Leyburn - the Yorkshire Dales' most suprising market town?
Is Leyburn Yorkshire's most surprising market town? So much of it is hidden, many miss its most special gems. Many visitors arrive in the market place and assume Leyburn simply consists of that one area. The reality is that many of its charms are behind the buildings you first see. There is parking behind the market place near the Auction Mart. For a real sense of arrival, why not take a trip on the Wensleydale Railway?
Start with the market place and you'll find some unexpected delights. Few shops can boast such fine views as those from the top floor of Milners of Leyburn. The amazing hardware and cookware selection of the Aladdin's cave For House & Home has to be seen to be believed. You'd never guess from the unassuming entrance of Campbell's that this is not just a shop - it's an emporium, attracting gourmets and fine wine enthusiasts from far afield.
Wander just off the market place and you'll discover Emma Sedman Jewellery, the Little Alf Shop, and other interesting and quirky shops, with a really good selection of pubs and cafes. The Auction Mart is an experience in itself! Tucked away round the corner is the Old School House which has a regular programme of events and film screenings.
At the top of the market place you’ll spot a sign for the Shawl. It's an odd name so you'd be forgiven for not following its direction but then you'll miss out on some really fine views, a good walk, a fantastic playground and a great story.
The Shawl is a limestone outcrop above Leyburn from which you can enjoy panoramic views of Wensleydale and Penhill. You can follow the Shawl to Preston under Scar and eventually on to Castle Bolton. If the day is clear but the rain has fallen you may even hear the roar of of Aysgarth Falls.
So what is the "Shawl"? There are those who insist it's an old word that means a shady hill and woodland. Ask a local and you're likely to be told it relates to around 1568 when Mary Queen of Scots was imprisoned at Bolton Castle and lost her shawl. OK, so it's not the most exciting or complex story but it's the only one I can tell you about the Shawl.
You might wonder how a queen came to be wandering about in Wensleydale. She didn't exactly live a simple life in the castle - apparently she had about 50 knights and ladies-in-waiting looking after her and cooks, hairdressers, apothecary and embroiderer (maybe they made the shawl?). Sometimes she was allowed to go out hunting and one day she managed to make a bid for freedom, but as she dashed through the undergrowth her shawl was caught on a bush and she was soon caught.
Whatever the story, the Shawl is a great place to walk, possibly fortified with goodies from Campbells...
A very short drive out of Leyburn will take you to Tennants. Ask most people to think of names of fine art auctioneers and they'll probably think of places like Sotheby's, not realising that Tennants is actually the UK's largest family-owned fine art auctioneers. It's now grown to occupy a substantial new building. There's drama and treasure within those unassuming walls, as Tennants is an auctioneers with 26 specialist departments!
You might expect such a company to be a little snooty and only welcoming to those bearing bags of cash. That's definitely not the case. Four generations have managed Tennants and it still has a very friendly family ethos and approach. They know that 'where there's muck, there's brass' and their customers are not just well-healed, well-dressed Londoners. One of their biggest sales was of a Chinese bottle vase which sold for £2.6 million - it was discovered by Rodney Tennant during what he expected would be a routine house call.
You can enjoy a visit to Tennants regardless of whether you have any family heirlooms to sell. Their new building feels very open, modern and welcoming, not at all a snooty, dusty traditional type of place. On the ground floor by the entrance there's a spacious cafe and restaurant, open to the public and popular with family visitors at the weekend. In the public area there's a small shop and a display area on two floors with a changing programme of exhibitions which is free to visit and open seven days a week.
There's an extensive programme of auction sales, including country house sales, art and antiques, cars, scientific instruments, toys and models, books and modern art. You can usually visit to see everything on a viewing day just before each sale - or go along to a sale to enjoy the atmosphere. You never know what you might find to buy!
Other places near to Leyburn
Nearby is Inspired Chocolate where you can see chocolates being made (the chocolate shoes and pizzas are popular!) and take part in chocolate-making workshops from time to time. Not far away is Constable Burton Hall, famous for its annual Tulip Festival.