3 Days in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Travel Itinerary

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Matt Lynch
Itinerary by: Matt Lynch
2 months ago
Travel Writer
Duration: 3 days

INTRODUCTION TO 3 DAYS IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES Nestled in northern England, amongst a cluster of neighbouring National Parks and AONBs, sits the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This sublime limestone landscape is home to a vast section of the Pennine Hills, fondly known as the “backbone of England” due to their position rising up the centre of the country. Spanning 841 square miles, the park boasts immense hill-views and sensational stargazing and was qualified as an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2020. Yorkshire is England’s largest county and holds the impressive title of “God’s Own Country.” Legend states that Jesus visited the green pastures of England, and perhaps Yorkshire, as a boy, hence the religious connotations. Further reference is given to this in William Blake’s preface poem to the book “Milton: A Poem in Two Books”, where Blake states “And did those feet in ancient time, walk upon Englands mountains green.” These famous words are now the lyrics to the popular British hymn Jerusalem by Hubert Parry. Clearly, there are epic historical and literary connections in the Yorkshire Dales. The landscape is a perfect representation of rural English countryside. It is a haven for hikers and hill walkers and is filled with wide valleys – also known as “dales”. Two of the nation’s most famous long-distance walking trails pass right through the National Park: Wainwright’s Coast to Coast and the Pennine Way. For more casual ramblers, there are plenty of fantastic day walks to embark on. One such challenge is the coveted Yorkshire Three Peaks that involves climbing the summits of Pen-y-Ghent (694 metres), Whernside (736 metres), and Ingleborough (723 metres) back-to-back in under 12 hours. A feat not for the faint-hearted! Yorkshire farmers are famed for the spectacular sheep they raise. 95% of the National Park is under private ownership with at least 1,000 farms in the area. Yorkshire lamb and wool are particularly desired. The dales are also identified by their distinctive drystone walls and narrow country lanes. In the valleys, the cafés are known for their scones and tea drinking. During the summer, the surrounding village greens of Yorkshire are filled with the crack of leather balls hitting cricket bats and cheers of “howzat!” echo through the countryside. The Yorkshire Dales have plenty to offer for all interests. Primarily, it is a region to be explored on foot and outdoors. Brew a thermos of tea, lift your anorak off the coat hook, take your hiking stick out the cupboard, and lace your boots nice and tight – there’s walking to do. BEST TIME OF YEAR TO SPEND 3 DAYS IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES? Generally, the Yorkshire Dales can be visited all year round. For visitors wanting to catch the most reliable weather, the summer months of May to July are often the best for warm walking days. Though, understandably, hikers pack the hills and visitors descend on the waterfalls and museums in great numbers. Another popular time to visit the Yorkshire Dales is in spring. Around Easter, the lambs are being born, and the flower-filled meadows are alive with their gentle bleating. The warming sun lights up the stone villages and walls, drying off the winter damp, and fills the dales with wonder. The dales enter a sort of hibernation during autumn and into winter, but you’ll still find pubs home to fleeced-up walkers crowding around a crackling fire. The sheep cluster together and keep to themselves. The tops of the hills turn hard with frost and the rivers are scattered with orange falling leaves and frozen rocks. In fact, there are certain hillwalkers who prefer the charm of the stone villages in winter. There’s something to be said about strolling down the silent streets with the smell of wood smoke in the air, beneath a blanket of stars, as the grass freezes white in the dales. September through to December can be an exceptionally beautiful time of year to visit for a cold-weather jaunt. Shorter days and more variable conditions mean fewer people are walking the long-distance trails or attempting the Yorkshire Three Peaks, which saps the atmosphere somewhat, but it’s certainly a peaceful experience. WHERE TO STAY FOR 3 DAYS IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES? As with many National Parks in the UK, camping is popular with hillwalkers. Campsites are dotted around the dales, nestled beneath the hills and alongside the towns. It’s possible to spend all day walking, have a pub meal in the evening, then stroll back to your campsite and collapse in your tent exhausted and content with the day’s activities. Wild camping isn’t as common in the Yorkshire Dales due to the extremely high area of land that is privately owned by farmers. It's frowned upon to camp on farmer's land. In any case, you don’t want to go jumping over walls to sleep amongst a field of sheep! Where there are areas of wilderness, there’s often a footpath nearby which is filled with walkers long into the afternoon and first thing in the morning. None of this makes ideal conditions for wild camping where you want to be as discrete as possible and ideally not get in anyone’s way. Still, that isn’t to say it can’t be done, and if you feel confident in your abilities, give it a go! Many of the pubs in Yorkshire double up as BnBs. Though this can be a little loud at times, it often makes for a cosy stay where you’re well-watered and fed, to say the least. Quaint farmhouses and stone cottages also make delightful accommodation options as converted guesthouses or BnBs. For those hikers looking for a cheaper alternative with a backpacker’s atmosphere, the YHA have a few locations sprinkled throughout the National Park. They choose their locations carefully, often at the base of hiking trails and near desirable nature areas. Locations can be found in: Ingleton, Malham, Kettlewell, and Hawes. TRANSPORT FOR 3 DAYS IN THE YORKSHIRE DALES? The Yorkshire Dales are lined by multiple access routes. To the west, the M6 motorway runs parallel to the National Park. The A65, A59, and A61 all surround the southern areas of the dales. This creates a strong road transport network that links with the south and to the rest of England. Once in the dales, the roads drop to narrow B-roads and slight country lanes. Many of the best features are not easily accessible by public transport and a car will be your best option for getting around. Your own vehicle will give you good access to the various sites spread throughout the National Park, just be sure to drive slowly. A flock of sheep clumsily crossing the road from field to field isn’t an unheard-of occurrence. The Yorkshire Dales are relatively well linked by trains. If you are a train fanatic, there is the sensational Settle to Carlisle train line that crosses the Ribblehead Viaduct. The train stops at Horton-in-Ribblesdale, Ribblehead, Dent, and Garsdale on its way up through the Yorkshire Dales. There are also National Rail services that run along the Wensleydale line from Northallerton to Redmire. Dales Bus offers another option for getting around the park by public transport. National Express and Megabus both offer services from the surrounding cities such as Lancaster, Leeds, Harrogate, York, and Darlington into the National Park. Cycling is very popular in the Yorkshire Dales. Don’t be surprised if you see lycra-clad figures racing past you along the narrow country lanes. Bike packers, cycling around the dales with tents and hiking equipment strapped alongside them are also often spotted. Way of the Roses is a particularly famous long-distance and coast-to-coast cycling route. BONUS LOCATIONS - Visit the market town of Settle and take a stroll up Castleberg Crag. - Explore the 14th-century Bolton Castle, site of Mary Queen of Scots' imprisonment. - Stroll to the magnificent cascading Aysgarth Falls. - Visit Richmond Castle, the best-maintained Norman castle in England. TOP TIPS Exploring: - The Yorkshire Dales is a large area. It's unlikely you will be able to visit everywhere in three days. It's better to focus on one area to make the most of your trip, as is the case with this itinerary. Thankfully, there are plenty of exciting sites clustered in the south west of the National Park to keep you occupied for three days! Image Credits: Jamie Davies on Unsplash; Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

Day 1

Whernside & Ribblesdale

Wherever you go in Yorkshire, you’ll find sweeping valleys. Hence the word “dale” being placed in many geographical locations throughout the area. About 12,000 years ago an ice age swept over the Earth. Enormous glaciers made their way from the north of England and carved out the lowlands of the country. This created the numerous U-shaped valleys present throughout the Yorkshire Dales. Today, you will start by seeing one of the most famous dales: Ribblesdale. The morning begins with the viewing of the Ribblesdale Viaduct. Then it's a long climb up to Whernside, one of the famous Yorkshire peaks. After a knee-aching descent, it's time for a pub lunch to reload on energy. In the afternoon it's off to a famous limestone cave. The day finishes at a microbrewery where you can enjoy a few well earned drinks to see off the evening.
09:00 - 10:00
Ribblehead Viaduct
Low Sleights Rd, Carnforth LA6 3AU, UK
Stretching 400 metres across the Ribble Valley, this Grade II listed viaduct acts as a key feature on the Settle to Carlisle train line. It has 24 stone arches and elevates the railway line 32 metres above the boggy moor. It was built in the late 19th century by a workforce of 2,300 men. It was built using primarily manual labour. Due to the dangerous working conditions, at least 100 men lost their lives in its construction. It’s possible to walk along the length of the viaduct and to weave your way beneath its massive arches. This impressive feature is visible from all the surrounding peaks and is a key structure in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Image Credits: Sam Robbins on Unsplash
Article By: Matt Lynch

Notes

Begin your day at the Ribble Valley, surrounded by the Yorkshire Three Peaks. There are walking trails that lead up to the arches and wind their way beneath the massive pillars. Spend some time walking beneath the viaduct to fully appreciate its scale.

Getting there

Ribblehead train station and car park are both in the immediate vicinity of the viaduct.

10:00 - 13:00
Whernside
Whernside, Sedbergh LA6 3AX, UK
At 736 metres, this mountain is the highest of the Yorkshire Three Peaks. From its summit, it offers commanding views around the surrounding landscape and down into the dales. Whernside has some unusual geological features. It is topped with a cap of Millstone Grit, a hardstone common in northern England. Beneath this tip are layers of rock that have gradually slipped and slid away causing the rounding shape of the mountain to form. One of the last remaining glaciers in the Yorkshire Dales was present on the north-eastern slopes of Whernside. Today, it forms the marshy area of Greensett Moss. Image Credits: Peter Smyly on Wikimedia Commons
Article By: Matt Lynch

Notes

After visiting Ribblehead, you will find signs leading you up towards Whernside. The trail is clearly marked and you shouldn't have any problem following the path step-by-step to the summit! Take regular breaks to enjoy the views and to explore the small rivers and streams you pass on your way up to the peak.

Getting there

The most common way to access Whernside is from the Ribblehead Viaduct car park. There’s a 12.9 km loop you can follow up to Whernside then back down the valley. The trail will take you past Ribblehead and up the side of the peak. Once on top, you can either push on to Ingleborough National Nature Reserve and summit the second of the three famous peaks, or head back to the car park. Initially, the path follows the viaduct and runs perpendicular to the railway. Eventually, it crosses a bridge and turns away from the train tracks up the mountain.

13:00 - 14:00
The Station Inn Pub
Ribblehead, Carnforth LA6 3JF, UK
Just south of the trailhead, in the shadow of Ribblehead Viaduct, is a popular pub. Situated at Ribblehead station, the pub rooms and gardens are often filled with red-faced hillwalkers clasping a pint and swapping stories of their summit up Whernside. The pub really is in the middle of nowhere which is one of the things that makes it so interesting. Inside, there’s a stone fireplace and a comfy seating area. The walls are filled with books and antiques which makes the interior feel like a homely library. It serves big portions and a good selection of local ales. Image Credits: John Lucas on Wikimedia Commons
Article By: Matt Lynch

Notes

Rest your weary feet with a long pub lunch. Head into the cosy cavern of the Station Inn and shield from the elements with a strong drink and a filling meal.

Getting there

The pub is on the B6255, Lower Sleights Road. It is directly opposite the Ribblehead train station. The area certainly isn't jostling with buildings so it should be relatively easy to find!

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
14:00 - 16:30
White Scar Cave
White Scar Cave, Carnforth LA6 3AW, UK
The Yorkshire Dales are predominantly made from limestone, a soft rock that erodes significantly during heavy rainfall. Over the years, this has carved out waterfalls, caverns, and deep tunnels that run through the landscape. White Scar Cave is one of the main rock features in the Yorkshire Dales. A karst cave formed in a Carboniferous limestone cavern. It is the longest show cave in Britain which means there's plenty to explore. A 1-mile tour will take you into the depths of the cave and will last around 80 minutes. If you’re still in the mood for more, there’s Ingleborough Cave right around the corner. This is also a limestone cave and contains a grotto and numerous impressive stalactite features. There's a fascinating tale of discovery to Ingleborough Cave. In 1837 Victorian explorers clambered 500 metres into the depths of the Earth with only candles to illuminate the cave’s interior to them. A true act of bravery that allows visitors to view the cave today! Image Credits: Nilfanion on Wikimedia Commons
Article By: Matt Lynch
Standard 12.00 GBP
Group 8.40 GBP
Kids 8.00 GBP Under 16

Getting there

Follow the B6255 towards Ingleton. You will pass the caves without having to make a turn!

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
16:30 - 18:30
The Old Post Office Microbar
8 High St, Ingleton, Carnforth LA6 3AA, UK
This microbar is more at home in the edgy London districts of Brixton and Shoreditch than in the Yorkshire Dales! In any case, it fits right in with the hillwalkers. A fantastic, fun atmosphere with an excellent range of drinks. The bar is split into three areas: “The Gallery” is the large floor space near the front of the bar which is generally the busiest; “Armoury” is tucked around the back and feels more like a Western saloon or a Prohibition-era speakeasy; “The Secret Garden” is an outdoor seating area. The brewery is dog friendly and welcomes tired hikers with open arms! Image Credits: Josh Olalde on Unsplash
Article By: Matt Lynch

Getting there

Drive to Ingleton where there is parking near the Ingleton Community Centre. From there you can walk a minute or two to reach the microbrewery.

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes

Day 2

Waterfalls and Craggy Coves

Limestone is not a hardy rock, at least, not in geological terms. As mentioned, it makes up much of the landscape in the Yorkshire Dales - which is something we should be very thankful for. The fact that it's soft is a good thing for nature-lovers. It leaves behind wide valleys, bottomless caves, and in this case, waterfall gulleys and yawning coves. The day begins in the town of Ingleton where you will take a walk along a path filled with waterfalls. You'll get the chance to enjoy multiple water features as well as a scenic river valley. After a spot of lunch at an old cafe, it's off to Malham for some more hiking. The afternoon is filled with numerous walking options, all centering around Malham Cove. If it's anything to go by, the famous travel writer Bill Bryson lived in Malham and stated: “I won’t know for sure if Malhamdale is the finest place there is until I have died and seen heaven (assuming they let me at least have a glance), but until that day comes, it will certainly do.” High praise indeed!
09:00 - 11:30
Ingleton Waterfalls Trail
Broadwood Entrance, Ingleton, Carnforth LA6 3ET, UK
Beginning in the town of Ingleton, this 6.9 km trail heads north into the National Park to sample some of the region’s stunning waterfalls. The path follows the River Twiss up through Swilla Glen, a sharp limestone cavern. The trail crosses Pecca Bridge to arrive at Pecca Falls. It then climbs some steps to Hollybush Spout, an area of open moorland. It's then on to the highlight of the trail, Thunder Force, a 14-metre waterfall. This feature was said to have inspired the painter William Turner with its beauty. The trail then loops round to follow along the River Doe where it passes Beezley Falls and on to Rival Falls. The path ends by passing through the Baxengyhll Gorge which looks back onto Snow Falls, then through Twisleton Glen, before returning to Ingleton. Natural England have designated the Ingleton Glens as a Site of Special Scientific Interest due to the unique wildlife and interesting geological features present. Wildflowers such as bluebells and dog mercury bloom amongst the old growth forests in the spring. The track is rocky and narrow in parts with slippery areas underfoot. It crosses through oak woodland and gorges throughout the loop. Image Credits: Praveen Thotagamuwa on Unsplash
Article By: Matt Lynch
Standard 8.00 GBP
Kids 4.00 GBP Under 16

Getting there

There is limited space for free parking. The parking is included in your entrance fee but operates on a first come first served basis.

11:30 - 13:00
Bernie’s of Ingleton Café
4 Main St, Ingleton, Carnforth LA6 3EB, UK
Visit one of Ingleton's oldest eateries! This charming 60-year-old café and restaurant is situated right on Ingleton high street. It has a homely interior and is set in a classic Yorkshire stone building. It does good coffee, an excellent mug of tea, and homemade cakes. It also caters to vegans and vegetarians. The cafe is dog friendly. Image Credits: Katlyn Boone on Unsplash
Article By: Matt Lynch

Getting there

From the Ingleton Waterall Trail, the cafe is a 7-minute walk over two bridges that cross the River Doe.

Travel time
0 hours 10 minutes
13:00 - 16:30
Malham Cove
Malham, Skipton BD23, UK
A short amble from Malham village, along the trickling river of Malham Beck, is a mesmerising amphitheatre of rock, 80 metres high. This feature formed along the Middle Craven Fault and has been eroded by previous ice ages and rainfall over the years. There are multiple walking opportunities from here to explore the surrounding nature area. You can hike to the top of the limestone plateau to get views from the Pennine Way trail. You might also recognise the unusual warped rocks as a setting that featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. These Clints (the limestone mounds) and Grykes (the gaps) are a rare feature in the UK. They create a specialist habitat and unusual micro-climate for wild flower species including: wood sorrel, Green Spleenwort, Wall Rue, and Herb Robert. Watch out for nesting peregrine falcons in the cliffs as this is an RSPB site of interest. During the spring the birds may be more active than usual when their eggs are hatching. If you want to see more of the surrounding landscape, follow a 7.9km loop to Janet's Foss waterfall and Gordale Scar. Janet's Foss is a small but pretty waterfall set amongst a woodland. Its plunge pool has been used by farmers as a sheep dip and swimmers as a recreational area for many years. It's also supposedly home to Jennet the Queen of the Fairies. She is said to live in one of the caves - if you believe the myth! Gordale Scar is a deep limestone gorge, also carved out from ice and water. Lining the walls is an unusually shaped mineral deposit called tufa. Rainwater dissolved into the limestone then leaked the tufa out of the rock creating the scree you see lining Gordale Scar today. To the north of the cove is Malham Tarn, a National Trust owned glacial lake. It is the highest marlstone lake in the UK. It is also part of an exclusive club of water features and is only one of eight upland alkaline lakes found throughout Europe. A ramble from Malham Cove to the tarn will set you back about 11 km. Image Credits: Dan Blackburn on Unsplash
Article By: Matt Lynch

Notes

It's best to park in the village of Malham before embarking on your walk up to the cove.

Getting there

It is a 35-minute drive east through the National Park to get to Malham. You pass the village of Settle along the way. If you're still keen to see more waterfalls, you drive directly past Scaleber Force Waterfall. Pull in for a quick stop to see another of the Yorkshire Dales' beautiful water features!

Travel time
0 hours 35 minutes

Day 3

Celebrating Everything Yorkshire

Local cheese, a rural countryside museum, another limestone waterfall, and an evening enjoying the sublime star-lit sky over the dales. Not a bad way to round off your 3 days in the Yorkshire Dales. The morning begins in the pretty market town of Hawes where you will visit a dairy creamery. Though not your average cheese shop, this centre is home to the regional Wensleydale cheese - beloved by Wallace & Grommit. Next it's over the road to the countryside museum where you get the opportunity to learn about Yorkshire farmers. After lunch, a short drive takes you to the impressive Hardraw Force, a waterfall that is particularly powerful after heavy rains. In the evening, you'll return to Hawes for some stargazing at a Dark Sky viewing area.
09:00 - 10:30
Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre
Gayle Ln, Wensleydale, Hawes DL8 3RN, UK
The cheese of choice selected by Britain’s favourite stop-motion duo Wallace & Gromit. And what better place to try Wensleydale cheese than in the exact location it comes from? There’s a cheese museum on site as well as a viewing gallery to watch the cheesemakers in action. There’s also a cheese-tasting shop and a café serving all foods related to cheese. Just be warned, side effects of visiting this place may include lucid dreams! Image Credits: John Firth on Wikimedia Commons
Article By: Matt Lynch
Standard 4.95 GBP
Kids 2.95 GBP Under 12

Getting there

Wensleydale Creamery is on Dale Lane, a side road just outside of Hawes. If you're coming from the west, it's before the Gayle Beck river crossing.

10:30 - 12:00
Dales Countryside Museum
Burtersett Road Station Yard, Hawes DL8 3NT, UK
A museum depicting the history of farming and rural life in Yorkshire. Outside the old station building there's a decommissioned steam locomotive still standing proudly on the railway tracks. The museum is next to Hawes National Park visitor’s centre which can provide you with more information on all the things to do around the Yorkshire Dales including dark sky stargazing! Image Credits: Russel Wills on Wikimedia Commons
Article By: Matt Lynch
Standard 4.80 GBP
Members 10.00 GBP
Kids 0.00 GBP Under 16
Seniors 4.30 GBP

Getting there

A 10 or 15 minute walk into Hawes will get you to the museum. There's parking on Gayle Lane or you can drive into Hawes and park at the National Park Centre.

Travel time
0 hours 15 minutes
13:30 - 15:00
Hardraw Force
Hardraw, Leyburn, Hawes DL8 3LZ, UK
Hardraw Force is the highest unbroken waterfall in England at 30 metres high. Though not particularly powerful, unless after heavy rains, this is still a dramatic and impressive natural rock feature. Situated in a gully of Hardraw Beck river there's a pleasant walk up to the mouth of the waterfall. It's a dog-friendly walking trail and easily accessible on the lower paths. To the south of Hawes, there's another waterfall well worth visiting if you have time: Aysgill Force. There is a slightly longer walk to get there along the river Gayle Beck. Image Credits: Glenn Veen on Unsplash
Article By: Matt Lynch
Standard 4.00 GBP
Group 2.50 GBP
Kids 2.00 GBP Under 16

Notes

Hardraw Force is set amongst fifteen acres of private land and must be accessed by the Heritage Centre near the Green Dragon Inn.

Getting there

A 5-minute drive north over the River Ure will get you to Hardraw.

Travel time
0 hours 5 minutes
19:00 - 21:00
Hawes National Park Centre - Stargazing
Burtersett Rd, Hawes DL8 3NT, UK
If you time your trip right, you can be in the Yorkshire Dales during the Dark Sky Festival. Across 17 days in February and March, the National Park celebrates all things celestial. Throughout the Yorkshire Dales, there are four Dark Sky Discovery Sites: Hawes and Malham National Park Centres, Buckden Car Park, and Tan Hill Inn. On clear nights, you can see the Milky Way, an estimated 2,000 stars, planets, and even the Northern Lights at certain times of the year. In the Hawes National Park Visitor Centre, you can park your car in the officially designated stargazing area and enjoy the night sky. Alternatively, you can wander a little further afield into the surrounding landscape to enjoy the stars from the hills. Just be sure to bring a torch and some warm layers. A hot drink to sip while you watch for meteors might work well too! Image Credits: Jonny Gios on Unsplash
Article By: Matt Lynch

Notes

Stargazing is dependent on a few factors. If the sky is cloudy or any weather conditions cause it to not be a clear night, you won't be able to see the stars. Darkness will also be present at different times of the year. In the summer, the sun sets later and there is more light in the sky meaning you may have to wait until later in the night to see the stars!

Getting there

Park at the Hawes National Park Centre.

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About the author

I have visited nearly 50 countries so far with some of my favourite destinations being: New Zealand, Norway, Japan, Mongolia, Iceland. I love hiking and all activities that involve exploring the outdoors. If you're interested in nature, walking, and adventures outdoors then you're going to enjoy my articles! Check out my website for some other travel blogs from around the world: https://mattwalkwild.com/ .

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