Draw a picture of the English countryside and it would look a lot like the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Quaint cottages stand lonely on rolling green hills, dry stone walls line winding country roads, and tiny villages are built from enchanting local limestone. Situated in the north of Yorkshire, in northern England, the national park is a haven for hikers and a place for escaping into the traditional villages of the past.
The park’s sublime landscapes stretch north from the market towns of Skipton, Ilkley and Harrogate. Dotted across the dales are other heritage towns, such as Ripon and Bridlington, where the atmosphere could come from a costume drama. It is the land of cute tea shops and old stone bridges, where market stalls sell scotch eggs, and every angle seems to be a postcard into rural England. Hikers are mostly drawn to the challenge of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, the highest summits in the Pennine range which are traditionally hiked in one long day. The Pennine Way and Dales Way both cross the national park, and there are dozens of other hiking and cycling trails.
The Yorkshire Dales exudes a rural atmosphere and tranquillity reigns. However, getting here isn’t too much of a challenge. The national park is 80 kilometres north-east of Manchester or 50 kilometres north of Leeds. The main market towns of Skipton and Harrogate are on the railway network and bus services between villages are relatively convenient. For most visitors, the chief attraction here is to explore on two legs.
The most spectacular of the Yorkshire Dales vistas come from some of the land’s newest features. Dramatic limestone formations were formed by waterfalls of glacial meltwater during the last Ice Age, merely 12,000 years ago.