Known as the civilised corner of the Dales, the gentle south-east Dales around Harrogate and Ripon provide the perfect setting for a relaxed countryside jaunt, particularly if you want to keep one foot firmly on urban ground.
Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, it’s makeup of broad green meadows and gentle rolling hills are a serene introduction to the wilder, more remote Dales to the north. Nidderdale is also home to the exquisite Fountains Abbey, a World Heritage Site just outside Ripon.
This is an addictive landscape: Janet Street-Porter declared it a drug, set up home here 25 years ago and hasn’t spent more than 4 weeks away from it since!
Nidderdale’s Natural Highs
Nidderdale is perhaps the most luscious landscape in the Dales with its lakes, ancient broadleaf woodlands, single arch barns and the neat patchwork of stone-edged fields that sit beneath open moorland stretching as far as the eye can see. Some of the most impressive natural sights include:
- Coldstone Cut - a wonderful viewing point and art sculpture. It affords the best vista of Nidderdale and the surrounding area.
- Across the dale, Brimham Rocks is an extensive enclave of bizarrely formed rocks that cast an interesting silhouette on the landscape and have been a favourite playground for generations of kids young and old.
- Further up the dale, How Stean Gorge is a deep limestone ravine with the river Nidd at its base, criss-crossed by a vertiginous path and a number of dramatic pedestrian bridges.
- Stump Cross Caverns sit atop the hill between Nidderdale and Wharfedale, whose extensive passages formed millions of years ago feature the remains of Wolverine and Bison.
- Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal, a World Heritage Site and deservedly one of the National Trust’s most visited locations. As well as the magnificent ruins of a 12th century Cistercian abbey, the grounds are home to an Elizabethan Mansion, a medieval deer park and some of the most romantic vistas in the country.
- The Oldest Sweet Shop in England in Pateley Bridge is said to be the oldest sweet shop in the world, quite an accolade. Pop in and pick up a quarter of blackjacks for old times’ sake.
- The Black Sheep Brewery’s origins lie in the fiercely independent spirit of a Yorkshire man, Paul Theakston – a fascinating tale and one you can learn all about on a tour of the brewery.
- The Nidderdale Museum, a fascinating insight into Dales life in years gone by. This small museum has a very intimate feel and really captures the ambience of life and work in the Yorkshire Dales thought-out the last century and beyond.
Nidderdale’s towns & villages
- Pateley Bridge is a pretty Dales town set on the banks of the River Nidd and is very typical of this area of Yorkshire. The main street is peppered with cafes, restaurants, local stores, quality butchers and a fantastic wine shop – everything you need to stock up for a holiday in Nidderdale!
- One of our all-time favourite places, Masham is just adorable, with its handsome Georgian townhouses and cobbled market square. Throw in an excellent restaurant, some idyllic Yorkshire pubs, a host of traditional tea rooms and a few breweries and you have yourself the perfect Yorkshire town!
- Founded around 1300 years ago, Ripon is a traditional market town situated on the cusp of Nidderdale. Something of a spiritual epicentre over the years, the town boasts a glorious Cathedral and the largest monastic ruins in the country amongst its rich heritage.
Read our guide to 10 pretty Nidderdale towns and villages.
Where to eat in Nidderdale
- Just outside the village of Masham, Swinton Park is a luxury castle hotel set in 200 acres of parklands, lakes and gardens. Samuel’s, the hotel’s 3 AA rosette restaurant, is a fabulous choice if you want to relax and savour top-class British cooking. If you want to get more hands-on, Swinton Park also run a series of Chef’s table events throughout the year on Friday evenings. Telephone: 01765 680900.
- The Yorke Arms – Ramsgill, an 18th-century coaching house and shooting lodge found by the village green in Ramsgill (a typically gorgeous Nidderdale village). The restaurant is run by Frances Atkins, one of only six Michelin starred female chefs in the country. Expect a sumptuous, seasonal menu using only the very best local produce. Telephone: 01423 755243.
- Vennell’s Restaurant in Masham is a good choice for lunch or dinner. The interior is somewhat old fashioned but the food is fantastic, and the restaurant is well deserving of its string of accolades. Sunday lunch is particularly good. Telephone: 01765 689000.
- The Bruce Arms – West Tanfield, just a few miles North West of Ripon in the attractive village of West Tanfield. This traditional Yorkshire Inn serves up modern British food in a traditionally furnished restaurant. Telephone: 01677 470325.
Where to stay – Luxury Holiday Cottages Nidderdale
We are lucky enough to have lots of stunning holiday cottages in Nidderdale. Take a look at these:
You can view our full list of luxury cottages in the Yorkshire Dales here. Happy browsing, and if you have any more tips or suggestions about Nidderdale we’d love to hear them! For even more holiday inspiration read our Insider's guide to Yorkshire and browse our full list of Yorkshire holiday cottages.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.