Discover Yorkshire

Discover Yorkshire's wildflower meadows

Julie 22 August 2023

Did you know that the Yorkshire Dales are home to some of England’s last remaining traditional wildflower meadows? These natural landscapes are extremely biodiverse and an internationally important habitat for bees and butterflies as well as endangered UK mammals such as the brown hare. 

Wildflower meadows are home to sweet vernal grass along with a huge range of native wildflowers and plants such as lady’s mantle, wood crane’s-bill, marsh marigold and orchids. Hay meadows also make wonderful places for a summer walk if you follow the countryside code and stick to public footpaths and designated walkways.

Read on to discover where to find the loveliest Yorkshire wildflower meadows during your next getaway.

Wildflower meadows in the Yorkshire Dales

Wildflower meadow in the Yorkshire Dales

Not only are the Yorkshire Dales one of the finest places to see wildflower meadows in the UK but thanks to a conservation project by the Yorkshire Dales Millennium Trust to restore hay meadows, these extra special places are now thriving after being in decline for decades.

Muker Meadows

The Muker Meadows in Swaledale

The pretty Swaledale village of Muker is renowned for its upland Yorkshire Dales hay meadows, unspoiled countryside and traditional dry-stone walls. 

Many of the traditional hay meadows are protected as part of the Muker Meadows Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and although most of them are privately owned and actively farmed, there is a network of right-of-way footpaths around Muker that take you right through the bright yellow fields.

Muker lies on the path of the Pennine Way in Upper Swaledale with the River Swale close by. You can take a 5-mile circular walk to Keld or wander along the species-rich meadows to The Farmers Arms, a dog-friendly pub with real ales from an on-site microbrewery and a traditional dry stone wall fireplace. 

Plants and wildflowers to look for:

  • Pignut
  • Cat’s-ear
  • Yellow rattle
  • Globeflower
  • Meadow buttercup

Where to stay: Swaledale Burrow

Askrigg Bottoms

Wildflower meadows at Askrigg Bottoms

Another Site of Special Scientific Interest in the Yorkshire Dales are the Askrigg Bottoms wildflower meadows in Wensleydale. The meadows are left untreated so are completely natural and kept free from grazing cattle to allow the flowers and plants to flourish.

We recommend taking a wonderful walk through the colourful fields in late spring or early summer to see the Askrigg Bottoms meadows at their best. A circular trail from the village of Askrigg is just under 2 miles long so is a fairly easy walk for the whole family to try.

It’s also well worth exploring Askrigg village after completing your walk. There are three pubs and a cafe where you can stop for refreshments including The King’s Arms which was featured in the original BBC version of All Creatures Great and Small as The Drover’s Arms. 

Plants and wildflowers to look for:

  • Wood crane’s-bill 
  • Great burnet
  • Ox-eye daisy
  • Lady’s mantle
  • Melancholy thistle

Where to stay: The Old Sorting Office

Dentdale Meadows

Close up of Yorkshire wildflowers

Dentdale lies at the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park between the Pennines and Howgill Fells. The dramatic scenery of the North Pennine Dales features steep valleys and riverside pastures with seemingly never-ending views of rolling green hills and beautiful hay meadows filled with species-rich grasses and pretty wildflowers.

You can take a 4-mile circular walk to see the lovely pastel colours of the Dentdale Meadows, following the path of the Dales Way along the River Dee and past traditional farmhouses and a pretty waterfall.

Dent is the closest village to the wildflower meadows and you can wander along cobbled streets to find pubs, cafes, art galleries and an ancient church nestled among pretty stone cottages.

Plants and wildflowers to look for:

  • Bistort
  • Eyebright
  • Meadowsweet
  • Yellow rattle
  • Red clover

Where to stay: Buttercup Cottage - Sedburgh

Grassington Meadows

Bee on wildflower in Grassington

With a cobbled square that’s filled with family-run shops and a scenic spot on the River Wharfe, Grassington is one of the loveliest places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Especially as the small market town is surrounded by spectacular countryside including wonderful wildflower meadows. 

The Grassington Meadows walk in Upper Wharfedale is around 3 miles long and also follows part of the Dales Way trail. It starts and finishes in Grassington and you’ll walk directly through the wildflower meadows and along the River Wharfe where you’ll pass the spectacular Linton Falls.

After your walk you can learn more about Wharfedale with a visit to the Grassington Folk Museum and browse a collection of quirky shops which surround the market square, such as The Rustic Rabbit and The Stripey Badger Bookshop.

Plants and flowers to look out for:

  • Great burnet
  • Rough hawkbit
  • Water avens
  • Cat’s-ear
  • Wood anemone

Where to stay: Ripley’s Rest

Other wildflower meadows in Yorkshire

Yorkshire wildflower meadows

As well as the traditional upland meadows of the Yorkshire Dales, there are various other places in Yorkshire where you can see some biodiverse fields of wildflowers at their very best.

Yorkshire Arboretum

Lake at the Yorkshire Arboretum

The Yorkshire Arboretum is part of the Castle Howard Estate and comprises 120 acres of parkland and gardens. Visitors can wander around woodland gardens, peaceful lakes and hidden glades to discover a huge collection of trees and plants from around the world.

One of the most recent projects at Yorkshire Arboretum has been to create and maintain huge swathes of wildflower meadows to help protect the bees and butterflies. The fields were created in conjunction with Buglife and are now gloriously colourful in spring and summer.

Special courses are available at the arboretum to help you create your own wildflower meadows with guided walks so that you can identify the different species of plants and flowers.

Plants and flowers to look out for:

  • Oxeye daisies
  • Heath speedwell
  • Heath bedstraw
  • Sheep’s sorrel
  • Southern marsh-orchids

Where to stay: Cherry Tree Lodge - Welburn

Howardian Hills cottages

Ledsham Bank  

Pyramidal orchids

Ledsham Bank is a Yorkshire Wildlife Trust nature reserve on the outskirts of Leeds. It’s located on a sheltered valley with magnesium limestone soils that support a wide range of wild plants and flowers.

The biodiverse nature reserve is a haven for local wildlife throughout the year. Look out for the large skipper and common blue butterflies during summer, little owls and nuthatches in autumn and redwing, fieldfare and siskin birds during winter.

You can take a lovely walk around the wildflower meadows at Ledsham Bank during spring and summer and admire glorious displays or orchids before heading to the nearby Chequers Inn pub for lunch.

Plants and flowers to look out for:

  • Cowslip
  • Dyer's greenwood
  • Yellow-wort
  • Common spotted orchid
  • Pyramidal orchid

Where to stay: The Pig Barn

RHS Harlow Carr

RHS Harlow Carr is a 68-acre garden in Harrogate that has been designed to be part of the Yorkshire countryside with a number of natural landscapes for visitors to discover. Follow the path of Streamside, a garden that runs right the way through Harlow Carr to discover woodland walks, vibrant borders and fragrant flowers.

Several areas of wildflower meadow grow at RHS Harlow Carr, including a swathe that wraps around the Kitchen Garden and a patch next to the site’s wildlife-rich Arboretum. 

You can also take a peaceful stroll around the Queen Mother’s Lake, a haven for wildlife bordered by a perennial meadow with sweet vernal grass and other wildflowers. Watch out for dragonflies, voles, and bees during your walk along with resident moorhens that live in a floating duck house.

Plants and flowers to look out for:

  • Ragged robin
  • Ox-eye daisies
  • Buttercups
  • Poppies
  • Cornflowers

 Where to stay: Cold Bath Retreat

Creating your own patch of wildflowers

Bright patch of wildflowers

According to WWF, 1 acre of wildflower meadow can contain 3 million flowers producing a kilogram of nectar sugar during a single summer day. That’s enough to support nearly 96,000 bees. If you fancy doing your bit to help the bees, the Royal Horticultural Society has some great advice for growing your own patches of wildflowers.

Here's some of their handy tips:

  • The easiest option is to simply leave some, or all, of your lawn unmown, to create an area of long grass, where any wildflowers already present will be able to grow up and flower.
  • If you fancy sowing your own patch, the best time to do this is either in mid spring or early autumn.
  • Check the wildflower seed packet for the sowing rate, this is usually in grams per square metre, and use bamboo canes to divide up your site accordingly.
  • Mix the seeds with a small quantity of dry sand so you can see where you have already sown for an even distribution.
  • If you want the patch to bloom again next year, allow the wildflowers to drop their seeds once they have finished flowering.  

Plan your getaway to Yorkshire

Wensleydale countryside

If you would like to visit pretty villages, explore gorgeous countryside and see the UK’s wildflower meadows at their very best, there are lots of perfect places where you can stay in Yorkshire.

Browse our range of Yorkshire holiday cottages to find your perfect base.

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.

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