England,  U.K Destinations

Things to do in the Yorkshire Dales

Updated 17/05/2021

There are fantastic and diverse things to do in the Yorkshire Dales to suit everyone, no matter what your budget or interests are.

The green rolling Yorkshire Dales landscape offers incredible hiking, scenic waterfalls, historic sites. charming villages, attractions for foodies as well as adrenaline activities such as caving.

And with so many unique attractions, exploring the Yorkshire Dales is one of the best things to do with kids in Yorkshire. 

We have been lucky enough to travel all over the world but the Yorkshire Dales remains one of our favourite places to visit in the U.K. We love it so much we visit several times a year!

So what are the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales?

Please note – most of these Yorkshire Dales attractions currently have Covid restrictions including pre booking online. Please check the relevant websites in advance of your visit. 

 

Walking in the Yorkshire Dales 

 

You cannot visit the Yorkshire Dales without going for a walk – the Dales are best explored on foot!

There are Yorkshire Dales walks for all ages and abilities many of which are accessible for little legs, pushchairs and wheelchair users.

I recommend purchasing a Yorkshire Dales Ordnance Survery map. We hike here several times a year and always bring a map, even on walks that are familiar to us.

Basic walking maps are also available at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitors Centres at Aysgarth, Malham, Reeth, Hawes or Grassington. Staff can help with advice on family friendly trails and hikes in their area. 

For detailed information on pushchair friendly walks in the Dales check out Short Walks For All The Family. We found this book very useful when we first moved to the north.

Alternatively, for longer walks, more challenging walks, get the excellent Circular Walks in the Yorkshire Dales. 

 

 

Malham Cove walk

Iconic Malham Cove walk is one of my favourite walks in the U.K. I have done this stunning circular walk many times and will never get bored of it!

The walk starts or ends at Malham Cove, an imposing 230 foot high stone amphitheatre, a short walk away from Malham village.

There is no longer a Malham Cove waterfall plunging over the top. The waterfall that was once here was higher than Niagara Falls! 

 

An accessible Malham Cove walk

 

Starting in Malham village, there is pushchair friendly path that leads to the base of Malham Cove. The riverside path takes around 30 minutes each way.

When you arrive at the base of Malham Cove you can paddle in the water or sit back and watch the climbers daring to scale the sheer rock face of the Cove. It is a perfect spot for a picnic.

 

Getting to the top of Malham Cove

 

At the base of Malham Cove, rough stone steps to the right of path and cliff face lead to the top of Malham Cove. 

There is a fantastic view of the Yorkshire countryside from the top but keep an eye on your feet as well as the view!

The flat limestone pavement on the top of Malham Cove is uneven with knee deep crevices and pits. Plus, the sheer drop over the edge of the cove is unfenced so keep children close.

Harry Potter fans will recognise the Malham’s limestone pavement as Hermione and Harry’s campsite from the  ‘The Deathly Hallows’ movie.

 

Grey limestone pavement at Malham Cove, gree trees and grey cloudy sky
Malham Cove’s limestone pavement

 

Malham Cove circular walk

 

The walk starts in Malham village and can be undertaken in either direction. We like to visit Malham Cove at the end of the walk.

Follow the signs from Malham village (in the opposite direction to Malham Cove) to Janet’s Foss waterfall.

The first section of the path is even stone flags but once you enter the woodland, the path becomes uneven and rocky. It is an easy gradient and is manageable walk even with young children. 

A return trip to Janet’s Foss waterfall will take around 2 hours from Malham Cove.

From Janet’s Foss, follow the signs to Gordale Scar, 1/4 mile away. This is path is mostly flat and is suitable for children.

Imposing Gordale Scar is a rugged gorge popular with climbers. Its size can only be appreciated by walking into it. 

From Gordale Scar, either return the way you came or continue on the circular trail.

There is a steep uphill section to reach the plateau at the top of Gordale Scar but from here, it is relatively flat until a steep, uneven downhill section to access the top of the Cove.

You can also take a detour on the way to Malham Cove to visit Malham Tarn, one of only two natural lakes in the Yorkshire Dales.

The Malham Cove circular walk is technically easy but a couple of steep ups and downs will make your legs burn! 

It is manageable with older children and will take approximately 4-5 hours to complete. 

 

Malham Cove walk useful information

 

Visitors must park in the designated, fee paying Malham village car park.

There are public toilets, a couple of pubs and a tea shop in the village. There are no facilities on the hiking trails. 

Malham Cove is a free to enter National Trust property that gets very popular in peak season particularly on weekends. I would avoid visiting at this time if you can! 

 

Grassington Walks

 

Grassington is an attractive town in Wharfedale in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

The town is a great base for a walking holiday with easier riverside walks for families including the easy 3 mile trail to Linton.

The 5 mile circular walk from Grassington via Gaistrill’s Strid includes a section on a limestone pavement.

For more challenging walks you need to head into the hills surrounding Grassington such as the challenging 10 mile circular trail from Grassington to Conistone Dib.

We find the Walking Britain website has accurate descriptions of Grassington walks.

 

Ingleton Walks

 

The most popular walk in Ingleton is the fee paying Ingleton Falls walk (see below) but there are several other options.

These include the 2 kilometre woodland trail at Ingleborough Estate, the 5 mile circular Kingsdale hike (a scenic trail passing two Yorkshire waterfalls on route) or the 8 mile slog for experienced hikers to the top of Ingleborough, one of Yorkshire’s highest peaks.

We use the excellent Dales Walks website to help us choose our Yorkshire Dales walks.

 

Waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales

 

There are waterfalls all over Yorkshire and the Yorkshire Dales are no exception.

The following are the most popular Yorkshire Dales waterfalls but to learn more and to discover lesser visited locations, check out our detailed waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales post here.

 

Aysgarth Falls

 

Pretty Aysgarth Falls consists of three separate waterfalls that plunge over wide limestone steps on a one mile stretch of the River Ure. 

The falls are unimaginatively titled Upper Force, Middle Force and Lower Force. Visitors can view all three waterfalls on a pushchair friendly path that runs in and out of woodland alongside the river.

These iconic Yorkshire waterfalls are free to enter and walk but there is an hourly fee for the car park. There are toilets and an information desk in the car park.

We have visited Aysgarth Falls several times. They change with each season and are spectacular after heavy rain.

 

Hardraw Force

This spectacular waterfall is England’s largest single drop waterfall and is 100 foot high. 

A short, pushchair friendly path leads from the car park to the base of the falls. From here, you can access an unfenced, elevated circular path that winds through forest around the top of the waterfall.

This path is uneven and narrow with several steps on route. It is doable with kids but not with pushchairs and takes around 1 hour to complete. 

Hardraw Force is on privately owned land so you must pay to enter. A family ticket costs £10, under fives are free.

There is a small car park and visitors centre with toilets. The adjacent Green Dragon pub is a great stop for lunch.

plunging white waterfall at the end of a leafy path, Yorkshire Dales
Hardraw Force

 

Ingleton Falls

 

Ingleton Falls is a set of six waterfalls of varying sizes that can be viewed from a privately owned, 4 ½ mile long trail that starts in the market town of Ingleton.

It is not a challenging path but there are a lot of steps so it is not a suitable route for pushchairs.

The Ingleton Falls walk takes around 3-4 hours to complete and good gripping footwear is advised due to wet rock. 

Ingleton waterfalls tickets cost £8 for adults and £4 for children.

There is car parking, toilets and a cafe at the entrance plus there is a handy refreshment hut half way round the trail.

 

 

Caves in the Yorkshire Dales

 

The limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales is riddled with caves of all shapes and sizes. It is also home to England’s largest cavern in Gaping Gill cave. 

Visitors can explore Yorkshire underground at several showcaves or join an adventurous, private caving trip.

 

Ingleton Caves

 

There are two caves in Ingleton open to visitors.

 

Ingleborough Caves

 

This cave system runs under Ingleborough, one of the highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales. It was discovered in 1837 and was once the run off for water from the 17 kilometre long Gaping Gill system though the connection between the two system was made as recently as 1983.

A self guided tour on a concrete path winds for over 1/2 kilometre past well lit formations. Single pushchairs and front carriers are permitted.

Tickets cost £10.50 for adults, £5.50 for children and £30 for a family of four.

Please note that access to the cave is via the Ingleborough Estate Nature trail near Clapham.

This is a scenic 2 kilometre long trail through woodland with an additional charge of £1 for adults and 50p for children.

 

White Scar Cave

 

This is the longest show cave in England and a great option for families. It is just north of Ingleton so can be combined with a visit to Ingleton Waterfalls.

Don a hard hat at the entrance, descend 97 steps and get exploring on the caves metal walkways and earthen paths.

View an underground waterfall and spot intriguingly named formations such as The Witches Fingers and The Devils Tongue.

Most of the cave is head height or greater but you will need to bend in places and there is one squeeze.

White Scar Cave is not suitable for pushchairs or backpack carriers.

The cave is a cool 8 degrees Celsius so don’t forget to pack a jumper, even on a summers day.

Entry is by an 80 minute tour only which costs £12 for adults, £8 for children or £34.00 for a family ticket.

There is car parking, toilets and a cafe on site.

 

Stump Cross Caverns

 

This cave is estimated to be 500,000 years old.

After fitting your hard hat, descend the 65 steps into the cave to see unusually colourful stalactites and stalagmites. Sturdy footwear is recommended.

Reindeer and wolverine fossils have been found here and there is a fun fossil quiz and fairy door trail for kids to complete.

There is car parking, toilets and a cafe on site.

A ticket for a family of four costs £36.

Stump Cross Caverns can be combined with a visit to Pateley Bridge (see below) and Brimham Rocks.

 

Caving in the Yorkshire Dales

 

Adventurous families can join a private caving trip organised by several Yorkshire based companies.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park website contains a list of accredited companies who offer caving trips.

Private and family trips are usually a half day experience with around 1.5 – 2 hours spent underground and some companies have a minimum age limit of 8 years old. Expect to pay £30 – £50 per person.

All equipment is provided but it is best to wear old clothes under the provided boiler suit.

I’m sorry I cannot recommend a caving company – Map Made Memories husband and I met through caving so whilst we have ventured into lots of Yorkshire caves, we have never used a guide. If you find a great company, let me know!

green valley with river through it surrounded by green hills

 

Historic sites in the Yorkshire Dales

 

Skipton Castle

 

Skipton Castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

Visitors can explore the banqueting hall, watchtower, bedchambers and the gloomy dungeons and will take approximately 2 hours.  

The rooms are unfurnished but a self guided trail with information on each room enhances your visit. 

Adults are £8.90, children are £5.70. Family of up to five tickets cost £29.50. There is parking and toilets on site.

 

Middleham Castle

 

Roofless Middleham Castle in Wensleydale was the childhood home of King Richard III.

As the walls are mostly intact, including one of the largest keeps in England, you get a good sense of the scale and grandeur of this fortified palace.

Entrance costs £6.90 for adults, £4.10 for children or £17.90 for a family. English Heritage members are free.

 

Bolton Castle

 

This castle is owned by the same family who built it 600 years ago.

Visitors can tour furnished castle rooms depicting life in the medieval era such as the nursery, dungeon, kitchen and Queen’s bedroom. Kids will enjoy the daily archery display in the castle courtyard.

The landscaped grounds of the castle contain a maze, herb garden, a bowling green, vineyard and rose garden. There is a daily Bird of Prey and Falconry display and families can pre-book their own Falconry experience or ‘hawk walk.’

Castle and Gardens tickets are available separately. A combined ticket costs £9 for adults £9, £ 7.50 for children or £35 for a family.

 

Bolton Abbey

 

This is a popular destination for families – locals as well as tourists – because there are no entrance fees to the privately owned estate. You only have to pay £10 for parking.

Visitors can easily spend a whole day here so it is a value for money day out in the Yorkshire Dales. We have visited Bolton Abbey several times and there is always something new to explore.

 

aerial view of stone abbey ruins surrounded by green fields and blue sky, things to do in the Yorkshire Dales
Aerial photo courtesy of James Genchi from Unsplash

 

Wander the photogenic ruins of the Priory Church and Augustinian Abbey. Below the ruins, brave Bolton Abbey’s famous stepping stones (all 60 of them!) to cross the river to access the other side of the estate. There is a bridge you can use if you prefer.

I have never seen anyone fall into the river but consider packing a change of clothes for kids, just in case! The river back to the side of the stones is a popular spot for a paddle on a summers day.

 

Bolton Abbey walks

On the other side of the river is Strid Wood with a mix of easy, pushchair friendly paths and more challenging paths. In Spring, Strid Wood  is blanketed with bluebells and aromatic wild garlic. 

I recommend getting off the beaten track at Bolton Abbey. It is easy to find a quiet, isolated spot even on the busiest peak season day. And if you like waterfalls, don’t miss Posforth Gill Falls, a lesser visited Yorkshire Dales waterfall.

To really stretch the legs, climb Simon’s Seat. Follow the signs from the main path.

Consider parking at Bardon Bridge and follow the woodland path for 4 1/2 miles to Cavendish Pavilion. This walk in spectacular in Autumn.

TIP – do not miss an ice cream at nearby Billy Bobs Parlour. People (like us!) drive from all over Yorkshire for a Billy Bob’s ice cream.

 

Ribblehead Viaduct

 

I added the Ribblehead Viaduct to my list of the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales as it is something a little different.

With 24 arches rising up 104 feet, the Ribblehead Viaduct is an impressive sight. The 19th century viaduct forms part of the Settle to Carlisle railway and has appeared in several movies and TV programs.

The viaduct lies in the middle of the Yorkshire Three Peaks route so there are long and short walks available in the area. During the summer, tourist steam trains run across the viaduct.

Ribblehead Viaduct is a 12 minute drive north of Ingleton.

 

 

Things to do in the Yorkshire Dales with kids

 

All of the activities and places I have mentioned can be visited with kids and they will love it!

But there are some activities in the Yorkshire Dales specifically aimed at kids.

 

Studfold Adventure Trail

 

Younger children will love the magical fairy trails at Studfold Adventure Park near Harrogate.

Searching for fairy doors and hidden fairy houses on woodland paths. Visit the bird hides, test your family’s team building skills in the den building area or catch a story from the Giant’s Storytelling Chair. 

There is a playground with go karts and small ride on tractors and downloadable activity trails.

A family of four ticket to Studfold Adventure Trail costs £25. 

 

The Forbidden Corner

 

The Forbidden Corner in Coverdale is in my opinion THE best thing to do in the Yorkshire Dales with kids.

It is a unique and quirky Yorkshire attraction; our kids love it!

The 4 acre park is packed with follies and curiosities on every path and hiding around every corner – including the car park and toilets! 

To list all the attractions of The Forbidden Corner would spoil the many surprises you will encounter on your visit. In fact the park  encourages visitors not to spoil the surprises for other visitors. 

You will receive a basic map on entry but what you actually end up seeing depends on how hard you search for it.

Get ready to dodge water spouting statues, crawl through narrow passageways, explore dark tunnels and find secret chambers with hidden exits. Be prepared to get lost and you will have fun doing so!

There is a large car park and woodland picnic area on site.

Entry is by pre booked, timed ticket only. Adults cost £13.50, senior citizens £12.50, children aged 4-16 £11.50.
A family ticket costs £48 and you need to allocate at least half a day for your visit. 

 

Kilnsey Park

 

Kilnsey Park in Wharfedale offers nature trails and fishing amongst a whole host of animals! Pont trekking is available nearby.

 

How Stean Gorge

 

This outdoor adventure centre offer easy, beginner experiences on their on site gorge such as caving, via ferrata and gorge walking.

Check out their family activities and prices here. 

 

 

Villages in the Yorkshire Dales

 

The Yorkshire Dales are full of picture perfect villages.

Muker on the River Swale in the northern part of the Dales is famous for its displays of wildflowers in Spring.

Charming Kettlewell featured in ‘The Calendar Girls’ movie and is a popular area for cyclists.

Pretty Clapham near Ingleton lies on the Yorkshire Dales Cycle Way.

And because we spend so much time there, I’d say my favourite village in the Yorkshire Dales is lovely Malham, despite the crowds on a summers day!

 

 

Market towns in the Yorkshire Dales

 

Popular Grassington and Ingleton are great for a wander or as a base for a walking holiday in the Yorkshire Dales. Ingleton market is held every Friday.

Visit Hawes, the highest market town in England and tour the family friendly Dales Countryside Museum. Tuesday is market day. Don’t miss a side trip from Hawes to the Tan Hill Inn, Britain’s highest pub, a 15 minute drive north of Hawes.

I’d also recommend a stop at Pateley Bridge to visit the oldest sweet shop in the world. It is modestly called ‘the Oldest Sweet Shop in Britain.’ Pateley Bridge can be combined with a visit to Brimham Rocks.

Settle on the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales has lots of independent shops and traditional stone buildings. Market day is Tuesday.

Masham in Wensleydale holds a market every Wednesday and Saturday. Don’t miss a tour of  the towns famous Black Sheep Brewery.

 

stone barn with stone houses in background set against vivid green fields
Gunnerside village in the Yorkshire Dales

 

Yorkshire Dales practical information

 

Where are the Yorkshire Dales?

 

The Yorkshire Dales (mostly encompassed by the Yorkshire Dales National Park) lies on the western side of county of North Yorkshire.

(On the right side of North Yorkshire are the Yorkshire Moors and Yorkshire Coast. The city of York is roughly in the middle between the Dales and the Moors).

The Yorkshire Dales gets its name from the river valleys that cross the region. Most of the Dales are named after the rivers that run through them. For example, the River Swale runs through Swaledale.

 

Weather in the Yorkshire Dales

 

The weather in the Yorkshire Dales is changeable so be prepared for all weathers especially if you are setting out on a hike.

As so many attractions are outside, Spring and Summer is the best time to visit the Yorkshire Dales – though we visit any time of year!

 

How to get to the Yorkshire Dales

 

The nearest airport to the Yorkshire Dales is Leeds Bradford International airport.

You can get to the Dales by train using local rail lines. Catch the train or coach to York or Leeds and connect to local trains for Gargrave, Redmire, Horton in Ribblesdale, Dent and Ribblehead.

However, the easiest way to get to the Yorkshire Dales is by car. Skipton (on the southern edge of the Dales) is a four hour drive from London and one hour from York or Leeds.

 

How to get around the Yorkshire Dales

 

The easiest way to get around the Yorkshire Dales is by car. You will be able to get to more places and spend longer there.

Car hire is available at York and Leeds railway stations.

You can get to some rural locations in the Yorkshire Dales by local train on the Leeds/Settle/Carlisle and Leeds/Morecambe lines. However, trains are not frequent, check National Rail for times and prices.

Alternatively, the excellent Dales Bus run essential connecting services all over the Dales. More routes are added in peaks season. Check routes and timetables here. 

 

 

Where to stay in the Yorkshire Dales

 

Visitors are spoilt for choice as to where to say in the Yorkshire Dales.

Choose between upmarket hotels in Skipton and Harrogate or cosy self catering cottages in Yorkshire Dales villages such as Malham or Masham.

Camping in the Yorkshire Dales is very popular with most campsites located on rural, family owned farms and land.

Check out our recommendations here.

I would also recommend checking out Youth Hostels in the Dales. We have stayed in private en-suite rooms at Malham YHA and Grinton YHA. Both these fantastic, affordable hostels offer camping and camping pods.

 

Have you visited the magnificent Yorkshire? What were your favourite things to do in the Yorkshire Dales?

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