Settle is a lovely stone town on the River Ribble in the heart-warming landscape of the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales.
National parks will always be your plan in Settle, where you can venture to waterfalls, cliffs, limestone canyons, remote caves and peaks over 700 meters.
You don’t need to be a climber, though, as the Settle-Carlisle route allows you to contemplate the brutal beauty of the Yorkshire Dales from your mainline train seat.
There are also places in Settle to keep you in town longer, such as the museum in a 17th-century mansion and the stately Victorian concert hall still in the heart of the community.
1. North Craven Life Museum at The Folly
Settle’s grandest building is this Carolean mansion, built for wealthy 17th-century lawyer Richard Preston, on the town’s southern thoroughfare.
The Folly is now home to the superb North Craven Life Museum, but in its era has become a luxury home, farmhouse, warehouse, bakery, fish and chip shop, bank and more.
The house was restored in 2001 and opened as a regional museum. The attraction is showing its extensive inventory in short-term exhibitions.
As we wrote this in March 2019, there was an exhibition of prints evoking the valley, silly timelines, creepy tales from the cemetery of the Church of the Assumption in Settle and Curiosity, showcasing Various treasures in the museum collection.
To reach the 723-meter peak of Ingleborough, the second highest peak in the Yorkshire Dales, head to Ingleton, about 10 miles northwest.
From this picturesque village under the Victorian railway viaduct, it’s a 7.5-mile walk to the summit, where you pass the potholes of Crina Bottom and climb steep limestone cliffs.
There is another road opposite Horton in Ribblesdale and is also easily accessible by car from Settle.
At the top of Ingleborough is a slightly raised plateau with a circumference of a mile.
On the northern and eastern edges are ruins of city walls dating back to Roman camps and Iron Age hill forts, while on the southwest you might find Snowdonia, Wales, 103 miles away.
One of the Three Peaks in Yorkshire, Ingleborough is a group of high mountains surrounding the head of the Ribble Valley, including Pen-y-Ghent (694m) and Whirnside (736m), conquered on a trip by those who wanted to test themselves .
3. Stamford Power
Stainforth Force is the closest of the many natural wonders around Settle and is just 5 minutes from the town centre.
If you wish, you can walk on the Ribble Way for about 45 minutes and follow the river back to the village of Stainforth.
The Falls is a fantastic flight of waterfalls, as the river slides over shallow limestone shelves, culminating in a deep, wide pool of water.
You can wander the ledges on the west bank of the river, watch jumping salmon, and gaze up at the small rocks that connect the village to the caravan park, both hidden behind trees.
4. Scaleber Force
You can follow a remote alpine path edged by drystone walls to another stunning waterfall in the Yorkshire Dales.
Scaleber Force wouldn’t look out of place in a medieval romance, spilling rocky ledges into wooded canyons covered in ferns and moss.
The water at Scaleber Beck is crystal clear, and if you’re feeling intrepid, the layered rocks allow you to climb (within reason) for the perfect waterfall photo.
Scaleber Force is just minutes from the woods on High Hill Lane.
5. Victoria Hall
This beautiful 19th century monument was used for various purposes by the residents of Settle.
Victoria Hall opened as a settlement concert hall in 1853, making it the oldest surviving concert hall in the UK.
During the day there is a lot going on every day of the week except Sunday.
This could be dance classes, exercise classes, adult learning, surgery by local councillor Julian Smith and markets on Tuesday and Saturday.
In the evening, there will be a feast of live music, spoken word, films, live screenings from major cultural institutions, theatre and stand-up comedy at this outstanding venue.
6. Victoria Cave
It’s easy to do in the morning, with a 4.5-mile circular trail leading to this cave in the valley, which is home to herds of highland cattle.
Victoria Cave is named after its discovery in 1837, the same year Queen Victoria ascended the throne.
The route out of Settle is beautiful and takes you up Constitution Hill, flanked by Georgian townhouses.
Outside the city, the roads are steep, but you can recharge your batteries with exhilarating views in Ribblesdale.
At the time of discovery, bones of elephants, hippos, rhinos and hyenas dating back 130,000 years were found in Victoria Cave.
The first evidence of humans in the Yorkshire Dales also emerged in Victoria Cave, in the form of a harpoon tip embedded in an 11,000-year-old reindeer bone.
Roman-era finds are also fascinating, including coins, pottery and brooches from as far away as Africa.
7. Hoffmann Kiln
In Langcliffe, above the east bank of the Ribble, the Craven Lime Company erected an otherworldly industrial relic in 1873. The Hoffmann kiln, named after its inventor Friedrich Hoffmann, processes limestone blocks into burnt lime, which is also vital to arable land for textiles, papermaking and the production of construction mortar.
This is done in 22 combustion chambers arranged in a circuit with openings on both sides where the lime can be transported to the rail wagons next to it.
The kiln has been abandoned since the 1930s, but the site is in good condition, with a thrilling tunnel every few meters eerily illuminated by small portals on the side.
There are information boards outside explaining how the kiln works.
8. Settle-Carlisle Line
Built in the 1870s, the Settle-Carlisle line was one of the last major railway lines laid in the UK.
Faced with an almost impossible landscape of the Yorkshire Dales, the project is a feat of Victorian enterprise and ingenuity, and a tale of extreme hardship for the workers who lived in the shantytowns during construction.
There are 380 bridges on 72 miles of track, including 14 tunnels and 21 viaducts.
One of them is the incredible 400-meter Ribblehead Viaduct, which rises more than 30 meters above the Ribble Valley.
The great thing is that this is still part of the main National Rail line, so you can take the normal service and take part in one of the most scenic rail journeys in the world.
There are regular steam services from private operators in the summer, if you visit the Settle Junction station on a Saturday be sure to call the Victorian timber signal box.
9. Malham Bay
There are several reasons to go deep into the Yorkshire Dales to set the course for the village of Malham a few miles east.
One of them is to experience the majesty of nearby Malham Bay, a curving limestone cliff topped by a limestone pavement.
This is the result of a massive waterfall carrying meltwater at the end of the last Ice Age more than 12,000 years ago.
It is not difficult to imagine the size of this stream, 300 meters wide and 80 meters high.
The cliffs and their hard overhangs attract climbers, and you may have seen this stunning natural monument in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 1. A circular path connects Malham Bay to other wonders of the area, such as Janet Foss below, and Gordale Scar, a narrow limestone gorge with walls 100m high.
10. Janet’s Foss
Downstream of the Gordale Scar, Gordale Beck tumbles the small but perfect Janet’ Foss.
Set in limestone atop a volcanic tuff, this waterfall is in a tranquil green crucible covered in moss and foliage.
If you’re coming here from the Malham side, Janet’s Foss is a 20-minute walk from the car park along a tree-lined valley.
From here you can continue to the Gordale Scar.
If possible, try to come after a period of continuous rain, it shouldn’t be too difficult in the Yorkshire Dales!
11. Greenland Gallery
Proudly calling itself “the smallest gallery in the world”, the Green Gallery is housed in a red Upper Settle phone booth purchased by the City Council in 2009. This is a K6 telephone box, designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott in 1935 (who also designed the power station that became Tate Modern). The space was soon handed over to local organization Cultivating Settle, who turned it into a one-of-a-kind gallery open 24 hours a day.
Relying on donations, the Green Gallery has held nearly 30 exhibitions in the ten years since its opening.
At the time of writing in early 2019, there was a stately photo exhibition of Sycamore trees next to the phone booth on the green.
Previous exhibitions include a study of Ingleborough (Big Mountains in Small Spaces), a mixed-media celebration of the Canadian people (Canada Calling) and an exhibition on evolutionary processes (Archaos II).
12. Ribble way
Settle is located on a 73-mile trail along or near the Ribble River, starting at the mouth of the Irish Sea in Longton and ending at Ribblehead High in the Yorkshire Dales.
This certainly makes for an easy hike to several of the natural landmarks featured in this article, especially Stainforth Force.
Majestic by the river, formerly a cotton and snuff factory, and Settle Hydro, a pioneering community-owned hydroelectric scheme.
Walk to Stainforth Force and you may be accompanied by kingfishers and herons, or peregrine falcons circling and diving overhead.
For a tough but rewarding detour, you can climb the slopes from Stainforth to another waterfall at Catrigg Force.
During the climb, you can enjoy great views of Ribblesdale, while the falls are located in a magical sheltered canyon.
Courtyard is a shopping and dining destination in a stone barn off the A65 outside Settle.
You can visit the fine tweeds produced by the Abraham Moon Wool Mill, luxury homewares at Dalesbred, beauty treatments at Bellezza Dentro and free range eggs, bread, honey and preserves freshly laid at the Roaming Hen Farm Shop.
Picky eaters flock to Courtyard’s Brasserie for a modern twist on British dishes using locally sourced ingredients.
The menu changes every two months based on seasonal ingredients.
14. Settlement Falcon
There’s no better place for falconry than the exciting highlands of the Yorkshire Dales.
Located in a national park a few miles from town, Settle Falconry is a small company that offers an hour or half-day bird of prey experience.
Even during an hour-long session, you’ll don your falconer’s gloves and summon a trained condor or Harris hawk from the trees.
On longer, more in-depth lessons, you’ll deal with falcons, kestrels, eagles and owls on a valley adventure.
Settle Falconry features a farmhouse tea room with homemade cakes, a comfortable starting point for an unforgettable afternoon.
15. Solve the story section
The biennial Settle Stories Festival is an arts event launched in 2010, centred on spoken, creative and digital arts.
Over the course of three days, there is a vibrant show, exhibition, outdoor story trail, plays and workshops covering writing, digital storytelling, weaving, enamelling and pottery.
The 2018 edition features Brazilian journalist and storyteller Ana Maria Lines for a live performance inspired by Frida Kahlo and Sierra Leonean contemporary rhythm storyteller Alim Kamara.
Settle Stories stays active during the festival, arranging creative writing and mindfulness retreats, as well as short-term exhibitions at venues like the Settle Library.
Where to stay: The best hotels in Settle, England
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