Yorkshire Dales History Geography and Geology

Geography History and Geology of the Yorkshire Dales National Park

Here you can learn more how the yorkshire dales have been shaped by geological forces, human behaviour, industrial development, its history as a national park & general facts and figures

The Yorkshire Dales National Park was established in 1954. It covers 680 square miles of outstanding scenery. It includes part of the Pennines, (known as the backbone of England) in north Yorkshire. The scenery is very varied and interesting, ranging from meadows and pastures to the edge of the heather covered moorland and blanket bogs. It also has small areas of ancient woodland. There is an expanse of hill country which rises to more than 700 metres to form three peaks, Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside which are capped with millstone grit.

To the south the scenery of crags, pavements and caverns is of limestone. In the north there are dramatic steep sided valleys with stepped sides. There are amazing waterfalls to be seen. These include, Hardraw Force, Aysgarth Falls, Thornton Force and Cautley Spout. Dry stone walls climb up the hillsides. They have been there for hundreds of years and are often the only sign of people having lived there. Green tracks wander everywhere over the Pennines and often end at places where there were once lead mines. These mines may have begun in the Bronze Age and been continued by the Romans. In the 12th century lead from Swaledale was used to roof French Abbeys, Windsor Castle and many cathedrals in Rome. In 1830 depression hit the industry and many families moved north to Durham to work in coal mines or to Lancashire to work in the cotton mills. Many people who stayed there became smallholders or sheep farmers. By1865 all lead mining had finished but there are still remains of the mines, especially Old Gang Mine near Gunnerside Gill in Swaledale.

There are many places of outstanding beauty and historical and geographical interest in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. A brief description of some of them follows:-

A very popular beautiful area. Keld (from Scandinavian “kelda”, meaning spring or stream) is a village at the head of Swaledale and is the last and highest village where the Vikings settled.

An old market town set above the river Ure in Wensleydale. A popular area with walkers, it has an interesting two mile long limestone scar known as the Shawl from where there are wonderful views . The name comes from the Scandinavian “scholl” which means a collection of huts and was probably the site of an original settlement of Vikings around 1013.

Wensly Dale
Wensley was once an important market town but it was destroyed in 1563 by a deadly plague. From here you will see Penhill, a massive hill with trees on the upper slopes and moorland on the flat summit. West Witton was once a mining village nestling beneath the hill. From here the road to Coverdale is full of “hairpin” bends! Next you come to BOLTON CASTLE, built in the14th century to command views over the dale. Mary, Queen of Scots was held prisoner here for 6 months in 1568. Soon the road leads to WEST BURTON, which some say is the most beautiful village in England. The river Ure goes along the valley until it reaches Aysgarth.

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