Hawes is the market town of Upper Wensleydale. It once enjoyed an important position on the eighteenth century Lancaster-Richmond Turnpike road, a memento of which is a coachman's bell high on the wall of one of the town's inns.
Modern traffic has replaced the coach-and-four and packhorse trains that once clip-clopped along its narrow streets. But market day (Tuesdays) in Hawes is as busy as ever. Cows and bulls are no longer tied up along the Main Street for sale but there is a large farmers' auction mart on the edge of the town that attracts farmers from all over the north of England - worth a visit on sale day to get a real taste of the northern Dales.
Traditional shops, cafés and pubs now cater for a variety of visitors as well as the local community. The Chippie offers gluten-free batter and the local delicacy of deep-fried Wensleydale cheese! You will find an Indian restaurant housed in a seventeenth century cottage next to an eighteenth century coaching inn. Little cafes are tucked away down side streets and above shops. The town has a good range of independent shops including two antique shops crammed with treasures.
History and heritage
In the old Station Yard where our large car park is you will find the busy National Park Centre and Dales Countryside Museum, look out for the old steam engine standing on what was once the Wensleydale Railway. The Museum is home to a magnificent collection of historic Dales artefacts donated by the two great Dales historians and writers, Marie Hartley and Joan Ingilby.
Nearby Gayle Mill is Wensleydale's latest heritage attraction, having featured in the BBC's Restoration programme. Tickets for the mill tour should be purchased in advance at the Dales Countryside Museum in Hawes.
Next door to the museum you'll find a rope maker still making ropes in the traditional way. The award-winning Wensleydale Creamery can be found on the road to nearby Gayle. The crumbly white cheese, made famous by the animated Wallace and Grommit films, is still hand-made on site. You can watch the cheese being produced in the visitor centre and then sample the end product in a special cheese-tasting room next to an airy modern café.
Walks, squirrels and geocaching
Hawes is at the centre of some outstanding walking country, including the Pennine Way, as it crosses the high fells from Ribblesdale and though Hawes before passing close to the remarkable Hardraw Force (behind the Green Dragon Inn) to tackle the long climb to the bleak but grand summit of Great Shunner Fell into Swaledale. The red squirrel is making a comeback on a nearby nature reserve, call in to Hawes National Park Centre for viewing information. You can also go on a geocaching hunt through the town and out into the countryside, ask about hire of GPS equipment at the centre.
This is just one of many fine walks which can be enjoyed, both along the valley floor and along the valley sides. It's also superb cycling country, especially on the valley's less busy back roads.
By bus or car
There are excellent bus services including the community-operated Little White Bus which has a cycle-carrying facility. As well as the large National Park car park on the edge of town which includes Radar-key accessible toilets, there are two smaller town centre car parks with their own toilet facilties.