Last updated

Wensleydale near Hawes Wensleydale.JPG
Wensleydale near Hawes

Wensleydale is the dale or upper valley of the River Ure on the east side of the Pennines, one of the Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, England.


Wensleydale is one of only a few Yorkshire Dales not currently named after its principal river, but the older name, Yoredale, [1] can still be seen on some maps and as the Yoredale Series of geological strata. The dale takes its name from the village of Wensley, once the market town for the dale.

The valley is famous for its cheese, with the main commercial production at Hawes. Also famous are its ales from Theakston Brewery and Black Sheep Brewery in Masham. Most of the dale is within the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Part of lower Wensleydale, below East Witton, is within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Addlebrough, a 481-metre-high (1,578-foot) fell, dominates the landscape of the upper dale, and Penhill at 526 metres (1,726 feet) is prominent in the lower dale.


Bolton Castle, 2014 2014 Bolton Castle.jpg
Bolton Castle, 2014

Wensleydale was the home of one of Yorkshire's most famous clans, the Metcalfes, after they emigrated from Dentdale. The Metcalfe Society hold records dating back to Metcalfes living in the area during the 14th century. They were one of the most prominent families in Yorkshire for more than five centuries. Sir James Metcalfe (1389–1472), who was born and lived in Wensleydale, [2] was a captain in the army which fought with King Henry V in the battle of Agincourt in 1415. A fortified manor, Nappa Hall near Askrigg was built by his son Sir Thomas Metcalfe. [2]

Bolton Castle, in the village of Castle Bolton, is a notable local historic site. Building of the structure was begun by Richard le Scrope, Lord Treasurer and Lord Chancellor to Richard II, in 1378. The building was finally completed in c.1399; the total cost was approximately 18,000 marks. [3] Mary, Queen of Scots, was imprisoned there for six months, ending in January 1569, under head keeper Sir Francis Knollys, housed in the apartment of Henry Scrope; she was allowed a retinue of 51, with 30 housed in the castle. [4] The story goes that she once escaped and made her way towards Leyburn but was captured at a spot on "The Shawl" called "Queen's Gap". [5]


Cauldron Falls in West Burton Cauldron Falls, west burton B 9311.jpg
Cauldron Falls in West Burton

Wensleydale's principal settlements are Hawes and Leyburn; Aysgarth, Bainbridge, and Middleham are well-known villages. The shortest river in England, [6] the River Bain, links Semerwater to the River Ure, at Bainbridge, the home to an Ancient Roman fort (part of the Roman road is walkable, up Wether Fell). Hardraw Force, the highest above-ground unbroken waterfall in England, [7] is located at Hardraw, near Hawes.

Aysgarth Falls Aysgarth Falls 9190.tif
Aysgarth Falls

Aysgarth Falls (High, Middle, Low) are famous for their beauty (rather than their height), attracting far-off visitors; they were also featured in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves . Some scenes from the 1992 film Wuthering Heights were also filmed at the falls. [8] Other notable waterfalls are at Wensley (Harmby Falls), West Burton, and Whitfield Gill Force, near Askrigg.

Wensleydale stretches some 25 miles (40 km) from west to east. It lies between Wharfedale (to the south), and the quieter Swaledale (to the north, via Buttertubs Pass). Several lesser-known dales are branches of Wensleydale: on the north side Cotterdale, Fossdale and Apedale and on the south side, from west to east, Widdale, Sleddale, Raydale, Bishopdale, Waldendale and Coverdale.

Below Wensleydale, the River Ure flows east and south, becomes navigable, changes its name to the River Ouse, passes through York, becomes the Humber Estuary, flows under the Humber Bridge past Hull, Immingham, and Grimsby, and meets the North Sea off Spurn Head. On the way it collects the waters of the River Swale, River Nidd, River Wharfe, River Aire, River Derwent and River Trent.


Bolton Castle in June 2018, partially restored Bolton Castle June 2018 9535.jpg
Bolton Castle in June 2018, partially restored
Wensleydale cheese Wensleydale cheese 2.jpg
Wensleydale cheese

Wensleydale is a very popular destination in its own right, enhanced by its central location between two other well-known tourist dales: Wharfedale and the quieter Swaledale.

Wensleydale is a common destination for visitors who like walking on mountains, moorland, dale-sides, and valley bottoms. Hawes and Leyburn are popular because of their age, location and facilities (pubs, shops, teashops, and hotels). Hawes is the home of rope maker (Outhwaites), where visitors can see the manufacturing process. Hawes is also home to the Wensleydale Creamery, the Dales Countryside Museum, shops and many of places to eat. [9] Part of Bolton Castle is a ruin but the other section has been restored; this attraction had a 4.5-star rating in mid 2018 by the users of TripAdvisor who had visited the castle. [10]

The Wensleydale Railway operates in Wensleydale. It currently runs between Leeming Bar, the A1 and Redmire, near Castle Bolton. The railway's long-term plan is eventually to run the whole length of the valley and connect again with the National Rail network at both ends: at Garsdale on the Settle-Carlisle Railway in the west and Northallerton on the East Coast Main Line in the east. It is hoped this may help relieve some of the current traffic congestion that the valley suffers from during the busiest months.

Some visitors come to Wensleydale due to its connection with Richard III, who was brought up in Middleham Castle. [11] It has the largest castle keep in the North of England. [12] Middleham itself is a market town with pubs and horse-racing connections (several stables). In the market place stands a stone carving, believed to be a boar's head, signifying where the animal market was during the 15th century as well as representing Richard's personal standard, the white boar.

Each August, visitors and local people gather at the edge of Leyburn for the Wensleydale Agricultural Show. The 2018 event was scheduled for 25 August. [13]

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jervaulx Abbey</span> Ruined monastery in North Yorkshire, England

Jervaulx Abbey in East Witton, 14 miles north-west of the city of Ripon, was one of the great Cistercian abbeys of Yorkshire, England, dedicated to St Mary in 1156. It is a Grade I listed building.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richmondshire</span> District in North Yorkshire, England

Richmondshire is a local government district of North Yorkshire, England. It covers a large northern area of the Yorkshire Dales including Swaledale and Arkengarthdale, Wensleydale and Coverdale, with the prominent Scot's Dyke and Scotch Corner along the centre. Teesdale lies to the north. With a total area of 1,319 km2, it is larger than seven of the English ceremonial counties.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Yorkshire Dales National Park</span> National park in England

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a 2,178 km2 (841 sq mi) national park in England covering most of the Yorkshire Dales. Most of the park is in North Yorkshire, with a sizeable area in Cumbria and a small part in Lancashire. The park was designated in 1954, and extended in 2016. Over 95% of the land in the Park is under private ownership; there are over 1,000 farms in this area.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wensleydale Railway</span> Heritage railway in North Yorkshire, England

The Wensleydale Railway is a heritage railway in Wensleydale and Lower Swaledale in North Yorkshire, England. It was built in stages by different railway companies and originally extended to Garsdale railway station on the Settle-Carlisle line. Since 2003, the remaining line has been run as a heritage railway. The line runs 22 miles (35 km) between Northallerton West station, about a fifteen-minute walk from Northallerton station on the East Coast Main Line, and Redmire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Swaledale</span>

Swaledale is one of the northernmost dales (valleys) in Yorkshire Dales National Park, located in northern England. It is the dale of the River Swale on the east side of the Pennines in North Yorkshire.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">River Ure</span> River in North Yorkshire, England

The River Ure in North Yorkshire, England is approximately 74 miles (119 km) long from its source to the point where it becomes the River Ouse. It is the principal river of Wensleydale, which is the only major dale now named after a village rather than its river. The old name for the valley was Yoredale after the river that runs through it.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hawes</span> Market town and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

Hawes is a market town and civil parish in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, England, at the head of Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales, and historically in the North Riding of Yorkshire. The River Ure north of the town is a tourist attraction in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leyburn</span> Market town and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

Leyburn is a market town and civil parish in the district of Richmondshire, North Yorkshire, England, sitting above the northern bank of the River Ure in Wensleydale. Historically in the North Riding of Yorkshire, the name was derived from 'Ley' or 'Le' (clearing), and 'burn' (stream), meaning clearing by the stream. Leyburn had a population of 1,844 at the 2001 census increasing to 2,183 at the 2011 Census. The estimated population in 2015 was 2,190.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Askrigg</span> Village and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

Askrigg is a small village and civil parish in Wensleydale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is part of the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, England. The village and its parish are located in Upper Wensleydale, 12 miles (19 km) west of Leyburn, and 5 miles (8.0 km) east of Hawes. It is 31.4 miles (50.5 km) west of the county town of Northallerton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aysgarth</span> Village and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

Aysgarth is a village and civil parish in Wensleydale, in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, England. The village is in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, about 16 miles (26 km) south-west of Richmond and 22.6 miles (36.4 km) west of the county town of Northallerton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Darrowby</span> Fictional village in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England

Darrowby is a fictional village in the North Riding of Yorkshire, England, which was created by author Alf Wight under the pen name of James Herriot as the setting for the veterinary practice in his book It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet. The book has been adapted for two television series, both titled All Creatures Great and Small. The first was the BBC's 1978 series, which aired between 1978 and 1990. A new adaptation was produced for the 2020 series.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Wensley, North Yorkshire</span> Village and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

Wensley is a small village and civil parish in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, England. It consists of a few homes and holiday cottage, an inn, a pub and a historic church. It is on the A684 road 1 mile (1.6 km) south-west of the market town of Leyburn. The River Ure passes through the village.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Appersett</span> Hamlet in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, England

Appersett is a hamlet in the Yorkshire Dales in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, England one mile (1.6 km) west of Hawes. It lies on the A684 road and an unclassified road runs alongside Widdale Beck to connect with the B6255 road between Hawes and Ingleton.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Thornton Rust</span> Village and civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

Thornton Rust is a village and civil parish in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, England. It lies in the Yorkshire Dales about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Aysgarth, high on the south bank of the River Ure in Wensleydale.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sedbusk</span> Hamlet in North Yorkshire, England

Sedbusk is a hamlet near Hawes and Hardraw Force within the Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, England. The hamlet is 1 mile (1.5 km) north of the town of Hawes across the River Ure. Sedbusk is in the civil parish of High Abbotside along with Hardraw and Simonstone. The name of the hamlet derives from the Old Norse Saetr buskr, which means 'the bush by the shieling'. In 1280, it was recorded as setebuskste.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A684 road</span>

The A684 is an A road that runs through Cumbria and North Yorkshire, starting at Kendal, Cumbria and ending at Ellerbeck and the A19 road in North Yorkshire. It crosses the full width of the Yorkshire Dales, passing through Garsdale and the full length of Wensleydale.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">A6108 road</span> A-road in North Yorkshire, England

The A6108 road is an A road in North Yorkshire, England. It runs from the south of Scotch Corner to Ripon going via Richmond and Leyburn across the moors and the valleys of Swaledale and Wensleydale. The road is 37 miles (60 km) long, but through traffic between the two destinations will find a shorter route of 26 miles (42 km) by going south on the A1. The route is single carriageway for its entire length.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">High Abbotside</span> Civil parish in North Yorkshire, England

High Abbotside is a civil parish in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire, England. It is a rural parish on the north side of upper Wensleydale, and includes the settlements of Hardraw, Sedbusk and several hamlets.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nappa Hall</span>

Nappa Hall is a fortified manor house in Wensleydale, North Yorkshire, England, described by English Heritage as "probably the finest and least-spoilt fortified manor house in the north of England". It stands 1-mile (1.6 km) east of Askrigg, overlooking pastures leading down to the River Ure. A single-storey central hall sits between two towers, a four-storey western tower and a two-storey eastern tower. The four-storey tower has a turret, lit by slit vents, for a spiral staircase that climbs to crenellated parapets. The taller tower retains its original windows, but sash windows were inserted in the 18th century in the lower two-storey block which housed the kitchen and service rooms, at the opposite end of the hall. In the 17th century, an extra wing was added.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Richmond to Lancaster Turnpike</span> Former road in Northern England

The Richmond to Lancaster Turnpike, was a road that was opened in the second half of the 18th century between Richmond, in the North Riding of Yorkshire and Lancaster in Lancashire, Northern England. The turnpike was built to allow goods to be taken from Yorkshire to the port of Lancaster. It was approved in 1751, but was not wholly completed until 1774.


  1. "Wensleydale". www.yorkshire-dales.com. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  2. 1 2 "The battle to own Nappa Hall". The Yorkshire Post. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  3. "Bolton Castle, Yorkshire - Historic Yorkshire Guide". Britain Express. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  4. "Bolton Castle". www.yorkshire-dales.com. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  5. Gideon, William; Barker, M. Jones (1854). The three days of Wensleydale. p.  168. mary queen of scots escaped, lost shawl, leyburn.
  6. Waddington, Andy; Woodstone, Thomas. "River Bain - North East - England - Rivers - The UK Rivers Guidebook". www.ukriversguidebook.co.uk. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  7. "Go with the flow: The traveller's guide to waterfalls". The Independent. Retrieved 4 July 2018.
  8. "Wuthering Heights filming locations — Movie Maps". moviemaps.org. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  9. "Wensleydale". Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  10. "Bolton Castle (Leyburn) - All You Need to Know BEFORE You Go - Updated 2021 (Leyburn, England)". TripAdvisor. Retrieved 27 April 2021.
  11. "Middleham Castle". www.english-heritage.org.uk. Retrieved 27 December 2015.
  12. "Middleham - Yorkshire Dales - Welcome to Yorkshire". www.yorkshire.com. Retrieved 5 July 2018.
  13. Show, Wensleydale. "The Wensleydale Show" (PDF). Retrieved 4 July 2018.

Coordinates: 54°18′20″N2°10′00″W / 54.3056°N 2.16667°W / 54.3056; -2.16667