Hawes - the perfect starting point for your visit to the Yorkshire Dales
Hawes is a perfect starting point for your exploration of the Yorkshire Dales. Hawes is full of independently-owned shops, pubs and cafes.
Dales Countryside Museum
I send many first-time visitors to the Yorkshire Dales to the Dales Countryside Museum because it’s such a great introduction and helps everyone understand and enjoy the area even more. You'll also hear many locals exclaiming, "I never knew that!"
The museum is run by the Yorkshire Dales National Park and tells the fascinating story of the Yorkshire Dales and the people who have lived and worked here, and shaped the landscape for thousands of years.
Many assume the Dales have always looked as they do today, not realising the area was once covered in trees, and then alive to the sound of mining. This is part of the story told by the museum, which is welcoming and interactive. Find out what it was like to be a lead miner, learn about the importance of the knitting industry (at one time even miners would knit as they walked to work to supplement their meagre incomes), and discover the crafts and trades carried on in Dales villages.
If you have any Dales family connections, you can arrange to find out more about your ancestors in the Research Room - call in advance for details to make sure someone will be there to help you.
After your visit, I definitely recommend the coffee and cake at Firebox Cafe next door, which is also the base for Stage 1 Cycles.
Across the parking area is Outhwaites Ropemakers, a long-established family firm and free to visit. Make sure you go and see their braiding room and the long ropewalk where the twist is put into the rope!
If you've ever driven from Aysgarth to Hawes, you'll have seen Lady Hill on the right hand side going towards Hawes. It’s a much loved Wensleydale landmark with a curious story. The distinctive round hill with a crown of trees rises from the River Ure flood plain below. The hill is really a drumlin, a perfect half-buried egg shape formed by a moving glacier. The Scots pine trees which top the hill were planted to commemorate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.
Look closer and you'll also see there's a tumbledown wall around the hill. Was this just a fanciful endeavour by a landowner to clear the surrounding land? Why did the trees need to be fenced in? According to local stories, the wall was built thanks to the Normans and the last Russian Czar...
"Curiouser and curiouser", I hear you say. And actually you'd be right - there's a rabbit connection too. We can thank the Normans for bringing rabbits to Yorkshire, where they were bred for food and fur. Silver-haired rabbits were particularly prized for their fur. It's said that local game dealer Frank Sayer-Graham (who was responsible for the building of Aysgarth Rock Garden) made a good living from breeding and selling silver-haired rabbits to line coats. He may even have supplied the last Czar of Russia with rabbit furs.
The rabbits were bred and kept within a walled warren at the top of Lady Hill. The high wall prevented wild rabbits from interbreeding with the silver-haired ones and it was easier to catch rabbits from within a relatively small walled enclosure. The furs were probably carried off to eager buyers via the nearby Wensleydale Railway.
Whether you're looking for outdoor gear to protect you from the elements, artworks, antiques or a special gift, you're most likely to find it in Hawes.
Look out for Stacey Moore Art, the Old Grammar School Gallery, the Mulberry Bush, Sturman’s Antiques and Cellar Antiques. On market days the Hawes auction mart offers an insight into Dales farming life – if you can manage to understand a word the auctioneer shouts!
The Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes is a popular destination for many visitors and the ideal place to learn about the art of cheese making. Wensleydale cheese has been made for centuries, but is now most associated with Wensleydale Creamery, which sources milk from more than 40 local farms, and exports across the globe.
If you visit the Creamery you can often see cheese and butter being made, as well as taste it in an imaginative selection of dishes in the cafe. There’s plenty to keep children occupied, including 'driving' a mini milk tanker and clips of Wallace & Gromit films.
While you’re in Hawes, pop into Elijah Allen's excellent grocery shop and make sure you buy some cheese made by the other cheese-maker in town, Iona at Ribblesdale Cheese.
You might like these other Yorkshire Dales cheesemakers too.
Places to explore from Hawes
Many visitors enjoy a trip from Hawes over the stunning Buttertubs Pass towards Swaledale, visiting Thwaite, Keld, Muker and Reeth.
The road in the opposite direction will take you towards Sedbergh through stunning countryside. You could also follow the Red Squirrel Trail through the woods at Snaizeholme.