Things to Do in Wensleydale: Uncovering Yorkshire's Hidden Gems

a month ago   •   11 min read

By More Yorkshire

Things to Do in Wensleydale

Discover the enchanting Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park—a haven of lush hills, tranquil valleys, and rich heritage.

Explore breathtaking sites like Aysgarth Falls and Hardraw Force, England's highest waterfall. Delve into traditional cheese-making at the Wensleydale Creamery and uncover local history through its ancient churches and ruins.

Perfect for outdoor lovers, Wensleydale offers scenic trails and charming villages, promising a captivating experience for every visitor.


History and Culture

Wensleydale, nestled in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, is steeped in a rich tapestry of historical and cultural significance. This section delves into some of the key historical landmarks and repositories of local heritage that tell the story of this picturesque area.

Middleham Castle

Middleham, renowned for its equestrian heritage, is the location of Middleham Castle, the childhood home of King Richard III.

The enduring stone fortress stands as a testament to Middleham's past importance in national affairs. Visitors can explore the castle ruins, which offer a glimpse into medieval life and the castle's role in the Wars of the Roses.

Jervaulx Abbey

In the tranquil setting near the River Ure lies the evocative ruins of Jervaulx Abbey.

This Cistercian monastery was once a hub of religious activity and played a significant role in the development of Wensleydale's famous cheese. The abbey's remains, enveloped in greenery, provide a serene spot for reflection on the region's spiritual history.

Dales Countryside Museum

Image Source: dalescountrysidemuseum.org.uk

The Dales Countryside Museum, situated in the bustling market town of Hawes, showcases the natural and social history of the Yorkshire Dales.

Exhibitions include local crafts, agriculture, and the railway, bringing to life the story of the dales' communities. It also offers insights into the local geology and the traditional ways of life in Askrigg and the surrounding villages.


Natural Attractions

In the heart of Yorkshire Dales National Park, Wensleydale is a haven of natural beauty, offering some of the most spectacular waterfalls and tranquil lakes in the region.

Aysgarth Falls

Aysgarth Falls is a breathtaking series of waterfalls on the River Ure. It is known for its triple flight of waterfalls, surrounded by forested areas and farmland.

Visitors can explore a series of stepping-stones at the upper falls and enjoy the view of the water cascading over limestone steps.

  • Location: Lower Wensleydale
  • Best time to visit: After rain for a more dramatic view

Hardraw Force

Hardraw Force claims the title of England's highest unbroken waterfall, with water dropping around 30 metres. It lies within the grounds of the Green Dragon Inn in Upper Wensleydale and charges a small fee for access, which contributes to the maintenance of the paths.

  • Access Point: Through the Green Dragon Inn
  • Feature: Single, impressive drop

Lake Semerwater

Lake Semerwater is Yorkshire Dales' second largest natural lake, nestled in the serene valley of Raydale, a side valley off Wensleydale.

It offers tranquillity and a range of activities such as fishing, sailing, and windsurfing.

  • Activities: Canoeing, kayaking, and birdwatching
  • Location: Close to the village of Bainbridge

Leisure and Outdoor Activities

Wensleydale offers a variety of outdoor activities among its scenic beauty and natural offerings.

From walking trails in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales to angling along the River Ure, there is plenty for visitors who wish to immerse themselves in nature's tranquillity or challenge themselves with more vigorous activities.

Walking in Dales National Park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park provides a stunning backdrop for walking enthusiasts.

One can explore the dales and rolling hills by embarking on a walk through Upper Wensleydale or venturing into Keld, a remote and peaceful area within the park.

A notable route includes the Leyburn Shawl, boasting one of the finest viewpoints in the Dales and pleasantly situated near a children’s play area.

  • Popular Walking Spots:
    • Leyburn Shawl
    • Upper Wensleydale
    • Keld

Cycling Routes

Cyclists will find Wensleydale a delight, with routes catering to all levels of experience.

Coverdale, a lesser-known dale, provides a quieter but equally captivating cycling experience compared to the more frequented areas like Muker and Low Row, where cycling routes wind through traditional Yorkshire landscapes.

  • Recommended Cycling Areas:
    • Upper Wensleydale for challenging terrains
    • Coverdale for a serene ride
    • Low Row and Muker for classic Dales cycling experiences

Fishing at River Ure

River Ure offers excellent opportunities for fishing, with stretches of water that cater to both experienced anglers and beginners.

The river meanders through Wensleydale, providing an idyllic setting for a day spent in pursuit of brown trout and grayling—the species predominantly found in these waters.

  • Fishing Info:
    • Main Species: Brown Trout, Grayling
    • Fishing Spots: Sections of River Ure in Wensleydale

Local Delicacies and Cuisine

Wensleydale is renowned for its rich culinary heritage, with a particular emphasis on its famous cheese and the plethora of local pubs and eateries offering traditional Yorkshire fare.

Wensleydale Cheese Experience

The Wensleydale Creamery is the heart of cheese-making in the region, offering visitors a comprehensive insight into the traditional methods of creating the eponymous Wensleydale cheese.

This creamy, crumbly cheese has not only garnered admiration for its taste but also forms a significant part of the local culture and economy.

At the Creamery, one can witness firsthand the artistry behind cheese-making and sample a selection of these delectable dairy products.

  • Location: Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes, North Yorkshire
  • Highlights:
    • Live cheese-making demonstrations
    • Cheese-tasting sessions
    • Interactive exhibits on the history of Wensleydale cheese

Local Pubs and Eateries

Local pubs offer a warm, rustic setting to enjoy Wensleydale's cuisine.

These establishments frequently serve local ales alongside dishes prepared with fresh regional ingredients, providing an authentic taste of Yorkshire.

Noteworthy Pubs:

  1. The Blue Lion: With its stunning local selections, this inn celebrates regional produce and has earned recognition as the Inn of the Year by The Good Pub Guide.
    • Specialties: Rudgate Ruby Mild, Theakston's Best, Wensleydale Coverdale Gamekeeper (Real Ales)
    • Location: East Witton, North Yorkshire
  2. Traditional Dales Pub: Here, one can expect to find a menu replete with local delicacies such as Kilnsey trout and Limestone beef, which are celebrated for their taste and sustainable farming practices.
    • Local Delicacies: Kilnsey trout, Limestone beef
    • Features: Sustainably farmed produce

Arts and Crafts

Wensleydale, renowned for its inspiring landscapes, offers a treasure trove of activities for enthusiasts of arts and crafts.

From engaging workshops to a myriad of local galleries and studios, visitors have abundant opportunities to experience and create art that reflects the beauty of the region.

Gayle Mill Craft Workshops

Gayle Mill, near Hawes in Wensleydale, offers a range of craft workshops that are perfect for hands-on learning.

These pursuits not only teach traditional skills but also involve sustainable practices. They may include woodcraft, textile art, or fly-fishing – each tying back to the heritage of Gayle Mill and its historical importance in the Dales.

  • Workshop Types:
    • Woodworking
    • Textiles
    • Fly-fishing

Local Galleries and Studios

Wensleydale boasts numerous galleries and studios where visitors can explore the works of local artists and makers.

These spaces feature art deeply influenced by the stunning Dales landscape and wildlife.

  • Notable Local Galleries:
    • The Old School Muker Art Gallery & Craft Centre: This is the largest art gallery and craft centre within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, featuring works of over 50 independent artists.
    • Contemporary Studios: Showcasing modern takes on the Dales.

Shopping and Retail

Wensleydale offers an array of shopping experiences, from charming street-side boutiques to traditional market stalls.

Visitors will find an assortment of local crafts, fresh produce, and unique homewares that reflect the region's rich heritage.

Hawes Main Street Shops

Hawes is known for its quintessential Main Street, brimming with independently owned shops that provide a distinct local shopping experience.

One can explore:

  • The Station Yard: A shopping haven with a diverse mix of stores.
  • Artisanal crafts and clothing boutiques selling locally made items.
  • Specialty food stores offering the famous Wensleydale cheese and other regional delicacies.

Leyburn Market

In Leyburn, the Market provides a traditional shopping experience where local vendors and farmers converge to sell their goods.

Highlights of Leyburn Market include:

  • Fresh, locally sourced produce and crafts available for purchase each Friday.
  • An appealing assortment of stalls against the backdrop of the historic Town Square.

Both Hawes and Leyburn present visitors with opportunities to purchase unique keepsakes, indulge in local food, and gather items that are emblematic of the Yorkshire region’s lifestyle and culture.


Sightseeing and Tours

Wensleydale offers a rich tapestry of historical and whimsical attractions that cater to every visitor's taste, providing engaging tours at each significant location.

Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle is a marvellously preserved medieval fortress with a commanding view of Wensleydale.

Visitors can explore its well-preserved structure, discover its deep history through guided tours, and delve into engaging falconry displays.

The castle also boasts a maze of gardens and often hosts medieval re-enactments that captivate spectators of all ages.

The Forbidden Corner

The Forbidden Corner in Tupgill Park offers an extraordinary garden experience.

With a network of tunnels, chambers, and surprises, this four-acre garden is a labyrinth of the unusual and the fantastical.

Tours through The Forbidden Corner reveal hidden sculptures and peculiar follies that have made this attraction a family favourite.

Visitors must pre-book their adventure, as access is controlled to enhance the experience.

Constable Burton Hall

The elegance of Constable Burton Hall, a Georgian mansion surrounded by exquisite gardens, is undeniable.

The hall itself is a private residence, but its famed gardens are open to the public from spring until autumn, featuring a vivid collection of flowers and plant species.

Gardening enthusiasts frequently visit to admire the seasonal displays and the tranquillity that comes from its careful curation.

Tours often combine the hall's rich heritage with its splendid horticulture, providing an enriching experience.


Accommodations

Wensleydale offers a variety of accommodations tailored to every traveller's needs, whether they're looking for the personal touch of a bed and breakfast or the independence of a self-catering cottage.

Local Hotels & B&Bs

Visitors to Wensleydale can enjoy the comforts of home at the many bed and breakfasts dotting the region.

In the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, comfortable guest houses, such as those near Aysgarth Falls, provide not only stunning views of the rolling countryside but also convenient access to local attractions.

Here’s a snapshot of what's available:

  • Guest House near Aysgarth Falls: Ideally located for those who wish to explore the surroundings on foot, this guest house offers en-suite rooms and proximity to local amenities and scenic spots.
  • Hotels in Leyburn: A selection of hotels providing an array of facilities and dining options cater to different budgets and preferences.

Self-Catering Cottages

Those looking for a more independent stay might opt for one of Wensleydale's self-catering cottages.

Hawes, an attractive market town at the head of the dale, hosts several traditional stone-built cottages. They combine modern comforts with rustic charm, offering visitors a peaceful retreat after a day of exploring.

Examples include:

  • Spacious, Dog-Friendly Cottage: A stone's throw from St. Margaret's Church in Hawes, this cottage ranks highly for comfort and location.
  • Cottages in Bainbridge: Picturesque Bainbridge boasts a selection of cottages suitable for both short breaks and longer stays, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the beauty of the Dales.

Exploring Surrounding Areas

For the avid adventurer, the areas surrounding Wensleydale offer a variety of engaging experiences, from historical ventures in cities like York to the natural beauty found throughout Upper and Lower Wensleydale.

Day Trips to York

York, an ancient city rich with history, is a must-visit destination.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the city's Viking past at the JORVIK Viking Centre, walk the well-preserved city walls, or explore the grandeur of York Minster, one of the largest and most beautiful Gothic cathedrals in Europe.


Travel Tips and Resources

When visiting Wensleydale, travellers have access to public transport options and plenty of visitor information to make the most of their trip to this picturesque area within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Public transport serves as a convenient option for visitors to explore Wensleydale.

The Wensleydale Railway, an authentic heritage line, offers scenic journeys between Leeming Bar and Redmire, passing through attractive stations like Leyburn and Finghall Lane.

Still, it is essential to check the timetable in advance as services can be seasonal and schedules may vary.

For those preferring buses, several services run through Wensleydale, connecting it with surrounding areas within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Visitors should consider purchasing a Dales Rover Ticket, which allows unlimited travel on buses and trains within the region on the day of purchase.

Visitor Centres and Information

Visitor centres in Wensleydale provide a wealth of information, helping visitors discover the myriad of things to do in the area.

The main centres located in Hawes and Aysgarth Falls offer detailed maps, guides, and personalised advice about walking routes, local attractions, and events.

  • Hawes National Park Centre lies at the heart of Wensleydale and is an essential stop for visitors looking to enhance their experience of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
  • Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre is not only a point of information but also an excellent starting point for exploring the famous falls themselves.

Both centres offer toilets, parking, and gift shops where visitors can purchase souvenirs and local crafts. They play a pivotal role in ensuring that visitors are well-prepared to enjoy all that Wensleydale has to offer.


Frequently Asked Questions

Exploring Wensleydale presents numerous questions for potential visitors. This section aims to address some of the most common queries with clear, concise answers.

What are the best dog-friendly activities in Wensleydale?

Dog owners can take their companions on numerous walking trails throughout the region. The countryside provides ample space for dogs to enjoy, with many local pubs and cafes offering dog-friendly environments.

Which indoor attractions can be enjoyed in Wensleydale during rainy weather?

For a rainy day in Wensleydale, visitors can explore the Wensleydale Creamery to learn about and taste the famous Wensleydale cheese.

Other indoor options include local history museums and artisan craft shops.

What are the top attractions for adults visiting Wensleydale?

Adult visitors should not miss the traditional breweries and distilleries offering tours and tastings.

Historic castles and the many arts and crafts galleries also make for a fine adult-oriented itinerary.

What experiences does the Wensleydale Railway offer?

The Wensleydale Railway provides a nostalgic journey through stunning landscapes.

It offers theme-based events and services from heritage diesel to seasonal steam trains, catering to both families and rail enthusiasts.

Where can visitors find the most picturesque waterfalls in Wensleydale?

Aysgarth Falls and Hardraw Force are the most renowned waterfalls in the area, offering breathtaking views and walking paths for visitors to enjoy the natural beauty of the landscape.

Which town is considered the most beautiful in the Yorkshire Dales?

Hawes is often cited as the most beautiful town in the Yorkshire Dales.

Situated at the head of Wensleydale, Hawes is known for its market town charm and access to surrounding natural beauty.

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