The gateway to Wensleydale, Leyburn is a bustling Yorkshire market town that’s surrounded by pretty villages and glorious Yorkshire Dales countryside.
Browse an assortment of independent shops and galleries before settling down at one of the town’s pubs or restaurants for some excellent food and drink. Leyburn is well worth visiting during your next Yorkshire getaway and makes a perfect base for exploring the Yorkshire Dales.
The Wensleydale landscape that surrounds Leyburn is filled with wonderful viewpoints, beautiful waterfalls and a network of scenic walks. You’ll find castles with fascinating tales to tell, traditional Yorkshire villages with some great gastropubs and a cobbled market place filled with interesting shops and lovely eateries.
Leyburn is perched on the River Ure and this peaceful corner of the English countryside is a bucolic delight, dotted with traditional hay meadows, classic dry stone walls and lots and lots of sheep.
Waterfalls and pretty villages
The most famous waterfall near Leyburn is Aysgarth Falls and there’s a National Park Centre close by where you can look out over the falls and discover a selection of scenic walks in the surrounding woodland. The waterfalls consist of three separate tiers and the cascading water covers almost a mile of Wensleydale countryside with gentle sections that are perfect for paddling.
The lesser-known Harmby Waterfall is just a mile from the town and well worth seeking out. It’s unmarked on maps and accessed through a woodland pathway in the small village of Harmby.
Another secret waterfall can be found in nearby Wensley - the village that gave Wensleydale its name. Wensley Waterfall is completely hidden from view and you’ll need to walk down a permissive pathway from the car park of White Rose Candles to catch sight of this natural wonder.
Other pretty villages near Leyburn include West Witton, East Witton and Middleham which is home to two market squares, an ancient castle and a number of top racehorse stables. You can take a seat in one of the village pubs and watch the horses go by on their way to the gallops.
This area is steeped in history with castles that have housed Richard III and Mary Queen of Scots along with the ruins of a 12th-century Cistercian monastery.
This 14th-century castle is located in the village of Castle Bolton on the outskirts of Leyburn. Bolton Castle is one of the UK’s best preserved medieval fortresses and you can explore a selection of ancient rooms that include the bedroom used by Mary Queen of Scots when she was imprisoned here in 1568. The extensive castle grounds feature a maze and a selection of family-friendly trails to follow. There’s also medieval games and a birds of prey centre with falconry experiences.
The atmospheric ruins of a once grand Cisterian Monastery are tucked away in sheep-filled Wensleydale countryside near to the village of East Witton. There are lots of nooks and crannies to explore at Jervaulx Abbey and plenty of lovely spots for a picnic amongst the trees, shrubs and wildflowers of the sprawling grounds. Enjoy a coffee and cake at the on-site tea room or head to nearby Brymor for some freshly churned Wensleydale ice cream.
Middleham Castle is an English Heritage site that is best known as being the former home of Richard III. There are extensive castle remains to explore, a viewing platform that gives wonderful views of the Yorkshire Dales and an exhibition where you can learn about the history of Middleham Castle.
Things to do in and around Leyburn
From a wonderfully quirky Yorkshire folly to a beautifully restored heritage railway line, here are some of the things to do on your short break or holiday to Leyburn.
This 22-mile track of heritage railway line weaves its way through the Wensleydale countryside from Redmire to Leeming Bar with stations at Leyburn, Bedale and Finghall Lane. You can explore the restored train station at Leyburn, enjoy a slice of cake at Arthur’s Tea Room and hop aboard one of the wonderful old trains. Special Wensleydale Railway trains and events throughout the year include afternoon tea trains, real ale festivals and the magical Polar Express experience in the run up to Christmas.
One of the most popular family-friendly attractions in North Yorkshire, Forbidden Corner is a place like no other with secrets and delights hidden around every corner of its 4-acre grounds.
Part of the fun of Forbidden Corner is that you’re never quite sure exactly what you are looking for or where a path will lead so the best thing to do is just start exploring and see what you can find from the clues provided. Nothing is quite what it seems though in this fantastical folly and children will love discovering Forbidden Corner’s illusions and surprises during your fun-filled day out.
There are several workshops around Leyburn where you can watch a range of artisan local products being made and learn more about the process.
Inspired Chocolate produces a range of luxury sweet treats at its Leyburn premises. There are large glass windows where you can watch the talented chocolatiers at work and regular workshops where you can learn how to make your own truffles, while children can create lollies and chocolate pizzas.
Ceramic Inspirations is also known as the Teapottery and this Leyburn institution has been producing original handcrafted teapots for over 40 years. Quirky teapot designs include steam trains, sewing machines, the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland, an AGA oven and even the door of 10 Downing Street. There’s an on-site tea room at the pottery (serving Yorkshire Tea of course) and during a visit you can watch the skilful potters at work at each stage of the process.
Just outside of Leyburn in the village of Wensley is White Rose Candles, a traditional artisan candle workshop that’s housed in a historic mill close to a hidden Yorkshire Dales waterfall. Browse the range of sweet-smelling products and watch the candles being crafted with traditional dipping and casting techniques. Dogs are welcome to come along too and there’s even a canine refreshment bar on-site where they can enjoy a tasty treat while you browse the shop.
Leyburn pubs, cafes and restaurants
There’s no shortage of pubs, cafes, and restaurants to call in at for refreshments during a visit to Leyburn. You’ll find an assortment of eateries dotted around the market town and some great dining pubs within the surrounding villages and countryside.
This dog-friendly West Witton restaurant is renowned for its excellent seafood and has been named one of TripAdvisor’s top ten fine dining restaurants for 2020. Its signature dish is freshly caught Yorkshire fish served with triple cooked chips but if you’re looking for something more indulgent, it also serves delicious Whitby lobster in a number of ways. There are wonderful views from The Wensleydale Heifer’s idyllic village location, and delicious food and friendly service to match.
Located on Leyburn’s Market Place, the Sandpiper Inn serves real ales and fine wines in its cosy snug and dog-friendly bar area and delicious food in its candlelit romantic restaurant. Parts of the building date back to the 16th century but the menu here is bang up to date with seasonal ingredients used to great effect by the talented head chef.
The Blue Lion is one of North Yorkshire’s best known dining pubs and has a lovely location in the pretty Wensleydale village of East Witton. The inn dates back to the 18th century and is still accessed via the original cobbled driveway that’s just off the village green. Dark wood panelling, open fires and chunky oak tables give The Blue Lion lots of character while chalkboards are filled with regularly changing local Yorkshire specials.
This traditional dog-friendly Leyburn pub specialises in serving local Yorkshire drinks, with all its ales coming from within a 10-mile radius of The Bolton Arms and a selection of premium Masons Gin available too. You can also get craft beer on tap and a selection of classic pub food, including a really good Sunday roast.
A beautiful, light-filled venue that’s next to Tennant Auction House in Leyburn. Galleries at the venue showcase local artwork and some of the auction houses upcoming sale pieces while the on-site bistro serves fresh seasonal food including light bites, brunches and specially themed evening dinners. Dine out on the terrace during the summer and enjoy wonderful views of the grounds which include a wildlife pond.
This relaxed Leyburn cafe is a great choice for breakfast, lunch or an early supper. You can build your own full English breakfast, tuck into a range of paninis and jacket potatoes and treat yourself to a home-baked cake. A surprise on the menu is a range of tasty Korean dishes and the cafe is fully licensed too so you can wash the food down with a glass of wine.
It’s market day in Leyburn each Friday and the market square is filled with a selection of stalls selling everything from fresh fruit and vegetables to local crafts. There are also lots of lovely shops to call in during your visit to Leyburn.
This independent shop is full of gorgeous things including stylish ladies wear, lovely gifts and bespoke home furnishings. Clothing brads include Joules, Seasalt and White Stuff and there's a range of exclusive fabrics that can be made into handcrafted curtains and cushions.
Campbells of Leyburn dates back to 1868 and is a butcher, delicatessen, fine wine emporium and general store where you can pick up all your everyday essentials along with artisan and speciality foods. Meats and cheeses come from Yorkshire Dales farmers and there’s even a fresh milk vending machine where you can dispense your own milk into reusable glass bottles.
One of the UK's leading auctioneers, Tennants offers a variety of auctions throughout the year, from specialist antique events to country house sales. You can get a free valuation of any valuables you are selling or pick up some one-of-a-kind pieces in the excitement of the auction room.
With an on-site tearoom and a selection of lovely soft furnishings and gifts, you can happily spend a couple of hours at Serendipity in Leyburn. The shop is filled with all types of things for the home, from quality furniture and kitchenware to bedding and candles.
This is one of several art galleries in and around Leyburn where you can browse artwork from local artists including Lucy Pittaway, Gary Lawson and Nolan Stacey. There’s also an extensive collection of contemporary art pieces and a range of artwork depicting the surrounding Yorkshire Dales.
Leyburn is a walker’s delight with lots of scenic routes to follow through the Wensleydale countryside and elevated spots where you can sit down with a picnic and enjoy the view.
West Witton to Penhill
At 553 metres above sea level, Penhill is one of Wensleydale’s highest and most prominent hills. We recommend walking to Penhill from nearby West Witton, especially as you can call in the Wensleydale Heifer for refreshments after you have completed the climb. A circular walk from the village is around 5.5 miles and also takes in Middleham High Moor where, if you’re lucky, you may see some racehorses being put through their paces at the gallops.
This 7-mile circular walk starts and finishes in Leyburn and takes in the 2-mile stretch of elevated limestone escarpment that’s known as the Leyburn Shawl due to the fact it’s reputedly the place Mary Queen of Scots dropped her scarf as she fled her captors at Bolton Castle. There are benches where you can stop and enjoy the view as you make your way along the shawl to Preston-Under-Scar before heading back to Leyburn along the River Ure and through the village of Wensley.
An easy, family-friendly 3-mile walking route to try starts at Middleham Castle and follows the route of the River Cover to Pinker’s Pond which makes a lovely spot for a picnic. You can watch the various waterfowl glide across the water before heading to the remains of Coverham Abbey then back to Middleham where you can spend some time exploring the village and watching the racehorses make their way to the gallops.
Aysgarth and West Burton Falls
Turner once sketched both Aysgarth and Cauldron Falls at West Burton in one day and you can follow in his footsteps with this walk that starts at the Aysgarth National Park Centre and is around 6 miles in total. Highlights of this Turner Trail include a packhorse bridge and bench where you can look out over West Burton Falls and the summit of Dove Scar, a limestone escarpment which gives one of the widest panorama views out over Wensleydale.
Where to stay in Leyburn
If you have been inspired to visit Leyburn and Wensleydale, there are a selection of gorgeous holiday cottages where you can rest your heads after days spent exploring pretty villages and idyllic countryside.
A Grade II-listed 16th-century farmhouse that is surrounded by peaceful Yorkshire Dales countryside in all directions with Middleham and Leyburn both close by.
This five-star holiday home is located in the former waiting rooms of the heritage Wensleydale railway line and features beautifully designed interiors and a gorgeous garden with outdoor seating area.
This is just a small selection of the Leyburn cottages available. Browse our full collection of romantic, dog-friendly and family-friendly properties and find the perfect base for your next Yorkshire Dales holiday.
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.