Yorkshire Guide - main picture
My site, my views. Unofficial, unfunded and occasionally unorthodox. Enjoy!

Nidderdale - a visitor's guide to the attractions

View of Nidderdale Nidderdale is the most Easterly of the Southern Dales, and is also the most unspoilt and least commercialised.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park was created in 1954, and unaccountably the boundary was drawn to exclude Nidderdale. Ever since that point Nidderdale has been a poor relation to the rest of the Dales and has suffered economically and commercially. The most casual glance at a map shows how bizarre this decision was, as Nidderdale is clearly a part of the Dales, and is indeed one of the most beautiful. The reasons for the decision are clouded in the mists of time, but it's generally believed that it was done at the behest of Bradford Corporation who had designs to flood large areas of the dale for the municipal water supply. Whatever the reasons, it's left the dale with a unique character, being more of a working dale than any of the others. In 1994, the situation was partially corrected by declaring the dale to be an Area of Outstanding natural Beauty, a decision which is quite insulting as it gives it inferior status to the rest of the Dales with less statutory protection.

 As mentioned earlier, Nidderdale is the most Easterly of the Southern Dales, which means that the "boundary" is extended to the east taking in the magnificent Cistercian monastry of Fountains Abbey, a world heritage site and possibly the most beautiful Abbey in England.

What to see in Nidderdale

how stean gorge

How Stean Gorge

A magnificent Gorge in the depths of Upper Nidderdale, where kids can explore the gorge and clamber through pitch black underground caves. There are walkways and bridges but it's not really suitable for disabled access. At either end there are nice calm places where you can sit at the water's edge and swim or paddle.

There is an entry fee, so take a picnic and swimming kit and make a full day of it. If you don't want to picnic there's a nice cafe there. And whatever you do, don't forget to take a torch.
brimham rocks

Brimham Rocks

Acre after acre of oddly shaped rocks set on remote moorland - or at least it was remote moorland before it became a major visitor attraction. The National Trust have it nowadays, and have made it a little too twee for my liking, but it's undoubtedly better than the mess it had become before they took over.

There's no charge for entry, but there is a charge for car parking which is quite limited - so if you're going on a fine Suummer's weekend, get there early.
Pateley Bridge

Pateley Bridge

The market town of Upper Nidderdale, and still serving its rural community. A delighful collection of little shops, cafes, pubs and some excellent restaurants, and best of all still unspoilt. Whatever you do be sure not to miss one of the very best pork pie shops in Yorkshire.

There's also Nidderdale museum which is well worth a visit, and in July the utterly esoteric Nidderdale Festival , while in September Nidderdale Show concludes the season for Agricultural Shows.
Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey

This is either the best Abbey in England or the best garden ornament - take your pick. Fountains is a huge ruined Cistercian Abbey, which was landscaped as part of the Studley Royal estate in the late 18th Century, and is now set amongst the most beautiful Georgian Water Gardens. Studley Royal burnt down long ago, but the grounds and the abbey are magnificent. In the care of the National Trust nowadays who have done a great job on restoring the gardens.
Druids temple at Ilton

the Druids Temple at Ilton

A miniature version of Stonehenge built as a folly around 1820. A nice place for a picnic or to take in as part of a walk. Hard to find though.
Jenny Twigg

Jenny Twigg and her daughter Tib

A really nice walk on the moors above Nidderdale, taking in the weirdly shaped Jenny Twigg rocks.
Leeds Pals Memorial

The Leeds Pals Memorial

Built in the 1930's as a memorial to the Leeds Pals who suffered apalling casualties on the first day of The Somme. A salutory reminder to us all of the futility of war.


A magnificent mediaeval town set on the banks of the Nidd. Had one of the finest Royal castles in the North which is largely ruined nowadays, but worth visiting as the sally port(yes you can go down it) must be the best surviving example in the UK. There's boating on the Nidd, Old Mother Shipton's Cave, houses cut into the rock, a small museum alongside the castle, nice walks along the river and a market every Wednesday. And who can forget the magnificent crennelated railway viaduct, but sadly the wonderful little zoo run by Nick Nyoka is now long gone.
Stump Cross Caverns

Stump Cross Caverns

This show Cave is open to the public set on top of the moors between Nidderdale and Wharfedale. There is an entry charge, but the caves are suitable for even smallish kids. The cafe is quite nice, and it's next to the starting point for several great walks. In winter it only opens on weekends, but the rest of the year it's open every day.


Comments (0)
  0 people have added comments Click here to add yours