Experience the Yorkshire Dales – Exploring Swaledale, Wharfedale and Wensleydale

All three valleys of Swaledale, Wharfedale, and Wensleydale, are absolutely stunning. For me, they are some of the most picturesque regions of Yorkshire. You wont find more  scenic, more traditional Yorkshire landscapes. I want to introduce you to some hidden gems in all three locations for you to discover yourself. So fasten up those hiking boots and let’s head off…

What I’ve covered:


cow house in swaledale

The Natural Beauty of Swaledale

Firstly, let’s go to Swaledale, a paradise for nature lovers with its lush green meadows. Here you’ll find plenty of historic cow’uses (local dialect and name for a farm building traditionally use for storing hay and sheltering livestock) amongst the flower covered fields. Spring time is a lovely time to visit to see the wildflowers at their best.  The dry-stone walls create a pastoral scene which probably hasn’t changed in centuries and makes for lots of great photo ops. This pocket-sized paradise offers a text-book Dales experience, with rolling green hills, charming villages, and a shed load of sheep. Fun fact: Swaledale has a breed of sheep named after it. The domestic Swaledale sheep emerged from a genetic group of horned sheep.


wildflower meadow in muker

Hidden Gems in Swaledale

One of Swaledale’s hidden gems is the village of Muker. Muker is renowned for its wildflower meadows, which burst into a riot of color during the spring and summer months. Definitely worth visiting – they’re nature at its beautiful best. Some of the meadows are protected as sites of special scientific interest and offering one of the best places to see upland hay meadows.


Full day cheese making course

The following is my recommendation for an experience that can be enjoyed in Swaledale, feel free to skip if you’re not interested in really excellent experiences in Swaledale.

You can’t visit Swaledale without sampling the region’s famous Swaledale cheese, made using traditional methods with milk from local sheep. Unfortunately you won’t find it at Lacey’s Cheese. Controversially (not really) they make a wonderful range of Wensleydale cheeses from local cow’s milk. If you’re interested in finding out how they do this and have an interest in artisan cheese making then book onto their truly fabulous full day Cheese Making Experience. The cheese factory is based in Reeth which is a lovely little village and also offers Gelato Making experiences for families.

If you fancy adding some cycling to your cheese making I can heartily recommend visiting The Dales Bike Centre which has an excellent café and “the largest fleet” of bikes for hiring in the whole of the Yorkshire Dales (as copied from their website)

For comprehensive information about Swaledale, it’s history, natural habitat and things to do The Yorkshire Dales National Park website has some excellent information.


Wild swimming in the river wharfe near Burnsall

Exploring the Picturesque Wharfedale

Next, we’re moving south west to Wharfedale, where the River Wharfe winds its way through verdant meadows and lush woodlands. Discover charming little villages such as Grassington and Burnsall and top notch glamping and camping. I recommend Catgill Farm, Howgill Lodge  and Masons at Appletreewick (pronounced Aptrick by locals) where there is an excellent pub – The Craven Arms.

There is some excellent wild swimming to be found in Wharfedale and I can especially recommend Burnsall. The river is shallow and wide at Bolton Abbey with stepping stones to cross which is absolutely worth a visit with kids if only to watch people coming across and getting cold feet (literally) half way across. There is also a bridge.


Sparkling afternoon tea at the brownie barn

The following paragraph contains information about a Uniquely Local experience that can be found in Wharfedale.

Let me introduce you to the Brownie Barn in Barden near Bolton Abbey. They offer a range of experiences that could be added on to a day out in Wharfedale. For an outside-of-the-box gift idea for a couple you could plan a day’s walking in Wharfedale. Then follow it by an afternoon tea for two treat at the Brownie Barn. One walk that passes by the Brownie Barn is the brilliantly named ‘Valley of Desolation & Simon’s Seat’ a route  can be downloaded from the Bolton Abbey website.

For more information about visiting Wharfedale, The National Trust website has some useful information to help plan your visit.


aysgarth falls

Discovering the Charm of Wensleydale

Finally, last but definitely not least is the magnificent Wensleydale, famous for its sweeping views, rolling moorland, and iconic cheese. To discover all things Wensleydale, plan a trip to the  Wensleydale Creamery, in the pretty village of Hawes. Taste the delicious cheese that made Wensleydale famous.

You wont want to miss nearby Aysgarth Falls which is an impressive triple flight of waterfalls. The falls are surrounded by peaceful woodland and farmland, perfect for walks. For history lovers head over to the imposing ruins of Bolton Castle, where Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned after her defeat in Scotland in 1568. It’s a great example of living history.


Unique Attractions in Wensleydale

For a taste of local history head to the quaint village of Askrigg, which served as the fictional setting of Darrowby in the popular television series “All Creatures Great and Small.”

Rail buffs won’t want to miss a trip on the Wensleydale Railway. You’ll find heritage diesel train services between Scruton and Leyburn. It’s a great family day out with a popular Christmas Polar Express experience for children. There are other grown up train ride experiences such as a gin train (hic) and a fish and chip experience.


Fabulous farming experiences from Uniquely Local, you won’t want to miss these…

Wensleydale Smallholder Farming Experience for Two

For anyone with an interest in small batch farming you can book yourself onto a 3 and a half hour Small Holder Farming Experience for Two. You’ll get a hands-on experience of what’s involved in keeping livestock making it the perfect gift for a couple who aspire to own their own small holding and need a bit of insight into what’s involved.

For families who just adore animals don’t miss the Wensleydale Farming Experience for a Family of Four. You can add more children by arrangement and it’s a fab day out for kids and grown-ups alike, with plenty of up close and personal encounters with animals on the farm.

Visit the Wensleydale section of the National Park website for more information to plan a trip.



So, What is So Special About Swaledale, Wharfedale, and Wensleydale?

I think you’ll agree that these three areas of the Yorkshire Dales offer unbeatable natural beauty, coupled with miles of excellent walking and hiking opportunities. Most of these can be accessed and enjoyed for absolutely no money at all, which is a bonus. The wealth of experiences which can be booked in the Yorkshire Dales only serve to enhance the appeal of this very special area of Yorkshire.

Hopefully this article has piqued your interest and you want to plan a visit. To book an experience or buy one as a gift for someone else please take a look at our full range of Uniquely Local Yorkshire Dales experiences.

Written and researched by Rachel Marshall. Lots of information included in the article comes from personal experience of visiting these beautiful areas. We have hiked, camped and stayed all around Swaledale, Wharfedale and Wensleydale with young kids and as they have grown older. If you need any particular information on anything I have included please send me an email.