Arriving back in Settle in mid afternoon we drove east now into the heart of the Dales towards the town of Hawes.
Oh, I do like this place, I lived here once (nearby) in 1996-7.
The Dales is one of the ten National parks of England. Yorkshire has two of them (Devon also has two but Cornwall has none). The others are Derbyshire, Cumbria and Northumberland in the north, Norfolk in the East and Hampshire and East Sussex in the South. There are also two in Scotland and three in Wales.
The Yorkshire Dales 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 are named after their river or stream, Swaledale, Wharfedale, Ribblesdale etc. but not Wensleydale which is named after the small village and former market town of Wensley, rather than the more obvious River Ure.
There are a lot of these cow barns in the Dales, they were for keeping cattle sheltered during harsh winters…
The Dales rivers all run west to east from the Pennines draining eventually 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 River Trent at Goole to become the Humber Estuary and then drains away into the North Sea.
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 made some unnecessary purchases and overspent our budget on Wensleydale cheese, once described by T S Eliot as the “Mozart of Cheeses”.
Which other composers might compare to cheese? Any suggestions anyone?
I am going with Johann Strauss and Blue Stilton.
A few years ago the owners tried to close the creamery down and move production to next door Lancashire but no self respecting Yorkshire man or woman would allow that to happen – make Yorkshire cheese in Lancashire, whatever next! – so after a management buy-out the staff resumed production for themselves.
Just like the river the main roads run east to west in the Dales but to get from one to another requires driving across the hills that separate them. There are many high roads and passes with stunning views of the surrounding valleys and fells, but perhaps the best known is Buttertubs Pass a mountain road at an elevation of 1,732 feet above sea level,
The climb was once rated by Jeremy Clarkson as “England’s only truly spectacular road”.
There are places to pull in at the summit and you can visit the limestone potholes which give the pass its name. The story goes that as farmers rested at the top of the climb on a hot day – on route to the market in Hawes – they would lower the butter they had produced for sale into the potholes to keep it cool. Maybe true, maybe not.
More recently Buttertubs Pass featured as the second King of the Mountains climb of the 2014 Grand Depart of the Tour de France. It continues to be a popular climb for cyclists to come and test themselves.
It is cold at the top…
At the end of the day we arrived at Castle Bolton where there is a magnificent castle where Mary Queen of Scots was once imprisoned within tall walls, crenulated battlements and expansive views over the Dales but admission was quite expensive and we decided against it and after we had gate-crashed the gardens without payment we drove back to the accommodation stopping briefly in the town of Leyburn for some important grocery supplies – alchohol!
The next morning we planned a walk across the fields to Aysgarth Falls, a natural beauty spot where thousands of gallons of water in the River Ure tumble, leap and cascade over a series of boulders and broad limestone steps. It was featured as the location for the fight between Robin Hood and Little John in the film ‘Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves’ and in 2005 it was included in a BBC television list of seven best natural places in Northern England. The other six were The Lake District, River Wear, Whin Sill, River Tees, Holy Island and Morecambe Bay.
After the walk we took a drive to Hardraw Force a waterfall in Hardraw Scar, a wooded ravine just outside the village of the same name. It was four o’clock and the old woman at the visitor centre was preparing to close for the day and was not especially pleased to see us. As she took our money she told us quite firmly that she would be closing at five and if we were not back she would call the police.
I am fairly certain that the police have much better things to do with their time than worry about visitors to Hardraw Force staying beyond closing time.
Comprising a single drop of one hundred feet from a rocky overhang Hardraw Force is claimed to be England’s highest unbroken above ground waterfall. The highest single drop falls in the World is a lot bigger at seven hundred and forty feet and is the Kaieteur falls in the Amazon rain forest in Guyana.
As it happened we didn’t need the full hour because it only took ten minutes to walk to the falls, ten minutes to admire it and ten minutes to walk back. My conspiracy theory is that visitors have to be out by closing time because that is when someone turns the tap (faucet) off.
No need then to call Special Branch or an armed response unit.