Whether you are visiting for the day, or taking a longer trip, there is much more to do in the rural Yorkshire Dales than you think. This idyllic countryside forms the UK’s largest National Park and is home to some outstanding scenery, including rolling hills, rivers, lakes and caves, as well as heritage attractions such as castles and railways. Whatever time of year you decide to visit, there is something for you to explore during your stay and it has been hard to narrow the area’s best tourist hotspots down. Here are my final 8 must-see attractions in the Yorkshire Dales:
1. Aysgarth Falls – DL8 3SR
Aysgarth Falls are a spectacular triple flight of waterfalls, carved out by the River Ure over an almost one-mile stretch in Wensleydale near Aysgarth. The falls are split into three stages: the Upper, Middle and Lower Falls. They are surrounded by forest and farmland, with lovely walkways along the riverbank from which you can view each of the waterfalls and spot wildlife like squirrels and birds. You can also walk right up to water’s edge and enjoy the cascading water close up if you like! The beauty of the falls has been attracting tourists for over 200 years, with Turner and Wordsworth both visiting and the Upper and Middle Falls also featured in the 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. Autumn is probably the best time to visit this free must-see attraction in the Yorkshire Dales, as Aysgarth falls are best experienced after heavy rainfall when they are at their most dramatic!
2. The Forbidden Corner – DL8 4TJ
Affectionately known as “The Strangest Place in the World”, The Forbidden Corner is a weird and wonderful tourist attraction set in a 4-acre garden in the heart of Tupgill Park, in Coverdale. With a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and other surprises, the Forbidden Corner is ideal for adventurers. There are passages that lead to nowhere, statues, a pyramid of translucent glass, quirky tree-carvings, a maze and lots of nooks and crannies to discover. There really is no other place like it, so this a must-see tourist attraction in the Yorkshire Dales for anyone who is young at heart and enjoys exploring. Just remember to book online in advance, as you can’t purchase tickets on the door! This is definitely not one to miss!
3. Wensleydale Railway – DL8 5ET
The Wensleydale Railway is a heritage railway that runs between Leeming Bar, Leyburn and Redmire. The railway first opened in stages from 1848 to 1878 and originally ran for 22 miles, from Northallerton up into Redmire in Wensleydale. After closing to passengers in 1954, the line partially re-opened to visitors in 2003 as a tourist attraction offering beautiful, scenic views from its railway carriages. The trains pass seven stations and runs through rural countryside, woodland, villages and market towns. Although diesel locomotives primarily run on the line, a vintage steam train also visits in the summer months and you can even have afternoon tea on the train if you like. Over 50,000 people per year travel on the Wensleydale Railway, so if want to view the Yorkshire Dales in a unique way, why not pay this must-see attraction a visit?
4. Whitescar Caves – LA6 3AW
Whitescar Caves, in Chapel-le-Dale near Ingleton, first opened in 1925. This underground attraction is the longest showcave in Britain, at 3.7 miles long and its name comes from the limestone rock crags above the entrance. Whitescar Caves’ 80-minute tour, covering around 1-mile, features waterfalls, dramatic stalactites, curious rock formations and a vast cavern dating back to the Ice Age. You’ll have to be reasonably fit to visit this must-see attraction in the Yorkshire Dales, as you have to bend at low points and climb steps, but it is worth it to view this natural phenomenon. Make sure to take a jacket as the cave is only 8°c, wear sturdy footwear and arrive 5 minutes before the tour starts to purchase your tickets. Open 7 days a week most of the year and on weekends in winter, be sure to check the water levels online before you travel, as the cave can flood after heavy rainfall! This is definitely one not to miss!
5. Bolton Castle – DL8 4ET
Bolton Castle is one of the country’s best preserved medieval castles from the 14th century, was completed in 1399. It is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which remains privately owned by Lord Bolton. The castle was partially damaged in the English Civil War, but the structure remains mostly intact and visitors can explore the Armory, Old Kitchens, Dungeons, Great Chamber and Mary Queen of Scot’s bedroom. After her defeat in Scotland in 1568, Mary fled to England and was held in Bolton Castle for six months, during which time she escaped and lost her shawl on the way to Leyburn, hence “Leyburn Shawl”. Visitors to the castle can view falconry displays and archery demonstrations and can take part in wild boar feeding. Bolton Castle also has stunning gardens with a maze, vineyard and wild flower garden, making this a stunning must-see attraction in the Yorkshire Dales!
6. The Buttertubs Pass – DL8 3LY
The Buttertubs Pass is a scenic winding road in the Yorkshire Dales, between Hawes and Thwaite. The road is now fairly well-known after featuring in the Tour de France cycle race in 2014 and it has also featured on Top Gear, being highly rated by Jeremy Clarkson. However, the story behind the Buttertubs themselves remains lesser known. The Buttertubs are 20-metre deep limestone potholes which are located at the side of this rural roadside and it is said that the name comes from times when farmers rested on their way to market and would lower the butter they’d produced into the potholes to keep it cool in hot weather. With challenging corners, steep climbs, rapid descents and dramatic scenery, this wild route offers a challenging cycling climb and an amazing driving experience unlike any other! This is one of the most stunning must-see tourist attractions not to miss in the Yorkshire Dales!
7. Wensleydale Creamery – DL8 3RN
Based in Hawes, the creamery is the only genuine maker of Wensleydale Cheese, made famous by Nick Parks’ animated characters Wallace and Gromit. As well as being a working factory, the Wensleydale Creamery has a visitor centre offering guided tours, cheese-making demonstrations and over 20 varieties of cheese for free-tasting. There is also a museum which offers a fascinating insight into the thousand-year history of Wensleydale Cheese, as well as a restaurant and coffee shop for visitors to enjoy. You can purchase hampers and Wallace and Gromit merchandise from the gift shop and can even try your hand at butter-making. This is a must-see attraction during any trip to Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales!
8. Ribblehead Viaduct – LA6 3AU
The striking Ribblehead Viaduct carries the Settle-Carlisle railway across Batty Moss in the Ribble Valley, in Carnforth, North Yorkshire. Built between 1870 and 1875, the viaduct is now a restored, Grade II listed structure, with the land beneath it a Scheduled Ancient Monument, as the remains of the construction camp are located there. A feat of Victorian engineering, the building of it even inspired the ITV period drama series Jericho!
Ribblehead Viaduct is the longest and third tallest structure on the line, standing at 400 metres wide and 32 metres tall. Due to its stunning location in the middle of the famous Three Peaks and its 24 impressive spans that you can walk right up to and stand under, this majestic viaduct is a popular photo stop for tourists and a must-see attraction in the Yorkshire Dales. The old station building has been converted into a visitor centre and there is also the popular Station Inn for sightseers to enjoy. If you’re lucky enough, you may even see one of the seven passenger trains that cross the viaduct daily! This tourist hotspot is definitely not to be missed!