Topless in the Yorkshire Dales

There  have been some wonderful days for topless driving this spring. For our first outing, on March 26, we went via Hawes and the Buttertubs to Swaledale, stopping for food at Thwaite, before heading through Keld, then past Tan Hill pub and back home via Arkengarthdale. On our second trip we headed past the Howgills on our way to the book shops at Sedbergh (including Westwood Books) , and on the way back had a look at Grisedale.

Over the Hills…


Above – stopping to enjoy the view from the northern side of the Buttertubs. Only a few days before everything was covered in snow but only a little remained on the tops of the moors that day. Click on the photo to see an album of pictures taken during the two journeys.

It was just a whim: “Let’s get the car out of the garage and give it an airing – its such a lovely day.” So off we went, via Hawes and over the Buttertubs (or the Cote de Buttertubs as it was called during the Tour de France).

Of course we stopped to enjoy the views. Then, shortly after I took the photo above another car drew up and, to our amazement, the driver and his wife were old friends, Clive and Carol. So we decided to head for the Kearton Tearoom in Thwaite, have lunch together, and have a good chat.

We went our separate ways from Thwaite. We went through Keld and on to the Tan Hill pub where many people were sitting outside and enjoying the warm sunshine. We carried  on through Arkengarthdale and back into Wensleydale.


The Daffodil Way


It was a great day to go “topless” on Monday, April 3– so out came David’s Mercedes E320 Cabriolet and down came the top. We headed west on the A684 to Sedbergh as we wanted to visit one of England’s best and biggest secondhand bookshops, Westwood Books.

As we expected, there were lots of young lambs gambolling in the fields enjoying the warm sunshine as much as we were. But we didn’t expect to see the verges, especially outside farmhouses, bedecked in a profusion of swaying, golden daffodils. The Street in Garsdale was especially beautiful.

By then we had left behind the more open, but hilly terrain of Upper Wensleydale, passed the Dandry Mire Viaduct near Garsdale Head railway station and driven into Garsdale’s narrow, spectacular valley. On the south side there were deep clefts in the sides of Rise Hill where water had tumbled down numerous gills to reach the Clough River.  On the other side the sprawling mass of Baugh Fell reminded us that soon we would see the Howgill Fells which A Wainwright compared to a herd of sleeping elephants as above the steep sided valleys smooth grassy slopes rise up to the rounded summits.

There’s a great viewing point nearer to Sedbergh but beware of the potholes! We were intrigued by the sign under the information board  which stated “Don’t feed the ponies” for the wild fell ponies are known for being elusive and we have never seen any at that car park.

From there it was just a few minutes drive into Sedbergh. As there was nowhere to park outside the bookshop we followed the one-way system which led us south of the centre and past one of Sedbergh School’s playing fields before bearing right by St Andrew’s church and then right again into very narrow Main Street. The town’s car park is ideally situated  but we we were not to be deterred from our goal.

Westwood Books is truly a book-lovers paradise! We spent over an hour there and didn’t succeed in exploring every nook and cranny. We left with a bag of books, and then bought some more at the Dales & Lakes Book Centre!

There were more bookshops we could have visited but we decided it was time to find somewhere to eat. As it was a Monday, however, most of the cafes were closed. Thankfully there was a warm welcome at Smatt’s Duo Cafe where we had an excellent lunch at a very reasonable price. We had expected it to be a light lunch but their helpings were larger than that.

Ours was a short visit to this interesting ancient market town which does owe so much to the Normans who, after 1090, developed its burbage plots with buildings along Main Street and crofts behind them. This meant there were plenty of alleyways (“yards”) to peer at even if we did not take time to explore them.

The warm sunshine called us back to the fells, however, and we decided to take the high road, turning off before Garsdale Head  to follow a sign towards Grisedale. We didn’t have a map and had done no research so had no idea what we would find which certainly made it more  interesting.

Up on the fellside we stopped to enjoy the peacefulness and to listen to the curlews calling  – only to be chided by red grouse for having the presumption to interrupt their courting rituals. 


David carefully drove on for the road was becoming narrower. We spotted a redshank, an oyster catcher and a lapwing before reaching the first gate. We even went through a second gate before the road became a track and we had to turn back.

From what we had seen Grisedale was no longer the “Dale that Died” for there were working farms and well-restored dwellings. We past some visitors who, with their two large dogs, had managed to reach the holiday cottage they had booked. What a superb place not just for long walks with the dogs but also to watch the stars on dark nights.

Back in Wensleydale David decided we would take the road on the northern side of the River Ure. We passed through Hardraw where visitors were sitting outside the pub and reached Askrigg before the Humble Pie closed. There I bought an excellent slice of vegetarian quiche. Elizabeth  Guy assured me that she even made dairy free fruit scones. I must return sometime and try them.

There were more daffodils swaying beside the road as we approached Carperby. We turned towards Aysgarth Falls and passed Freeholders Wood which was carpeted with white wood sorrel – the harbinger of the bluebell season.

We are always careful on the approach to the bridge at the Falls to slow down and watch carefully for visitors and oncoming traffic. Then there is that sharp bend on the steep hill before the churchyard  so it is impossible to rush past St Andrew’s. The churchyard was bedecked in gold as the masses of celandines were also sun-worshipping – a fitting finale to a lovely sunny day.

Footnote: The Daffodil Way continued along the A684 with a particularly magnificent display on the western approach to Leyburn.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.