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Nidderdale AONB Visitor’s Guide: 20 Awesome Things to Do

Nidderdale AONB Visitor’s Guide: 20 Awesome Things to Do

The Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is one of the most underrated yet breathtaking Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty in England. In this guide, we’re going to tell you about all of the best things to do in Nidderdale. We’ll also cover some practical tips such as how to get there and where to stay to help you plan your trip to this stunning part of northern England.

About Nidderdale AONB

The Nidderdale AONB forms the southeastern part of the Yorkshire Dales. Yet, it technically doesn’t fall within the parameters of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. When national park borders were drawn up in 1954, Nidderdale wasn’t included in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The people making these calls believed Nidderdale should have its own conservation status. It wasn’t until 1994, that Nidderdale was formally designated the status of an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the UK.

Ipso facto, the Nidderdale AONB shares a border with the Yorkshire Dales National Park immediately to the west. The Nidderdale area covers a captivating 233 square miles (603 km2). While the area is home to only one town – Pateley Bridge.

So, why should you visit the Nidderdale AONB when the glorious Yorkshire Dales National Park is right next door?

Dan at Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale AONB
Brimham Rocks

Best Accommodation in Pateley Bridge

Why Visit Nidderdale AONB?

The Nidderdale AONB offers a more untouched and less commercialised experience compared with the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Don’t get me wrong, Beck and I love exploring the Yorkshire Dales National Park. But, Nidderdale offers a different vibe. Nidderdale’s diverse and scenic landscape is wilder with natural moorlands and secluded, pastoral dales. Certainly, Nidderdale has some of the most spectacular countryside in Yorkshire.

Other than the area’s natural beauty, it also has brilliant historical attractions and cultural sites. Indeed, the mix of fascinating human-made landscapes as well as the natural landmarks, give the area a distinct character, charm and special uniqueness. In this guide, we’ll tell you about just 20 of the natural, historical and cultural highlights of the Nidderdale AONB.

Fountains Abbey

Where Is Nidderdale AONB?

Sandwiched between Wharfedale and Harrogate, the Nidderdale AONB is found in North Yorkshire in the north of England. Nidderdale is the most easterly of the southern Yorkshire Dales and forms the eastern flanks of the Pennines.

To help you get your bearings, please click on the Nidderdale AONB map below, to access an interactive map of the area. The map also shows the exact location of the 20 best things to do in the area.

Nidderdale AONB map
Nidderdale map

20 Best Things to Do in Nidderdale AONB

Below, we’ll run through the best things to do in Nidderdale AONB. We’ll cover a range of natural attractions, cultural sites, historical places, towns and even a special event! Let’s get started by looking at the extraordinary Brimham Rocks.

1. Brimham Rocks

The Brimham Rocks is a spectacular array of gritstone rock formations near Pateley Bridge. Astonishingly, the rocks were formed over 325 million years ago. As a result of natural erosion, the rocks have assumed unique and interesting shapes. The area is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and a Geological Conservation Review (GCR) site.

There are various splendid walks that explore the Brimham Rocks. Personally, Beck and I did the Brimham Rocks and Moorland Walk. But, regardless of what route you take around the rocks, simply aimlessly walking and wandering by rocks is an incredible experience.

Read more: Brimham Rocks Walk – Everything You Need to Know

Dan at Brimham Rocks in Nidderdale AONB

2. Stump Cross Caverns

Alongside White Scar Cave and Ingleborough Cave, Stump Cross Caverns is one of the most well-known show caves in Yorkshire. Stump Cross Caverns are limestone caves that formed around 300–350,000,000 years ago during the Carboniferous Period. While the formation of mesmerising passages, caverns, stalactites and stalagmites, that you’ll see in the caves, started to take shape around 500,000 years ago.

To explore these caves, you’ll need to pay to do a self-guided tour.

Read more: Stump Cross Caverns – Is It Worth Visiting? An Honest Review

Lauren, Rachel and Beck at Stump Cross Caverns in Nidderdale AONB

3. How Stean Gorge

How Stean Gorge is a picturesque 20 metre deep limestone gorge, where you can do some of the best adventure activities in the UK. The gorge features paths, bridges, tunnels and caves, which are possible to explore by doing the How Stean Gorge Walk. Whilst, there are plenty of adventure activities to do such as caving, body rafting, canoeing, abseiling, rock climbing and high wiring (How Stean Gorge via Ferrata).

Read more: How Stean Gorge – The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide

Dan at How Stean Gorge in Nidderdale AONB

4. Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is one of the best-preserved Cistercian monastery ruins in England. It’s not only a National Trust and English Heritage site, but it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a testament to how historic and significant the site is to the UK. Certainly, it’s worth a visit.

Fountains Abbey, Nidderdale AONB

5. Studley Royal

During a trip to Fountains Abbey, you can also visit Studley Royal, which is a lovely water garden. Studley Royal features trails, pools, canals and cascades fed from the River Skell. You can also visit Studley Royal Park, which has plenty of deer as well as historical buildings.

Studley Royal Park, Nidderdale AONB

6. Swinton Estate

Swinton Estate is one of the largest privately owned estates in England. It’s been privately owned by the Cunliffe-Lister family since the 1880s. The estate is roughly 31 square miles (80 km2) and is mostly made up of forest, farmland and open moorland.

Most notably, since 2001, visitors can stay at the estate’s Swinton Park Hotel, which is the estate’s luxury castle hotel. While, for an incredible glamping experience, the estate offers the rustic Swinton Bivouac. Additionally, the estate is well-known for its Swinton Country Club and Spa and the Swinton Cookery School.

Most recently in 2019, the estate opened permissive paths in its stunning Parklands and Gardens. This meant greater access to the estate for those just visiting on a day trip.

Read more: Swinton Estate – The Ultimate Visitor’s Guide

Dan at the Swinton Estate Parklands and Gardens

Stay at Swinton Park Hotel

Swinton Park Hotel

Swinton Park Hotel is an incredible four-stay castle hotel, offering immaculate rooms and an unbelievable experience

7. Druid’s Temple

The Druid’s Temple is a well-known folly on the Swinton Estate. At first glance, the temple appears to be pre-historic, like the famous Stonehenge. But, really, the temple is nothing more than an elaborate folly!

The temple itself consists of a prominent stone circle with stone features such as cairns, chambers, obelisks, altars, menhirs, dolmens, sarsens and free-standing stones. Undoubtedly, the temple very much resembles an authentic pre-historic temple built by Druids.

Read more: Druid’s Temple – 12 Things to Know About Visiting

Druid's Temple

8. Hackfall Woods

Hackfall Woods is a captivating and unique woodland near Masham. Essentially, it’s a semi-natural woodland garden that’s owned and managed by Woodland Trust. Hackfall Woods is no regular woodland. In the 18th Century, the ancient woodland was turned into a wild romantic garden, with follies, grottos, human-made waterfalls and a fountain!

Hackfall Woods is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). So, you’ll see an abundance of birdlife and plants during a visit.

Read more: Hackfall Woods – Everything You Need to Know About Visiting

Dan at Hackfall Woods in the Nidderdale AONB

9. Nidd Falls

Nidd Falls is a lesser-known waterfall in the Yorkshire Dales. To see this hidden waterfall, you’ll need to park at Lofthouse Car Park near How Stean Gorge. From the car park, you’ll follow a short trail alongside the River Nidd to reach the small yet mesmerising waterfall.

Dan at Nidd Falls in Nidderdale AONB

10. The Coldstone’s Cut

The Coldstone’s Cut is definitely one of the most unique attractions in the Nidderdale AONB. This attraction is the largest and highest piece of public artwork in Yorkshire, which opened to the public in 2010. The Coldstone’s Cut is located between Stump Cross Caverns and Pateley Bridge.

The Coldstone's Cut

DJI Air 2S

DJI Air 2S

Capture breathtaking aerial photography and videography with the DJI Air 2S. The DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo comes with all of the necessary accessories such as the remote controller, spare batteries and battery charger.

11. Jervaulx Abbey

Although not as famous as Fountains Abbey, Jervaulx Abbey is another interesting historical site to visit in the Nidderdale AONB. It’s another fine example of intact Cistercian abbey ruins. Visiting the site, as well as parking, is donation-based, and, it’s open from dawn to dusk. Sometimes, the site is closed for private events. So, check the official website to ensure it’s open when you plan to visit.

Jervaulx Abbey

12. Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park

The Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park is an award-winning garden near Swinton Estate. There are over 80 contemporary sculptures scattered across enchanting woodland gardens. By exploring the woodland paths, you’ll find loads of rhododendrons, azaleas and magnolias, and, you’ll pass a serene lake.

Dan at the Himalayan Garden & Sculpture Park

13. Swinsty and Fewston Reservoirs

Located in the south of Nidderdale, in Washburn Valley, you’ll find two popular reservoirs – Swinsty and Fewston Reservoirs. It’s possible to do a circular walk, which involves walking around both reservoirs. Of course, you can simply walk around just one of the reservoirs for a shorter and easier walk. Whichever route you choose, you’ll enjoy a pleasant walk in quaint natural surroundings.

Read more: Swinsty Reservoir Walk – Everything You Need to Know

Read more: Fewston Reservoir Walk – The Ultimate Guide

Dan walks by Fewston Reservoir after walking by Swinsty Reservoir

14. Yorke’s Folly

When it comes to Nidderdale AONB walks, The Yorke’s Folly and Guise Cliff Walk is one of our favourites. From Pateley Bridge, you’ll explore the lesser-known Guise Cliff, before reaching Yorke’s Folly. During a section of this walk, you’ll follow along the long-distance Nidderdale Way. Perhaps, this is a good taste test for doing the full route!

Read more: Yorke’s Folly & Guise Cliff – One of the Best Walks in Pateley Bridge

15. Birchfield Ice Cream Farm

Birchfield Ice Cream Farm is yet another fantastic ice creamery in the Yorkshire Dales. Beck and I really enjoyed our visit to this ice cream farm, which is located near Pateley Bridge. This is a great place to take the kids as there are plenty of family-friendly activities on-site.

Birchfield Ice Cream Farm

16. Nidderdale Llamas

Nidderdale Llamas is actually one of the most popular places to visit in the area. At the centre, you can interact and trek with llamas! Personally, after seeing plenty of llamas in Peru, Beck and I skipped this attraction. But, if you don’t plan on heading to South America any time soon, then by all means, head to Nidderdale Llamas.

17. Nidderdale Museum

Located in Pateley Bridge, the Nidderdale Museum is a great place to visit to learn more about the history of the area. At the museum, you’ll find around 11 rooms, detailing local and social history, which especially show the importance of rural life to the area.

18. Nidderdale Show

The Nidderdale Show is an annual event held at Bewerley Park in Pateley Bridge. It’s one of England’s best agricultural events, attracting around 15,000 visitors every year. During a visit to the show, you’ll enjoy an excellent display of livestock, produce and crafts from the local area.

19. Pateley Bridge

As mentioned, Pateley Bridge is the only town located in the Nidderdale AONB. It’s a historic and gorgeous town that’s certainly worth visiting. There are plenty of wonderful places to eat and drink and there are also great places to stay if you want to base yourself there during your trip to Nidderdale.

Pateley Bridge

20. Masham

Masham (pronounced Massam) is a charming market town on the River Ure, which is known as the North Yorkshire gateway to the Yorkshire Dales. The town is actually located on the north-eastern edge of the Nidderdale AONB.

Without a doubt, Masham is a place that leaves a strong impression as it’s bustling with character. The marketplace is one of the biggest in England. Lined by quaint Georgian houses, the cobble-stoned square exudes a delightfully historic vibe. The town is also an artistic and cultural hub of Yorkshire. Indeed, it’s a hive of artists and craftspeople while it’s known as the home of Yorkshire brewing.

Beck and I have visited Masham on countless occasions and we’ve loved every single visit. Certainly, Masham is another great base to explore the Nidderdale AONB.

Read more: Masham Pubs Guide – 6 Awesome Pubs in Masham, Yorkshire

Read more: Masham Visitor’s Guide – Everything You Need to Know

Beck in Masham

Places to Stay in Nidderdale AONB

There are many different accommodation options to choose from in the Nidderdale AONB. To keep things simple, we’re going to narrow the accommodation options to properties in the two biggest towns in the area – Pateley Bridge and Masham. With this in mind, let’s go through the best accommodation options in both of these places.

Accommodation in Pateley Bridge

Pateley Bridge has some magnificent hotels and B&Bs. Admittedly, you won’t find much in the way of budget accommodation. But, there are plenty of lovely mid-range options in the area.

The Willow Bed and Breakfast

The Willow Bed and Breakfast

The Willow Bed and Breakfast is one of the most highly-rated accommodation options in the area. Most people rave about the central location and on-site restaurant.

Crown Hotel

Crown Hotel

Crown Hotel is a conveniently located hotel in the heart of Pateley Bridge. The hotel has lovely spacious rooms and there’s a highly-rated restaurant on-site.

Harefield Hall

Harefield Hall

It’s no coincidence that Harefield Hall is the most popular Pateley Bridge hotel to stay at. This stylish adults-only four-star country guest house is located just outside of town and is surrounded by lovely gardens.

Accommodation in Masham

There are also plenty of excellent accommodation options in Masham. Admittedly, most people staying in Masham stay at one of the four pubs as they all offer cosy and comfortable rooms. Otherwise, Masham has its fair share of lovely cottages and B&Bs.

Although the Kings Head Hotel is the most popular pub accommodation option, it’s fair to say that all of the Masham pubs offer a terrific stay. For your convenience, we’ve listed all of the four Masham pubs below, which all offer outstanding accommodation.

If you don’t fancy staying at a pub in Masham, then you can choose to stay in a nice hotel, cottage, holiday home or B&B. Below, we’ve listed the best places to stay in Masham that aren’t rooms in pubs.

Swinton Park Hotel

Of course, one of the best accommodation options in the Nidderdale AONB is the Swinton Park Hotel on Swinton Estate near Masham. Beautifully set next to the Swinton Estate’s Deer Park and Parkland and Gardens, the Swinton Park Hotel enjoys an exquisite natural ambience.

The four-star luxurious castle hotel is also a Grade II listed heritage building. So, as expected, the hotel itself and its rooms are opulent, grand and immaculate.

The Swinton Park Hotel offers bedrooms and suites in the form of double and twin rooms, with standard, classic, superior and deluxe options. Otherwise, the hotel offers gorgeous self-catering country houses.

Stay at Swinton Park Hotel

Swinton Park Hotel

Swinton Park Hotel is an incredible luxury castle hotel, offering exceptional rooms and a special once-in-a-lifetime experience

Swinton Bivouac

Another exceptional accommodation option at Swinton Estate is the Swinton Bivouac. The yurts and tree lodges at Swinton Bivouac are some of the most unique places you can stay in Nidderdale. Indeed, by staying at Swinton Bivouac, you’ll enjoy an unforgettable glamping experience.

Swinton Bivouac yurts

Stay at Swinton Park Bivouac

Swinton Bivouac

For an unforgettable glamping experience near Masham, you’ll want to stay at one of the yurts or treehouses at Swinton Bivouac

How to Get to Nidderdale AONB

The most convenient way to get to the Nidderdale AONB is to drive there yourself. That’s because public transport in the area is a bit hit-and-miss. You’ll find a decent amount of bus services in summer and on the weekend. But, otherwise, public transport is quite limited.

So, overall, it’s better to have your own vehicle, so you have the freedom and flexibility to explore the area at your own pace, without relying upon public transport.

Car Hire

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.

To find out more about renting a car with Discover Cars, read our Discover Cars review and Discover Cars Insurance review.

Where Next After Nidderdale AONB

Yorkshire Dales National Park

Hardraw Force

Nidderdale AONB is only one part of the spectacular Yorkshire Dales. For more information about the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales, read our best Yorkshire Dales Walks and Waterfalls guides.

What to Pack and Wear For Nidderdale AONB

Many of the attractions in the area involve exploring natural spaces. So, it’ll be handy to pack and take appropriate gear for walking outdoors.

Osprey Skarab 30
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
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
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
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.

Sony Cybershot RX100 VII
Sony Cybershot RX100 VII

Capture epic photos and videos with the Sony Cybershot RX100 VII. This is hands-down the best compact camera. We love using this simple point-and-shoot camera when we’re hiking as it’s lightweight and durable.

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 Nidderdale AONB

Below, we’ll answer the most frequently asked questions about the Nidderdale AONB.

Is Nidderdale in the Yorkshire Dales?

Yes, it’s in the Yorkshire Dales, but not within the boundaries of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Why Is Nidderdale Not in the National Park?

Nidderdale is its own Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).

What Is An AONB?

An Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty is a designated landscape that’s precious enough to be protected in the interest of the UK.

​​​​​​​Is the Yorkshire Dales an AONB?

No, Yorkshire Dales in a National Park.

Bonus Tips About Visiting Nidderdale AONB

  • Head to Brimham Rocks early: this is perhaps the most popular place to visit in the area. We recommend going early to beat the crowds.
  • Consider the Nidderdale Way: click here for more details about the 85 km (53 mile) long-distance circular walk.
  • Other reservoirs to see in the area: the other most well-known reservoirs include Angram Reservoir, Scar House Reservoir, Gouthwaite Reservoir and Thruscross Reservoir.

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Daniel Piggott

Dan is a travel blogger, physiotherapist, hiker, natural wonder seeker and world traveller. He loves writing travel guides to help his readers explore the most beautiful destinations in the world.

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