Guide to the Yorkshire Dales holiday cottages

Guide to the Yorkshire Dales

Julie 13 April 2023

King of the North, the county of Yorkshire has a population as big as Scotland and is home to just under 12,000 km² of countryside and coastline.

Known for its walking and cycling routes through three national parks, most with phenomenal views, the beauty of this region is not only breathtaking, but diverse. One of these parks, the Yorkshire Dales, tops them all for many visitors. Its heady mixture of rolling hills, cascading waterfalls and pretty stone villages give it a certain charm that is hard to find elsewhere.

There's much to see and do during a getaway to the Yorkshire Dales, whether you prefer getting outdoor and active or spending time relaxing in a traditional tearoom or country pub. Browse our range of cottages and start planning your next break to this wonderful part of the world.

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Discover the wonderful Yorkshire Dales

Dry stone walls framing a pathway to Grassington

The Dales take their name from the valleys that created them, and many are popular walking choices the famous Wensleydale, famous for its cheese, but so much more than that with its historic limestone villages and traditional markets, Ribblesdale and its infamous Three Peaks, and the unspoiled and wild Swaledale. These Yorkshire gems will get you scaling mountains, following glistening waterfall trails and picnicking in meadows bursting with wildflowers – just make sure you stop off at a traditional Yorkshire inn on the way back for a proper taste of life in the Dales.

It’s not all about the scenery, though this does dominate. Even the towns and villages look as though they have come out of a storybook. Just outside of the national park, the cathedral city of Ripon with its rich cultural heritage, and the pretty spa town of Harrogate with its manicured parks and famous tearooms are peppered with old industrial buildings, giving a nod to the town's working past. 

Now these locations are vibrant hubs, welcoming visitors with their shops, cafes and restaurants, making Yorkshire, most famously known for its outdoor activities, more accessible to those who want to leave their walking boots firmly at home. There are lots of fascinating places to visit in the Dales, too, as well as a variety of fun things to do – castles, abbeys and literary havens alongside some fantastic days out for little explorers.

Get outdoors in the Dales

woman doing up laces of climbing boots

The 680 square miles of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the perfect place for those who love their walks to be both scenic and challenging at the same time. Characterised by its drystone walls forming a ribbon through the park and narrow winding roads flanked by wildflower meadows, each distinct dale offers the walker something new.

You’ll want to do these walks:

Pathway leading up to Pen-y-Ghent

The Three Peaks:

The famous trio – Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent – attract thousands of visitors each year, hoping to scale the peaks to be rewarded with some amazing panoramic vistas. Do all three if that is the reason for your visit – just make sure you are prepared, as the walk is 24 miles long and takes a good 12 hours! We advise doing just one unless you have prepared for the climb.

Or do them separately:

Whernside: one of the three peaks, start from the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct and finish at the highest point in Yorkshire. At the top, drink in the breathtaking views of the Lake District and Morecambe Bay – you can even see the Blackpool Tower with a pair of binoculars!

Ingleborough: another of the three peaks, you’ll take in some beautiful limestone scenery as you start at Clapham and walk up to the summit, passing Ingleborough Cave, Trow Gill and Gaping Gill as you go.

Pen-y-Ghent: a classic circuit and many people’s first climb and an interesting one at that. Start at Horton-in-Ribblesdale and come back via Hull Pot, the largest natural hole in England.

Janet's Foss waterfall near Malham

Other excellent walks:

• The circular walk to Keld and Ravenseat: start and finish at the highest inn in the UK, Tan Hill Inn, while taking in nearly 10 miles of prime Dales countryside as you make your way along the Pennine Way and Coast-to-Coast routes.

Ingleton Waterfalls Trail: walk this pretty route along the well-defined riverside footpath and marvel at the beautiful waterfalls.

The Dales High Way: start at Saltaire in the south (see below for more things to do there) and wind your way along part of the 90-mile route which as a full route takes in Ilkley, Addingham and the whole west side of the Yorkshire Dales to finish at the delightful market town of Appleby-in-Westmorland.

More Yorkshire walks

See the sights in the Dales

Small Yorkshire Dales town of Haworth with flags running between stone houses

An area full of historical intrigue and romantic literature, you’ll find yourself lost in the towns and villages of the Dales. Explore abbey ruins, National Trust historic houses and beautiful gardens and lakes. Don’t forget the kids too as there are plenty of days out at some fun Yorkshire attractions. You’ll want to see these amazing places:


Just south of the national park and former home of the Brontë family, you can visit the Georgian parsonage in Haworth that was home to some of our favourite authors – pop into the parish church to see the Brontë memorial chapel and head up to Top Withins, the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.

Fountains Abbey

Ruins of Fountains Abbey near Ripon

The atmospheric remains of this Cistercian monastery, first inhabited in 1132, are certainly worth a visit on a trip to Yorkshire. Landscaped in the 18th century, Fountains Abbey now has a 160-hectare deer park as well as the delightful Studley Royal Water Garden with its ornamental lakes, statues and temples.

Aysgarth Falls

This beautiful Wensleydale waterfall is one of the prettiest places in Yorkshire with three tiers of tumbling water that are surrounding by wonderful woodland. Aysgarth Falls has been painted by Turner and featured in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and is at its most dramatic after a heavy downpour.   

Bolton Abbey

Stepping stones over River Wharfe leading to Bolton Abbey

Situated on the banks of the River Wharfe, the Bolton Abbey estate near Grassington has 30,000 acres of glorious countryside and 80 miles of footpath to explore. Cross the River Wharfe via 60 famous stepping stones to check out the ruins and end the day with a tempting cream tea in the tearooms.

More places to see:

Malham Village: featuring the fabulous crescent-shaped limestone wonder of Malham Cove, the twinkling Janet’s Foss waterfall (said to be home to Janet, the Queen of the Fairies), and a footpath to the spectacular limestone gorge of Gordale Scar, this popular and much-loved Dales village is also home to a couple of excellent pubs.

Aysgarth Falls: a beautiful three-stepped waterfall, particularly stunning after heavy rain, this enchanting cascade was the backdrop for a scene from the Hollywood movie, Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. See if you can remember the scene and if you don’t, console yourself with a huge slice of cake in the café afterwards!

The Forbidden Corner: children will love making their way through this labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies and surprises, all in a 4-acre garden in the heart of the Dales. A great day out for all ages and abilities.

Skipton Castle and Ripley Castle: over 900 and 700 years old respectively, these impressive castles are well worth a visit. Also visit the magnificent fortress of Bolton Castle in Wensleydale, where you can watch the Bird of Prey Display and the Wild Boar Feeding in the Boar Park.

Eat and drink in the Dales

Pint of ale on rustic table in front of brick wall

Yorkshire is said to be a place where you can get a proper old-fashioned pint from a proper old-fashioned pub. This is especially true in the Dales, where around every corner is a friendly pub just waiting to welcome its next visitor. Quench your thirst after a bracing walk or stop off for lunch on a scenic drive around the Dales’ villages. Don’t forget the area’s tearooms and cafes, just the place for a homemade piece of cake or a couple of warm crumbly scones and a pot of tea – perfect for a rainy afternoon.

You’ll want to fill your tummies here:

Afternoon tea served on cake stand with champagne

Betty’s of Harrogate: this iconic tearoom is over a hundred years old and still has visitors queueing around the block for one of its famous cream teas. Try the popular afternoon tea in the elegant Imperial Room and sample a little taste of Yorkshire history. Or you can indulge in a glass of fizz after a tiring day’s shopping in Harrogate’s charming boutique stores.

The King’s Head, Masham: for a drink with a difference, tour the Theakston and Black Sheep Breweries in the town before stopping off at the Black Sheep Bistro for some excellent local produce. The White Bear is also a popular choice with award-winning cask ales and a beer festival held every summer.

The Pancake House, Pateley Bridge: breakfast warriors will love The Pancake House in the high street, where mountains of waffles dripping with maple syrup and sizzling bacon butties await hungry hikers.

• Three Peaks stop-offs: those taking on the Ribblehead Viaduct and Whernside will be glad of a friendly pint at the Station Inn near the finish – a good traditional Yorkshire pub. If you are climbing the Ingleborough Peak, come back to the New Inn, and for Pen-y-Ghent, stop off at the Pen-y-Ghent café for a well-deserved, post-walk pot of tea and a slice of cake.

Tan Hill Inn, Reeth: those heading out on the Keld and Ravenseat circular walk can enjoy a homemade picnic at Ravenseat, then walk it off on the journey back to Tan Hill. There you can treat yourself to a real ale in front of a roaring fire during the cold winter months.

The Blue Lion, East Witton: once described as ‘one of the most romantic restaurants in the whole of England’, this candlelit inn is one for the romantics amongst you. Nestled in the heart of the beautiful Wensleydale, this 18th-century, stone-built inn is perhaps the ideal place to pop the question – we told you the Dales was romantic!

Come and stay with us in the Yorkshire Dales! 

Pathway through the Muker meadows in Swaledale

When you’ve exhausted everything that the beautiful Dales has to offer, you’ll need somewhere to come back to rest before starting all over again the next day. You’ll find it difficult to leave any of our cosy cottages on winter mornings – but don’t worry, our properties with wood burners will be there to greet you on your return. On summer evenings, make the most of the long nights relaxing under the dark night sky as stars twinkle above, with one of our cottages with hot tubs.

Bring a significant other to a luxury hideaway, bring the kids to a family-friendly holiday home, or bring the whole family including the dog to a pet-friendly cottage – our portfolio of holiday cottages in Yorkshire has something for the whole family. If you are looking for places to stay, we can cater for your every need. Book a cottage in Yorkshire now!

If you'd like to discover even more of what Yorkshire has to offer, take a look at our complete guide to Yorkshire.

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.

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