What to do in Nidderdale, Yorkshire

With serene valleys and geological drama, this quiet corner of the Yorkshire Dales is one of the region’s most beautiful secrets.

Sunday, September 27, 2020,
By Josephine Price
Natural rock formations at Brimham Rocks. The sandstone formations have been shaped by millions of years of ...

Natural rock formations at Brimham Rocks. The sandstone formations have been shaped by millions of years of weathering and erosion.

Photograph by PIcfair

Why go

Nidderdale is one of the more unspoilt Yorkshire Dales. On the doorstep of Harrogate, York and Leeds, the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) — full of rolling hills, pastureland, rivers and ravines — is an easy escape from the city. Standout sites include Fountains Abbey (the largest monastic ruins in the country) and the Studley Royal Park, but attention here is rightly focused on the area’s natural splendour. Nidderdale’s allure lies in its ability to quietly impress, not with its landmarks but with its babbling brooks, drystone wall-edged fields and walking trails that crisscross this peaceful swathe of Northern England.  

What to do

How Stean Gorge is the adventure heartland of Nidderdale. This limestone ravine on a tributary of the River Nidd is perfectly suited to the adventurer traveller, offering everything from caving and gorge walking to via ferrata. Don’t forget to stop by the cafe at How Stean Gorge to fuel up on bacon sandwiches and jacket potatoes, and to admire the geological drama of the gorge through the cafe’s glass floor. If you’d rather explore at a slower pace, don a hard hat and walk around the edge of the gorge.

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Alternatively, head out on the Crackpots Mosaic Trail, which winds for some seven miles through the area, taking in 22 mosaicked checkpoints that celebrate the flora and fauna of the area (as well as keeping you on track on your route). 

Where to eat

Tucked away in the sheep-speckled valley outside Pateley Bridge, The Sportsman’s Arms lies close to the River Nidd. It has a casual and inviting atmosphere, even if the more white-tableclothed section feels a little more formal. Go on a Sunday for roasts with to-die-for Yorkshire puddings. For lunch to go, head to Pateley Bridge for award-winning pork pies and pastries from Kendall’s Farm Butchers. sportsmans-arms.co.uk  

We like

You don’t come to an AONB for the shops, but Pateley Bridge has an endearing assortment of independent stores lining its steep high street, which tumbles down to the river. Here you’ll find The Oldest Sweet Shop in England, which has been selling confectionery since 1827 in a building that dates back to 1661. The shop is stocked with glass jars of traditional sweets for a nostalgic sugar rush. 

Don’t miss

Located in heather-filled moorland, Brimham Rocks is a curious sight. The sandstone formations have been shaped by millions of years of weathering and erosion, meaning the craggy precipices, outcrops and boulders have taken on some fantastical shapes. Park up, take a picnic, and bring a camera.

Where to stay

Grantley Hall may look like a traditional country pile, with its long driveway, Georgian facade and manicured gardens, but within the 17th-century building’s walls you’ll find a subterranean nightclub, a state-of-the-art gym with altitude training rooms and three faultless restaurants. Gum boots are available to borrow for stomps around the local area. From £385, B&B. 

Published in the Sept/Oct 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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