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Kings Arms, Askrigg

Yorkshire Dales, England

What to do in Nidderdale AONB

Posted by Luci Ackers on Dec 06, 2017
What to do in Nidderdale AONB

In the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. It’s a fantastic place to explore and just a short distance from Askrigg, which makes it perfectly easy to get to while you’re staying with us.

What is an AONB?

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has been designated as a protected area due to its vast natural qualities. Outstanding landscape, distinctive character and natural beauty all contribute to making these areas special, and that’s why they have been protected, so that people can continue to enjoy them for years to come.

They only exist in Britain, in fact there are 46 of them in total across the UK and they range from coast to countryside, mountain to valley and forest to heathland.

What’s so great about Nidderdale?

Up in the Yorkshire Dales, Nidderdale is the upper valley of the River Nidd, and one of Yorkshire’s famous dales. The AONB that is named after Nidderdale borders the south-eastern corner of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It stretches across the eastern flanks of the Yorkshire Pennines from Great Whernside, westwards towards the Vale of York, and from Jervaulx, southwards towards Wharfedale.

It is an area of more than 200 square miles with a wonderfully rich landscape, characterised by undulating scenery and a variety of interesting habitats. One of its most famous attractions is Brimham Rocks, a land formation that features gritstone outcroppings and rock formations that have been eroded, over millions of years, into fascinating shapes and structures.

See and do


The vast range of habitats in the Nidderdale AONB range from grassland and meadows to woodlands and hedgerows, to moorland and water, meaning it is able to support a huge variety of wildlife. Species are allowed to truly flourish in this protected area, so keep your eyes peeled as you explore the many footpaths and trails that criss-cross the countryside.

While the farmlands are good for brown hares and voles, and the undisturbed grasslands support a range of orchids and other wildflowers, it is the birdlife that does especially well in the Nidderdale AONB.

The heather moorlands provide great hunting grounds for merlins, and you might spot peregrines nesting up in the cliffs. The areas of blanket bog, which occur when peatland forms over large areas, provide a particularly good breeding ground for golden plover and dunlin, but also attracts waders like redshank, curlew and lapwing, as it is a great food source for them.


Did you know, there are 820km of public footpaths, walks trails and bridleways in Nidderdale AONB? That’s a lot of walking! Whether you fancy a gentle ramble or a full-on hike, you will find a route that suits. With everything from iconic dales, or riverside paths to historic landmarks or nature-rich woodland, Nidderdale doesn’t disappoint. Check out their website here for a full list and breakdown of the walks on offer.


Fountains Abbey lies towards the eastern edge of Nidderdale AONB and it is an attraction that should not be missed. This incredible ruin is one of the largest and best preserved of its kind in the UK. First founded in the 12th century this Cistercian monastery is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site that comprises extensive, dramatic abbey ruins, a stunning Georgian water garden, a 12th century mill and picturesque deer park and grounds.

Alternatively, in the middle of a pine woodland on the Swinton Estate, you will find the Druid’s Temple. Though it resembles the kind of stone circles that date from prehistoric times, this one was actually built as a folly much more recently. That doesn’t make it any less fascinating to explore, and you can access it either from the estate grounds, or from a public footpath that leads from the road. This 19th century collection of oval dolmens is really quirky.

Find out more about this interesting site on their website here.

When it rains

Though it is a glorious place to explore whatever the weather, if the weather does change suddenly, it’s good to know there are indoor attractions too.

The Nidderdale Museum is in the market town of Pateley Bridge. It is set up on the first floor of an old workhouse building and really allows you to visualise Nidderdale’s history. A comprehensive collection of exhibits is packed into this little building and tells the tale of the AONB’s past.

If you don’t fancy that, there are plenty of lovely market towns around with great shops, pubs and restaurants to try out. Pateley Bridge is a good one for heritage and shops, there is also Otley and Ilkley, which both have shops and cafés to discover.

Find out how to stay in the Yorkshire Dales and discover this incredible landscape for yourself. Enter your details at the bottom of the page for a free brochure.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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