The Yorkshire Dales – “dales” from the Viking word dalr (valley) – form a varied upland area of limestone hills and pastoral valleys at the heart of the Pennines. Protected as a National Park, (or, in the case of Nidderdale, as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), there are more than twenty main dales covering 680 square miles, crammed with opportunities for outdoor activities. Most approaches are from the south, via the superbly engineered Settle to Carlisle Railway, or along the main A65 road from towns such as Skipton, Settle and Ingleton. Southern dales like Wharfedale are the most visited, while neighbouring Malhamdale is also immensely popular due to the fascinating scenery squeezed into its narrow confines around Malham village. Ribblesdale is more sombre, its villages popular with hikers intent on tackling the famous Three Peaks – the mountains of Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. To the northwest lies the more remote Dentdale, one of the least known but most beautiful of the valleys, and further north still Wensleydale and Swaledale, the latter of which rivals Dentdale as the most rewarding overall target. Both flow east, with Swaledale’s lower stretches encompassing the appealing historic town of Richmond.
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