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Wildflowers Wildflowers on the edge of Wharfe Wood, Austwick

Natural beauty

The Yorkshire Dales National Park straddles the Pennines, the backbone of England. The underlying geology, natural processes and human activity have created a hugely varied landscape and numerous dramatic features and beautiful views:

Dales with distinctive stepped profiles, produced by the weathering of layers of limestone interspersed with shales and sandstones from the Carboniferous period.

Fells that rise to over 700 metres in the Millstone Grit-capped ‘Three Peaks‘. Glaciers and rivers have cut deep dales into the extensive moorland plateaux, each distinctive in character and atmosphere.

One of the best examples in Britain of classic limestone scenery, with its scars, such as those at Gordale and Attermire, and limestone pavements, such as those above Malham Cove.

Extraordinary cave systems, including the longest cave system in Britain, one of its largest caverns and the highest unbroken underground waterfall at Gaping Gill.

The Howgills, a series of grassy rounded hills made up of rocks from the older Silurian period, sweeping steeply upwards from deep ravines to broad rounded tops.

Significant glacial and post-glacial landforms and features, including: drumlin fields, such as the one at Ribblehead; erratics, including those at Norber; moraines; and the postglacial lakes of Semerwater and Malham Tarn.

Spectacular waterfalls, such as Hardraw Force, the famous series of Aysgarth Falls, and Cautley Spout, with a broken drop of 180 metres.

A traditional pastoral landscape created by livestock farmers over several centuries. This historic landscape is acknowledged as internationally important and includes:

  • an intricate network of drystone walls (as well as hedgerows in Lower Bishopdale, Dentdale and Sedbergh) that create a patchwork of enclosures across valleys and valley sides;
  • traditional stone-built field barns, the density of which in some parts of the National Park – notably Swaledale, Wharfedale and Wensleydale – is unique.

A highly legible landscape, in which there is still a very clear and evident link between the underlying geology and landform, the historic use and management of the land, the current land uses and land cover.

A landscape of striking contrasts, between the deep, sheltered dales and the open, exposed, sweeping fells above.