The Bull Inn, West Tanfield
The village of West Tanfield stands on the banks of the Ure, where the fells and moors of Wensleydale soften to the undulations of the Vale of Mowbray. The Bull Inn was a ferryman’s cottage before the bridge was built in 1734, and boasts one of the finest riverside beer gardens in Yorkshire, with wonderful views of the stone arches spanning the gently flowing river. Just upstream is Marmion Tower, the 15th-century gatehouse to a long-vanished fortified manor. The picture-perfect scene was sketched by JMW Turner in 1816. Cask ales include Theakston’s and Black Sheep; the local brews are from Masham, three miles upstream.
Cover Bridge Inn, East Witton
This 17th-century inn stands right beside the historic bridge across the Cover, near its confluence with the Ure in lower Wensleydale. There has been a river crossing here since perhaps Roman times. At one time, the main stagecoach route from London to Richmond, North Yorkshire came this way, as did drovers’ roads across the dales and hills. This traditional pub continues to thrive and oozes character, with an inglenook fireplace, beamed ceilings and wooden settles; it is famed for its ham and eggs, and generous portions. Outside, the attractive beer garden leads to the banks of the Cover, said to be the haunt of a “kelpie”: from the turbulent waters this horse-like creature from Celtic folklore lures the unwary into riding on its back, only to disappear beneath the waters with its victim.
Aysgarth Falls Hotel, Leyburn
This historic pub was once known as the Palmer Flatt Hotel, as it stands on the site of a medieval hospice for pilgrims returning from the Holy Land: they would bring back palm leaves folded into a cross, so became known as palmers. The present building dates from the 18th century and is in a magnificent spot just above Aysgarth Falls, a triple flight of waterfalls where the Ure cascades over limestone ledges among ancient woodland. The hotel is renowned for its food, and its large rear terrace affords beautiful views across the sweep of Wensleydale towards the Carperby Moor.
Open Fri–Sun until 17 May, aysgarthfallshotel.com
Lister Arms, Malham
Dating from 1723, this old coaching inn overlooks the green in the centre of Malham. The scenery around Malham is some of the best in England, with magnificent glaciokarst landscapes including Malham Cove, Gordale Scar and Watlowes dry valley – a glorious day’s hiking. The Lister Arms serves pub classics done well – a favourite is beer-battered fish, homemade chips and mushy peas, large portion of course. It has been awarded an AA Rosette for its food and there’s a great selection of hand-pulled Thwaites beer on tap. The front of the pub is a sun-trap, where you can watch quacking ducks from nearby Malham Beck and the occasional tractor. There’s a sheltered terrace at the rear.
Craven Arms, Appletreewick
The Craven Arms dates from the 16th century, when the original farmhouse evolved into an alehouse. Inside, there are several small rooms, stone-flagged floors, gas lighting, a wonderful cast-iron range and great local ales, including Hetton Pale from Dark Horse Brewery (Hetton is just down the road) and Theakston’s Old Peculier, drawn from a wooden cask. The food is top notch, too. At the rear of the pub is a heather-thatched cruck-framed barn, which was built in 2006 but looks several hundred years old; only a handful of buildings are still thatched with heather in the Yorkshire Dales. The terraced beer garden to the side affords views across Wharfedale towards the dark gritstone crags of Simon’s Seat. The Craven Arms is named after local lad William Craven, Yorkshire’s own Dick Whittington, who travelled to London in the 16th century, made his fortune and eventually became Lord Mayor of London.
Red Lion, Burnsall
Burnsall sits on the western bank of the Wharfe, whose waters sweep in a sinuous loop beneath the brooding, dark crags of Burnsall fell; “wharfe” means “winding river” in Old Norse. The graceful, five-arch stone bridge across the river dates from 1609, paid for by local man Sir William Craven (see the Craven Arms, Appletreewick). The Red Lion stands right next to this bridge, dating from at least the 16th century, when it was a ferryman’s inn. Today it’s a pub of great character and charm, and its riverside terrace offers views across Wharfedale – of the river, green fields and heather-clad fells. There are easy walks along the river to Grassington or Appletreewick, or you can just relax on the terrace and listen to the oystercatchers _ unusually, they breed inland around here – flying across the pastures while you enjoy a pint of Wharfedale Brewery Blonde, brewed at Ilkley, down the dale.
Falcon Inn, Arncliffe
A pub of immense character, with an unaltered interior and beer still poured from a jug, the Falcon Inn is in a corner of Arncliffe’s large village green. It was used as the original Woolpack of TV’s Emmerdale Farm in the early 1970s; indeed, Arncliffe is one of the four settlements forming Littondale, which used to be called Amerdale. The crowning glory of this pub is its setting, in the deep, glaciated valley of Littondale, with steep slopes sweeping up to moorland heights, framed by limestone crags. Sit on a bench outside the pub overlooking – or on – the green with your pint of Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker and listen to the distinctive call of lapwings and curlews. This is a quiet and beautiful corner of the Dales.
Fountaine Inn, Linton in Craven
Linton Beck flows through the village of Linton, with an impressive choice of crossings – road bridge, packhorse bridge, clapper bridge, ford and stepping stones. Stone cottages looking across the large green include the whitewashed Fountaine Inn, named after local man Richard Fountaine, who made his fortune in London and left money in 1721 for almshouses to be built. The result was Fountaine Hospital, an imposing classical-style building that still provides accommodation for six people of the parish. There are eight benches at the front of the pub. The Fountaine is renowned for its food – try the “3 Nibbles for £12”, such as roasted cauliflower cheese croquettes, halloumi fries, marinated anchovy bruschetta or beer-battered onion rings.
George & Dragon, Hudswell
The George & Dragon became Yorkshire’s first community-owned pub when it was rescued from closure in 2010, and has gone from strength to strength, adding a community shop, library, allotments and beehives. It has won many Camra awards, including National Pub of the Year 2016, and the current licensees are in the process of moving their microbrewery from Reeth to the farm building next door. Homemade pies are topped with shortcrust pastry and served with gravy, chips or mash, and mushy peas or red cabbage. The crowning glory of the George & Dragon is its large, terraced beer garden, offering panoramic views across wooded Swaledale. There’s a quoits pitch in the beer garden, too.
Black Swan Hotel, Ravenstonedale
The boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales national park reach far to the west, into what was the historic county of Westmorland, now part of Cumbria, to the hauntingly beautiful Howgill Fells. Ravenstonedale lies on the northern foothills of this compact range of rolling hills, and it’s a lovely village of stone cottages, two great pubs and the remains of a Gilbertine priory in the churchyard. The Black Swan has won many awards, including AA Pub of the Year, and boasts two AA Rosettes for its food (mains include onion and mushroom tart with asparagus, blue cheese and poached egg; or whole roasted mackerel with lentil dal, pickled carrot, cucumber and dill raita). Outside, there’s a sheltered courtyard for outdoor dining or a delightful beer garden for drinks beside Scandal Beck, complete with free-range hens.
The Bull Inn, Craven Arms, Cover Bridge Inn, Lister Arms, Black Swan and Red Lion all have covered areas outside.