After enduring the longest off-season lay-up since we first purchased our van, my housemate Pearl and I were itching to pack up and head for the great outdoors.

We settled on a few days touring North Yorkshire and the Dales, basing our visit around Harrogate.

Our preference is to pitch at a campsite and then travel around by public transport where possible, although sometimes we like to drive, depending on where we are planning to visit and park during the day.

A Sainsbury’s supermarket and a Fodder Farm Shop and cafe close to our chosen campsite at Harrogate Showground would serve our food and fuel needs.

On a sunny May morning we headed out from our home in North Wales, arriving in Harrogate in the early afternoon.

The site was perfect for us: quiet, with clean facilities and helpful staff, and close to a bus stop to get us into Harrogate (£3.20 return), which we had plenty of time to do after setting up the caravan.

Small city with big ideas

Charming Station Square Gardens is just one of the sights to enjoy in Harrogate

Harrogate is a very attractive, historic town with wonderful Georgian architecture; it is also home to the famous Bettys Tea Room, which was established here in 1919 – there are now six Bettys establishments in Yorkshire.

We wandered around the town, taking the time to sit in the sunshine in Station Square Gardens, before heading back to the site and our evening meal.

The following day, we were heading towards the city of Ripon, with its magnificent cathedral, serving this comparatively small city with a historic market square in the centre. The third smallest city in England, Ripon has been around for more than 1300 years.

Stroll up Kirkgate to Ripon’s fine cathedral, on the site of a monastery that dates back to the seventh century

It is a very popular tourist destination, in close proximity to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Studley Royal Park and Fountains Abbey. There are plenty of cafés and pubs here, with a large choice of food and drink catering for all tastes.

Ripon also has three fascinating museums. The Courthouse depicts courtroom life in the 1800s; visitors can even stand in the dock awaiting sentencing! The Workhouse Museum gives a picture of the grimness of a Victorian Workhouse, while visitors to the Prison and Police Museum can imagine the harsh conditions of being incarcerated in a Victorian prison by sitting in a cell and having the door slammed shut.

You can also try on prison uniforms, be put in a pillory or a restraint chair, be hung in chains or walk on the treadmill.

Leaving Ripon, we headed north and stopped at West Tanfield for lunch by the River Ure. This small, attractive village is home to the Marmion Tower, also known as Tanfield Caste – it’s the 15th-century gatehouse to a long-gone manor house.

Home to Old Peculiar

The River Ure at Masham in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. This attractive town is famous for its breweries

Our next stop was Masham, the home of the independent brewery of Theakstons, which has a visitor centre offering beer tasting and brewery tours. Theakstons produces various draught and bottled beers, including the famous Old Peculiar and XB.

This is a ‘tower style’ brewery, where everything starts at the top and is then moved by gravity. Be aware, though, that there are some steep stairways and narrow walkways on the guided tour, which are not ideal for those with mobility problems.

Masham is a small market town set in the beautiful region of Lower Wensleydale, and there are many excellent walking routes in the area, particularly along the banks of the River Ure, which runs through this historic village. A good walking map can be picked up from the Community Office.

For those interested in birdwatching, the Marfield Wetlands Nature Reserve provides a number of hides, and is handily located on the outskirts of the town.

Time for tea

Heading back to the site, we followed small country lanes across the unspoilt moorland skirting the Dales National park, stopping at Pateley Bridge to enjoy a cup of tea and a cake in Wildings tea Room, which has a charming riverside terrace.

The next day, we decided to visit Malham, in the Yorkshire Dales National Park – as it happened, so did hundreds of other people! We stopped off at The Old Barn café for a drink before following the well-marked footpath towards Malham Cove.

Footpath to Malham Cove

Unfortunately, the resident peregrine falcons were nowhere to be seen, although they were nesting on the cliff face and had been around earlier in the day.

We watched a few climbers tackling the cliff face (away from the peregrine nest) before we also climbed – up the numerous steps to the cliff summit and the limestone pavements across the top.

We followed the footpath heading towards Gordale Scar before turning towards Malham village past Janet’s Foss, the waterfall that carries Gordale Beck over a limestone outcrop into the deep pool below.

Janet’s Foss, near Malham, carries Gordale Beck into a pool once used for sheep dipping

We sat in the sunshine eating our lunch alongside the River Aire, and spent some time in the National Park Visitor Centre before heading back towards Harrogate.

On the way, we stopped at Kettlewell, an attractive village in the main Wharfe Valley, for a welcome cup of tea in the Cottage Tea Room; this pleasant venue also offers bed and breakfast, with four-poster beds.

River Wharfe, Upper Wharfedale

There are a number of walking routes out of this village, some designed for energetic hikes, others for a gentle stroll – one of which we did along the River Wharfe.

Start of something big

After a good night’s sleep, we headed west to Ingleton, planning to tackle the Waterfall Trail. It costs £6 per adult, including parking, to start the walk, but when I learned it was categorised as a strenuous walk with more than 1000 steps, I decided regretfully that it was beyond my capabilities.

The scenic village of Ingleton is also one of the starting points of the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge, with Ingleborough Peak just a short distance away.

After stopping for a brief coffee break, we followed the road past Ingleborough National Nature Reserve to Ribblehead’s 400m-long, 32m-high viaduct. The viaduct carries the Carlisle-to-Settle railway over Batty Moss along the River Ribble, with Whernside, the second of the Three Peaks, towering above.

It was designed by engineer John Sydney Crossley and built by the Midland Railway. Work on the Grade II-listed structure was begun in 1870 and it took 1000 men, who established settlements in the surrounding area, four years to build.

The land beneath and around the viaduct is a scheduled ancient monument, and the excavations here have unearthed remains of those settlements, known as Batty Wife Hole, Sebastopol and Belgravia, and the construction camp. The ITV period drama Jericho was based on the building of the Ribblesdale Viaduct.

The AA has published an easy five-mile walk under and around the viaduct, taking in local places of interest. This is also the start of the Whernside section of the Yorkshire Three Peaks walk.

As it was lunchtime, we went into the Ribblehead Station Visitor Centre. Sadly, the exhibition rooms were closed, but the friendly volunteers provided a welcome cup of tea and a key to the toilet.

This station is leased by the Settle and Carlisle Railway Trust, which has restored and refurbished it. During our visit, there was a train going in each direction; we managed to photograph the one going towards Carlisle as it crossed the viaduct.

River Ribble just a dribble

Ribblehead Railway Station was reopened in 1986; its waiting room was once used as a place of worship

Heading back to the site, we decided to stop in Horton-in-Ribblesdale to photograph the third summit of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, Pen-y-Ghent, and the attractive village of Stainforth with its waterfall, the Stainforth Force. Unfortunately when we visited, the fall was not very spectacular, because of lower water levels on the River Ribble.

We returned to the site just in time to wander around the Fodder Farm Shop, stocking up on cheeses and some venison, and making use of the campsite’s 10% discount voucher.

Our trip was over. We had an easy drive home and reflected on what a good choice North Yorkshire had been. We’ll be back!

Trip planner

Way to go

From North Wales we took the A55 to the M6, then the M65 to Colne, the A6058 and A629 to Skipton and the A59 to Harrogate

Find out more

  • Visit Yorkshire
  • Yorkshire Dales National Park

Food and drink

Bettys has six cafe tearooms across North Yorkshire, including Harrogate
  • Bettys Café Tea Rooms
  • Wildings Tearoom & Riverside Terrace Nidd Walk, Pateley Bridge, Harrogate, HG3 5NA
  • Old Barn Café
  • Cottage Tea Room

Where we stayed

  • Harrogate Caravan Park
  • Great Yorkshire Showground, Harrogate, HG2 8NZ
  • 01423 546 145
  • Open Please check website for further information
  • Pitches 66
  • Charges (pitch+2+hook-up) £23-£31

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