Yorkshire’s wild heart

Cheese Press Stones give a perfect framed view of Ingleborough in the distance. .
Cheese Press Stones give a perfect framed view of Ingleborough in the distance. .
  • Writer Mike Appleton knows every corner of the Dales, but choosing 50 special places had him scratching his head. He talks to Sarah Freeman.
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When Mike Appleton sat down to write his new book, highlighting 50 gems of the Yorkshire Dales, he knew that when it came to locations he would be spoilt for choice.

Drawing up an initial list, within a matter of minutes he had already jotted down a couple of dozen possibilities. After a few minutes more he had already passed the 50 mark and hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface of the landscape he first fell in love with as a child.

The Falcon Inn in Littondale was the original Woolpack in the long-running soap Emmerdale. .

The Falcon Inn in Littondale was the original Woolpack in the long-running soap Emmerdale. .

“I think I was eight years old when I first visited the Dales,” says Mike, who grew up and still lives in St Helens on the other side of the Pennines. “I came across with my dad to Dent and it was the start of a lifelong love affair with the area. I have walked, photographed, caved and camped across its fells all my life, but coming up with a definitive list of ‘gems’ was tricky.

“I could have filled it with a list of pretty villages, but I wanted it to be more than that. It would have been amiss not to include Yorkshire’s three peaks and features like Aysgarth Falls, because they are what makes the landscape of the area so special, but I also wanted to take the reader off the beaten track a little and show them places they may not have come across before. I wanted them to be as personal as possible. They needed to connect me to the landscape I know and love so much.

“I am sure that there will be people who will disagree with the list, who will say I should have included such and such a place, but these are very personal choices and inevitably there had to be some trade-offs.”

Cheese Press Stones, Ingleborough

Dent was one of the first places Mike Appleton visited as a child and where he first fell in love with the Yorkshire Dales.

Dent was one of the first places Mike Appleton visited as a child and where he first fell in love with the Yorkshire Dales.

I’d been in this area too many times to mention and just took the stones for granted. They were marked on the map and Alfred Wainwright noted them in his book Walks in Limestone Country. I’d been much more interested in the climbs around here, but when I returned for the book I wondered where they had been all my life. Two stones, almost laid on a plate, with Ingleborough and the Dales stretching behind them. The perfect photograph. The stones – one large, perhaps 10ft in height, and one slightly smaller – were more than likely left stranded by the Ice Age. Since then, unlike the limestone which is nearby, they have been shaped and smoothed by the elements, not contorted or cracked. Spend an hour exploring them, lie flat on the ground with a backpack for a pillow and just take in the noise, smells, openness and exposure.

Bruntscar Cave, Whernside

We have all been stretched out on our favourite chair when we hear the drip drip of a tap or a strange sound that has us craning our necks to find out where it is coming from. More often than not curiosity gets the better of us. Back in 1865, a curious rumbling below the Bruntscar Hall estate got the better of its owner Mr F Kidd. Armed with hammers, picks and sheer brute strength, he uncovered the source of the noise – the entrance to a superb cave. Today the cave can be explored, in good weather, by people with that same sense of adventure who aren’t afraid to get a bit wet. Inside, there are fantastic flowstone features, stalactites and other sights that beg to be viewed.

Falcon Inn, Littondale

The original Woolpack in the long-running soap Emmerdale, the Falcon is set at the top of the village green in Arncliffe. It’s close by to Kilnsey Crag and has its own private fly-fishing site on the River Skirfare, but it’s the way it serves its beer that is the real gem. The ale of choice, Timothy Taylor’s Boltmaker, is poured from a jug to a glass. It’s the traditional way of serving beer and keeps the ale at room temperature, ensuring it is in great condition to drink.


It is thought Semerwater was once a prosperous city in the Dales. Legend has it that an old man came to the city in search of food and drink. Having been turned away from most who lived there, a poor couple took pity on him and invited him in. After enjoying their hospitality, the old man turned to face the town and said: “Semerwater rise! Semerwater sink? And swallow the town, all save this house, where they gave me meat and drink.” Today it is the second largest natural lake in Yorkshire after Malham Tarn and it’s easy to see how the pure beauty of Semerwater has inspired artists, folk stories, poems and music. Simply stunning from any angle.

Trow Gill

The wonder of the limestone ravine comes upon you suddenly. Just before the gill itself are Foxholes, three caves that have revealed Neolithic material. They are now gated to block access, but are worth seeing. Interestingly, Trow Gill was the scene of controversy just after the Second World War when a skeleton was found 800m away from the gill. The discovery was made on August 24, 1947 and a subsequent post-mortem revealed the man, who was aged between 22 and 30 and carrying a vial of cyanide, had died up to six years earlier. A local historian put forward the theory the dead man was possibly a German spy. It was a claim denied by Germany, but the story added an air of intrigue to an already beautiful area.

• Fifty Gems of the Yorkshire Dales by Mike Appleton is published by Amberley Books priced £14.99. The 
book will be officially launched at Inglesports in Ingleton on May 23 from 10am. The following day at 9am, Mike will lead a walk to one of the gems featured in the book from Ingleton. For more details and to book a place visit www.mascarandymedia.com.