The best things to do in Hawes holiday cottages

The best things to do in Hawes

Julie 10 December 2023

Nestled amongst the hills and valleys of Upper Wensleydale is Hawes – the highest market town in England and the home of one of Britain’s best-loved cheeses. 

With dramatic peaks to climb, spectacular waterfalls to admire and a weekly market that’s full of interesting stalls, there’s much to see and do on a visit to Hawes.

So if you fancy spending some time exploring this characterful market town during your next Yorkshire Dales getaway, we have compiled some of our favourite things to do in Hawes.

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Tuck into some Wensleydale cheese

Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes

Hawes is home to the Wensleydale Creamery, a must-visit attraction for all cheese lovers. The tradition of making Wensleydale cheese in this region dates back 1,000 years and you can learn more about this history and watch the cheese being crafted on a visit to the creamery. 

Don't miss:

  • The gift shop has more than 20 varieties of cheese available to purchase along with local chutneys and crackers. There’s even a sampling room to help you find your favourite variety of Wensleydale Cheese.
  • Along with a self-guided tour through Wensleydale Creamery, there are six talks and demonstrations every day from the expert cheesemakers.
  • Visitors can dine at Calvert’s restaurant and enjoy panoramic views of the surrounding countryside while tucking into dishes such as a three-cheese quiche or a Wensleydale mac n five cheeses. There’s even cheese-style tapas in the Cheese Bar.     

Shop for art and antiques in Hawes marketplace

Hawes marketplace in Wensleydale

Hawes is a handsome market town that’s filled with characterful stone buildings, cobbled alleyways and interesting shops. Along with The Mulberry Bush which sells gifts and traditional Yorkshire sheepskins, and The Old Sweet Shop which sells fudges and classic jars of sweets, there are also several places to buy arts and antiques:

Don't miss:

  • You can browse five different rooms at the family-run Sturmans Antiques with trinkets, vintage furniture and interesting items to be found throughout all of them, as well as lots of advice available from the experienced owners.
  • Cellar Antiques has a cobbled spot in Hawes that’s opposite a pretty waterfall in the middle of the town. They specialise in early oak furniture but sell a wide variety of other antiques too.
  • Local artist Stacey Moore has a gallery in Hawes selling her own original work and The Chapel Gallery, unsurprisingly set in a converted chapel, sells artwork from 15 different artists and crafts from around 30 different makers.

Go on a scenic cycle ride

Cycling through Yorkshire Dales countryside

The Yorkshire Dales is a top choice for cycling and many of our cottages come with lockable sheds if you want to bring your bike on holiday with you. If you prefer to hire a bike instead, you can do this at Stage 1 Cycles, a company based in Station Yard, next to the Dales Countryside Museum. 

Don't miss:

  • Mountain bikers can follow the Circuit of Dodd Fell, a 30km route that will take you to the nearby village of Bainbridge, before climbing up to Fleet Moss and heading through Snaizedale Forest on your way back to Hawes.
  • If you prefer road cycling, we recommend heading up Buttertubs Pass, a high mountain road that will take you from Wensleydale to Swaledale with majestic views to reward the tough climb.
  • For something a little easier, we recommend heading to nearby Keld and following the Swale Trail, a 12-mile valley bottom route that's ideal for families and beginners. 

Climb up Great Shunner Fell

View of Great Shunner Fell

Great Shunner Fell is a mountain near Hawes and the usual route to the top is to follow the Pennine Way from the market town which will take you past the thundering Hardraw Force waterfall. The walk to the top is around 4.5 miles and, with a flagged path to follow, it’s achievable for even inexperienced climbers.

Don't miss:

  • At 716 metres tall, Great Shunner Fell is the third-highest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales and the summit is marked by a large stone shelter. Look out for pieces of coal as you get close to the top as it was mined here in the 19th century. 
  • The name Great Shunner Fell means Big Lookout Hill and you can see across the Yorkshire Dales to the North Pennines and Lake District from the summit. 
  • Not far from this popular mountain is Lovely Seat, another Yorkshire Dales peak that can be tackled alone or in along with Great Shunner Fell. Lovely Seat is a challenging peak with some steep limestone escarpments to scramble up to the top.

Visit the Dales Countryside Museum

Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes

This fascinating museum is located in the old Victorian railway station on the edge of Hawes and tells fascinating stories of the past through various exhibitions and artefacts which date back to the Bronze Age. Visitors can immerse themselves in an authentic Victorian farmhouse kitchen before wandering around interesting farming and blacksmith displays. 

Don't miss:

  • There’s plenty to keep little ones occupied during a visit to the Dales Countryside Museum, from making traditional brooches and necklaces to heading into a recreated lead mine and hopping aboard a vintage Victorian train carriage.
  • There’s a great shop at the museum where you can buy a range of Distinctly Dales products that are all created by local artists and makers.
  • The Dales Countryside Museum is also the home of the Hawes National Park Centre where you can pick up lots of local information. The large car park is a Dark Sky Discovery Site and is the perfect place to set up a telescope and look for stars.

Admire the spectacular Hardraw Force waterfall

Hardraw Force waterfall

The Yorkshire Dales is well known for its beautiful waterfalls and there are several to see in both Hawes itself and the surrounding Wensleydale countryside. The best known of these falls is the dramatic Hardraw Force which was painted by Turner and, at 100 feet tall, is England’s largest single-drop waterfall.

Don't miss:

  • Hardraw Force is located in the grounds of the historic Green Dragon Inn which dates back to the 13th century and comes with roaring fires, exposed beams and flagstone floors.
  • Pathways from the car park will take you either to a pool at the bottom of the falls or to a bridge across the top where you can watch the water thundering down limestone rocks.
  • Other nearby waterfalls include Hawes Falls in the middle of town, the tiered 40-foot Aysgill Force which is surrounded by woodland and Cotter Force which has an accessible path that’s suitable for prams, pushchairs and wheelchair users.

Have an adventure at Bolton Castle

You can take a scenic drive across the Wensleydale countryside from Hawes to one of the UK’s best-preserved medieval fortresses, Bolton Castle. Built in the 14th century, this magnificent place was once one of the most luxurious homes in the land and its rich history includes roles in the Pilgrimage of Grace revolt against Henry VIII and the imprisonment of Mary Queen of Scots.

Don't miss:

  • Around a third of the rooms at Bolton Castle are completely intact including the Great Chamber, Old Kitchen and Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom which visitors can peep inside to get a glimpse of the past.
  • The gorgeous gardens at Bolton Castle feature beautiful flower borders, fragrant roses and a walled vineyard. There is also a tricky maze to try and find your way out of and a large bowling green.
  • Family activities at the castle include treasure trails, falconry displays and archery demonstrations where kids are encouraged to have a go and try to hit the bullseye.

Spot red squirrels at Snaizeholme

The best place to see red squirrels in the Yorkshire Dales National Park lies just a few miles from Hawes in the heart of the Widdale Red Squirrel Reserve. The Snaizeholme Red Squirrel Trail features a special clearing and feeding station so that visitors can get up close to the squirrels in their natural habitat of coniferous woodland.

Don't miss:

  • You can catch the Little White Bus to Snaizeholme Red Squirrel Trail. It's a community Yorkshire Dales minibus which departs daily from the Dales Countryside Museum.
  • There’s a 2.5-mile woodland walking trail that will take you to the special viewing platform where you can see the red squirrels feeding.
  • On your return to the Dales Countryside Museum, you can stop for refreshments at the Firebox Cafe where you’ll find a selection of light bites made with local ingredients.  

Browse the stalls at Hawes market

There’s been a market in Hawes since 1307 and the town was awarded a royal charter to hold weekly markets by King William III in 1699. The outdoor market takes place each Tuesday when the cobbled streets are filled with an assortment of stalls and become a hive of activity.

Don't miss:

  • You’ll find everything from fresh fruit, vegetables and eggs to locally produced chutneys and great value clothing on the various market stalls.  
  • There’s also an indoor market each Tuesday at Hawes Market House; this historic building also hosts regular craft fairs and tabletop sales.
  • Other market towns in the Yorkshire Dales include Skipton, Bedale and nearby Leyburn where you can browse an assortment of stalls each Friday.

Explore Lake Semerwater

Just a few miles from Hawes in the peaceful side valley of Raydale are the calm waters of Lake Semerwater. At 100 acres, it’s the second largest natural lake in North Yorkshire with Malham Tarn being the largest. The beautiful surrounding landscape and still waters make it perfect for walking, picnics and a variety of water sports. 

Don't miss:

  • Day tickets are available for windsurfing, canoeing and stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) on Lake Semerwater, although no equipment is available to hire at the site.
  • Lake Semerwater is a good choice for fishing in the Yorkshire Dales with anglers able to catch a variety of species such as perch, pike, roach and brown trout.
  • Wild swimming has grown in popularity over recent years and Lake Semerwater is just right for trying this exhilarating activity with still waters that stay shallow for just enough time for you to get properly acclimatised to the cold temperature.  

Walk through the Yorkshire Dales countryside

One of the best ways to explore the Yorkshire Dales countryside is on your own two feet, and luckily there are plenty of scenic walks in and around Hawes to try. The Pennine Way passes through Hawes if you fancy a challenging trail and there are lovely waterfall walks that start from the centre of town. 

Don't miss:

  • Stage 8 of the Pennine Way walk will take you from Hawes to the Tan Hill Inn which, at 1,732 feet above sea level, is Britain’s highest pub. The full walk is 17 miles but you can simply follow part of the route for a shorter circular walk.
  • The Hawes to Sedbusk circular is a 3.5-mile walk that starts off following the Pennine Way to Hardraw Force before taking you through the pretty hamlets of Simonstone and Sedbusk with lots of undulating countryside along the way.
  •  A 4-mile circular walk to Aysgill Force starts and finishes at the White Hart Inn. You’ll pass by the Wensleydale Creamery and the historic Gayle Mill as you follow the path of a flowing beck that leads to the waterfall.  

Sup on a pint in a Hawes pub

There are lots of good pubs dotted around Hawes and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales countryside where you can call in for hearty home-cooked food, locally brewed ales and a friendly Yorkshire welcome. All the pubs in Hawes are dog-friendly too so four-legged friends can get a well-deserved drink after adventures in the Yorkshire Dales.

Don't miss:   

  • The White Hart Inn is a dog-friendly, 16th-century coaching inn on the cobbled main street of Hawes that comes with roaring fires, dog treats at the bar as well as beer from the Wensleydale Brewery, Settle Brewery and Black Sheep.
  • The Crown is a CAMRA pub in the middle of Hawes where you can enjoy a range of traditional dishes in a choice of three eating areas. There are always five cask ales available along with guest beers, cocktails and a selection of wines.
  • The Fountain is a cosy 17th-century pub with a prime position on the marketplace that serves breakfast, lunch and evening meals along with an excellent Sunday lunch. There’s also live music on selected Friday and Saturday nights.

Plan your Hawes getaway

If you have been inspired to visit Hawes and try some of these lovely activities for yourself you’ll find a range of Yorkshire Dales cottages in and around the market town.

Browse our selection of handpicked Hawes cottages and start planning a short break or longer holiday to Wensleydale.

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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