A Brief History of... The Yorkshire Dales

One of the most popular parts of the English countryside has to be the Yorkshire Dales, although many of them fall within Cumbria. Herriot and hill-farming country, the Dales we enjoy today have been influenced by man's activities for millenia with many of them 'industrialised' in times past. Remnants of those industries still exist, as at Hawes for example, which was a rope-making centre.

The word 'dale' comes from the Old English word 'dael' and refers to a narrow valley with steep sides. Frequently the name includes that of a nearby river or stream [known locally as a beck or gill], as in Lunedale or Miterdale, for example.

The Dales listed below - not quite one hundred in number - are both the 'traditional' Yorkshire ones, and some from the Lake District just to the west of the Yorkshire Dales proper. Yorkshire's Moors, on the other side of the country, also sport some 'dales'.

As you will see there are occasionally dales in the region with the same name, so if you're going on a dale-hunting expedition it is best to check a map. Our map below simply gives the relative positions of the 'traditional' Dales and makes no reference to size.

Yorkshire Dales layout - 12k
Above: Layout of the best known Yorkshire Dales.

As Dales are largish topographical features the map references provided here are a basic starting reference point for reference to your map for a clearer picture of the layout. And while Wenselydale or Wharfedale may be huge, other map references refer to small villages and hamlets which are really focal points for minor dales little more than tucks between hills.

If you can supply any additions to this page, or you find an error, please drop an e-mail.

Safety precautions:
As beautiful as the Lakes, Yorkshire Dales and Moors may appear to the eye, the terrain is potentially treacherous and the weather dangerous. Cloud and mist can quickly engulf the hills making navigation difficult. So do make sure that you are properly equipped and clothed, and that someone knows the route that you will be taking and your estimated return time. If you intend to do cross country rambles it is ESSENTIAL to get a large scale map [such as the OS Landranger series], which shows the many disused mine shafts and pot holes which riddle the fells and dales. Think safe! Be safe!

Apedale
SE015945
South of Gibbon Hill and lead mine working to south. Dale is NE of Bolton Castle.
Arkengarthdale
NZ009018
On the NE side of Swaledale. Once a centre of leadmining, particularly opencast extraction.
Arndale
NZ041063
Bordered by Kexwith Moor on the south. Disused mine workings nearby.
Bannerdale
NY430158
Passes through Martindale Common. South of Ullswater. Village of Martindale to the north.
Barbondale
SD002833
Bardale
SD888860
West of Raydale.
Birkdale
NY832021
West of Keld.
Bishopdale
SD985850
Runs into Wensleydale from the South.
Boredale
NY421174
On south side of Ullswater. Overshadowed by Beda Fell.
Borrowdale
NY571030
Runs into Derwent Water, and towards Seathwaite which was once a source of very pure graphite for hundreds of years. Keswick town is nearby.
Bowderdale
NY163078
The Lakes' Bowderdale is at the north shore of Wast Water near the north end. It is also part of a nature reserve. Another Bowderdale is to be found at NY675039, among the more 'traditional' dales.
Bretherdale Head
NY573050
Just north of Borrowdale.
Caudale
NY409110
South of Brothers Water, and to east of the Kirkstone Pass [A592]. Disused quarry nearby.
Cawdale
NY488177
West of Bampton, and to north of Haweswater Reservoir.
Chapel-le-Dale
SD738772
Cinderdale Beck
NY168192
On the east side of Crummock Water.
Clapdale
SD745709
North of Clapham.
Coledale Beck
NY214223
Runs SW from Braithewaite. Disused mine at SW end of the beck.
Colsterdale
SE141814
NNE of Nidderdale.
Cotterdale
SD834939
Coverdale
SE063832
Iron Age age settlements nearby, and was once one of the trading through-routes of the area.
Cragdale Moor
SD920835
Croasdale
NY096175
By NE tip of Ennerdale Water. Banna Fell to the east. Dismantled railways to the north.
Crummackdale
SD776720
West of Horton in Ribblesdale.
Deepdale
SD722842
This is the proper Dales 'Deepdale' on the South side of Dentdale. Confusingly there is also an unrelated Deepdale Beck/Deepdale village [SD895800] to the north of Langstrothdale and to the west of Yokenthwaite. Another Deep Dale exists over by Barnard Castle - west of the town and north of the A66 - at NY973155.
Dentdale
SD731861
Once called Dent Town - since it was a hive of activity - Dent is now a sleepy village. In the past its inhabitants were famous for knitting gloves and socks, while the black fossil-filled Dent marble was quarried locally.
Dovedale
NY395113
With prehistoric ancient settlements nearby this Lakes' dale runs into Brothers Water, which is found to the south of Ullswater. Runs into Kirkstone Beck which runs alongside the famous Pass of the same name.
Dunnerdale
SD208941
To the west of Coniston Water and south of Eskdale. This dale harbours the River Duddon.
Easedale
NY327082
Easedale Tarn to SW.
Ennerdale
NY075162
Eskdale
NY175002
Near the wonderfully named village of Boot. There's a roman fort to the east. Several kilometres NE of Eskdale Green there were haematite mines.
Fossdale
SD863935
Leads into Hardraw Force just north of Hawes.
Fusedale
NY446182
East side of Ullswater, and west of Loadpot Hill.
Garsdale
SD730900
Gordale
SD914645
Really Gordale Beck and the great Gordale Scar. Quite a large roman camp was situated to the north, and there are other old settlements.
Great Langdale
NY306064
Greendale
NY143057
On west side of Wast Water. A tarn of the same name nearby.
Grisedale
SD775930
This is the Dales' dale on the east side of the great Baugh Fell near Garsdale Station. There is also a Lakes' Grisedale [NY372149] which runs towards Ullswater.
Hardendale
NY582144
Really the village which reflects the name of a small valley.
Heltondale
NY495205
Rather off the beaten track. Tumulus nearby.
Keskadale
NY213191
West of Little Town village and at SW corner of Derwent Water.
Kingsdale
SD697767
North of Ingleton.
Langdale
NY652021
Part of the great Langdale Fell. Slate was quarried in the area.
Langstrothdale
SD929810
Little Dale
SD760810
The Settle-Carlisle railway runs through this.
Littondale
SD916727
Ancient lynchet field systems can be found in the area though this Dale was largely agricultural and not industrialised like many others.
Longsleddale
NY490039
Takes its name from the fact that slate was removed on sledges.
Lothersdale
SD960457
North of Earby this had a woollen mill with waterwheel. Gateshead Hall in Jane Eyre is based on nearby Stone Gappe.
Malhamdale
SD900608
Iron Age settlements nearby. Malham village was mentioned in Domesday Book. Iron and zinc were mined to the NW of Malham village. In the 18th century large cattle fairs took place near Malham Tarn.
Mardale Beck approx.
NY487128
Mardale village lies under Haweswater.
Martindale
NY435185
Matterdale
NY395225
The large Matterdale Common is 2 to 3 miles to the west.
Miterdale
NY153014
Home of the River Mite. This small valley runs SW-NE towards Burnmoor Tarn, SW of Sca Fell, and is west of Boot village.
Moresdale Gill
NZ041047
Runs west-east and is sandwiched between Kexwith Moor to the north, and Hurst Moor on the south. Booze Moor at the west end.
Mosedale
NY356321
Runs towards Wasdale Head. To the NW is Carrock Fell once a source of tungsten ore, even till 20 years ago. The River Caldew runs west-east just to the south of Mosedale village.
Mungrisdale
NY364304
Nidderdale
SE107727
A centre of the roman lead industry in the area. A trading 'coal road' runs from Kirkby Malzeard, NW of Ripon, into Nidderdale at Middlemoor.
Oddendale
NY594140
A village reflecting the name of this small valley.
Overdale
SD835709
Oxendale
NY269051
North of Blisco Pike and Wrynose Fell.
Patterdale
NY391160
Small village on south shore of Ullswater, therefore more of a Lakes' Dale.
Ravenstonedale
NY723038
At the foot of the Howgills . Nearby lead mining in the early 19th century.
Raydale
SD905855
Runs towards Semer Water.
Ribblesdale
SD813591
Running SE from Settle this dale is home to the River Ribble.
Randale Beck
NY467120
Just a few yards north of Riggindale. Small fort near Whether and Bucks Crags, with Kidsty Pike to SW.
Rannerdale
NY167187
On the east side of Crummock Water. Home to River Beck with Wandope Hill to NE.
Riggindale
NY467115
On the west side of Haweswater at the south end. Overlooked by crags at south.
Scandale / Scandale Beck
NY379065
To the north of Ambleside an old packhorse route runs through this Lakes' dale.
Silverdale
SD839704
There are several potholes nearby to the east on Fountains Fell.
Sleddale
SD860870
Confusingly there is also a Great Sled Dale at SD847000 on the north side of Angram Common.
Smardale
NY740081
Stockdale Beck
SD850634
Overshadowed by the Attermire, Settle and Great Scars. There is also a Stock Dale [SD865980] west of Muker.
Stonesdale Moor
NY885040
Stonesdale Beck runs into the River Swale to the south.
Swaledale
SE001984
Runs towards Richmond. One of the largest dales it aas a centre of roman lead mining, and up to 19th century. Ore veins mainly on the north side with names like 'Old Rake Vein'.
Swindale Beck
NY520136
East of Haweswater Reservoir.
Thixendale
SE842609
Very much a farming based community and base of the Sledmere Estate.
Uldale
NY253368
North of Over Water lake and Latrigg Hill. There's a roman camp a couple of kilometres to the south. There's another Uldale at SD740961 to the north of Baugh Fell.
Wandale
SD710985
Runs south towards the River Rawthey.
Wasdale
NY187086
On the packhorse route from Seathwaite where graphite was mined, and also one of the birthplaces of rockclimbing with the 55ft ascent of the famous Napes Needle by W P Haskett-Smith in 1886.
Weasdale
NY688030
Wensleydale
SE028887
Another of the big ones, this dale runs between Hawes in the west and Leyburn to the east. Once known as Yordale.
Wharfedale
SD930780
to SE020626
Another of the bigger dales. Was a centre of roman lead production. Contains the River Wharf which runs down towards Ilkley and Otley to the south end.
Whitsun Dale
NY849037
To SE of Kirkby Stephen running alongside Mallerstang Common and bordering Birkdale Common.
Widdale
SD825889
Runs SW-NE. Couple of small tarns nearby to west. Wold Fell rises at the SE end and Widdale Fell on NW side at SD80288.
Willdale
NY489171
Just south of Cawdale at the north end of Haweswater. Runs from Bampton Common.
Woodale
SE023792
Woundale
NY411073
North of Troutbeck village. To east of the A592 as it becomes Kirkstone Pass.
 
The North Yorkshire Moors also have their quota of 'Dales'...
Commondale [clay], Westerdale, Fangdale, Farndale, Rosedale, Wheeldale [excellent roman road nearby], Langdale, Bransdale, Bilsdale, Kildale [whinstone], Glaisdale.

If you're one of the frequent visitors directed to this page by a search engine, take a moment to look around the rest of the website. We also have a piece on the history of Britain's landscape within this 'Places to Visit' section.

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