About the Area
Dotted with villages and farmsteads and with dry-stone walls tracing lines over rolling hills, Lower Wensleydale is an integral part of both North Yorkshire’s landscape and heritage. After tumbling down the limestone steps of Aysgarth Falls, the River Ure widens and slows a little as it winds its way eastwards down the valley, separating the Dales’ market towns of Leyburn and Middleham.
The two communities command opposite banks of a valley floor, lying in the shadow of The Shawl to the north and the Colsterdale hills to the south. Steeped in their own fascinating and individual histories, both towns are ideal destinations for holidays in the very heart of the Yorkshire Dales. However, the numerous hotels and guest houses, bed and breakfast accommodation, camp sites and caravan parks are all ideal bases for exploration further afield – on foot, by bike or by car.
Archaeological digs in Lower Wensleydale have unearthed remains dating back as far as the Iron Age, with both Brigantian settlements and Roman remains also found in the area. Middleham is rich in medieval history with the castle first founded in the 11th Century by Alan Rufus - nephew to William the Conquerer - while Castle Bolton also has had many tales to tell since its construction at the turn of the 15th century.
Cistercian monks settled at Jervaulx in the 12th century as well as at the World Heritage Site at Fountains Abbey, establishing farms in the area and breeding sheep, cattle and horses. In fact Jervaulx was named after the French for valley and the River Ure – also known then as Yor or Jer.
But, more recently, Leyburn has become the commercial hub of the area. At the crossroads of highways linking Masham and Richmond and Bedale and Hawes, the still-thriving market town is also the largest community to straddle the Wensleydale Railway.
Lower Wensleydale is a rich and fertile valley relying heavily on tourism but still supporting livestock farming, including dairy herds supplying the creamery at Hawes, which makes the region’s world-famous Wensleydale Cheese. Horses also remain a common sight, with a number of racing stables based at Middleham and gallops stretching over miles of open moorland overlooking the town.
You can find out more about the area by visiting the Towns and Villages pages as well as discovering Things To Do and Places To Stay.
If you would like more details on the area, one of our volunteers will do their best to provide the information you require. Please use the Contact Us page to get in touch. In the meantime, we hope you enjoy your virtual tour of North Yorkshire’s Lower Wensleydale and look forward to welcoming you to the area very soon.