The Yorkshire Dales National Park is an idyllic part of the UK with some absolutely magnificent landscapes and countryside. It is a beautiful region that shares borders with three other notable parks – The Lake District, The North Pennines AONB, and the Forest of Bowland AONB. In this national park, there is something for everyone – epic mountains, amazing walking trails, historical sites, and stunning natural wonders. If this sounds like somewhere you would like to explore, we have listed 10 top sites in the Yorkshire Dales National Park below for your enjoyment!
1. Malham Cove
One of the top sites in the Yorkshire Dales that has also been featured in movies is Malham Cove. This is one of my personal favourites and I have visited this cliff formation many times. It is a curved limestone cliff formation that was formed over 12,000 years ago from glacial meltwater.
The rock formation is amazing and it stands out for miles in the surrounding area. From the village of Malham, there is a clear walking trail to the cove that follows the course of the stream that runs from it. In certain conditions, there is running water that flows over the top of the cliff edge and down into the pool at the base.
You may recognize Malham Cove from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – it was one of the random sites Harry and Hermione chose when they were on the run from the Death Eaters!
2. Ribblehead Viaduct
Ribblehead Viaduct is another of my personal favourites. This immense viaduct is an impressive structure and a marvel of human ingenuity. It sits in the Ribble Valley and was originally built by the Midland Railway company. Today, it carries the Settle-Carlisle Railway and you can often see historical steam trains running along the tracks.
The viaduct stretches for 400m and its characteristic symmetrical stone arches are something to behold. It forms a contrast to the surrounding landscapes, but it is beautiful, nonetheless. The area surrounding Ribblehead Viaduct also has some amazing walking trails, and you can see Whernside mountain on one side.
There is a dedicated car park at postcode LA6 3AS, but you can also park in the Station Inn pub car park. This is a great place to stop for a drink or bite to eat, and to see the charming traditional Ribblehead Station itself.
3. Scaleber Force Waterfall
The Yorkshire Dales has an abundance of waterfalls and rapids due to the undulating landscapes and myriad of watercourses. However, one of the most popular and impressive is Scaleber Force. This mighty waterfall is located to the east of Settle and is formed from Stockdale Beck.
It cascades over a series of rocks for 40ft and has two distinct drops. From Stockdale Beck, the waterfall eventually feeds into the River Ribble.
These are some of the most accessible waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales and they are included in many longer walking trails. For example, they are a milestone in the Settle Loop and are also part of the local walking route known as the Settle Caves and Waterfalls Walk. Scaleber Force Waterfall would make a great stop off on a journey through the Yorkshire Dales as part of a long day trip.
The Yorkshire Dales is home to three epic mountains that form the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge. You can find out more about different walking challenges in our article here. One of these peaks and one of the top sites in the Yorkshire Dales is Ingleborough.
Ingleborough is the second tallest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales behind Whernside and stands at an elevation of 723m / 2372ft. It is a popular walking destination and forms an amazing backdrop in the southwestern corner of the Yorkshire Dales.
There are many popular walking routes to the summit of Ingleborough, but one of the most popular is from the village of Ingleton. This route is approximately 7.5 miles circular and is relatively accessible. At the top, you are greeted with relatively flat plateaux and amazing views of the Yorkshire Dales.
Next up we have the mighty Whernside. This is the tallest mountain in the Yorkshire Dales but is not considered as picturesque as Ingleborough or Pen-y-Ghent. This is because its elevation is not as prominent and it blends in more with the surrounding landscapes.
At 736m / 2415ft, Whernside is also the highest point in the ceremonial county of North Yorkshire. In terms of location, Whernside is not far from the aforementioned Ribblehead Viaduct and you can indeed see this mountain from the viaduct.
To ascend the summit, you have a variety of walking routes. The most common route is from Ribblehead and this follows dedicated public footpaths. Other routes include crossing over farmland and open access land. The total distance for the common circular route from Ribblehead is approximately 8.4 miles and should take around 4 hours to complete.
A list of the top sites in the Yorkshire Dales would not be complete without the last mountain in the Yorkshire Dales three peaks challenge – Pen-y-Ghent. This is the smallest of the three peaks and has an elevation of 694m / 2277ft.
It is an incredibly beautiful peak as it stands out starkly from the surrounding countryside – you can see it for miles, and it has clearly defined sides and peaks. Surrounding Pen-y-Ghent there are also some interesting natural features such as the Hunt Pot and Hull Pot.
This is considered the easiest peak to summit in the Yorkshire Dales three peaks challenge, and the circular route from Horton-in-Ribblesdale is approximately 6 miles. You can easily complete the summit and circular route in 4 hours, and it makes for a pleasant day out in the Yorkshire Dales. The village of Horton-in-Ribblesdale as the starting point is also a charming place to visit.
7. Brimham Rocks
The UK has some spectacular rock formations due to land formation over thousands of years. For example, the Peak District has a range of gritstone escarpments. In the Yorkshire Dales, you can find some amazing millstone grit formations too. One of the most notable and popular is Brimham Rocks.
The formations at Brimham Rocks are truly incredible and bizarre structures such as the Idol Stone are fascinating. You can find this amazing location in the eastern part of the Yorkshire Dales – in the Nidderdale AONB.
They have great accessibility and there is a large, dedicated car park only a short distance from the rocks. You could easily spend hours here walking along the trails and exploring the different rock formations. The area also has some brilliant flowers and plant life, and if you are lucky, you may seem wild deer too.
8. Fountains Abbey
While the Yorkshire Dales is a brilliant place for hiking and exploring nature, it also has some brilliant historical sites too. Therefore, one of the top sites in the Yorkshire Dales is Fountains Abbey. This is a well-preserved ruin and is actually one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in England.
The Abbey and grounds are located near the small village of Aldfield in the south-eastern part of the Yorkshire Dales, not far from Ripon.
You can still see much of the original building which was constructed in 1132 and it is in remarkable shape despite its age. The grounds are also fantastic and there is a series of walking trails that pass by the River Skell and some manmade ponds. Next to Fountains Abbey, there is also Studley Park, which is another beautiful, peaceful place where you can see deer.
9. White Scar Cave
Aside from amazing waterfalls and peaks, the Yorkshire Dales also has some stunning caves. One of the most accessible cave networks is the White Scare show caves. These caves lie in the shadow of Ingleborough and are actually the UK’s longest show caves!
In total, the caves stretch for 3.7 miles and were first explored in 1923. One of the most impressive sites is “The Battlefield” which is a cave chamber that spans 300ft. This is currently one of the largest cave chambers explored in the UK.
The caves are show caves and you can take guided tours at regular intervals. There is also a large car park, and visitor’s centre and the postcode is LA6 3AW. If you are exploring the Yorkshire Dales with your family, this would make for a great stop and is one of the most interesting places in the Dales to visit.
10. Gordale Scar
Lastly, we have the hidden gorge that lies in the southern regions of the Yorkshire Dales. This is Gordale Scar – it is an impressive gorge that has been carved out by water and the surrounding landscapes over thousands of years.
Over thousands of years, glacial meltwater flowed through this region and carved out the epic gorge that is Gordale Scar. It is literally a scar in the landscape and contains amazing rock formations, caves, and waterfalls.
In places, the limestone cliffs are over 100m high and it is a brilliant experience to clamber over the rocks and see the rearing cliffs stand guard on either side. For accessibility, there is a small car park to the south of the ravine, and from here it is a short trek. You will often see rock climbers here tackling the cliffs and it is a popular place for hikers.
Explore the Yorkshire Dales and Discover These Amazing Sites
As one of the oldest National Parks in the UK (It was established as a National Park in 1954), the Yorkshire Dales is an incredibly popular place. It is also well-maintained and the accessibility is also fantastic. Due to its central location and proximity to other areas like the Lake District, the Yorkshire Dales could also serve as a stepping stone in part of a longer road trip.
If you want to enjoy the outdoors, we hope you have found our list of the top sites in the Yorkshire Dales beneficial. If you have any cool sites that you feel are worthy of a mention, please leave us a common and share your experiences!