Along with Arkengarthdale, Swaledale is one of the most northerly of the dales and it has perhaps the wildest, most unspoilt scenery in the National Park. Many of the villages and tiny hamlets - such as Gunnerside (from 'Gunnar's saetr') - still carry the names given to them by Viking farmers who settled here over a thousand years ago.
Rivers and meadows
The heart of Swaledale is the River Swale, one of the fastest rising flood rivers in England. It flows through traditional hay meadows bright with wild flowers in the summer surrounded by miles of drystone walls and dotted with carefully preserved stone field barns. This pattern of field walls, barns and meadows is a special feature of Swaledale. Some areas have been given special protection such as Muker Meadows.
The peaceful, heather-covered hills above were once home to a thriving leadmining industry. When the industry collapsed in the late nineteenth century, up to half the population of the dale left, some to the textile mills and coal mines of Lancashire, others to new lives in America. Find out more about their lives at Gunnerside Smithy.
Still famous for its breed of hardy sheep (the Swaledale ram is the logo of the Yorkshire Dales National Park) as well as locally-made cheeses, a visit is also an opportunity to see the local farming, craftspeople and business community keeping this very much a working dale. The community is responsible for hosting the wonderful Swaledale Festival every year. Motorcyclists from far and wide come for the Scott Trials established in 1914.
Villages and shows
The bustling village of Reeth, with its art and craft shops, pubs and cafés, is a focal point. There are also other lovely villages further up the dale such as Muker - which has its annual agricultural show in September - Gunnerside and Keld. All offer easy access to unspoilt landscapes, and providing walkers and cyclists with the perfect holiday escape. At the western end of Swaledale, Tan Hill boasts of being the highest pub in England. There are countless other pubs and cafés dotted all along the valley.