing spots in the Dales are definitely the ‘big three’ - Kilnsey, Malham Cove and Goredale Scar - and with good reason. These imposing limestone crags offer a huge variety of routes meaning even if you’ve climbed it once, there’s reason to go back for more.
“Kilnsey is one of the easiest to access with parking nearby and offers plenty of challenges for different levels. Malham Cove is unique as it’s a nesting site for Peregrines, so you need to plan your route to avoid disturbing nests during nesting season. Goredale Scar is spectacular but as you’re traversing near a waterfall, it is best tackled on dry days.
“For the traditional climbing fan there are loads of opportunities for single pitch too, with Rylstone, Crookrise and Twistleton Scars being favourites with the locals.
“There’s plenty of bouldering as well; Almscliff is one of my favourites because it’s just minutes from the roadside, making it a great place to visit after work.”
“The Yorkshire Three Peaks - Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-Y-Ghent - have some of the most amazing views over God's own country. But to be honest, there are great views to be had all over the Dales, it’s such a diverse landscape and there’s something different from every viewpoint. From dramatic cliffs at Malham Cove to rolling moorland at Ilkley Moor, which is just a fab place to look both at and from.”
“For me, the Hedgerow in Grassington is a must and is where I always stop off at to meet climbing and walking partners before heading into the Dales.
“When I’m climbing, if I'm lucky, the Mobile Cafe Robso will be open at the foot of Kilnsey crag for a midday pick me up.
“Any budding cyclists heading out towards Ripon on the C2C route, need to make sure they time their stop off so they can visit Oliver's Pantry for the best Chorizo Hash.”
“It would be impossible to choose as the Dales is littered with rights of way, allowing you to explore low level local beauty spots such as Grass woods just on the outskirts of Grassington, as well as the amazing limestone pavements above Malham.
“There really is something for everyone from gentle riverside strolls, ambles taking in vibrant market towns as well as more invigorating hikes across vast wild moorland. Plus, both the Pennine Way and Coast to Coast walk cross through the Dales for those looking to challenge themselves.”
“As a local Scout Leader, I get plenty of opportunity to put the local campsites through their paces. Kettlewell Camping is one of my favourites and I’ve taken my Scouts there for climbing trips. The location is stunning with walking, climbing, and caving right on your doorstep.
“Wild camping isn’t allowed in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, so this is something to bear in mind, although there are plenty of camp sites across the area. If you’re planning a longer hike it’s a good idea to plan your route so you can get to a campsite in enough time to get set-up before dark.”
Best Places To Stay
“Grassington and Ilkley are two really good places to base yourself for a week of walking or climbing.
“Grassington is a small market town in Upper Wharfdale, and is the perfect base for exploring Wharfdale and Nidderdale, an area of outstanding natural beauty (ANOB). It has a friendly village feel and offers loads of places to stay, eat and of course, get a drink after a long day’s walk.
“Ilkley is a traditional spa town with loads of tearooms, making it ideal for those looking for a sweet treat on their hike. But what makes it so special is that it’s a walkers’ and climbers’ paradise; Ilkley Moor provides plenty of trails for walkers while the famous Cow and Calf rocks sit proudly above the town ready for you to climb.”
“For me, the Falcon Inn at Arncliffe is well worth a visit. The pub overlooks the village green of this conservation village and offers views of dry-stone walls and open pasture for miles and miles. Located not far from Malham Cove and Kilnsey, it’s the perfect stop off afters a day’s climb.
“Another favourite of mine is the Station Inn at Ribblehead which is a great stop for anyone tackling the Yorkshire Three Peaks. The pub is unmistakable nestled below the famous Ribblehead viaduct. Not only is a great pub for a drink or lunch but it also offers accommodation for those looking to do the Three Peaks walk over two days.”
Best Places For Wild Swimming
“As a member of the local Mountain Rescue Team, I always recommend that people do their research to find the safe areas to take the plunge.
“While there are plenty of waterways across the Dales, some can be quite fast-flowing with rocky outcrops, so it’s best to stick to the recommended wild swimming spots.
“For me, the grassy riverside near Burnsall is a good spot as it is generally quite calm with a shallower pool downstream for a relaxing swim. I often enjoy a wild swim here through the summer when the river is more tranquil.”
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