Yvette Huddleston and Walter Swan visit Swaledale where the landscape is rugged but the welcome is warm
Swaledale, which for the Muker Show at the beginning of September was in glorious sunshine, had had a change of face. The dale begins further up, beyond Keld, but our first stopping point was at the waterfalls close to the road at Scar Houses. The beck here is not the River Swale, which doesn't enter this part of the valley until east of Muker. The falls belong to the Straw Beck and were full.
We parked in the car park at the eastern end of Muker for a stroll around the village. Look out for the sheep on a roof, the giant chair outside the crafts shop and the clever shadow effect of the pub name, The Farmers Arms – if the sun is shining. Muker has a Literary Institute which predates lending libraries. It had become a prosperous village in the late 19th century thanks to the lead mining industry and the Literary Institute, with its incongruously ornate style, was built in 1867 from public subscription and was stocked with 600 books. Before the construction of St Mary's church in the 16th century the only church in the dale was St Andrew's at Grinton. Coffins had to be carried as far as 15 miles along the Corpse Way.
Just north of Muker is Ivelet Side, which fell runners tackle during the Muker Show. The hamlet of Ivelet lies further to the east, perched above the Swale and reached by a lane off the main road leading to a narrow, elegant centuries-old bridge. There's no signpost, so you need a map or local knowledge to find the bridge which, in better weather, would make an ideal picnic spot. What might put you off your sandwich is the legend that the bridge is haunted by a headless hound which leaps over the parapet into the Swale to predict a dreadful fate for anyone who sees it. We didn't.
In Gunnerside, we called in at the Ghyllfoot Tea-room where Linda Le Cuirot and her husband Bob, who came from Jersey, have been providing hot drinks, snacks and meals for 25 years. "I was born and brought up in Gunnerside," says Linda whose maiden name is Calvert – one of the well-known Dales names – and her father was the local blacksmith. "I love it here; I wouldn't want to move away," she says. "My parents still live here and my siblings are close by."
Linda has the knack of recognising customers from one year to the next, however infrequently they might visit, and even recalling what they ordered. "Quite often they'll have exactly what they had before!" In the tea-room we also met husband and wife Pete and Chris, originally from Hull, who now live in Healaugh.
"We love the Dales," says Pete. "We had been coming up here for years – we had a holiday cottage in Langthwaite – and then about 10 years ago we decided to relocate up here."
Both now retired, Chris says that they are enjoying exploring the Dales. "Swaledale is special, though," she says. "When we have been out for the day, it's always lovely to come back to Swaledale – it's homely and peaceful and a little bit wild." They had caught the bus to Thwaite and were walking back through the dale, following the river, and had stopped off at Linda's to shelter from the drizzle outside and order lemon drizzle inside.
Gunnerside sits high above the Swale after a huge bend in the road. Driving eastwards into Low Row, we visited the newly spruced-up Punch Bowl Inn. The transformation is remarkable, retaining the best of the old. It feels light and airy and offers gastropub standards and good quality bed and breakfast
accommodation. If some of its dcor reminds you of the CB Inn in Arkengarthdale, that is no surprise. It's run by the same people.
Healaugh is a hamlet without shops, tea-rooms or pubs, but worthy of note is its telephone box. Someone has taken the trouble to furnish it with a small square of carpet and a vase of fresh wildflowers. It is used as the collection point for newspapers delivered to the village.
At Reeth, Helen Bainbridge, who runs the Swaledale Museum, had recommended we try the White House tea-rooms just off the village green. Richard and John, who run them have decorated the interior with wallpaper that might convince the short-sighted they are in the library of a Victorian cottage.
We chatted to Joyce and Arthur from Darlington who are regular customers. They love Swaledale, having had a holiday cottage in Low Row for 40 years and the White House has become a favourite venue – they were booking up for Joyce's birthday
Beyond Fremington, and over yet another Swale bridge, this time at the Bridge Inn at Grinton, you can explore inside and around the grounds of one of the finest medieval churches in the country.
St Andrews at Grinton is known as "the Cathedral of the Dales" and it's easy to understand why – apart from its size. It's a magnificent church with high vaulted ceilings and spectacular stained glass windows. It was originally built around 1100 by the monks of Bridlington and provided a place of worship for surrounding villages in the dale.
In Grinton, we discovered another rooftop sheep, though this one – lodged atop the Bridge Inn – also balances an electric guitar on its snout. The pub doesn't really need to attract attention to itself in this way – it's a warm, friendly inn offering sensibly priced food and bed and breakfast accommodation.
This had proved to be quite a day. But whatever it is doing on the outside, Swaledale is such a welcoming dale, despite its rugged beauty, that your recollections of it will be infused
with the kind of warm inner glow associated with a newly-mashed pot of Yorkshire tea.
Farmers Arms, Muker, Richmond DL11 6QG 01748 886 297 www.farmersarmsmuker.co.uk/
Bridge House, Bed and Breakfast, Muker, Richmond DL11 6QG 01748 886461 www.bridgehousemuker.co.uk
Punch Bowl Inn, Low Row, Richmond, 01748 886 233 www.pbinn.co.uk
Bridge Inn, Grinton, Richmond, DL11 6HH01748 884224 www.bridgeinn-grinton.co.uk
Ghyllfoot Tearoom, Gunnerside, DL11 6LA01748 886239
The White House Tearoom, Reeth, Richmond DL11 6TE 01748 884763
YP MAG 11/12/10