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The 9 Best Towns in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales is a region known for its rich history, natural beauty, and cultural charm. From the historic towns of Richmond, Skipton, and Hawes to the picturesque villages of Grassington, Malham, and Kettlewell, there are a variety of different areas for you to explore.

Steeped in history, towns in the Yorkshire Dales are dotted with mediaeval castles, ancient ruins, and traditional market squares that tell the story of the region’s past, all set within stunning natural landscapes. You’ll find rolling hills, verdant valleys, and picturesque rivers as the backdrop to the nicest towns in Yorkshire, perfect for outdoor adventures.

But it’s not just history and nature that make the Yorkshire Dales special. The region is also home to a vibrant arts scene, with galleries, museums, and cultural events that showcase the area’s rich heritage. 

Whether you’re interested in exploring local crafts, sampling traditional cuisine, or learning about the region’s history, the Yorkshire Dales has something for everyone. This article will walk you through the best historical, scenic, and cultural towns in the Yorkshire Dales, detailing what there is to see and do in each one. 

Historical Towns in the Yorkshire Dales

Richmond 

Richmond, one of the nicest towns in Yorkshire, is steeped in history and charm. Nestled in the heart of the Dales, this town boasts a rich historical heritage that dates back to the Norman era. The town’s name itself is derived from Old English words which translate to ‘stronghold’ and ‘hill’, perfectly describing its location on top of a hill which overlooks the River Swale.

One of the most iconic landmarks in Richmond is the imposing Richmond Castle, which takes centre stage in the skyline and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside. Built in the 11th century by Alan Rufus, a friend of William the Conqueror, the castle has witnessed centuries of history, including the infamous ‘Pilgrimage of Grace’ during the reign of Henry VIII.

Richmond is also known for its charming cobbled streets, historic buildings, and vibrant market square. The town’s Georgian architecture and picturesque setting make it one of the best places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales for history lovers. Explore the quaint shops, cafes and galleries that line the streets or take a leisurely stroll along the riverbank.

Skipton 

Skipton, often referred to as the ‘Gateway to the Yorkshire Dales’, is another must-visit town in the region. This bustling market town has a rich history that dates back over 1,000 years and is known for its historical importance as a centre for the wool trade.

One of the town’s most famous landmarks is Skipton Castle, one of the best-preserved mediaeval castles in England. Built in the 11th century by Robert de Romille, a Norman baron, the castle has a fascinating history that includes sieges, battles, and royal visits. Today, visitors can explore the castle’s towers and dungeons, and enjoy excellent views of the town and surrounding countryside.

Skipton is also known to be one of the best market towns in the Yorkshire Dales. Its vibrant market takes place four days a week in the town’s historic square, and offers a wide range of goods, from fresh produce and local crafts to antiques and collectables. It’s a great place to experience the hustle and bustle of a traditional market and pick up some unique souvenirs from one of the best places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales.

Hawes

Hawes, another one of the best market towns in the Yorkshire Dales, is located in the heart of Wensleydale, sitting at the head of the valley. It has a bustling energy and is a great example of a thriving, quintessentially Yorkshire Dales town. 

Hawes is famous for its cheese-making heritage, where visitors can learn all about the traditional craft at the Wensleydale Creamery. The creamery produces the famous Wensleydale cheese, which gained popularity thanks to the animated characters Wallace and Gromit. It is undoubtedly one of the best places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales for the foodies amongst us, as visitors can take a guided tour of the creamery, watch the cheese-making process, and sample some delicious cheeses.

Another notable landmark in Hawes is the Dales Countryside Museum, which showcases the history and culture of the Yorkshire Dales. The museum is housed in the former railway station and features exhibits on farming, mining, and local crafts. Visitors can also explore the museum’s gardens and enjoy stunning views of the surrounding countryside.

Scenic Towns in the Yorkshire Dales

Grassington 

Grassington is one of the nicest towns in Yorkshire, and it’s easy to see why. This picturesque town is nestled in Wharfedale, surrounded by stunning limestone scenery. The town’s cobbled streets and traditional stone buildings give it a timeless charm that’s hard to resist. You may recognise it from Channel 5’s series ‘All Creatures Great and Small’, where it was transformed into the fictional market town of Darrowby.

For those who truly appreciate nature’s beauty, Grassington is one of the best places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales. Its biggest highlight is the town’s proximity to the River Wharfe, which meanders through the valley and offers plenty of opportunities for scenic walks and picnics. The nearby Grass Woods is a popular spot for nature lovers, with its ancient woodland and abundance of wildlife.

Malham 

Malham is another must-visit town in the Yorkshire Dales, known for its stunning natural beauty. The town is surrounded by limestone cliffs and hills, making it a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts. One of the most iconic landmarks in Malham is Malham Cove, a massive limestone amphitheatre that’s a popular spot for rock climbing and hiking.

Another highlight of Malham is Gordale Scar, a dramatic limestone gorge that’s a popular destination for walkers and climbers. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, visitors can pop by the nearby Malham Tarn – a beautiful glacial lake that’s perfect for picnics and birdwatching. The breathtaking scenery secures Malham’s spot as one of the most beautiful places to go in the Yorkshire Dales. 

Kettlewell

Kettlewell is a charming village in Upper Wharfedale, known for its traditional stone cottages and stunning scenery. The village is surrounded by rolling hills and lush green fields, making it a perfect destination for nature lovers.

Close to Grassington, one of the highlights of Kettlewell is its proximity to the River Wharfe, which makes for the perfect daytime stroll either on foot or two wheels. The nearby Kettlewell Beck is a popular spot for fishing and birdwatching.

For those looking for outdoor activities, Kettlewell is a great base for exploring as it’s situated close to many of the towns in the Yorkshire Dales, meaning you can easily hop between destinations to make the most of your travels. The village is surrounded by walking trails, including the Dales Way, which runs along the River Wharfe and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding countryside.

Cultural Towns in the Yorkshire Dales

Settle

Settle is a charming market town in the Yorkshire Dales, known for its strong cultural presence. The town is home to a vibrant arts scene, with several galleries and studios showcasing the work of local artists. It’s also one of the best places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales for a lively music scene, as it hosts regular concerts and performances throughout the year in various venues.

One of the highlights of Settle is the Settle Victoria Hall, a historic venue which originally opened in 1853 and still stands as the heart of community and culture in the town today. It hosts a wide range of cultural events, including concerts, plays, and exhibitions. This Yorkshire Dales town is also home to the Settle Stories Festival, an annual event that celebrates storytelling in all its forms.

Another notable cultural institution in Settle is The Folly, a unique museum that explores the history and heritage of the Yorkshire Dales. The museum is housed in a Grade I listed building and features exhibits on local history, archaeology, and folklore.

Pateley Bridge 

Pateley Bridge is another cultural hub in the Dales, known for its strong sense of community and rich heritage. This town in the Yorkshire Dales is home to several traditional pubs and tearooms, where visitors can enjoy quintessentially British cuisine, chat with the locals, and soak up the atmosphere.

One of the highlights of Pateley Bridge is the Nidderdale Museum. It’s a fascinating museum housed in a former workhouse that explores the history and culture of the region, showcasing exhibitions on local industries, agriculture, and social history.

Pateley Bridge is also known for its annual events, including the Nidderdale Show, a traditional agricultural show that celebrates the region’s farming heritage. Visitors can expect a variety of competitions such as the finest livestock, horses and show-jumping, and sheep-dog trials, as well as various attractions such as trade stands, craft marquees, and vintage tractor and machinery displays. 

The River Nidd flows through Pateley Bridge, you can walk alongside and admire the view. The riverside walk is flat and pushchair friendly so it is great for little ones to explore.

Masham 

Masham is a picturesque market town in the Yorkshire Dales, known for its strong cultural presence. The town is home to several galleries and studios, where visitors can browse and purchase the work of local artists.

A must-visit affair in Masham is the Masham Arts Festival, an annual event that celebrates the town’s artistic community. The festival features exhibitions, workshops, and performances, attracting visitors from across the region.

Masham is undoubtedly one the best places to visit in the Yokshire Dales if your idea of a perfect afternoon is a long country walk, and then rewarding yourself with some traditional pub grub and a refreshing pint. Known for its traditional pubs and breweries, visitors to Masham can sample locally brewed beers and ales. The town is home to the Black Sheep Brewery, a popular brewery that offers tours and tastings of its award-winning beer.

Tips for Visiting the Yorkshire Dales 

When planning a visit to the towns in the Yorkshire Dales, it’s essential to consider the best times to visit and what to pack for your trip. 

When to Visit 

The Yorkshire Dales is a stunning region that offers something for everyone, from charming towns to breathtaking natural landscapes. The best time to visit the Yorkshire Dales is typically during the spring and summer months, from April to September. During this time the weather is generally mild, and the countryside is in full bloom, making it an ideal time for outdoor activities such as hiking, cycling, and picnicking.

Additionally, many of the region’s cultural events and festivals take place during the spring and summer months, providing visitors with plenty of opportunities to experience the local culture and heritage. However, the Yorkshire Dales is a beautiful destination year-round, and each season offers its own unique charm.

What to Pack 

When packing for your trip to the towns in the Yorkshire Dales, there are a couple of essential items you’ll need. We’ve put together a rough packing checklist so you can be confident you haven’t forgotten anything important.

  • Comfortable walking shoes or hiking boots
  • Waterproof jacket or coat
  • Warm layers (sweaters, fleece, etc.)
  • Suncream, sunglasses, and a hat or cap (for sunny days)
  • Insect repellent (for outdoor activities)
  • A sturdy backpack for carrying essentials
  • Reusable water bottle 
  • Snacks or energy bars
  • Map or guidebook of the area
  • Camera for capturing memories
  • Binoculars (for birdwatching or wildlife spotting)
  • First aid kit (including any necessary medications)
  • Portable charger for all your devices 

Summary 

The Yorkshire Dales is a region that offers a diverse range of towns and villages, each with its unique charm and attractions. From the historic towns of Richmond and Skipton to the picturesque villages of Malham and Kettlewell, there’s something here for everyone. 

Whether you’re interested in exploring historical landmarks, enjoying outdoor activities, or simply soaking up the natural beauty, the towns in the Yorkshire Dales have something for everyone. So why not plan a visit to this beautiful region and discover the many places to go in the Yorkshire Dales for yourself?

 

Tempted to explore the best towns in the Yorkshire Dales? Leisure Resorts has plenty of luxury holiday homes in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales at our award-winning Aysgarth Lodge Park. Not only are our holiday homes a great base for exploring the best that Yorkshire has to offer, but we also have a farm shop, bar and restaurant, and plenty of activities on-site for you to enjoy.

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