A Viaduct, Wensleydale Cheese and a Castle

After a second hearty Yorkshire breakfast we settled our account at the New Inn at Clapham and began our journey east across the Dales.

One structure that I have always wanted to see is the Ribblesdale railway viaduct and as it was conveniently close by we (I) took that route and we arrived there after about thirty minutes, high up in the Yorkshire Dales with a fierce wind that filled our lungs, tugged at our clothes and rearranged our hair.

The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct carries the Settle–Carlisle railway across Batty Moss Valley and was built by the Midland Railway a hundred and fifty years or so ago, it is 28 miles north-west of Skipton and 26 miles south-east of Kendal and is a Grade II listed structure.

The land underneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument. Because it was so far from any major settlements the workers and their families lived in three navvy settlements called Sebastopol and Belgravia and best of all Batty Wife Hole – there is an appropriate monument to commemorate them below the arches.

It may just be the most famous railway viaduct in the United Kingdom just because it is so panoramic but at four hundred and forty yards it is by no way the longest because that distinction belongs to the London Bridge – Greenwich Railway Viaduct which is an three and a half miles long.

At one hundred feet high it isn’t even the tallest because at seventy feet higher that is the Ballochmyle Viaduct in Scotland which carries the former Glasgow and South Western Railway line between Glasgow and Carlisle.

It may not be the longest or the tallest but it is almost certainly the most photogenic, a fact that requires car parks to be provided close by, thankfully without charge. On a blustery mid morning in October the car park was surprisingly full but I when a steam train comes through and amateur photographers descend upon the place in their droves then I imagine finding a parking spot might be very difficult indeed.

There were no theatrical steam trains today but we were delighted to see a scheduled diesel service obligingly cross the viaduct for us.

Moving on we drove east now into the heart of the Dales towards the town of Hawes in Wensleydale. The Dales is one of the twelve National parks of England and Wales. The area is so called because it is a collection of river valleys and the hills in between them. ‘Dale’ incidentally comes from a Viking word for valley.

Most of the dales in the Yorkshire Dales are named after their river or stream, Swaledale, Wharfedale, Ribbledale etc. but not Wensleydale which is named after the small village and former market town of Wensley, rather than the River Ure, although an older name for the dale is in fact Yoredale.

The Yorkshire Dales rivers all run west to east from the Pennines draining into the River Ouse. The Ouse is in fact a continuation of the River Ure, and the combined length of of 129 miles makes it (after the Severn, the Thames, the Trent, the Wye and the Great Ouse) the sixth longest river of the United Kingdom and the longest to flow entirely in one county. The Ouse eventually joins the Trent to become the Humber Estuary and drains away into the North Sea.

It was around about now that we started to have difficulty with the car satellite navigation system that began to make some very unusual route choices that led to some demanding driving conditions and a lot of cussing.

It is a new car and it subsequently turns out that Volkswagen have problems with the car software operating systems including the satellite navigation which apparently works well if you are in the Black Forest but not in the Yorkshire Dales, or anywhere else in the UK it seems. 

I have returned the car several times in the four weeks that I have owned it but so far no fix.

Hawes is a charming little town and we stayed for a while, walked along its quaint streets, bought some local produce from independent retailers and finished at the famous creamery and stocked up on Wensleydale Cheese.  I like Wensleydale cheese it is especially good on cheese on toast.

We were heading now towards our weekend accommodation near Leyburn but we found time to take a look at Castle Bolton where Mary, Queen of Scots was held prisoner for six months in 1568. There wasn’t time enough to visit and there was an inevitable car parking charge so staying true to being a skinflint we just moved on.

After all, I had visited Castle Bolton before, around about twenty five years ago with my children…

… and then again five years ago with my grandchildren…


41 responses to “A Viaduct, Wensleydale Cheese and a Castle

  1. After the photo of the cows, I thought the next photo was of the same cows but heaped atop each other.

    I presume “rocks” but, for just a moment I was thinking “cows?”

    By the way, clicking on the photo gave me an error.


    • Thanks. WP baffles me, some of the pictures link to an attachment page and show the image others link to custom URL and show an error. I can think of no explanation why. Anyway I have changed them all to attachment page now. Thanks for pointing that out.


  2. The Dales are so photogenic

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You were almost near enough to drop in for a cup of tea. And I wouldn’t have charged you to park.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Batty Wife Hole! I love it! I did once ride the Settle to wherever line, Andrew, and it is a lovely part of the world. Does Wensleydale melt enough for toasted cheese?

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Now that is a good combination, castle and cheese!! Cheers

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An excellent post, thanks for sharing!.It’s ironic that the viaduct has a free car park, whereas the infinitely less spectacular Castle Bolton has a parking charge.


  7. An interesting geography lesson – but a shame about the car


  8. Yorkshire Dales is so pretty. Next time I go back I’d love to visit the viaduct. Such beautiful pictures 😍


  9. I dwnloaded the latest VW satnav data from their web site and copied it on to the satnav SD card – it then no longer showed Doncaster airport as being in the middle of nowhere. It’s 2 years since I did it so can’t remember details, althought I have it in mind to update it again.


    • VW confess that there is no fix for the dodgy software and can give no date when it might be available. Shocking stuff from a company like that. Selling cars that they know full well to be faulty.


  10. We went back home (to Shropshire) via the Ribblehead Viaduct in 2010 after our holiday up in the northern Pennines. Although it was late August it was a dull and rainy day, so we only stopped briefly to get a photo – sadly no trains. I love the name Batty Moss! And I have travelled over it from Carlisle to Leeds back in the late 1980s with my children – we went on a day trip from Donny – Newcastle – Carlisle – Leeds – Donny (our summer holiday!) when I had a rail card which allowed me to take the kids for only £1 each. A great day out!


  11. An interesting read especially as a few years ago we took the caravan to Wensleydale


  12. Just like Wallace I am a very big Wensleydale cheese fan, but never tried it on toast, I’ll remedy that and a include a slab on my next shopping list.

    A few years ago, having booked in advance, we took the steam train from Skipton along the Settle to Carlisle line, though the journey for the train began in Leeds.
    It was one of the wettest days of the school holidays, grey, miserable with low cloud. We couldn’t see a thing, but we thoroughly enjoyed the train ride.


  13. Much as I am a big fan of rail travel and all things railway, my favourite pic in this post is the river cascading between the stone cottages. Like a page on a Yorkshire Dales calendar, so well does it capture the essence of the area.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Pingback: A Viaduct, Wensleydale Cheese and a Castle – Nelsapy

  15. This was a good bit of information on viaducts as well as the naming of the dales. Being the most famous due to being the most scenic is valid, ha ha! I am again smitten by the falls in Hawes.


  16. Great writing and photos. I will be on the lookout for some Wensleydale cheese. I put together some English cheeses for my guests over the holidays. You may enjoy reading about it, https://ranjanmukherjee.com/


  17. Glorious countryside, brilliant photos!


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