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You are in: North Yorkshire > Places > Free Stuff > Yorkshire Dales - guide to cheap days out


Yorkshire Dales - guide to cheap days out

"You don't get 'owt for nowt" at least that's according to the old Yorkshire saying, but bearing in mind the rising cost of a day out, we thought we'd let you into a few of our secrets for a great day out - on the cheap - in North Yorkshire.

There's so much to see and do in North Yorkshire and it doesn't have to cost you a fortune. With a few carefully chosen ideas on where to go and what to do, we hope we can help you enjoy some great days out for next to nothing. If we're going to let you into the secrets of our favourite days out, we do want something in return, we want you to share your secrets with us. Where do you go in North Yorkshire for a great day out? We want suggestions of places which won't cost a kings ransom.

First things first, sort out your food - a couple of rounds of sandwiches and a flask of tea should just about do! So, where is there to go...?

Yorkshire Dales:

The Yorkshire Dales is undoubtedly one of the most picturesque parts of the country, it's also a fantastic area to explore.

Limestone pavement and view of Penyghent

Looking towards Penyghent

There are lots of famous beauty spots as well as numerous hidden gems and the good news is that there are plenty of places where you can enjoy a day out without breaking the bank.

It's easy to enjoy a grand day out touring round Wensleydale's market towns like Masham, Middleham, Leyburn and Hawes, but Swaledale and Wharfedale offer just the same potential.

Beamsley Beacon

Beamsley Beacon

The whole area is incredibly popular with walkers, Hawes is a haven for motorbike riders, Leyburn has the lure of the Wensleydale Railway and Masham, with its two breweries, is a mecca for people who enjoy a decent pint.

If you can get away from the popular routes there are many secluded spots where you can enjoy a picnic surrounded by some of the most spectacular scenery in the UK. There are a number of roads over the fell tops from one dale to the next which offer unrivalled views, but the majority of these are single track in places and not for drivers of a nervous disposition!

Bolton Abbey:

One of the most popular destinations in the Dales is Bolton Abbey, just off the A59 between Harrogate and Skipton. The village is close to the River Wharfe, which is a great place for a paddle on a hot summers day! You've very little option except to use one of the car parks run by the Devonshire Estate. The cost of parking (£5.50 per car, £3.00 per motorbike) can seem steep, but once you've paid there's little else you need to fork out for (tickets are valid in all three of the estate's car parks on the day of issue).

River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey

River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey

One of the best places to head for is the area around the stepping stones across the River, close to the church. The stepping stones are a famous landmark. Obviously they can be wet and slippy and the water can be fast moving and dangerous, so have your wits about you and make sure you keep a close eye on the kids.

Handily, there's a footbridge for people who are less adventurous. There's plenty of space for a picnic and a paddle and there's often an ice-cream van parked nearby.

The Priory Church of Bolton Abbey, which overlooks this part of the river, is built in the ruins of the original Abbey. There are seats outside the church where you can sit and escape the 21st century. Inside, church guides are available every day through the summer to answer questions about this impressive building.

There are more than eighty miles of footpaths over some spectacular scenery. These offer you the choice of walking along the river, through the woodland nature trails or over heather moorland.

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey

Sandholme car park, close to the Cavendish Pavillion, is another great place to base yourself, you're even allowed to have your own barbeques in the southern part of this car park. Nature walks take you through the woods to 'Strid' - where the River Wharfe forces its way through a narrow gap in the rock between its banks. This part of the river is called the Strid because it's said to be a Stride wide, but don't risk it yourself. It is wider than it looks and the rocks are usually very slippy.

If steam trains are your thing, just over the other side of the A59 is Bolton Abbey station, which is part of the Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam railway. Bolton Abbey station is a lovely place which has been nicely restored. It's a good place to watch the trains come and go - there's a nice station buffet too!


A short drive up Wharfedale from Bolton Abbey brings you to the village of Burnsall - famous for its fell race, which is held each August. The River Wharfe here is wide and gentle. There's plenty of space to park in the field, over the bridge, on the other side of the river.



It's a popular place for a picnic and easy to keep your eye on the children if you let them paddle in the water. The footpath which takes you up river from the village is well worth exploring. It starts by the bridge, down the side of the Red Lion pub and follows the course of the river.

After the first half mile or so it opens out abit, there are places to paddle and sit on the riverbank. There are some lovely views and if you follow it long enough you come to another set of stepping stones, rather like at Bolton Abbey.

Upper Wharfedale:

Further up Wharfedale are the villages of Grassington, Kettlewell and Buckden. All are worth visiting in their own right, or just for the scenery you pass on the way.

Scarecrow in Kettlewell

Scarecrow in Kettlewell

Every August Kettlewell holds its famous Scarcrow festivals. This is one of the oldest and biggest Scarecrow Festivals in the country. The time and effort which goes into making the scarecrows - and the way they are presented - is unbelievable.

Each scarecrow is individually made in the traditional way by local people and then placed around the beautiful village. Parking generally costs £1 and includes a scarecrow trail sheet. A childrens' trail sheet costs 50p.

Aysgarth Falls:

North Yorkshire is lucky to have so many natural landmarks. Aysgarth Falls, in Wensleydale, have got to be one of the most stunning of these. Follow the A684 up Wensleydale through Leyburn towards Hawes and you come to the village of Aysgarth.

Aysgarth visitor centre

National Park visitor centre at Aysgarth

Take the turning for Aysgarth Falls and the road takes you past the church (which has the largest churchyard in England) and drops down steeply to the River Ure.

There's a big car park at the Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre from where footpaths lead you either up or down river. Aysgarth Falls is a series of dramatic, tree lined, mini waterfalls which have been carved out by the River Ure.

Aysgarth falls

Aysgarth Falls

The walks are well signed and offer spectacular views and photo opportunities. The Upper Falls is a nice place for a picnic and the river is shallow enough to paddle in - although make sure you keep away from the falls.

If you decide to walk downstream from the car park, the woodland path takes you to a couple of viewing points. Further along you are able to walk down to the riverbank to get a closer look at the falls. Aysgarth Falls was one of the locations used during the filming of 'Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves' starring Kevin Costner.


Leyburn is a classic Dales market town. Wonder around the market place and enjoy browsing in the shops (there's a chocolatier and an unusual tea pottery as well as craft workshops and galleries) or watch the trains from the Wensleydale Railway come and go as they pass through the station.

Dry stone walls

Dry stone walls

A very short walk out of the village, through the lane at the top end of the Market Place, brings you to Leyburn Shawl, a steep escarpment from where you get fantastic views across Wensleydale. It's called Leyburn Shawl because it's where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have dropped her shawl as she escaped from Bolton Castle, where she was held prisoner between July 1538 and January 1539.

The escarpment is about a mile long, there are benches to sit on and enjoy the view, as well as a childrens play area. If fancy really stretching your legs, there's a fairly gentle walk to Redmire which is five miles away (you could either walk back or time your trip to catch the Wensleydale Railway service back to Leyburn).


Hawes is still very much the focal point for life in Upper Wensleydale. It's a lovely place to stroll round and has become a magnet for walkers and motorbike riders. One of its biggest claims to fame is as the home of Wensleydale cheese.



The Wensleydale creamery has a small visitor centre (nominal admission charge of £2 per adult) where you can find out about the origins of Wensleydale cheese and watch it being made using a process which has hardly changed from the traditional methods which were used centuries ago. There are also free samples of the many varieties of cheese made at the creamery.

One sight not to miss is England's highest waterfall, close to the nearby village of Hardraw (some people spell it as Hardrow, but I've always known it as Hardraw). Hardraw Force is a spectacular sight, water cascades over the edge and falls around 100 feet to the ground below. In particularly severe winters it has been known to turn into a single gigantic icicle!

There's only one way to get to the waterfall and that's through the pub in Hardraw, the Green Dragon. You do have to pay an admission fee, but it is a modest charge. There's a nice walk to the bottom of the waterfall, with plenty of space for a picnic. If you feel adventurous, it is possible to walk behind the waterfall, but you must be aware of the dangers of falling rocks and be careful on the slippy rock.

Jervaulx Abbey:

Jervaulx Abbey is is a haven of peace and tranquility. You'll find it just off the A6108, between Masham to Middleham. The Abbey is privately owned and there's no formal admission charge, but visitors are expected to make a donation towards its upkeep via the honesty box next to the gate. It's a nice place to break a journey or to have a picnic. Whether you've got young children, or are young at heart, the ruins are great to explore.  There's plenty of parking outside the tea room on the other side of the road.

last updated: 20/05/2008 at 15:39
created: 12/09/2007

Have Your Say

We've shared our secrets for cheap days out in the Dales, now it's your turn. Tell us where you go, if we agree we'll include it in this section!

The BBC reserves the right to edit comments submitted.

Bob Munby
Try Langstrothdale in upper Wharfedale. About 5 km upstream of Hubberholme. Park on the road side avoiding causing an obstruction and walk along the river side. In dry conditions you can walk in the river bed but in wet weather the river is beautiful. Keep a look out for dippers on the rocks and in the river. You may even see an oyster catcher or two. (They look like magpies with a carrot in their beaks.) There is plenty of short grass near the water for a familly picnic.

its gd but you need to say how much is it on foot?

John Wilkinson
St.Gregory's Minster, between Beadlam/Nawton and Kirbymoorside and Kirkdale caves. Also within a short distance the watermill at Hold Cauldron on the Skiplam Road.

When our kids were little, we used to take them camping to West Burton near Aysgarth Falls. we went somewhere everyday, like the waterfalls, wonderful for exploring and West Burton has a beautiful waterfall. We went to Redmire or visited the rope factory at Hawes that was different and free and the shop sells such unusual souvinirs at a reasonable price. Try Hardraw Force I bet there's plenty of water coming down there now, or Semerwater for a walk round the lake. Happy memories.

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