With its iconic stone walls criss-crossing lush green valleys, the Yorkshire Dales is indeed ‘God’s Own Country’. It also boasts a great wealth of historic sites.
Encompassing thousands of miles of moors, valleys, hills and villages, the Yorkshire Dales has a human history stretching back more than 12,000 years. From Jervaulx Abbey’s 12th century ruins to prehistoric caves discovered by eager Victorians and remarkable feats of building and engineering all set against stunning scenery, the Yorkshire Dales has certainly earned its place on your to-visit list.
Take a look at 10 of the best historic sites in the Yorkshire Dales.
A beautiful spot to explore, the ruins of the 12th century monastery of Jervaulx Abbey are situated in the picturesque Yorkshire Dales and provide a fascinating day out for history-lovers and leisurely tourists alike.
Founded in 1156, Jervaulx was a Cistercian abbey that spawned from the abbey at Byland, situated nearby. Today Jervaulx Abbey lies in atmospheric ruins, yet welcomes visitors to explore its rich history. The site is made up of the remains of the nave, transepts, and choir as well as a cloister, kitchen and chapter house.
The second tallest of Yorkshire’s Three Peaks, Ingleborough, standing at 720 feet, is home to the highest of England’s Iron-Age hillforts. The flat-topped hill fort includes a stone-built rampart which once enclosed about 20 roundhouses, inhabited by the Brigantes.
Known by the Romans as Rigodunum, today you can follow the boardwalk path and clamber up the National Heritage Listed site.
3. Ribblehead Viaduct
The Ribblehead Viaduct or Batty Moss Viaduct has carried the Settle-Carlisle railway across the Ribble Valley since 1874. Today, trains still pass over the viaduct and there is also a small visitor centre in the railway station where you can learn about the viaduct’s history.
Many of the workmen building the viaduct lost their lives during construction, and although Ribblehead is considered one of the great Victorian feats of engineering, this came at a huge cost.
4. Bolton Castle
A well-preserved 14th century castle located in Wensleydale, Yorkshire, Bolton Castle was originally built as one of the finest and most luxurious homes in the land.
In 1536 the resident John, 8th Baron Scrope supported the Pilgrimage of Grace rebellion against the religious reforms of King Henry VIII. As punishment, Bolton was torched and suffered extensive damage. Later, Mary Queen of Scots would be imprisoned there for 6 months.
5. Bolton Abbey
Lying in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, the ruined Bolton Abbey cuts a haunting yet beautiful figure. Today, you can walk amidst the ruins of the 12th century Augustinian monastery, demolished during Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries in 1539.
Cross the stepping stones to the ruined abbey and church, before wandering the moor to the Valley of Desolation and Simon’s Seat or attending one of the estate’s organised events.
6. Barden Tower
Used as a hunting lodge in the 15th and 16th centuries, the now ruined Barton Tower offers a superb spot to admire the view of the valley and surrounding hills.
Henry Clifford, the Shepherd Lord, rebuilt the hunting lodge in the late 15th century and made it his main residence. Unfortunately, it fell into disrepair in the 18th century. Today, visitors are welcome to wander the ruined tower and feel its rich and varied history.
7. Pendragon Castle
Steeped in mystery and reputed to have been founded by Uther Pendragon, the father of the legendary King Arthur, Pendragon Castle in the Yorkshire Dales’ Mallerstang Valley is now in ruin.
The 12th century fortified tower house is rumoured to have been the site of Uther’s death – along with 100 of his men – after a well was poisoned by the Saxons. Alternately, archaeology suggests Pendragon is one of the earliest Norman castles, built by Sir Hugh de Morville, one of the knights who killed Thomas Beckett. Either way, the atmospheric castle is well-worth the visit.
8. Ingleborough Caves
Follow in the footsteps of early Victorian explorers by stepping into the Ingleborough Caves, boasting some 450 million years of geology and history. Among the finest of the Yorkshire Dales’ cave systems, the Ingleborough Caves were first discovered in 1837 by candlelight, after determined explorers drained a lake that lay underneath the mountain.
Today, the section of the caves that remain open to the public feature a spacious fossil gallery stretching for some 500 metres, and in every direction the caves are marked with impressive stalagmitic formations.
9. Skipton Castle
Skipton Castle at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of the most complete medieval castles in England. Built in 1090 by Robert de Romille, a Norman baron, the castle stretches back from the stout towers of the gatehouse into a splendid fortress with a charming Tudor courtyard.
In medieval days, visitors would have had to cross a bridge over a moat and duck under a portcullis. Nowadays, you still pass through the imposing gatehouse and can spend several hours exploring the castle.
Middleham Castle is a medieval fortress built in the 12th century and expanded by the influential Neville family, becoming an imposing fortress by the middle of the 15th century. However, it is best known as the childhood home of the famous York king, Richard III.
In 1260 the castle passed to the famous Neville family, and in the 15th century was inherited by Richard “the Kingmaker” Neville, who was the Earl of Warwick and played an important role in the Wars of the Roses. Managed by English Heritage, Middleham Castle is open to the public and houses exhibits telling the story of this once imposing structure and of its former residents.