The Buttertubs Pass is one of the Yorkshire Dales' most iconic roads: twisting, turning, rising and suddenly dipping for just over 5 miles between Hawes and Thwaite. It's not a long journey but is one you want take slowly, so you can enjoy the views, and of course avoid ending up in one of the steep valleys below.
Jeremy Clarkson declared it, "England’s only truly spectacular road”. The lure of the Buttertubs Pass is so strong, that you may well take a diversion to get home to experience the wonderful combination of the open vistas of the Buttertubs, followed by the gentler route by the River Swale through beautiful Muker, Gunnerside and then Reeth.
The Buttertubs are best experienced on a sunny or clear day so you can view the surrounding scenery in all its majesty but even on a windswept misty day there's something very special about this route.
There are plenty of places to stop and pull off the road so you can enjoy the limestone upland, and views of Lovely Seat and Great Shunner Fell. At its highest point it's 1,726 feet above sea level. There's a seat by the road just before the switch-backs that take you down from Wensleydale into Swaledale - a lovely spot to watch the curlews and marvel at the Swaledale hay meadows far below.
The Buttertubs Pass is named after the 66 feet-deep limestone potholes, the 'butter tubs', which you can see just off the road. The story goes that these curious rock structures were once used by farmers, who lowered baskets of butter into them to keep it cool on their way to market in Hawes. Some visitors see them, think they're odd and wonder what the fuss about the Buttertubs is all about. And then they do the drive, and it all becomes clear...