The Buttertubs Pass is one of the most scenic roads to explore in England. Located between Hawes and Thwaite in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the road extraordinarily weaves and undulates through an impressive limestone landscape.
In this guide, we’ll cover the eight best things to do when exploring Buttertubs Pass. Whether it’s driving, cycling or walking Buttertubs Pass, we’ll tell you everything you need to know about visiting this immense road in the northwest of England.
Table of Contents
What Is Buttertubs Pass?
Buttertubs Pass is the name given to Cliff Gate Road (B6270 road), which connects the dales of Wensleydale and Swaledale in the Yorkshire Dales. The road is 8.8km (5.5 miles) long stretching from the hamlet of Hardraw (just north of Hawes) to the village of Thwaite. Along the road, you’ll find the mind-blowing Buttertubs, which are a group of deep limestone potholes with unique vertical shafts. Indeed, the road is named after this limestone attraction.
There are various theories about the name Buttertubs. But, the most popular theory is that farmers used the cool depths of the potholes to store their butter. Using the Buttertubs in this way, meant they didn’t have to haul heavy loads of butter down from the road to their farms in and around Thwaite, only having to clamber back up the road with it the next time they had to go to sell the butter at the markets in Hawes.
Given its uniqueness, the Buttertubs are actually part of the Cliff Force Cave geological Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Buttertubs Pass is also well-known as the second King of the Mountains climb of the Grand Depart of the 2014 Tour de France. On top of that, the famous English broadcaster Jeremey Clarkson described the pass as ”England’s only truly spectacular road”. So, part of the road’s fame is owing to Mr. Clarkson!
Sure, there are many awe-inspiring high roads and passes in the Yorkshire Dales. But, the Buttertubs Pass has to be the most scenic country road in the area.
Before we look at the best things to do whilst exploring Buttertubs Pass, let’s look at exactly where it’s located.
Where Is Buttertubs Pass?
Buttertubs Pass is a road that stretches between Wensleydale and Swaledale in North Yorkshire. Below, we’ll look at a map of the road so you can get your bearings.
DJI Air 2S
Buttertubs Pass Map
Here is a map of the Buttertubs Pass. Please click on the image below to access an interactive map of the road on Google Maps. Please read How to Get to Buttertubs Pass for more information on getting there.
Buttertubs Pass Highlights: Top 8 Things to Do
There are many incredible things to do while exploring Buttertubs Pass. Let’s look at the eight best things to do during a visit to the epic high pass.
1. Drive England’s Most Spectacular Road
Undoubtedly, Buttertubs Pass provides one of the most scenic drives in England. Simply, take your time and enjoy the scenery during a relaxing drive. You’ll enjoy far-reaching views of windswept high moorlands and vast valleys full of cascading streams. Indeed, the scenery on offer is so wonderful, that you may just stay in the car for the entire drive without getting out to stop at any attractions!
2. Cycle a Tour de France Stage
Buttertubs Pass cycling is also a popular option. As mentioned, the high pass was used as a stage for the Tour de France in 2014. Whether you start your cycle in Hardraw or Thwaite, you’ll start with a steep climb, with extended sections beyond a 10% gradient. Either way, you’ll eventually reach the road’s summit with much relief as you cycle around the top of the moorlands. Inevitably, in either direction, you’ll also enjoy a more relaxing downhill stretch.
3. Do the Buttertubs Pass Walk
Yes, people decide to walk the Buttertubs Pass instead of driving or cycling it. When Beck and I drove the stunning high pass, we were surprised to see a few groups of people exploring the road on foot. Sure, we are walking enthusiasts. But, we’re not a huge fan of road walking, however beautiful the scenery is from the road. So, no, we don’t recommend walking the Buttertubs Pass. But, it’s an option!
4. Explore the Buttertubs
Whether you drive, cycle or walk the Buttertubs Pass, you’ll have to stop at the road’s main attraction – the Buttertubs. It’s found near the summit of the road, where you’ll find a layby with enough space for two vehicles.
The mindblowing potholes are approx. 24 metres high. Next to the layby, you’ll find the attraction is fenced off and there is also an information board there. If you cross the road, you’ll find a section of the Buttertubs that is free to explore. Of course, be careful as you near the edges of the limestone structures, especially after rain when it’s slippery.
5. Visit Waterfalls, Streams, Caves and Potholes
There are numerous unnamed waterfalls, cascades and streams dotted along the road. Other than the Buttertubs, there are many other smaller potholes and caves found in this area of the moors too. That’s because it’s an area rich in limestone. Of course, feel free to explore as many of these cascades, potholes and caves as you like.
With enough rainfall, a temporary waterfall is actually formed at the Buttertubs Pass. Unofficially, this is called the Buttertubs Waterfall.
6. Photograph the Vast Valleys
There are so many brilliant views to soak in when you’re exploring the road. In particular, the mesmerising valleys will really catch your eye. Certainly, you’ll want to pack your camera to photograph the many beautiful scenes on offer. Thankfully, there are many pull-in points where it’s safe to park and explore the land by the road.
7. Enjoy Viewpoints From a Cairn
Amongst the many viewpoints, there are some more official vantage points and lookouts. Make sure to pull over and admire the views from the various lookouts. Some of them have wooden benches and some are marked by cairns.
Certainly, one of the best viewpoints is located near Thwaite (map here). From a cairn and seat, you can admire the northern end of the road as it descends down into the valley towards Thwaite and Muker. At this lookout, you’ll find an information board, that tells you about the Banty Barn, located a little up the road from the viewpoint.
8. Relax at a Cafe or Pub
Given that Buttertubs Pass traverses over wild moorlands, don’t expect to find any cafes or pubs along the route. But, of course, you can easily stop at a cafe or pub before or after exploring the road.
You could stop at a cafe or pub at either Hawes or Hardraw near the southern end or at Thwaite or Muker near the northern end of the road. Personally, Beck and I stopped at a cafe and a pub in Hawes before exploring the high road.
Places to Visit Near Buttertubs Pass
There are so many incredible attractions to see near Buttertubs Pass. Of course, driving along the scenic road might just form part of your itinerary. Below, we’ve listed the places to visit near the high pass.
- Hawes: explore the charming town, walk to Aysgill Force, learn about the area at the Dales Countryside Museum or eat cheese at the Wensleydale Creamery Visitor Centre.
- Hardraw: see some of the best waterfalls in the Dales – Hardraw Force and Cotter Force.
- Muker: walk to the Muker Meadows, Swinner Gill and Crackpot Hall.
- Keld: chase more waterfalls such as Kisdon Force, found along the Keld Waterfalls Walk.
How to Get to Buttertubs Pass
Personally, Beck and I drove Buttertubs Pass and so, we highly recommend exploring the road this way. This means having access to a vehicle and driving there yourself. If you don’t have your own set of wheels, then we recommend hiring a car using DiscoverCars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Discover Cars for very reasonable prices. Also, the website is user-friendly and booking online is super easy. Have a look at car hire from Manchester.
If you don’t have your own car, you should hire one using Discover Cars. Personally, we use Discover Cars and highly recommend them for finding your ideal car hire at an affordable price. Booking online is super easy and the free cancellation policy is great.
In terms of directions, just so you know, there isn’t a Buttertubs Pass postcode as such, as the road stretches over multiple postcodes. Essentially, there isn’t an official start or end point – you can travel Buttertubs Pass in either direction.
Accommodation Near the Buttertubs Pass
The largest village near Buttertubs Pass with the most accommodation options is Hawes. The village has plenty of excellent accommodation options. Below, we’ve handpicked the best budget, mid-range and luxury accommodation options in Hawes.
Budget Hawes Accommodation
- YHA Hawes: by far, the most budget-friendly accommodation in Hawes is the YHA Hawes. If you’re on a budget, you’ll want to book an affordable shared dorm at YHA Hawes.
- The Fountain Hotel: if you’re on a budget but want a private room, you’ll find The Fountain Hotel is the most affordable hotel in Hawes.
Mid-Range Hawes Accommodation
- Cocketts Hotel: this is one of the best value-for-money hotels in Hawes. Indeed, Cocketts Hotel is one of the most popular places to stay in the area because of this.
- The White Hart Inn: the well-known country inn is another popular place to stay in Hawes. It’s located right in the heart of town and features superb decor.
Luxury Hawes Accommodation
- Simonstone Hall Hotel: the highly-rated four-star hotel was formerly a shooting lodge and is located just on the outskirts of Hawes. Because of the slightly removed location, you’ll enjoy a quiet and remote ambience in the Dales countryside.
- Stone House Hotel: this four-star hotel is a classic Edwardian country house that was built in 1908. Similar to Simonstone Hall Hotel, Stone House Hotel is located just outside of the village, so it enjoys a superb peaceful setting.
Tan Hill Inn
Of course, you could stay at the famous Tan Hill Inn, which is located just north of the Buttertubs Pass. The Tan Hill Inn is famous for being the highest pub in Britain. Certainly, the Tan Hill Inn is a well-known attraction and a must-see place to visit, even if you don’t plan on staying the night.
If you do plan on staying at the Tan Hill Inn, it’s worth knowing the inn offers a variety of accommodation options. This includes dormitory rooms, double rooms, family rooms and even glamping pods. Also, the country inn has an exceptional bar and restaurant with a number of beers on tap and delicious meals aplenty.
What to Bring
These are our gear essentials for exploring Buttertubs Pass.
Osprey Skarab 30
The Osprey Skarab 30 is our go-to hiking backpack for day hikes. This well-designed unisex backpack is comfortable and spacious, so you’ll have plenty of space to pack everything without feeling the strain on your upper back.
Osprey Ultralight Raincover
A waterproof backpack cover is an absolute must when you’re adventuring outdoors. The Osprey Ultralight Raincover Medium is a high-quality waterproof cover that’ll keep your backpack bone dry.
GRAYL Reusable Water Bottle
The GRAYL GeoPress is the best water filter bottle that allows you to purify 710mL (12 ounces) of water. This bottle will make water safe to drink wherever you’re hiking.
BUFF Original Ecostretch
The BUFF Original Ecostretch is a great option when it comes to multifunctional headwear. We use the Ecostretch as a neck gaiter to keep the sun off our necks and it helps us keep warm in cooler climates.
To find out more about all of the gear that we use and recommend, read our guides about our favourite hiking gear, travel gear and camera gear. Otherwise, read our comprehensive travel packing checklist.
FAQs About Buttertubs Pass
Below, you’ll find the most frequently asked questions about Buttertubs Pass.
Why Is it Called the Buttertubs Pass?
The pass is named after the limestone landform found along the road called the Buttertubs – it’s called the Buttertubs as it’s where farmers used to store butter.
Can You Drive on Buttertubs Pass?
Yes, driving along the pass is one of the best ways to enjoy it.
Where to Start and Finish the Buttertubs Pass?
There is no official start or end point for the pass – it simply stretches from Hardraw (north of Hawes) to Thwaite.
How Were the Buttertubs Formed?
Over time, rainwater seeped into natural cracks (faults and joints) in the limestone, creating the vertical shafts (potholes) that we see today.
How Hard Is Buttertubs Pass For Cycling?
With extended periods of above 10% gradient, the cycle is considered fairly challenging.
Is the Buttertubs Pass Dangerous?
By and large, the pass is very safe for drivers, cyclists and walkers. But, sadly, Buttertubs Pass deaths have been reported. In 2020, it was reported that a farmer took his life by driving off the road. Additionally, a cyclist died on the road after falling in 2016.
What to Look Out For on the Road?
Large numbers of sheep and cattle can wander onto the road. Whilst, there are also several cattle grids, to avoid any problems, keep an eye out for animals and drive slowly over cattle grids. Also, the road quality isn’t perfect, so keep an eye out for potholes.
Is Visiting Buttertubs Pass Worth It?
Yes, it’s one of the most stunning roads to explore in England. Certainly, during one of your trips to the Yorkshire Dales, make sure to drive along this beautiful country road.
Other Yorkshire Dales Guides
Best Villages to See in the Yorkshire Dales
- Grassington: Everything You Need to Know About Grassington
- Hawes: The 16 Best Things To Do In Hawes
- Ingleton: 10 Awesome Things To Do In Ingleton
- Masham: Everything You Need to Know About Masham
- Buckden: The 5 Best Things To Do In Buckden, Yorkshire
- Keld: The 5 Best Things To Do in Keld, North Yorkshire
- Clapham: The Top 13 Things To Do During A Visit to Clapham, Yorkshire
- Ribblehead: 15 Awesome Things To Do In Ribblehead
Bonus Tips About the Buttertubs Pass
- Other scenic roads in the northwest of England: drive through the scenic Trough of Bowland.
- Take care during wet weather: drive slower and more cautiously when it’s raining as the road is slippery.
- Explore other nearby national parks: don’t just stop at the Yorkshire Dales. Head to the beautiful Lake District (guides coming soon), Peak District, Forest of Bowland and North York Moors National Park.
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