The best things to do in Pateley Bridge holiday cottages

The best things to do in Pateley Bridge

Emily Cunningham 18 June 2024

Featured in The Sunday Times’ ‘Best Places to Live in Northern England’ for two years running, you’ll soon discover why Pateley Bridge is so restorative. As you watch the River Nidd gently flow by, feel yourself relax into a more peaceful way of life. 

There's lots to see and do in Pateley Bridge too. Soothe your soul with the magnificent Yorkshire Dales scenery on your doorstep, full of majestic rocks, caverns and gorges to marvel at. Then amble around the quirky independent shops, taking in the artisanal produce created by local artists and makers. There’s a culinary treat in store too in picturesque Pateley Bridge, with options to suit all pockets and palates.

This market town is proud of its heritage, and once you’ve explored all it has to offer, you’ll fall in love with it too. Take a look at places to stay in Pateley Bridge to plan a perfect getaway to this pretty Nidderdale town.

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Where is Pateley Bridge?

Sign to Harrogate and Pateley Bridge with countryside in the background

Pateley Bridge is 14 miles northwest of Harrogate and 12 miles west of Ripon, in Nidderdale, a National Landscape in North Yorkshire, the gateway to the glorious Yorkshire Dales National Park. 

Nidderdale, home to Pateley Bridge, is technically not in the Yorkshire Dales, simply because when the Dales were designated a national park in 1954, it was decided that Nidderdale should be given a different conservation status – then an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (now known as National Landscapes).

Visiting Pateley Bridge by car makes it a convenient stop off for a tour around the Dales but you can also catch a train to Harrogate from York or Leeds and then the number 24 bus. A trip to Pateley Bridge is a must if you are planning a getaway to nearby Harrogate.

Brimham Rocks

Pair of rock formations at Brimham Rocks

Sculpted by 325 million years of wind and ice, the weird and wonderful rock formations at Brimham Rocks have to be seen to be believed. Some earned the names ‘Druid’s Writing Desk’ and ‘Druid’s Altar’ as 18th-century antiquarians believed them to be carved by the ancient Celtic sages. The spot is both a National Landscape and a Site of Special Scientific Interest so whether it’s aesthetics or natural history you’re after, it’s a must-see. Dogs can come along too making Brimham Rocks a brilliant dog-friendly thing to do in Pateley Bridge.

Don’t miss:

  • The local flora – look out for cowberries and bilberries nestled amongst the heather
  • The Idol Stone – a massive boulder balanced on a tiny rock
  • The opportunity to swerve the £6 parking charge (for four hours) by walking there on the Nidderdale Way – a bracing 8-mile yomp. Or catch the number 24 bus to Summerbridge for £2 and walk to Brimham Rocks from there

Stump Cross Caverns

Stalactites and stalagmites in Stump Cross Caverns

Once described as a ‘palace of jewels’, this beautiful series of underground caves between Pateley Bridge and Grassington is a spectacle of glittering stalactites and stalagmites. It was discovered by 19th-century miners prospecting for lead, but the tourist opportunities were recognised by canny locals soon after. Wander around yourself for £15 (£10.50 for under 14s) or choose one of the great interactive packages including digging for fossils or panning for gems.

Don’t miss:

  • The prehistoric reindeer, bison and wolverine bones on display at the visitor’s centre. You can also get a cracking afternoon tea in the Time Cafe or sample one of the range of Stump Cross Beers
  • Seeing the glow-in-the-dark minerals by UV torchlight after 3pm
  • The quieter sessions on Saturday mornings dedicated to visitors who prefer to avoid crowds

How Stean Gorge

Woodland ravine at How Stean Gorge

A hard hat, torch and wellies are the order of the day to explore How Stean Gorge, a breathtaking ravine, 7 miles north of Pateley Bridge. This hidden gem offers so many ways to traverse it, depending on how brave you’re feeling. You can squeeze through narrow caves, splash through underground streams and test the echoes under your own steam (£8 for adults, £6 for children) or book one of the guided activities such as abseiling, gorge-walking, kayaking or caving. Exploring How Stean Gorge is one of the most exhilarating things to do in Pateley Bridge.

Don’t miss:

  • The Via Ferrata or Iron Way (£65 per person). A series of ladders, steel beams and narrow ledges takes you around the vertical cliffs of the Gorge – don’t worry, you’re fully clipped in! 
  • The glass-floored cafe that’s cantilevered over the Gorge – a perfect bird’s eye view
  • The drive there from Pateley Bridge – it’s spectacular, skimming along the length of the Gouthwaite Reservoir

The Oldest Sweet Shop

Street through Pateley Bridge with The Oldest Sweet Shop on the left

Pontefract cakes, humbugs, aniseed balls and all your other childhood favourites, weighed out into rustling paper bags, can be found at this adorably ancient shop on the high street. Trading since 1827, The Oldest Sweet Shop has earned a place in the Guinness Book of Records and the vintage till and weighing scales certainly confirm its dotage.  

Don’t miss:

  • Cocoa Joe’s. Continuing the sweet theme, sample hot (or iced) chocolate fit for a king at this cafe. It uses high-quality solid milk, and white and plain chocolate to create a chocoholic’s liquid heaven
  • Whittaker’s Distillery, 5 miles out of town. This family-run artisan gin distillery offers tours, workshops and tasting sessions plus homemade pizza to line your stomach
  • Kendall’s Farm Butchers. As well as Nidderdale fillet steak, this superb butcher offers ‘take and bake’ pies and award-winning pork pies. That’s lunch sorted!

Walks around Nidderdale

Sign showing the Nidderdale Way passing by the River Nidd

With 500 miles of public footpaths and bridleways around Nidderdale, you’re at the heart of some of the best walking country in Yorkshire. Pateley Bridge is on both the Six Dales Trail and the Nidderdale Way so you can just sample a section or tackle the whole thing, depending on your stamina.

Don’t miss:

  • A short ramble of 1.25 miles around nearby Fishpond Wood, taking in ancient woodlands and an idyllic pond dating back to the 18th century
  • The Curlew Trail, a glorious stroll on the banks of the River Nidd, through moorlands and down quiet lanes
  • The Walkers are Welcome stickers dotted around Pateley Bridge. The town has signed up to this scheme that indicates where muddy boots are seen as a badge of honour

Pateley Bridge galleries

Street running through Pateley Bridge with independent shops and galleries

With the abundance of natural beauty in and around Pateley Bridge, it’s no surprise that local folk are inspired to put brush to canvas. For gorgeous botanical prints in vivid colours, have a browse around Jack Albert & Gill 2, a gallery and shop with an irresistible collection.

Don’t miss:

  • Claire Baxter’s uplifting work, which will put a smile on your face. Splash out on an original oil painting or the more affordable prints and cards. You may be lucky to catch her at the gallery as she often pops in
  • The chance to see artists and designers at work at the King Street Workshop. Buy one of the exquisite pieces or have one commissioned for yourself
  • Sweet HeART – the oldest building in the town, which combines a gallery with a tea shop and bakehouse where you can sample their homemade tasty treats

Pateley Bridge pubs

A couple of pints of beer on a table in a traditional pub

As to be expected in this charming market town, the pubs are traditional and full of character. Sup a local ale on the high street or head further afield for an authentic country pub experience. You'll find dog-friendly pubs that will welcome four-legged friends and roaring fires to relax in front of after walks in the surrounding countryside.

Don’t miss:

  • The Crown Inn. A handsome stone building on the high street, with local artist Neil Simone’s work on the walls. Try the exceptional steak pie the size of a paving slab
  • The Bridge Inn. This hostelry, 1 mile up the road from Pateley Bridge, is worth the trip, with an open fire and a lovely patio garden with a waterwheel
  • The Half Moon at Fellbeck. A great pitstop if you’re visiting Brimham Rocks as this lovely old pub has wonderful views of the curious formations.

Pateley Bridge restaurants and cafes

Fish and chip shop on a traditional street in Pateley Bridge

All that fresh air exploring the Dales and local attractions works up an appetite – luckily there’s a great range of eateries to quell those pangs. Take your pick from fine dining using locally sourced ingredients to fresh fish and chips – Pateley Bridge has it all.

Don’t miss:

  • The Willow Restaurant. Nidderdale lamb and locally caught trout and fish from the Yorkshire coast are included on the menu of this smart restaurant in the centre of Pateley Bridge
  • The Pancake House. This celebration of all things pancake gets extremely busy – a testament to the quality of its delicious sweet and savoury pancakes – dare we say flipping great? 
  • The Old Granary Tea Shop. For amazing value, check out this cosy café. Dive in before 11.30 for the full English breakfast for only £7.25

Nidderdale Museum

Exterior of the Nidderdale Museum in Pateley BridgeImage credit: Nidderdale Museum

Forget glass cases, the exhibits in this quaint museum are shown in their natural environment to provide a realistic glimpse of 150 years of Nidderdale history. Run entirely by volunteers, it aims to capture and celebrate a traditional way of life before it disappears. On the first floor of a beautiful stone building that was once a workhouse, the 11 packed rooms include a parlour with a table laid ready for tea, and the cobbler’s shop with its rows of wooden shoe lasts. Entry costs £5 (children free).

Don’t miss:

  • Calling at the gift shop for souvenirs and local history books
  • The school room with its slate boards and dunce’s cap
  • The war room at Nidderdale Museum which features a chilling air-raid siren

Nidderdale Show

Three sheep being rounded up by a sheepdog

If you’re lucky enough to time your visit with the annual Nidderdale Show in September, be sure to include it in your itinerary as it’s a wonderful showcase of rural life. For one day, the beautiful Bewerley Park is given over to sheepdog trials, dog shows, showjumping and livestock classes (your dog on a short lead will enjoy the day out, but keep him out of the marquees).

Don’t miss:

  • The arts and crafts competitions including ‘an interesting selfie’ and ‘a basket made from the hedgerow’ categories
  • The family marquee with a quiet area for nursing mums, a changing station and activities for children
  • The chance to buy discounted tickets for the Nidderdale Show online, prices are £12.50 for adults and £4 for children

Pateley Bridge parking

Line of shops in Pateley Bridge

This bustling town gets busy during high season, so come early to nab a space in one of the car parks.

The car park handiest for the town centre is Southlands with a maximum stay of two hours for 80p. Then there’s Nidd Walk along the River Nidd (£1.70 for all day). Park Road is free to use and just off the main street. Slightly further out is the Nidderdale Showground car park, which is £1.80 all day.

Map of things to do in Pateley Bridge

Find all the best things to do in Pateley Bridge and the surrounding Nidderdale countryside in this handy map:

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Plan your getaway to Pateley Bridge

Two Hoots, a large stone cottage with wraparound garden in Pateley Bridge

Two Hoots in Pateley Bridge

There’s a wide variety of holiday homes that echo the authentic charm of Pateley Bridge with dog-friendly, family-friendly and romantic options to choose from. If you fancy exploring this pretty Nidderdale town, take a look at our range of Pateley Bridge cottages and make your next getaway a trip to remember.

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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