A brief history of the Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales National Park was established in 1954 and now attracts in excess of nine million visitors each year to the region. There are approximately 60,000 people working and living in the Yorkshire Dales and the local economy is heavily dependant on farming, although tourism does provide a lot of additional contribution and continues to grow each year.
Many original geological features of the Yorkshire Dales National Park were created during the Ice Age when melting glaciers eroded the landscape. This is one of the reasons there are so many stunning sites at every turn, with spectacular features like the steep rugged cliffs, thundering waterfalls, caves and unique scenery. There are many areas where visitors can explore, lots of hills and uplands to roam, and caves and crags to investigate. It is a perfect place to climb, cycle or walk. Wainwright's famous 'Coast to Coast Walk' passes through the Dales, attracting walkers from all over the world.
The Yorkshire Dales are steeped in history and throughout the ages many civilisations came to the region in an attempt to conquer. This included The Danes, The Norseman and The Angles as well as The Romans who also built many of the first roads. Castles were built which led to the forming of some of the major settlements we know today. They have all left their mark in The Dales and some of the sites have revealed many interesting architectural finds over the years. The remains of many castles and abbeys are still around today and they continue to provide a popular attraction for visitors to the Dales.
Farmers today still graze their cattle and sheep in the many lush green valleys where the grass is rich and inviting. The characteristic dry stone walls have been a landmark of the Dales for many hundreds of years. High up on the fells the more hardy and robust Swaledale sheep are still farmed, and the famous Wensleydale cheese is still manufactured. Monks who lived in the Abbeys were the first to make cheese in Wensleydale and its fresh, delicious taste and unique crumbly texture has now become a favourite local delicacy enjoyed worldwide. The woolen industry grew up around the farming industry and once successfully used the natural resources of the landscape with its rivers, road and rail networks to thrive.
Based in the nearby town of Thirsk, the writer and vet James Herriot has made the Yorkshire Dales famous with his popular veterinary tales from days gone by and his series of books and a television series ‘All Creatures Great and Small' which illustrate the lives and work of the people of the Dales. Bringing to life the reality, joys and hardships of living and farming in the Dales through the ages and attracting a great deal of interest to the area.
The breathtaking Yorkshire Dales has always been an inspiration for many a budding author and artist. The scenery has inspired poets, painters, sculptors, photographers and some of the world's most acclaimed authors. The Bronte sisters lived and wrote their novels in Haworth and the rectory in which they were brought up now stands as a museum to their lives and work. People travel from all over the world to see and feel the atmosphere of the town and its buildings, which greatly reinforces the tourist industry.
The introduction of steam railways to the Yorkshire Dales in the 19th century was a historic innovation and a huge asset to the growth of industry in the area during the industrial revolution. Today visitors can still enjoy a trip back in time as they trundle and chug sedately along through the spectacular scenery on the Settle to Carlisle Railway in the smartly painted carriages. Passing through many of the historic towns and villages along the way, and over the famous Ribblehead viaduct, and taking in a lot of the spectacular sights and sounds of the Yorkshire Dales it truly is one of the best ways to appreciate the history of the area.
Constructed during the mid 18th century, the Leeds Liverpool Canal runs to the south of the dales and passes through Skipton, which is known as the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales, and the canal path walks and narrow boat trips which are available offer visitors an insight into the days when industry ruled and the barges used to carry coal and textiles to and from the woolen mills. Some of the mills are still remaining and produce modern day textiles, some having been regenerated as apartments and smart shops offer a completely different view, and some lie sadly in disrepair as testimony to their industrial past.
Today the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a bustling, thriving community living off the land and increasingly relying on tourism. There is so much to see and do in the Dales, and the fascinating and rich history through the ages combined with modern forward thinking professional management by The National Parks Authority, makes the region a wonderful place to visit, come and have a look you will not be disappointed.