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Meadows close to Askrigg in Wensleydale By Wendy McDonnell Photography

Aysgarth – special qualities

Aysgarth is situated Wensleydale in the north-east of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

In the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the interaction of people with nature has produced a landscape of remarkable beauty and distinctive character that is loved and cherished by the nation. The area’s unique landscape character is created by the particular combination of many elements: the managed moorland, pastures and valley grasslands; small woodlands; dispersed villages and farmsteads; the local building materials; strong field patterns; and drystone walls and field barns. This is what makes it such a special place. This has led to us recognising the ten special qualities of the National Park.

There are dozens of waterfalls to be found, including the iconic Aysgarth Falls which featured alongside Hardraw Force in the hit 90s movie ‘Robin Hood Prince of Thieves’. Aysgath Falls cascades down the river Ure, which flows through the centre of Wensleydale towards Wensley and Leyburn. Slightly further along the River Ure, are Redmire Falls which you can walk to after having visited Berry’s Farm Cafe and Shop.

Mill Gill Force in Askrigg is also a spectacular waterfall and you can take this in on a lovely walk starting from nearby Askrigg. Within the nearby village of West Burton, in Bishopdale is Cauldron Falls – Cauldon Force is a particularly accessible waterfall.

Photograph of a waterfall called Cauldron Falls in autumn.
Cauldron Falls in West Burton, Wensleydale by Wendy McDonnell Photography

Livestock farming in the Yorkshire Dales is still deeply interwoven into local life in Aysgarth. Particularly sheep farming- distinct sheep breeds like Wensleydale and Swaledale, and a strong tradition of upland cattle rearing. 

The traditional field barns and dry-stone walls that crisscross the meadows are defining features of the Dales landscape – created for livestock farming uses and shaped over thousands of years by people and nature.

With its long history of dairying, it’s no wonder this dale is home to the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, the source of the world-famous Wensleydale Cheese.

In recent years dormice have been reintroduced and we are pleased to say that they are thriving. They only come out at night so you are unlikely to see them but maybe you will hear them snoring if you are very, very quiet!

Livestock sales and agricultural shows play an important part in the lives of the local people in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s a chance for isolated farming families to get together and share their news, knowledge and experiences as well as show off their stock and produce. 

Today, the competition is as fierce as ever. Top show winners mean more sales of stock bred from their lines and bring their own satisfaction after all the hard work on the farm.

No summer visit to the Yorkshire Dales is complete without taking in a traditional agricultural show or village gala such as the Wensleydale Show in Leyburn.

Over a quarter of England’s flower-rich upland hay meadows and pastures are here in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. In the summer months, before hay time in June – July the meadows are in full bloom. Askrigg Bottoms meadow is a fantastic example of this and is a short drive away or alternatively, it is in walking distance from Aysgarth by following the footpath along the river Ure, for the fitter amongst us. Ask the staff at the Aysgarth Falls National Park Visitor Centre for directions, maps and advice. If you decide to visit Mill Gill Force from the direction of Askrigg village you will walk through the meadow before you enter the woods, it’s a delight in the month of June.

Yorkshire is the home of cycling thanks to the 2014 Tour de France ‘Grand Depart’ and Le Tour de Yorkshire. The Dales offers some of the best cycling in the country – from gentle routes in the valleys to challenging climbs over the moorland that separates them. Take a look at our Cycle the Dales website for some ideas of routes. One local route is the Hawes Toughie if you are feeling very fit!

Around 42% of the area of the National Park is moorland, which is internationally important for wildlife, plant species and the carbon they store as peat. Locally we have Askrigg Moor, Thornton Rust Moor, and Melmerby Moor. Each of these moors has a craggy limestone peak, which is a distinct special quality of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. On the south side of the dale of Wensleydale, Thornton Rust peaks with Addleborough hill and further east Melmerby Moor, above West Witton peaks with Penhill. On the north side of the valley, Askrigg peaks with Ellerkin, and the distinct peak you can see to the northeast from where you are stood in Aysgarth is Nab End, on the Bolton estate. There is a fantastic circular walk from Aysgarth Falls to Bolton Castle, ask the friendly staff in the Aysgarth National Park Visitor Centre to provide details.

The Yorkshire Dales has some of the most spectacular peaks in England, and the famous Yorkshire Three Peaks of Whernside, Ingleborough and Pen-y-Ghent are amongst the highest in the county, providing an inspiring challenge to walkers from around the world. The Three Peaks are within driving distance of Aysgarth if you felt like taking on more of a challenge! You can walk the individual Peaks or find less strenuous walks in Ribblesdale as well as seeing the iconic Ribblesdale Viaduct and Dent Head Viaduct.

The stunning dark sky of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of its very special qualities, and each year we support a special festival to celebrate it. The Dark Sky Festival is all about discovering, learning and enjoying the galaxies and stars you don’t normally get to see.  See our Dark Sky events page to find out dates and events near you.

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