A dozen or so things you never knew about The Yorkshire Dales

The tenth in our series of ‘I never knew that about the beauty spots of Britain’

Britain is the most beautiful country in the world when the sun shines. And even when it doesn’t there are myriad tales and facts galore to enhance the beauty, whatever the weather. Here are some of them – they may make you want to go there….

A dozen or so things you never knew about…The Yorkshire Dales (maybe)

The Yorkshire Dales are a series of uplands and river valleys in the Pennines that make up the largest area of limestone terrain in Britain, stretching from Skipton and Settle in the south to Kirkby Stephen in the north, and from Sedburgh in the west to the Vale of York in the east. They earned international fame as the stunning backdrop to the popular 1980’s BBC television series All Creatures Great and Small.

  • Most of the Dales are named after their principle river, one exception being Wensleydale, which is named after the village of Wensley. Wensleydale is famous for its cheese, produced in the market town of Hawes. Sales of Wensleydale cheese rocketed in the 1990s when it was revealed that it was the favourite cheese of the cartoon characters Wallace and Gromit.
  • Hardraw Force, just outside Hawes, has a drop of 100 feet and is the highest unbroken waterfall in England above ground. After heavy rain in December 2015 the waterfall at Malham Cove in Airedale reappeared for the first time in several centuries, and with a drop of 260 feet this became, temporarily, England’s highest unbroken waterfall above ground. The longest waterfall above ground in England can be found at Cautley Spout near Sedbergh where the Red Gill Beck tumbles down a series of waterfalls for more than 650 feet.
Hardraw Force, Yorkshire

Hardraw Force waterfall

  • The waterfall inside Gaping Gill, a cavern in the side of Ingleborough Hill, the second highest mountain in the Dales, has a drop of over 300 feet and is thus the highest unbroken waterfall in England overall. Gaping Gill itself is the biggest known cave chamber in Britain. At the summit of Ingleborough Hill are the remains of the highest Iron Age fort in Britain, 2373 feet above sea level.
  • Malham Tarn, a glacial lake about one mile north of Malham Cove near the source of the River Aire, lies 1240 feet above sea level and is the highest lake in England
  • Gayle, a small village south of Hawes in Wensleydale boasts the oldest unaltered cotton mill in the world, opened in 1784.
  • St Andrew’s church in Aysgarth in Wensleydale has the largest parish churchyard in England, covering over four acres.
  • The largest breed of terrier, the Airedale, originated in the Yorkshire Dales, in the valley of the River Aire, and Yorkshire also gives us the smallest breed of terrier, the Yorkshire terrier, or ‘Yorkie’.
Yorkshire Terrier

A small dog breed Yorkshire Terrier

  •  Constructed in 1080, the walls of Richmond Castle, which guard the entrance to Swaledale and overlook the River Swale, England’s fastest flowing river, are the oldest surviving castle walls in Britain. Richmond also has the oldest stone hall in Britain, Scotland Hall, and Europe’s oldest unaltered working theatre, the Theatre Royal opened in 1788.
  • The Oldest Sweet Shop in England, which occupies a small stone end-of-terrace building constructed in 1661, has been trading in Pateley Bridge in Nidderdale since 1827 and is, in fact, the oldest sweet shop in the world. (Although outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Nidderdale is considered one of the Yorkshire Dales).
  • Knaresborough on the River Nidd possesses the oldest known chemist shop in England, opened in 1720, and England’s oldest tourist attraction, the Petrifying Well, a rock pool where items are turned into stone when immersed in the mineral laden water, which was opened to the public for a small charge by Sir Charles Slingsby in 1630.
  • Dent railway station on the scenic Settle to Carlisle railway line stands 1150 feet above sea level and is the highest railway station on the English national railway network.

See part one – Outer Hebrides 

See part two – Inner Hebrides 

See part three – The Peak District

See part four – The Cotswolds

See part five  – Pembrokeshire

See part six  – the Cumbrian Coast

See part seven – Aberdeenshire

See part eight – Scilly Isles

See part nine – Kent

Find out more about Christopher Winn’s ‘I Never Knew That’ here

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Christopher Winn has been a freelance writer and collector of trivia for over 20 years and is the author of the million-selling I Never Knew That books which cover Great Britain and Ireland and New York. He has written for the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Express, the Guardian and the Spectator and has also worked for television with, amongst others, Terry Wogan and Joanna Lumley. He is married to artist Mai Osawa, who illustrates all his books.

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