48 hours in the Yorkshire Dales: what to do on a weekend break

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Weekend break in the Yorkshire Dales: Otley

Discover a special part of Britain: the national parks around Otley, Ilkley and Skipton boast rolling hills criss-crossed by thousands of miles of dry stone wall and dotted with fluffy sheep

The Dales may host the Tour de Yorkshire in May, but there’s so much more to the area than cycling.

The upcoming Tour de Yorkshire, now in its fourth year, has seen Dales towns such as Ilkley and Otley crowned as the UK’s cycling capitals. Riding up hill and down dale is certainly a fabulous way to see this beautifully rural part of the country, but you don’t have to be a budding Bradley Wiggins to enjoy a visit. Simply jump in the car, on a motorbike or on public transport and you can easily take in the National Park and its surroundings.

Day 1 in the Yorkshire Dales: what to do

Base yourself in Otley, Ilkley or Skipton, handsome market towns that border both the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the equally gorgeous Nidderdale Area of Natural Beauty. For a first view of the magnificent outdoors, head to Brimham Rocks, a series of balancing rock formations on Brimham Moor that look ready to topple over. A short drive away is the pretty town of Pateley Bridge, home to the evocative Nidderdale Museum, set in a Victorian workhouse. From here, drive to the top of Greenhow Hill and then drop down into delightful Grassington for the National Park Centre, a charming folk museum and the River Wharfe’s Linton Falls.

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Weekend break in the Yorkshire Dales: Brimham Rocks

Brimham Rocks' artfully balanced formations offer instructor-led climbing for all abilities. Image © Getty.

Day 1: Where to eat in the Yorkshire Dales

For lunch, there’s always a warm welcome at The Sportsman’s Arms, a lovely country pub on the banks of the River Nidd in the hamlet of Wath. Presided over by genial host Ray Carter, the food is simply fabulous.

At dinnertime head to The Devonshire Arms where Paul Leonard, previously head chef at the Michelin-starred Isle of Eriska hotel in Scotland, now plies his trade. It’s a beautiful country house hotel on the Bolton Abbey Estate, and the nine-course tasting menu (£80 per person) is a treat not to be missed.

Day 1: What to do in the evening

The arts are popular here, so take in a show at Ilkley’s Playhouse or the Courthouse in Otley. Heartbeat fans may recognise the latter: the former magistrates’ court played the police station in the popular TV series.

Day 2: What to do

Squeeze in a visit to Skipton Castle before heading deeper into the Dales to Aysgarth Falls on the River Ure. The butterscotch-coloured waters are worth a photo stop. From here, head north to the unspoiled village of Thwaite, the starting point of the iconic Buttertubs Pass (one of our 50 Greatest British Drives. The pass takes its name from old limestone caverns at its summit where farmers would store their wares to keep them cool, but these days it’s known as one of Yorkshire’s iconic cycle routes. At the other end of the pass, Hawes is one of the area’s honeypots, thanks to it being home to the Dales Countryside Museum, the Wensleydale Creamery and some excellent independent shops.

Weekend break in the Yorkshire Dales: Skipton Castle

Don't miss a visit to Skipton and its impressive medieval castle.

Day 2: Where to eat

A favourite of the local cycling fraternity, try breakfast at Skipton’s Bean Loved: a great independent coffee shop serving delicious blends from Darkwoods Coffee in Marsden and fresh, locally sourced food.

Wensleydale fans are in for a treat at lunchtime at the creamery’s Calvert’s Restaurant, which offers great vistas and a distinctly Yorkshire take on modern British cuisine.

Treat yourself to a Yorkshire Trike Tour

Join Yorkshire Trike Tours for a journey around the Dales on a Billy Connolly-style motorised Boom trike; two people can sit in the back while owner-guide Jason Richards offers commentary. Heated seats, blankets and meals or refreshments are nice extra touches. Tours cost £200.

Yorkshire Dales tip from the locals

‘Malham Cove is spectacular, and the Brymor Ice Cream Parlour near Jervaulx Abbey is superb. Take to the back roads for scenery and wildlife spotting!’

Janice Stace, Boundless York Group Secretary

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Weekend break in the Yorkshire Dales: Bolton Abbey

Enjoy the extensive grounds and explore the ruins at Bolton Abbey near Skipton. Image © Alamy.

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