Yorkshire Dales

Carved from the rugged Pennine hills by ancient glaciers, gently eroded by rushing streams and then softened by meandering rivers, the Yorkshire Dales form one of the most varied and spectacular landscapes in Britain. Scenery so breathtaking and unspoilt that some 680 square miles have been protected as a National Park since 1954 - the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Consisting of many "dales", great and small, the main dales of the National Park are made up of Wensleydale, Swaledale, Bishopdale, Coverdale, Raydale, Arkengarthdale, Littondale and Wharfedale.

The Yorkshire Dales has over 1200 miles of footpaths criss-crossing the valley floors and moors for you to enjoy first hand. Sparkling waterfalls abound more than anywhere else in Britain. The Pennine Way passes through Hawes, and England's highest waterfall Hardrow Force is close by. Be mesmerised by the falls at Aysgarth in mid Wensleydale. If you're into searching out red squirrels experienced walkers now have the chance to enjoy a 10-mile there-and-back hike to a squirrel view point set up in woodland in Snaizeholme, near Hawes. Why not try out your map reading skills on an orienteering course or try some GPS fun with geocaching.

Discover the story of the people and landscape of the Yorkshire Dales at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes! The Museum is free for children and also offers a range of educational activities. A selection of events, workshops, demonstrations and exhibtions also run throughout the year. Hawes is also home to the world famous Wensleydale Cheese and a visit to Wensleydale Creamery is not to be missed.

Wander through pretty villages, call in at a local hostelry or tea shop, ponder local crafts such as The Cat Pottery in West Burton renowned to be the prettiest village in the dales, glass blowing in Masham, ropemakers in Hawes. From West Burton take the little road into Walden with its forever breath taking scenery, a small dale but so beautiful. Be amazed at the Forbidden Corner in Coverdale, fun and fright for all the family! Detour to East Witton and call in at the Blue Lion and marvel at the large village green so beautifully tended. Don't miss Askrigg with it's fine church and lovely walks to Mill Gill woods, Newbiggin-in-Bishopdale with a tiny waterfall, you might miss it if if you don't explore deeply enough, Bainbridge, again with a large village green, play area, ancient stocks and lovely walks. Further down into Nidderdale, now an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, seek out Grewelthorpe, Kirkby Malzeard, Galphay and Laverton, the list is nearly endless.

Visit Leyburn, a thriving market town with one the highest market places in England and panoramic views of Wensleydale from the Shawl, a footpath starting in Leyburn which has associations with Mary, Queen of Scots and Bolton Castle. Take a picnic and walk the Shawl to the castle, the views are quite breathtaking. Chocoholics should visit The Little Chocolate Shop whilst here and take a peek in Milners department store. Join in the excitement of Tennant's furniture auctions most Saturdays taking a break in the cafe in the magnificent Garden Rooms there. Watch out for events in here too, brass bands, classical music, pop concerts also a Christmas Extravaganza and other craft events with art exhibitions being held all year round.

Take in Masham with its stylish Georgian architecture, fine church, independent shops and public houses; a park ideal for families with tennis courts, golf and horse riding facilities all nearby. Masham is also famous for the Theakston's and Black Sheep breweries dating back to 1827. Take a stroll along the river bank, enjoy a special meal at stately Swinton Castle, keep the children happy at Lightwater Valley Theme park or venture a little further to explore Ripon, Harrogate and York. Find the bank now in many a scene of the Heartbeat series.

There are many stately homes, castles and gardens dotted across the Dales, years of history for you to explore. Discover RHS Garden Harlow Carr in Harrogate which promises to be a truly surprising and entertaining day out. Visit the childhood home of Richard III at Middleham Castle in Middleham. The massive keep, one of the largest in England, served as a defensive building and self-contained residence.