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Dales in a Day.

From my home town of Darlington, Iam lucky enough to live within easy driving distance of one of the top tourist destinations in the country – The Yorkshire Dales. When you are busy working, it is easy to forget just how much is on your doorstep and it takes a famous event like ‘Le Tour de France’ and its upcoming visit to Yorkshire this July to remind you just how much the region has to offer.

If you live further afield (and have perhaps been inspired by ‘le Grand Depart’ yourself), then book a holiday cottage in The Dales this summer and plan your own tour of this beautiful region. Margaret’s Cottage or its’ neighbour Cowlings, perched on a hillside looking out across Swaledale, both offer an ideal base to start exploring the area and the owner Carol is sure to make you feel right at home.

Your view from Cowlings, near Reeth in Swaledale.

Over the Easter holidays I took some ‘time out’ for a fresh look at The Dales from the eyes of a visitor and came up with my Top Ten places to see in Swaledale and Wensleydale.

Richmond  - the Falls & Castle

Situated on the edge of The Yorkshire Dales National Park, this market town is generally regarded as the gateway to the Dales. You could easily spend the whole day in Richmond itself but if you are making a quick stop on a day tour don’t miss Richmond Falls. There’s a car park right next to the falls and from here there is plenty of photo opportunities of the River Swale as it tumbles over the rocks with the imposing Richmond Castle above. There is an easy, short stroll along the banks of the river and children will love paddling in the shallows or playing ball on the grassy areas along the riverside.

Up in the market place you can visit Richmond Castle, the Norman fortress which dominates the town’s skyline. Climb the tower for a birds eye view of the market place below and 360 degree views of Swaledale that will take your breath away. English Heritage members get free entrance.

Richmond really does deserve a day in itself so I hope that you leave the town with a plan to return another day and take a ‘Roam Around Richmond’ to see more of its attractions.

Bolton Castle.

Wensleydale is a wide and open dale and you can spot Bolton Castle in Castle Bolton watching over the dale from miles around. This home was originally built over 600 years ago as one of the finest homes in the land and is one of the country’s best preserved medieval castles. It is still in the private ownership of Lord Bolton – a direct descendant of the original owner Sir Richard Le Scrope and is known to have been one of the holding castles for Mary Queen of Scots.

Again you can make a quick pit stop and try out your camera skills, or there is enough here to keep the family amused for a full day.

The rooms are well labelled with lots of information on their original use – with special signs designed for younger visitors. Themed rooms give an authentic feel and help you imagine just what life was like in the days of Richard le Scrope. Children can even try out a chain mail vest, costumes, games and calligraphy in the nursery.

The castle also holds owl flying displays, archery demonstrations and wild boar feeding throughout the day and the whole family will have fun finding their way around the garden maze. On your way out of Castle Bolton, who will be the first to spot the Dragon lurking at the side of the road?


Near the village of Aysgarth, the River Ure descends over a series of broad limestone steps forming Asgarth Falls. There are 3 car parks from which a short stroll brings you to the smallest upper falls. (Railway enthusiasts should look out for the car park at the restored station.) Whilst not as spectacular as the middle and lower falls, the upper falls is a pretty, easily accessible spot for a picnic and a safe place for younger children to paddle – in wellies or bare feet depending on the weather! There is a well signposted walk along the river to the middle and lower falls which are well worth the effort. Fans of Kevin Kostner may recognise the location from the film Robin Hood Prince of Thieves.


Another one you may recognise from the screen.  . . . Askrigg lies at the heart of Wensleydale and is the home of Skeldale House –the location of James Herriot’s surgery in All Creatures Great and Small.


At the top of Wensleydale is the bustling market town of Hawes. You’ll find plenty of places for a little refreshment (liquid or otherwise) and unique small stores to wander around lining the high-street. On a fine day you’ll usually find a collection of bikers lined up outside the café and fish shop at the end of the town, taking a break from the twists and turns of the Dales roads. Turn left just past here and head up to the Wensleydale Creamery where you can take a tour of the factory, browse the gift shop, (well stocked with souvenirs of Le Tour de France at the moment) or take a break in the café. But don’t miss the cheese shop – loaded with tasting samples of cheese varieties you may not have encountered anywhere else. There is no better place to buy Wallace and Grommit’s favourite – a wedge of Wensleydale Cheese.

Hadraw Force.

Just outside of Hawes is another spectacular waterfall. Hadraw Force is the highest single drop waterfall in the UK and another location for the filming of Robin Hood Prince of Thieves. Privately owned again, so you will need to budget for the entrance fee, which is at the back of The Green Dragon Inn.


Driving back towards Simonstone, head left where the road climbs up over The Buttertubs Pass. The road gets its’ name from the 20 metre deep limestone potholes along the side of the road toward the top of the pass. The Buttertubs are thought to get their name from the times when farmers would lower their butter down in to the cool damp holes for storage on the way home from market during the warmer months of the year. Their fame is sure to spread as the pass features as one of two ‘King of the Mountain’ climbs in Stage One of Le Tour.

Thwaite, Muker, Gunnerside and Low Row.

The high bleak scenery of the Buttertubs pass drops down into Swaledale which is narrower and more wooded than Wensleydale. Take your time to meander down through the typical Dales villages of Thwaite, Muker and Gunnerside. You’ll find plenty of places along the road you’ll want to stop and capture the breath-taking views on camera. Watch out for the curled horns of the distinctive Swaledale Sheep and the patchwork fields outlined by the typical dry stone walls. Margaret’s cottage and Cowlings, mentioned at the start are found along this road near the village of Low Row.

Reeth & Grinton.

Depending on the location of your holiday base, you may well start your tour here in Reeth where Swaledale meets Arkangarthdale. Park up on the village green and take a wander around. No supermarkets here – but you’ll find a choice of pubs, cafes, village stores, gift shops, galleries and museums to pass the time. A huge selection of flavours at The Ice Cream Parlour is sure to take more than a few minutes to make a decision!

If you are stopping for more than a flying visit, then there is an easy circular walk from the green, past the play area on the edge of the town, across a swing bridge and along the river to Grinton. Break your journey at The Bridge Inn (the meals here are worth a return visit too if you are staying nearby), before heading back over the fields to the village green.

This is likely to be another popular viewing spot as the cyclists come through here in July before starting another climb out of the village past Grinton and over the tops to Leyburn.


I’ll be honest – you might have to start very early in the morning to cover all of the above and Middleham, back in Wensleydale, in a single day – but as the childhood home of Richard III, I couldn’t leave it off the list. Another impressive castle to visit although in this case it is very much just ruins. The town today is also famous for the nearby racing stables and the gallops above the town. The historic buildings in the town mean that you will have to mind your head at many entrances!

If you only have a short time, it is just about possible to visit these highlights in a day but I’m sure you’ll find plenty to tempt you to linger a while longer and take a more leisurely tour. If you really want to do justice and enjoy the true beauty of the area you need to stay a while longer. If you are feeling energetic, bring your bike and take in some of the route the cyclists will follow in July, pull on your walking boots and head off into the hills or jump in the car and enjoy the views along the way. You’re sure to find a warm Yorkshire welcome wherever you stay!


Own your own holiday home in the Dales?

To find out more about how to feature your own property on, contact Sarah or Tracy today.

T. +44 (0)333 2400797


Do you own a holiday cottage in the Dales or another part of the UK? Direct Holiday Cottages would love to hear your top tips for guests visiting your region. Any guides that we use will win one year’s FREE advertising on . Email your entries to





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