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Things to look out for in the Yorkshire Dales

Family walking through the limestone country in the Yorkshire Dales. The children are climbing on rocks.
Walking through limestone country | © National Trust Images/Paul Harris

The Yorkshire Dales are a great place to relax and explore the outdoors. Discover rolling countryside with steep-sided valleys, vast heather-covered moorland hilltops and a patchwork of dry stone walls and barns.

Upper Wharfedale

As well as traditional hardy breeds of sheep and cattle roaming the pastures, this diverse landscape also offers a home to many plants and animals.

There’s still plenty to see in the winter months. The trees have dropped their leaves and look a little bare, but this just makes the birds easier to see. We have some resident birds all year round like blackbirds, blue tits and greater spotted woodpecker, as well as winter visitors like fieldfare that flock in large numbers, and waxwings feeding on the red hawthorn berries along hedgerows. In the riverside fields you'll see black headed gulls.

Along the banks of the River Wharfe, as you walk the Dales Way, you may find otter footprints. These nocturnal creatures will be hidden away in a holt (den) through the day.

Buckden Pike covered in snow in Upper Wharfedale
Buckden Pike in winter | © National Trust Images/Peter Katic

Hudswell Woods

Close to the historical market town of Richmond and with the River Swale rushing alongside, you will find picturesque scenery with hints of a varied history.

There's no denying it, winter can be cold and damp at Hudswell Woods, and you often need wellies to get around. But if you make the effort to visit there's always plenty of nature to enjoy. Flocks of small birds move through the woodlands searching for food, the "weep, weep" call of the nuthatch reminds us that spring is not far away. Roe deer are often visible browsing in the daytime, the white flash of their tail giving away their location. On the grassland you may enjoy a splash of winter sunshine sparkling on the frost etched gorse. And, whatever the temperature, dippers are often busy on the river, swimming and submerging for food before returning to a favourite rock.

Frosty leaves in Winter time.
Frosty leaves in Winter time. | © National Trust Images/Emma Weston

Malham Tarn

The boardwalk at Malham Tarn weaves its way through the National Nature Reserve, a unique and special place with interesting wildlife. Pause on this easy stroll to appreciate the quiet, listen for the songs of our feathered friends or the plop of a water vole jumping into a stream. You might even spot the Exmoor ponies grazing in the distance.

The waterfall at Janet’s Foss is a magical place to visit, and legend has it that Janet (or Jennet) the fairy queen lives in the cave behind the waterfall, or foss.

The limestone pavement above Malham Cove is well worth the climb up over 300 stone steps. On top you’ll be rewarded with panoramic views but also the unusual jigsaw of clints (blocks of stone) and grykes (the gaps) and the ferns and flowers living in this distinct habitat.

Dark skies

On a clear night the big, open skies of the Yorkshire Dales let you see thousands of sparkling stars. With very little local light pollution Malham Moor and Upper Wharfedale are fantastic places to visit for a stargazing adventure.

Birds and bird watching

Cowside looking north to Darnbrook Fell. Drystone walls run across the valley dividing up the fields
Cowside looking north to Darnbrook Fell | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish


Fell tops in the Dales generally don't have a lot of trees and are usually either grazed rough pasture, blanket bog or heather moorland. These habitats can be very quiet for birds with meadow pipit being the most frequent sighting. The mournful call of golden plover is certainly a possibility and on Darnbrook Fell red grouse are often found in reasonable numbers. Moorland like this can also support merlin and short-eared owl.

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Two walkers on a bridge crossing the River Wharfe at Yockenthwaite

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