Wharfedale - a guide for visitors to Upper and Lower Wharfedale
Wharfedale is the prettiest of the Southern dales, and with its accessibility from the
major population centres of the West Riding, it's very popular indeed. Fortunately the Dales don't
suffer from the tourist mayhem that has overtaken the Lake District
and the Peak District, so it's still a pleasure to visit and traffic jams are virtually
unknown. In Wharfedale, traffic gets worse the further down the dale you get, with
the over-commercialised naffness of Bolton Abbey being a particular problem, but
once above Bolton Abbey it's a pleasure to visit.
So what's so great about Wharfedale. Well, in my view it has the best walking of
all the dales. There are arduous walks on the moors above, gentle walks by the river,
and lovely ambles among the dry stone walls and field barns. Something for everyone
really, and as the dale is relatively narrow, if the weather turns you're never
too far from shelter. There are pretty little villages which are still quite
real, and it has the amazing remains of it's industrial past on the moors above.
Excluding Bolton Abbey it has no real tourist attractions, so only attracts those
who love the great outdoors, which probably accounts for the unspoilt nature. And
to cap it all, it has a fantastic selection of pubs.
So, starting from the top of the dale, here's an overview of some things to see
What to see in Wharfedale
Right at the head of the dale Buckden is a small village at the foot of Buckden
Pike, a towering hill that's a favourite with walkers. One of my favourite walks
in the whole of the dales is the waterfall walk
from Hubberholme to the summit via Buckden Gill. Another favourite's from Buckden around the
Eastern escarpment to Starbotton and back again.
If you fancy visiting Littondale next door, then an almost mirror image of that walk is from Arncliffe to Litton.And if visiting Buckden, then Hubberholme
just next door is absolutely unmissable with it's amazing church and possibly the
prettiest setting of any village in the dales. For food and drink the white lion
at Cray, just outside Buckden, is my preferred choice.
In the middle of Upper Wharfedale, Kettlewell has a beautiful setting by the river,
and suffers from an abundance of excellent pubs. Nowadays it's best known as the
setting for the Calendar Girls film, even though the real calendar girls story happened
in Rylstone just down the dale. The
youth hostel here is still in business with 2, 4, 5 and 6 bedded rooms which makes
it an excellent choice for cheap family accommodation. If you haven't tried youth
hostelling in years, it's very different now - no compulsory chores and they even
allow alcohol on the premises.
The capital of Upper Wharfedale. This old lead mining village is still a vibrant
thriving community, and is considerably larger than the other vilages in Upper Wharfedale.
It has the best selection of shops and cafes, though Kettlewell just edges it in
the pub selection. There's fantastic walking, either by the river and grass woods,
or more adventurous walks on the moors above. If you have kids don't miss out on
a visit to the old lead mines at Yarnbury as they're very special indeed.
In a wonderful position above Burnsall, Barden Tower is the remains of a fortified
hunting lodge formerly owned by the Cliffords of Skipton Castle. There's not a lot
left of it now, but it's free to look around, and there's a quite marvellous restaurant
in the grounds where in nice weather you can sit out and eat cakes and sandwiches. Much
nicer than the Cavendish Pavilion at Bolton Abbey. Barden is also the setting for some marvellous
walks around the reservoirs on barden Moor,
or round Rylstone Cross.
Now here's a subject close to my heart. Having spent many years exploring Wharfedale,
these are my ten favourite pubs. Could I pick one favourite pub, well, perhaps the
Miners Arms circa 1984(ish), but that's long gone now. I noticed the pub has reopened
recently, so next time I'm passing I'll have to pop in and check it out again.