The main reason for spending a long weekend in the Yorkshire Dales was to see the Jubilee class steam locomotive ‘Bahamas’ work a special train in both directions over the Settle to Carlisle railway, once the Midland Railway’s main line to Scotland. The locomotive, built in 1935 for the London Midland Scottish Railway, had just completed a very lengthy restoration and is a member of the class that was very much associated with hauling express trains on the line. We chose the small market town of Settle, in Ribblesdale, at the edge of the Dales as our base and booked into the same bed and breakfast place we stayed at 12 months previously, for three nights.
We set off on the Friday morning and had a steady drive up the M1 and A1 to Wetherby, and then drove across country to the village of Bolton Abbey, stopping for coffee at a cafe we know, just outside Pool-in-Wharfedale. Arriving at Bolton Abbey around midday, we decided first to explore around and inside the former Augustinian priory, Bolton Priory. A very good view of the Priory can be obtained form the opposite side of the river Wharfe that can be crossed either by the footbridge or the stepping stones. We chose the bridge, wishing to avoid wet feet!
Most of the priory is in ruins but part of the nave is still in use as a church and is in good repair and we took a look inside. By now, it was lunch time and we ate lunch in the Bolton Abbey tearoom. Afterwards, we drove the short distance to the Strid car park and walked the short distance to the Strid where the river Wharfe is forced through a narrow channel about the width of a person’s stride. It’s quite a thrilling sight, but must be treated with respect as several people have died after falling in the water.
The next location on our itinerary was Winskill Stones, an area of limestone pavement above Langcliffe, in Ribblesdale. It’s a great place for photography, especially when the sun goes down. Unfortunately, not long after we arrived there, the sun went behind cloud, so there was not much of a sunset, or nice light on the rocks.
Saturday dawned fine and we decided to make for Ribblehead to photograph ‘Bahamas’ crossing the famous viaduct; the condition of this in the 1980s almost caused the line’s closure. Ribblehead can be a bleak and windswept place, but on this occasion was just a bit breezy and quite cloudy. We took up a vantage point at the north west corner of the viaduct and it wasn’t long before the train appeared in the distance. It crossed the viaduct slowly, as there is a speed restriction, but that did give a good opportunity to watch the train crossing the viaduct for some time.
Afterwards, we retired to the Station Inn, one of the few buildings at Ribblehead, for a coffee. From there, we drove to the small village of Hardraw in Wensleydale and walked to Hardraw Force, which has the longest uninterrupted drop of any waterfall in England. The footpath actually goes behind the waterfall, which because of the overhang above does mean that you don’t get wet!
We had lunch back at the Green Dragon pub in Hardraw and then drove a few miles up the valley so we could walk to Cotter Force, another impressive waterfall.
From here, we took a very scenic drive into Mallerstang and eventually to Kirkby Stephen, a small market town in Cumbria. We found a pleasant cafe for tea and cake and then drove to the railway station to see ‘Bahamas’ heading back south from Carlisle. We didn’t have to wait long before it came through at speed, working hard. After that stirring sight, we just had an hour’s drive back to Settle with thoughts of dinner.
Sunday was to be a day of more waterfalls. We again drove into Wensleydale, to the small village of West Burton and its very attractive waterfalls. These were sketched by Turner during his visit to them in 1816. They were a joy to photograph with few other people around; a situation that would be very different in summer I would think!
Next on our itinerary was Aysgarth Falls in the river Wharfe. These are a huge tourist draw and being a fine Sunday, they were quite busy even though it was February. There are three series of falls; upper, middle and lower, spread out over a distance of about a mile, and we visited them all, interspersed with lunch at the excellent Mill Race tearoom, right by the river.
Next stop was Askrigg, made famous by the BBC’s televising of ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ in the area some years ago. Our reason for going to Askrigg was to walk to Mill Force Gill, another impressive waterfall, this one in particular having the feel of something out of a Tolkien novel. By the time we got back to Askrigg, the light was fading, and we set off for the drive back to Settle.
Monday was our day for going home, but we had the morning to spend in the Dales, before setting off. We decided to visit the Norber Erratics above the village of Austwick. These are thought to have been deposited by melting ice sheets, and some are on limestone pedestals resulting from the erosion of the limestone around them, a curious sight. The boulders cover quite a large area and we spent some time wandering amongst them looking for suitable photographic compositions. All too soon, it was time to walk back to the car and start our journey home stopping for lunch at the same cafe we had coffee at on our outward journey to Yorkshire.