The tranquil Yorkshire Dales setting with a fascinating royal history

Picture: Tony Johnson Words: Chris Burn

River Wharfe bubbling through Langstrothdale in Upper Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Picture: Tony Johnson
River Wharfe bubbling through Langstrothdale in Upper Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Picture: Tony Johnson

It is a bucolic sight to warm the heart during these testing times – the River Wharfe bubbling through Langstrothdale in Upper Wharfedale in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

During spring and summer, the scenic valley of Langstrothdale is a popular spot for ramblers and as the National Trust advises, it is also a good location for bird-watchers.

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The clean water of the Wharfe makes it a useful source of food for many birds, meaning those visiting the area have an opportunity to spot visiting kingfishers, goosander, dippers and sand martins.

The name Langstrothdale derives from Old English and translates as ‘long marsh’ or ‘marshy ground’ and was first colonised in the Seventh Century, with Norse invaders arriving later.

Harry Speight’s book of the history of Upper Wharfedale published in 1900 sets out how the area was used as a royal deer-hunting ground down the centuries.

It recounts the story that King James VI was said to have stopped off in the area in 1603 as he travelled from Scotland to London to take the throne to enjoy a day’s hunting in the neighbouring forest of Wensleydale as a guest of Sir Thomas Metcalfe of Nappa Hall.

A coin bearing the name of the monarch was found in the area in 1893 but Speight notes it is “questionable” whether this could be connected to the hunting trip.

The book states that coins belonging to English and Scottish kings of the 14th century were also discovered centuries later in the area, pointing to the area’s location as a site of border raids at the time.

Speight’s book also recounts how in 1604, due to “extravagances” on the part of landowner the then Earl of Clifford, the land was sold to pay off his debts, allowing many Dalesfolk to buy their own farmsteads for the first time.

In later years, the road through the dale became part of the packhorse route from Lancaster to Newcastle-upon-Tyne.

It may be a place of peace and tranquillity now, but this small part of the Dales has many fascinating tales to tell.

Technical information: Nikon D3s camera, 35mm lens, exposure 1/400 sec, f6, ISO160.