A guide to the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Days out, The Great British Outdoors, Destinations

Posted by Ed Roberts on 4th August 2021

The Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales National Park was first established in 1953 and has been wowing all those that have visited since before holidays were invented. One of 15 national parks in the UK, it is home to just over 23,500 people and many more sheep. It covers a beautiful area of over 841 square miles and 384 miles of walking trails. Think you can handle it? If you can, then try climbing the county’s famous three peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-ghent, and that’s just for starters.

If you are hoping to come to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, our useful guide will help you find the best things to do, places to eat, family activities, walks, accommodation and more.

If you've set your heart on a holiday in the Yorkshire Dales already, take a look at our lovely collection of accommodation; with five-star holiday hideaways, romantic countryside escapes, dog-friendly retreats and gorgeous family-friendly homes, there's something for everyone!

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Top attractions in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is defined by its beautiful, striking and stark landscapes of hills and rolling dales. If you love the great outdoors, then you'll love this stunning slice of the UK. It’s a fantastic place to explore beautiful scenery and there are so many things to do in the Yorkshire Dales. Read on to find out more, then hop over to our Discover Yorkshire guide for other attractions and places to visit during your holiday.

Aysgarth Falls

Aysgarth Falls

Aysgarth Falls is an atmospheric place - a triple flight of waterfalls situated in lush woodlands. Carved out by the River Ure, the waters course down to Wensleydale. If you're looking for Yorkshire Dales waterfalls to visit during your trip, these falls are one of the most impressive. Spectacular after heavy rainfall, thousands of gallons cascade over the series of broad limestone steps, which are divided into three stages: Upper Force, Middle Force and Lower Force. All three falls were featured in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves which was released in 1991, so film fans, look out.

Location: Aysgarth, DL8 3TH

Facilities: Visitor centre, gift shop, WCs, parking, exhibition

Stay at: Swaledale Barn End | Sleeps: 4 guests  

Malham Cove

Malham Cove

Providing a challenge for climbers, this 70-metre white limestone cliff is one of the most unique places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales and has dazzled visitors for hundreds of years. Formed by glaciers, it was also a huge waterfall before the water began to run underground. There is an RSPB viewpoint at Malham Cove where you can see many species of bird nesting in the rock face such as peregrine falcons, jackdaws and house martins. Search for an activity provider to take you climbing if the mood takes.

Location: Malham, BD23 4DJ

Facilities: Parking

Stay at: Elbeck Barn | Sleeps: 4 guests  

Ribblehead Viaduct

Ribblehead Viaduct

Take the Settle to Carlisle train and you will travel across the iconic Ribblehead Viaduct, one of the most photographed Yorkshire Dales attractions. Known in popular culture for its multiple appearances in the Harry Potter films, this is a great place for photo opportunities for visitors. Standing at 32 metres high, the 24-metre arches were built in 1870 by hundreds of navvies. Shanty towns built up around the base just to supplement its creation; it was a huge undertaking and the engineering ingenuity can still be marvelled at to this day. 

Location: Carnforth, LA6 3AU

Facilities: n/a

Stay at: Dugdales Barn | Sleeps: 4 guests

Also visit: Bolton Abbey, Hardraw Force, Wensleydale Creamery, Brimham Rocks, Fountains Abbey & Studland Royal.

More Yorkshire days out

Top places to visit with kids in the Yorkshire Dales

Planning a trip to the Yorkshire Dales with the children? Well, the good news is that there is a whole host of Yorkshire Dales attractions that will keep your kids entertained. Read on to discover some of our favourite places to visit with kids in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Girl on swing

Forbidden Corner

The Forbidden Corner is a theme park that appeals to kids and grown-ups alike. This 4-acre attraction is set in the Yorkshire Dales’ Tupgill Park and consists of a bewilderment of wizardry and wonder that includes a spaghetti of labyrinths, follies, underground tunnels, and secret passages. If you're looking for days out in the Yorkshire Dales, be sure to book in advance, especially during the summertime when places are strictly limited.

Location: Leyburn, DL8 4TJ

Facilities: Gift shop, café, picnic areas, WCs, parking, disabled facilities

Stay at: Boutique 39 | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog 

Boy with chicken

Hesketh Farm Park

Hesketh Farm Park is a great family-friendly place to go with kids in the Yorkshire Dales. It is a combination of a farm and a park located a mile away from Bolton Abbey and 5 miles from Skipton, making it easily accessible for any families staying in the most central and most popular parts of the Yorkshire Dales. Come and see the cattle, sheep, piggies, chickens and more. You can also take a stroll about the fields, wander through a straw maze and into the barns to learn how the farm runs day-to-day.

Location: Skipton, BD23 6HA

Facilities: Café, picnic areas, WCs, parking, gift shop

Stay at: Ripley's Rest  | Sleeps: 4 guests 

Bolton Abbey

Go paddling at Bolton Abbey

Great for a swim and a paddle on a summer’s day, the stretch of the River Nidd that runs past the iconic Priory ruins of Bolton Abbey is ideal, as the beach on the east coast is a long way from here. There’s a bit of shoreline where toddlers can paddle and there’s a lovely green to sunbathe and picnic on. There are also some stepping stones to hop around on for extra japes. The abbey is a great place to wander around too, which will give you the appetite for a lovely picnic lunch.

Location: Bolton Abbey, BD23 6EX

Facilities: Parking

Stay at: Low Ray Cottage | Sleeps: 4 guests plus 1 dog 

Also visit: The Oldest Sweet Shop In The World in Pateley Bridge, Richmond Castle, Skipton Castle, Kilnsey Park, and How Stean Gorge.

More family-friendly days out in Yorkshire

Best walking trails in the Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is an ideal location for a walking holiday and you can base yourself in one of our great self-catering holiday cottages. There are myriad world-class trails here, but here are our favourite three in the Dales. 

The Yorkshire Three Peaks

The Yorkshire Three Peaks

The daddy of all the Yorkshire Dales walking trails, this involves some climbing and lots of endurance. Conquer the summits of three peaks: Whernside, Pen-y-ghent and Ingleborough. There are some striking views of the underlying Dales from the top of each of the hills and it’s a magnificent accomplishment to make to the summit of even one of this dashing trio. It is possible to climb all three in a day, but why rush?

Location: LD43 8NL

Facilities: Parking

Stay at: Abid'or | Sleeps: 6 guests

The Twelve Apostles

The Twelve Apostles, Ilkley Moor

Climb up to Ilkley Moor to see this wonderful array of stones high above the town. A real breezy walk for climbers with strong legs, the scenery is worth the effort. Pack a picnic for the climb to 381 metres above sea level and have a sit down and rest. Just a short distance to the east is another stone circle called Grubstones. The Twelve Apostles is considered one of the best beauty spots to walk to in West Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales. Park the car at Cow and Calf Rocks and walk along the top of the hill if you don’t fancy the climb up for Ilkley.

Location: LS29 8DT

Facilities: Parking

Stay at: Buchanty House | Sleeps: 7 guests

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail

Ingleton Waterfalls Trails

This Yorkshire Dales visitor attraction has a nice circular trail that takes in the amazing waterfalls and woodlands at Ingleton. The trail is easy to follow as it passes Pecca Falls, Hollybush Spout, Thornton Force, Beezley Falls, Rival Falls, Baxenghyll Gorge and Snow Falls. The trail winds its way through ancient oak woodland. Coincide a visit after a spell of rain, then you can see the waterfalls go full tilt. 

Location: Carnforth, LA6 3ET

Facilities: Parking, WCs, tuck shop

Stay at: The Old Dairy at Johnson House | Sleeps: 8 guests plus 2 dogs

Also visit: Stainforth & Catrigg Force, Mill Gill Force and Askrigg, Ilkley Moor and Burley Moor

More Yorkshire Dales walks

Best activities in the Yorkshire Dales

There are so many ways to enjoy the Yorkshire Dales National Park, engage an outdoor activity organiser and enrol on a course like canoeing, caving or abseiling. Alternatively, you could visit an activity centre to see what they have in store on site for you. Read on to learn about a few of the best activities in the Yorkshire Dales.

Ingleborough Cave

Ingleborough Cave

One of the most popular outdoor activities in the Yorkshire Dales is caving and, because it’s underground, it also counts as being an indoor activity (kind of). Find a caving instructor and enjoy a course in scrambling deep underground. It’s certainly an adrenaline-fuelled pursuit if ever there was one. If you don’t wish to go abseiling and squeezing through fissures, then you can also visit a section of Ingleborough Show Cave without wearing protective equipment. Ingleborough offers the best of both worlds. 

Location: Ingleborough, LA2 8EE

Facilities: Gift shop, WCs, café, car park

Stay at: Underbargh Cottage | Sleeps: 2 guests 


Alfresco Adventures - canoeing, kayaking and more

Alfresco Adventures is just one of the Yorkshire Dales’ outdoor activity providers – book a course where you can enjoy kayaking, canoeing, abseiling, archery, caving, paddle boarding, raft-building, bushcraft, mountain biking and more. They take you out on to all kinds of places like Brimham Rocks or Pen-y-Ghent for your thrills and spills. Bookings can be for small families and large groups, depending on your chosen activity. If you love getting the heart pumping a bit faster, take a day or two out of your schedule to experience Yorkshire the adrenaline-fuelled way. 

Location: Reeth, DL11 6TB

Facilities: n/a

Stay at: Croft House | Sleeps: 6 guests plus 1 dog 

Nidderdale Llamas

Nidderdale Llamas

Prepare to fall in love not only with the beauty of the Yorkshire Dales but also a friendly llama. As featured on TV’s The Yorkshire Vet, Nidderdale Llamas are family-friendly and one of the Yorkshire Dales’ best-loved outdoor attractions. The rides range from junior farm experiences for children to full-day treks for seasoned visitors. Book in advance.

Location: HG3 5EE

Facilities: Gift shop, WCs, parking, snacks

Stay nearby at: Blue Plain Dairy | Sleeps: 4 guests 

Also visit: Yorkshire Trike Tours, Settle Area Swimming Pool, and Pennine Way National Trail

More outdoor adventures in Yorkshire

Places to eat and drink in the Yorkshire Dales

Yorkshire food

There is a diversity of good places to eat across the Yorkshire Dales National Park, no matter what your preferences. For Michelin-star dining, try The Black Swan at Olstead, The Box Tree, and The Yorke Arms. Good Yorkshire Dales pubs are a must after a long walk on the trails; look into a slap-up lunch at The Queen’s Arms near Skipton, The Blue Lion near Leyburn, or The Star Inn near Helmsley. For places to eat that welcome the dog too, there are also several fantastic dog-friendly pubs in the Yorkshire Dales to try.

If you're looking for the best villages in the Yorkshire Dales for culture as well as a great choice of eateries, or towns where you can indulge your taste buds with a slap up meal, head to the towns of Skipton, Helmsley, Harrogate and Ilkley for a wide range of European, Far Eastern and Asian restaurants. There are some great Indian, Chinese and Italian restaurants in the Yorkshire Dales to try out. Make the most of some of the market days in places like Settle, Hawes and Leyburn, where you can buy some of the best in locally produced food and drink. There is also a full list of places with market days for you to take a look through.

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Map of the Yorkshire Dales National Park places to go

Where are the Yorkshire Dales and the selection of activities, eateries and walks mentioned above? Find out on the map below.

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Stay with us in the Yorkshire Dales

We have a fantastic range of holiday cottages in the Yorkshire Dales, from cosy countryside escapes for two, to large houses for groups of friends and family for a special occasion. There are lots of special extras such as hot tubs and children’s play areas to make your stay a memorable one. Choose from houses with incredible views, close to the towns or nestled in the peaceful countryside. Where will you stay on your holiday to the Yorkshire Dales?

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Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.