Kay and I love touring in North Yorkshire. This beautiful part of the world seems to have everything, including two national parks, with North York Moors to the east and Yorkshire Dales to the west.
We’re not infrequent visitors to the latter, and take every opportunity to tour there whenever we can. For me, there’s a rugged beauty and simplicity about the Dales where you almost get the feeling that time doesn’t matter, while for Kay, there are many happy reminders of her childhood on the family’s farm, in the very heart of the Derbyshire Peak District.
The Caravan and Motorhome Club has a lovely site on the outskirts of the small market town of Hawes, Upper Wensleydale, which is 30 miles from the Bedale exit of the A1 (our quickest route). That 30 miles takes you through some fine scenery and is a taste of what’s to come.
Over the past few years, we have managed to have a break in the Dales in late autumn, when on a sunny day, nature’s colours have been absolutely stunning, and the area is less busy than it is at the height of the season.
Backdrop for filming
Our love of the Dales has extended to watching both the original BBC series of All Creatures Great and Small and the latest Channel 5 version of the same. Whenever we visit, we try to track down the wonderful locations that have been used for filming, and our latest trip was no exception.
Having set up at the campsite, we took the short walk into Hawes to pick up a few provisions and have a general look around. It was quite late in the afternoon when Kay suggested we might have a drink, so we popped into The White Hart Inn, right in the centre of the town.
After a great night’s sleep (despite the best efforts of some hooting owls), we awoke to a lovely sunny morning, and decided we would stay local for the day, revisiting a couple of ‘must-sees’ in Hawes.
Working life in the Dales
First we walked to the Dales Countryside Museum, where you can get £1 off the reasonable entry fee on production of a CAMC membership card. This is housed in the old Hawes railway station, on the way into Hawes from the site.
Sadly, the railway no longer runs here, having closed in 1964, but the heritage Wensleydale Railway, running between Leeming and Redmire, is well worth the trip if you have the time.
The Dales Countryside Museum tells the really fascinating story of the local area and the many people who lived and worked there over the centuries, many of whom made their living as sheep farmers or lead miners.
The visit also took Kay down memory lane, because I lost count of the number of times she said, “Oh, that picture reminds me of…”, or “We used to have one of those!” It really is
a brilliant insight into past times and gives an indication of how hard things were back then.
A very grand steam engine, with several fine carriages, waits at the platform just outside the museum, and this contains many photos and artifacts telling the story of the former railway line. All in all, it’s well worth a visit.
As lunchtime approached, we walked to the Wensleydale Creamery, perhaps Hawes’ biggest attraction. Cheesemaking in the area dates back to 1150, when Cistercian monks settled here, but it wasn’t until 1897 that the first creamery was built. Although it has been through turbulent times, with threats of the business being closed, these days, the Wensleydale Creamery is thriving, following a management buyout in 1992.
A nice bit of Wensleydale
We have visited the Creamery museum before, so didn’t go this time – but again, it’s well worth a visit. And of course, given their well-known penchant for a nice bit of Wensleydale, Wallace and Gromit get a good mention here!
Following our lunch in the Creamery café, which for me consisted of a bowl of great soup accompanied by a cheese sandwich (Wensleydale, of course), we took the obligatory wander around the shop and came away with a truckle or two of cheese. Well, you have to, don’t you?
Sadly, they no longer produce my favourite, Garsdale (Wensleydale with garlic and chives), but there’s still a huge choice of flavours. I must admit that plain Wensleydale is delicious, too.
The following morning, the weather wasn’t so great, but we planned to visit Grassington, some 20 miles south of Hawes in Wharfedale, for a little location spotting. Grassington stands in for the current Darrowby in the Channel 5 dramatisation of All Creatures Great and Small.
After climbing up from Wensleydale, we then crossed over into Upper Wharfedale, where the road follows the River Wharfe to Grassington. This is a delightful route, which takes you via Yockenthwaite, the location for Alderson’s Farm from the latest TV series.
Stunning walking trails
Arriving in Grassington, there’s a very spacious Pay & Display car park, and a short stroll into the centre, where we spotted Skeldale House, The Drovers and Endelby’s Grocers from the TV show, all on the cobbled market square.
Grassington has always been a busy place, and since being used as a film location, it has become busier still. Even on a rather damp November weekday, it took us three attempts to find a café that still had any tables free.
Later, leaving Grassington behind, we made the short walk past the car park and down to Linton Falls, before driving back towards Hawes and the relaxing comfort of the campsite. As the afternoon wore on, the skies cleared and we were treated to a stunning sunset – alas, I wasn’t quick enough with my camera to capture it.
We were once again blessed with a lovely sunny morning the next day, so decided to put on our walking gear and tackle one of the trails in the area (the Pennine Way passes through Hawes).
The route we chose is one we’ve done before, which takes you from the campsite, across the River Ure, then over fields towards Sedbusk. Wensleydale is apparently one of only a few Yorkshire Dales not named after its principal river. The area takes its name from the village of Wensley, once the market town for the dale.
You then walk towards Hardraw, location of Hardraw Force, which is reputed to be England’s highest single-drop waterfall.
As we descended towards Hardraw, we came across a recently installed seat featuring wonderful carvings at each end. According to the plaque, it has been placed there in memory
of a young local man. The views here are simply stunning.
Arriving at Hardraw, we decided against visiting the waterfall, which we have seen many times before. It’s worth a look, but be warned, the admission fee has doubled (albeit to £4) in the past couple of years.
Green dragon, red squirrels
The entrance to Hardraw Force is to the side of the Green Dragon pub, which was closed when we last visited Hawes, but we had promised ourselves a meal there this time.
Before making our way back towards the ’van, we were treated to the sight of a couple of red squirrels scampering about on the opposite bank of Hardraw Beck (a tributary of the River Ure and part of which is Hardraw Force). The path back to Hawes and the campsite forms a section of the Pennine Way hiking trail.
We decided to strike while the iron was hot and booked to eat at the Green Dragon that evening. Kay and I have fond memories of meeting up with the editorial team of one of Practical Motorhome’s sister titles in 2005 for a covershoot (staying at Hawes), and we enjoyed lunch at the Green Dragon on that occasion.
That was our first magazine work, and I still have copies of the June 2006 edition. It’s a bit scary to see how much I’ve aged since then!
Very little has changed at the pub, though, and that’s no bad thing. It’s a lovely place, with open fires and low beamed ceilings that are all original. The food was excellent, too, so we can thoroughly recommend the place if you pass by this way.
Visiting the viaduct
En route to see my sister, who lives locally, we also passed the splendid Ribblehead Viaduct. We’ve seen this magnificent structure many times (and crossed it on a train), but we decided that we would walk there the following day.
If you drive towards Ingleton from Hawes along the B6255, you can’t fail to see this truly iconic viaduct, built in the 1870s, which carries the Settle to Carlisle railway line across Batty Moss in the glorious Ribble Valley.
There is parking at the side of the road, from which you can find well-made paths towards the viaduct and beyond. The viaduct itself, a feat of Victorian engineering, is also a lasting memorial to the 100-plus men who sadly lost their lives during its construction.
Threatened with closure in the 1980s, such was the public outcry that the Settle to Carlisle line was given a stay of execution and remains in regular use today. Although we didn’t see any of the many steam train specials that traverse the viaduct throughout the year, we did observe a couple of diesel multiple-units making their way across. It makes a fine sight.
By now it was coffee time, so we stopped off at the nearby Station Inn, pausing to admire the Weather Forecasting Stone hanging outside. Displaying the great Yorkshire sense of humour, the stone has captions such as ‘Forecast – Stone is Dry, Condition – Not Raining’ and ‘Forecast – Can’t See Stone, Condition – Foggy’. The views from the pub lounge and the coffee they serve there weren’t bad either!
Our final day of touring took us (carefully) across the Buttertubs Pass into Swaledale for some more All Creatures Great and Small nostalgia. The road between Feetham and High Green features the ford that was used so memorably in the opening sequence of the original TV series.
On our way back up we passed Bolton Castle and the village of Askrigg, where the original Skeldale House is located. Kay and I stayed there a few years ago when it was privately owned, but it’s now ‘luxury holiday apartments’. Luckily, though, both the village and the surrounding area have managed to retain much of their distinctive local character.
There’s such a lot to see and do in the Dales that with this short trip, we’ve barely touched on all of the fascinating things on offer in this lovely part of the world.
We haven’t mentioned the splendid Aysgarth Falls, for example, or gone into detail about Bolton Castle or Wensleydale Railway, but I’m sure that we’ll be back to revisit the Dales and more of those wonderful places very soon.
If you’re planning out your next trip, be sure to take a look at our guide to the best motorhome sites in the UK, where we reveal the top campsites to stay at.
Where we stayed
Hawes Caravan and Motorhome Club Site
Brunt Acres Road, Hawes DL8 3PS
- caravanclub.co.uk, 01969 667 338
- Open: 1 March – 3 January
- Charges (pitch+2+hook-up): From £24.60
Hawes Caravan and Motorhome Club Site is for Club members only. Set in 18 acres, there are 119 pitches, all hardstanding and some fully serviced.
Steel pegs are needed should you be considering an awning. The pitches are reasonably flat, although some levelling might be required. The site is kept spotless by the wardens, who also provide a few basic amenities and an information centre at reception.
Way to go
From the east, turn right off the A684 as you enter Hawes, onto the road signposted Muker and Hardraw. The site is on the right in 0.25 miles.
From the south-west, leave the M6 at Junction 36 onto the A65. In Ingleton, turn left onto the B6255. Turn into Hawes’ main street and then left onto the road signposted Muker and Hardraw as above.
From the north-west, leave the M6 at Junction 40 onto the A66. Turn onto the A685 and then onto the B6259. At Garsdale Head, turn left onto the A684, signposted Hawes. Then as above.
Food and drink
Green Dragon Inn
Bellow Hill, Hardraw, Hawes, North Yorkshire DL8 3LZ
Web: greendragonhardraw.com, tel: 01969 667 392
If you liked this, why not take a look at these:
- Find out how Ben Smith and his wife Clare got on when they embarked on a Lake District tour
- Joe and Elaine Ormerod head to Dorset to explore the beautiful county
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