There is something alluring and awe-inspiring about watching waterfalls as they trickle, tumble and crash over cliffs and through gorges, and the Yorkshire Dales have some of England's finest examples.
We travelled its hills and valleys to find five of the most magnificent...
One of the Dales' best-loved beauty attractions are the falls at Aysgarth in Wensleydale, which stretch out for almost a mile along the river Ure. Water rushes over broad, limestone steps banked by woods and farmland. It's possible to walk alongside the succession of tiered falls and to muse on their majesty, following in the footsteps of celebrated writer and artists Wordsworth, Ruskin and Turner. Film buffs will recognise the upper falls as the setting for Kevin Costner's famous fight scene in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves where he gets very wet whilst trying to assert his authority over Little John. Experienced and thrill-seeking kayak enthusiasts are drawn here when the river is high for a white-knuckle, white-water challenge...not one to try at home! And, back on dry land, the nearby and grade II listed St. Andrews church is notable for holding a medieval painted screen rescued from Jervaulx Abbey at the time of the Dissolution of the Monasteries.
Situated along an ancient geological fault line and close to the village of Malham, the spectacular Gordale Scar is a massive limestone gorge more than 300ft deep. Around 15-16 million years old, the Scar and its waterfall are particularly exciting after heavy rain. You'll need to watch your step when clambering up the canyon to enjoy the stunning sight of Gordale Beck careering through the chasm with great and dramatic force. So impressed was poet William Wordsworth when he visited that he wrote a sonnet celebrating the ravine's jaw-dropping grandeur, "Let thy feet repair/ To Gordale chasm/terrific as the lair/Where the young lions couch."
Outdoor brass bands, prehistoric footprints, entry through a 13th century coaching inn and the highest single drop waterfall in England...this place must be worth exploring! Hardraw Force itself is a dazzlingly dramatic and deafening drop, a sheet of white water plummeting almost 100ft to join the river Ure below. Entered through the bar of the Green Dragon Inn, which overlooks upper Wensleydale in the charming village of Hardraw, it's a short stroll to the fall. If you happen to be in the area on the second Sunday of September, the world famous Hardraw Scar Brass Band Festival (Britain's second oldest outdoor contest) is held here annually and first took place in the natural amphitheatre at the base of the fall in 1884. A fossilised footprint of revolutionary Megapezia – the first fish to walk out of water – was also found here and is now housed in the Natural History Museum. Hardraw's five minutes of Hollywood fame came when Robin Hood skipped up from Aysgarth to bare all for Maid Marian by bathing in its chilly beauty. We can't promise Kevin Costner, but the water alone is winsome enough.
An enticingly tranquil, woodland glen surrounds Posforth Gill, a fabulous waterfall where the clear moorland waters from Barden Fell rush in a multitude of falls toward the River Wharfe, and Lower Wharfedale. The Gill can be found in the eerily-named Valley of Desolation, which gained its dreary moniker after the great storm of 1826 devastated the woodland in the valley. More recently thousands of trees have been planted and visitors can now learn about the natural evolution of the habitats it is thought may have developed here since the end of the last ice age. An invigorating hike begins at the imposing ruins of Bolton Abbey, winds through the Valley of Desolation, past Posforth Gill and climbs out on to the moor top and Simon's Seat. Return to the priory to take tea and check out the river Wharfe's own striking water feature, The Strid.
A trip to Thornton Force feels like a 'buy one, get four free' kind of affair as the Ingleton Waterfalls Trail boasts no less than five impressive falls. The four mile circular walk follows the wistfully named rivers Twiss and Doe, taking in Pecca Falls, Beezley Falls, Rival Falls and Snow Falls. Thornton Force itself is the main draw, delighting visitors with a 45ft cascade over a limestone cliff 300 million years old. It's a superb spot for a picnic, and a chance to awaken your inner Turner – the great man sketched here in 1816. At Rival Falls, the river drops into an exquisite pool, intriguingly named the ‘Black Hole' and reputed to be more than 80ft deep. As you ramble through the Thornton and Twistleton Glens SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) keep an eye out for their fascinating geological features and the rare trees, plants and birds they support. Search for the unique Yorkshire feather moss and Long-leaved flapwort, or look for more crowd-pleasing performances from leaping brown trout, and dippers bobbing along the water's edge.