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11 of my favourite days out in The Yorkshire Dales

By Lyndsey Thomas – 26th January 2021

The mighty Yorkshire Dales National Park has been named Europe’s top National Park by TripAdvisor.

Europe’s best national park and 11th in the world!

This doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

I consider myself the luckiest lady in lockdown living on the edge of one God’s greatest creations.

I reside in Wharfedale – right on the southern tip of The Yorkshire Dales National Park. One of over 20 dales, most of which are named after the rivers that run through them.

(The snaps below are photos of Wharfedale and the local moors)

Back to my Yorkshire roots

Since relocating back to God’s Own County back in 2016 after 20 years in London, much of my time has been spent exploring The Dales.

When we are not locked up, we spend our family time hiking, wandering, climbing, swimming, and driving along the winding country roads drinking in the ever-changing lush landscape of this picture-perfect tapestry of rolling fields trimmed with dry stone walls, forests, crags, moorland and limestone formations.

Nowhere quite makes the hair on the back of my neck stand on end like the Yorkshire Dales does on a crispy winter’s day.

Any day really. The Dales always look enchanting, whatever the weather.

Right now, my 7am childfree sunrise stomps locally across the moorlands of Burley and Ilkley in Wharfedale are keeping me sane.

And muddy mid-morning meanders with the kids in tow – striding through steams, playing poo sticks and coming home caked in muck is replacing classroom time.

Hopefully it won’t be too long before we pile into our car and head up into the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park to embark on one of our favourite family adventures listed below;

1) Riverside walks at Bolton Abbey & Strid Wood – Wharfedale

Bolton Abbey is our ‘GO TO’ for an out-of-season fresh-air-filled and a sometimes-rainy-day-out not too far from home.

We love attempting to get from one side of the river Wharfe to the other over the rather precarious stepping stones.

The countryside surrounding the Abbey is beautifully manicured compared to other wilder parts of The Yorkshire Dales National Park and there are plenty of pram-friendly pathways and wonderful walks.

Bolton Abbey itself is a wonderful 12th-century Augustinian monastery which sits beside the River Wharfe. It’s a stunning ruin, it’s steeped in history and makes for a fantastic Instagram post.

This little patch of The Yorkshire Dales attracts lots of tourists in summer months with blow up dinghys and disposable BBQs as far as the eye can see on a hot day.

But at any other time it’s mainly well-healed locals sporting Barbour jackets, Hunter wellies and a spaniel or two that head up to Bolton Abbey. And that’s when we love it the most.

https://boltonabbey.com/

2) Play the ultimate game of hide & seek at Brimham Rocks – Nidderdale

Brimham Rocks is quite simply the finest naturally-formed playground in England. My fearless offspring love to climb and jump from rock to rock, some as high as 30 meters.

I watch in despair. But the lack of ‘red tape’ makes this day out even more exhilarating. Or dangerous. Depending on your outlook and your family role.

It’s a National Trust site and you pay to park but after that you’re free to roam, climb, jump and hide to your heart’s content.  The rocks, some of which carry names like the Dancing Bear, the Gorilla and the Eagle, and the bracken that surrounds them make for a proper good game of hide and seek.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/brimham-rocks

3) Follow the falls on the Ingleton Falls Trail

This has to be one of our favourite Yorkshire Dales walks as a family. It ticks every box – good parking, a circular walk, just under five miles, and a walking trail that winds through dense woods filled with flower fairies (yes my six year old has seen them) alongside and over the most breathtaking rushing waterfalls.

Ingleton Falls is the Igacu of Yorkshire – and with the prospect of an ice-cream from possibly thee most remote ice cream van in Yorkshire that strategically parks half way along the route, it’s a winner of a day out every time.

https://www.ingletonwaterfallstrail.co.uk/

4) Follow in Harry Potter’s Footsteps at Malham Cove

Another breathtaking, naturally-formed Yorkshire Dales marvel is Malham Cove, especially if you’re a Harry Potter fan.

Personally, I’m not, but I still love to visit this huge curving amphitheatre-shaped cliff formation of dramatic limestone rock and climb to the top.

It’s an mediocre climb up 400 steps (probably not for you if you’ve got bad knees). Apparently, Harry and Hermione pitched a tent on this incredible limestone pavement – I have no idea how!

The majestic views from the top are pretty breathtaking too.

Avoid heels.

https://www.malhamdale.com/malhamcove/

5) Have a pint at the highest pub in Britain – Swaledale

The world-famous Tan Hill Inn is the highest pub in Britain and most definitely has the most windiest beer garden in the world! On a lonely site high in the Yorkshire Dales that feels right out of the opening scene of the 80s cult classic film American Werewolf in London, you wouldn’t catch me wandering around it at night alone.

Although I expect I probably wouldn’t be alone – the resident ghost and a couple of headless horseman would make sure of that – still, it’s a must-visit, if just for a selfie next to the signage and a glass of plonk by the fire.

https://www.tanhillinn.com/

6) Drive across Buttertubs Pass – “England’s truly spectacular road” – Swaledale

Jeremy Clarkson described the drive as “England’s truly spectacular road” and he ain’t half wrong. The 37 mile drive from Hawes to Muker through Wensleydale and Swaledale is nothing short of breath-taking. It’s no wonder Yorkshire has laid claim to being God’s Own Country – if God was going to appear – it would be up here – you can practically tug on his shirt tails through the clouds.

Take to time to stop every so often, get out of your car and just take it all in. Park the car up, twirl round and round and pretend you’re Maria Von Trap. No one will hear you up there, so sing as loud as you can. It’s very liberating.

https://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/places/buttertubs_pass/

7) Taste some lovely cheese at Wensleydale Creamery – Wensleydale

If, like me, you live for cheese then this place is an absolute must! It’s the home to proper Yorkshire Wensleydale Cheese – the only place in the world that makes the real deal. It’s a cheesy treat for all the family – make some time for their interactive experience that takes visitors on a journey through the art of cheese-making.

Watch Yorkshire Wensleydale cheese being made by the team of master cheese-makers in the Creamery whilst the kids watch clips of Wallace & Gromit films. They can also drive the milk tanker and learn how a cow makes milk. A visit to the cheese shop is a must.  Lovely cheese Gromit.

https://www.wensleydale.co.uk/

 8) Brush up on your Yorkshire medieval history at Bolton Castle – Wensleydale

Bolton Castle near Leyburn is one of the country’s best preserved medieval castles and holds over 600 years of fascinating history including involvement in the Pilgrimage of Grace, Mary Queen of Scot’s imprisonment and a Civil War siege.

Falconry displays, archery demonstrations, wild boar, bees, rare breed sheep and hands on crafts and games as just some of the fun stuff on the cards. The gardens are spectacular and there’s an on-site tearoom for that all important cup of Yorkshire tea.

https://www.boltoncastle.co.uk/

 

 9) Visit Yorkshire’s Hollywood film set – Aysgarth Falls – Wensleydale

The three stepped waterfalls at Aysgarth have been a tourist attraction for over 200 years. It was these very falls in Yorkshire that provided the dramatic setting for the Hollywood movie – Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Yes, that’s right, Kevin Costner has visited, and that alone is a good enough reason to put Aysgarth Falls on my list of essential days out in The Yorkshire Dales.

There are a number of easy paths winding through it so a perfect day trip for all the family. Bring a picnic and enjoy it in the primrose filled woods – look out for the roe deer. Top tip – the waterfalls are at their most dramatic after heavy rain.

https://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/places/aysgarth_falls_national_park_centre/

 

10) Summit one of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks – Chapel-le-Dale 

Yorkshire’s three peaks, made up of Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough, make up Yorkshire’s Three Peak Challenge. Yes I’ve done it, no I didn’t train. yes it nearly killed me. No – DO NOT have two pints in the boozer half way round.

Tackling each mountain separately is much more doable, especially if you have kids in tow. Mine have climbed both Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent on separate occasions and thoroughly enjoyed both climbs.

Both of my bambinos favour the five mile round trip up and down Ingleborough  because of the rather daunting scramble it involves. Mummy, not so much. But the views across Yorkshire and Lancashire are worth the panic-attack inducing ridges and steep drops once you’re at the top.

 

11) Tick off a Yorkshire UNESCO World Heritage Site at Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal – Ripon

Fountains Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage Site so expect to be totally in awe of the vistas, which range from beautifully manicured gardens, follies, and water features to ancient ruins and parkland with free-roaming deer. The kids might not fully appreciate the breathtaking beauty of Studley Royal and the history of the 12th-century Cistercian abbey but they’ll love the huge timber play area, nature-spotting, tunnels and follies and climbing all over the abbey ruins.

Nowhere is off limits, so the kids can explore to their little hearts’ content. The grounds make for one helluva perfect picnic spot.

https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/fountains-abbey-and-studley-royal-water-garden

 

Whizz round the Yorkshire Dales on the back of a boom trike

For a proper Yorkshire adventure like no other – get ‘Trike Man of the Dales’ – Jason – to chauffeur you and your no. 2 along the winding roads of the dales at up to 55mph on the back of his boom trike. I’ve been lucky enough to experience zooming round the dales with the wind in my hair on more than one occasion with Jason and I can promise you, it’s the icing on the Yorkshire-staycation cake. My loved it too.

There are a number of set tours available and Jason will pick you up pretty much anywhere in the Yorkshire Dales. He knows his stuff too and headsets in your helmets mean you get to learn along the way.

https://www.yorkshiretriketours.co.uk/

 

Self-drive in true style around The Yorkshire Dales National Park

Or if you are feeling flush, you can always hire a bright red 1970s classic Jaguar and zoom around the Dales in style from Classic Car Hire North.

As amazing memories go, this experience has to be up there with my best. It’s not every day you get to park the mega-bucks Jag right outside Castle Howard is it?

https://classiccarhirenorth.co.uk/

All photos are my own. All kids are my own. Unfortunately the red Jag is not my own.

 

For more Yorkshire inspiration follow me over on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/girlaboutyorkshire/

Lyndsey Thomas
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