Skip to main content
The House at Bolton Abbey A grand heritage site

What to do to enjoy heritage

Besides the fantastic views the Yorkshire Dales has a great history to explore. There are the remains left by the Romans through long straight roads leading to the fort at Bainbridge, and distinctive place names left by the Vikings.


Stone castles were built by the Normans to control the local population such as those at Richmond and Middleham.

In the medieval period other castles were built in the area as defence against raiders and as status symbols. There is lots to see inside Bolton Castle in Wensleydale, set in a dramatic location. The castle bears the scars of over 600 years of fascinating history. It is still in the private ownership of Lord Bolton, the direct descendant of the castle’s original owner Sir Richard le Scrope.

Skipton Castle lies at the head of the main street in Skipton, and has a fascinating 900 year history. You can visit every corner of the castle from the dungeon to the watch tower. 

There is also Pendragon Castle in Mallerstang valley with its connections to Lady Anne Clifford and maybe even Uther Pendragon – the father of King Arthur.

Churches, abbeys and monasteries

The Norman period saw the construction of many fine stone churches throughout the Dales, and the establishment of several monastic houses. There are some evocative ruins to explore at the World Heritage Site of Fountains Abbey near Ripon, at Bolton Abbey near Skipton and at Jervaulx Abbey close to Leyburn. The considerable economic and social influence of these monastic orders was destroyed in Tudor times when Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

Stately homes

More recently, a number of stately homes have been built, which can give an interesting insight into another period of history. Newby Hall near Ripon was designed by Sir Christopher Wren, with some of Britain’s finest Robert Adam interiors. It is home to a wonderful collection of Chippendale furniture, Gobelins tapestries and classical statuary. It has 25 acres of award winning gardens including one of Europe’s largest herbaceous borders, an enchanting woodland walk and a miniature railway.

Kiplin Hall near Richmond is an intriguing Jacobean house with 17 rooms open to the public. East Riddlesden Hall near Keighley is owned by the National Trust. Its friendly room guides bring the house to life and share the fascinating stories that have made this special place an award-winning visitor attraction.

More history

If you want to learn more about the history of the Dales you can look on our Out of Oblivion website.