The Yorkshire Dales are a vast and varied National Park, one of the major and most popular in England, established in 1954. It is a beautiful landscape of limestone hills and valleys, with fields separated by dry stone walls, in North-West Yorkshire and Cumbria, in the north of England. Sheep farming and wool production are distinctive of this region.
One of the longest and most attractive dales, or valleys, of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is Wharfedale, with the beautiful River Wharfe, divided into Upper Wharfedale, Mid Wharfedale and Lower Wharfedale. Here are the pretty stone villages of Kettlewell and Burnsall, with lovely cottages, ancient churches and interesting bridges.
Swaledale is a more barren dale with beautiful walks and many sheep, and it's formed by the River Swale meandering to Richmond. Its main town is Reeth, where you can visit the Swaledale Folk Museum, admire craft workshops and their traditional products, relax in tearooms, and finally enjoy the spectacular views from the large triangular village green, surrounded by eighteenth-century houses and often hosting traditional events and markets. Reeth has a past as a centre for controlling the local lead industry.
North of Reeth is Arkengarthdale, a remote and quieter dale less frequented by tourists, one of the most northerly dales. It' s the valley of the Arkle Beck, a tributary of the River Swale. There are only a few villages and hamlets remaining here, of which the most famous is Langthwaite for having been filmed in the BBC TV series All Creatures Great and Small.
Wensleydale, just south of Swaledale, is a long, wide, open dale. It is circled by flat-topped hills covered with bare moorland, which forms a contrast with the lush green of the gentle lower slopes. From this dramatic scenery, waterfalls spring and riverside meadows come to life. Here is Hawes, one of the principal towns of the Yorkshire Dales, a lively market town, with shops, restaurants, antiques. Middleham, in the eastern part of Wensleydale, has the spectacular Middleham Castle, the childhood home of King Richard III and once known as the "Windsor of the North". Located on a hill between the River Cover and the River Ure, the town of Middleham has a long history and was important in the Middle Ages. Its castle still hosts Medieval re-enactments.
At the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is Skipton, called "The Gateway to the Dales", an old market town dating back to the 11th century and granted a charter by King John. Worth seeing in Skipton are the Skipton Castle, one of the best preserved and most complete Medieval castles in England, the market, and the canal flanked by delightful paths and where you can go for organized boat trips.
Another main town in the southern part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is Settle, a thriving market town which is the starting point of one of the most impressive railways in Britain, the Settle-Carlisle Railway. Settle is known as a gateway to the Three Peaks of Penyghent, Whernside, and Ingleborough.
Wigglesworth is a small rural village near Settle and Skipton with charming old country inns.
Harrogate is a popular spa town at the south-east edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Haworth is lying south just ouside the park, and is associated with the three sister writers Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte, which is why this area is called Bronte Country.
There are caves all over the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Some, like the Ingleborough Cave, White Scar Caves and Stump Cross Caverns, are open to the public. Here is the longest cave system in the British Isles, the Easegill Caverns System, more than 100 km (60 miles) long.