You don’t have to travel far from Harrogate to find swathes of beautiful countryside. The popular spa town happens to be surrounded by the rolling hills of Nidderdale - a landscape that’s so pretty it’s a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB).
There’s lots to see and do in Nidderdale with scenic walks to try, pretty villages such as Pateley Bridge to visit and some rather fine restaurants to dine at - including the Michelin starred Yorke Arms.
Take a look at some of our favourite places in beautiful Nidderdale and find some inspiration for your next short break or holiday.
Favourite Nidderdale walks
With stunning scenery in every direction, you’ll never be short of scenic walks to try in Nidderdale. Here is just a small selection of our favourite countryside walks.
The Nidderdale Way
One of the best ways to experience the full beauty of Nidderdale is to tackle the famous Nidderdale Way which starts and finishes at Pateley Bridge taking in sights like Ripley Castle, How Stean Gorge and Brimham Rocks along its route. The full Nidderdale Way is 53 miles long, so we recommend breaking it into four manageable stages and tackling at least one of them during your visit.
- Stage one: Pateley Bridge to Middlesmoor - best for sweeping views and the disused Nidd Valley railway line.
- Stage two: Middlesmoor to Bewerley - best for uncovering quiet villages and How Stean Gorge.
- Stage three: Bewerley to Ripley - best for peaceful woodland walks and riverside strolls.
- Stage four: Ripley to Pateley Bridge - best for Brimham Rocks, scenic farmland strolls and two of Nidderdale’s prettiest villages.
Family-friendly? Stages 2 and 4 are moderate routes with popular attractions along the way. Break them into smaller chunks and walk as much (or as little) as you like.
A 4-mile ramble around Fewston Reservoir in the Washburn Valley of Nidderdale, it includes lots of woodland walks and scenic views to enjoy along the way. There is free parking at the beginning of the route and easy-to-follow paths around the reservoir.
Family-friendly? It is a fairly moderate route. Children can bring along some feed for the ducks and geese you’ll see on the reservoir.
Wath Circular Walk
This is a pretty 1.5 mile Upper Nidderdale walk that circles around the village of Wath and takes in Nidd Marsh wetlands and a nature reserve at Gouthwaite reservoir. The village of Wath is home to the Sportsman’s Arms pub and the historic Wath Mill which features a 28-foot water mill.
Family-friendly? An ideal choice for families as there is lots to see along the way and a family-friendly pub at the end where you can call in for refreshments.
Washburn Valley Bird Walk
This 6.5 mile walk takes in Folly Hall Wood and sections of both the Lindley Wood and Swinstry reservoirs. A packhorse bridge and an old monks’ trail are amongst the other points of interest with birdlife to look out for along the way including herons, kingfishers, bullfinches, wagtails, lapwing and woodpeckers.
Family-friendly? It is a moderately challenging route that’s better suited to adults - we think it makes a perfect choice for couples or groups of friends.
The Packhorse Trail
This is a moderately difficult circular 4.5 mile trail that encompasses wildflower meadows, ancient woodland and a historic packhorse bridge that dates back to the 15th century. It starts (and ends) in the village of Darley where you can stop for refreshments at the Wellington Inn pub.
Family-friendly? There’s much wildlife to spot along the route but with muddy paths and tricky stiles, this walk is probably more suitable for slightly older children.
Characterful Nidderdale pubs
There are no shortage of charming pubs in Nidderdale where you can typically enjoy some home-cooked food washed down by a hand-pulled pint, a glass of wine or a refreshing G&T.
Half Moon Inn
A traditional country pub near Pateley Bridge which has local ales and a carvery each Sunday. The Half Moon Inn looks out over Brimham Rocks and includes a cosy snug, a dining room and an outdoor patio for when the weather is warmer.
Dog-friendly: Yes four-legged friends are welcome at the Half Moon Inn
The Royal Oak Inn
This Grade II-listed, 18th century inn in Dacre Banks has traditional flagstone floors, an Inglenook fireplace and stunning Nidderdale views. The Royal Oak Inn also makes a good choice for a G&T as there are more than 40 varieties of gin on the menu.
Dog-friendly: Yes, you can bring doggies along to The Royal Oak Inn
The Bridge Inn
A welcoming Pateley Bridge pub that serves local ales and home cooked food. The Bridge Inn has a lovely beer garden that’s perfect for an al fresco summer lunch when the weather is sunny.
Dog-friendly: Yes it is, your canine companion will get a warm welcome at The Bridge Inn
The Joiners Arms
The Joiners Arms is a family friendly pub is nestled in the pretty village of Hampsthwaite and has a good choice of ales and classic pub grub on the menu. You can get takeaway fish and chips too - perfect if you are staying in a nearby cottage like The Platform in Hampsthwaite.
Dog-friendly: Yes, doggies can have a drink of water while you sup down a pint.
The best Nidderdale restaurants
Nidderdale has an excellent selection of restaurants - whether you fancy treating yourself to Michelin star quality food or are looking for a traditional Yorkshire Sunday lunch with all the trimmings.
The Yorke Arms - best for a special treat
The Yorke Arms (under the helm of renowned chef Frances Atkins) has held a prestigious Michelin star since 2003 and the restaurant offers a stunning fine dining tasting menu in the setting of an 18th century Nidderdale inn on the edge of the Gouthwaite Reservoir.
Dog-friendly: Dogs are allowed in the bar downstairs but not in the restaurant.
The Timble Inn - best for a romantic meal
Another great fine dining choice, The Timble Inn is a 2 AA Rosette restaurant with a romantic location in the beautiful Washburn Valley. The a la carte menu uses fresh locally sourced produce with a selection of classic dishes to choose from.
Dog-friendly: The Timble Inn isn’t dog-friendly, so doggies will have to sit this one out.
The Sawley Arms - best for Sunday lunch
The Sawley Arms is a top-notch gastro pub that offers a range of British and European food in the pretty village of Sawley. Fresh, local produce is used in all their dishes and it’s a good pick for a Sunday lunch - particularly after visiting nearby Fountains Abbey.
Dog-friendly: Dogs are allowed in the conservatory but not inside the restaurant.
Olley’s Ristorante and Pizzeria - best for families
This well-loved Italian restaurant in the heart of Pateley Bridge has been serving pizza and pasta for more than 20 years. Olley’s is a good choice for families as the extensive menu should have something to please even the most discerning diner.
Dog-friendly: Doggies won’t be able to tag along for this one.
The Boar’s Head Ripley - best for dog-friendly dining
The Boar’s Head is an old coaching inn that’s part of the Ripley Castle Estate and has a beautiful spot in the popular village. There’s a choice of dining rooms so guests can choose between a formal or more relaxed setting and on top of a regularly changing market menu, there’s also a daily Afternoon Tea.
Dog-friendly: Yes, well-behaved dogs are allowed in the bistro and lounge area of The Boar’s Head.
Nidderdale’s towns and villages
There's much more to Nidderdale than rolling hills, rivers and reservoirs - the region is also home to handsome market towns and pretty villages. Here are just some of the places that are well worth visiting on your next Nidderdale holiday.
Wander the cobbled streets of pretty Pateley Bridge and you’ll find an assortment of independent shops and cafes to browse.
Pateley Bridge is also home to the The Oldest Sweetshop in England and the King Street workshops where you can watch artists, jewellers, milliners and sculptures at work and pick up some unique hand-made gifts.
The village of Ripley is just 4 miles from Harrogate and home to the impressive Ripley Castle and Gardens. The castle dates back to the 14th century and has been beautifully preserved so that you can tour grand rooms and impressive gardens before taking a stroll through the large deer park.
Ripley also has an array of charming shops to browse including a village store that sells ‘World Famous Ripley Ice Cream’.
Masham is located on the cusp of Nidderdale and Wensleydale and the well-loved market town is perhaps best known as home to both the Theakstons and Black Sheep breweries. You can take a tour of each one, sample their ales and then head to one of Masham’s pubs for a pint.
There’s also a selection of excellent art galleries dotted around Masham’s market square where you can view original work from talented Yorkshire artists.
Ripon combines beautiful gardens, interesting museums, a bustling market square and an impressive gothic cathedral. The carvings in Ripon Cathedral inspired Lewis Carroll to create Alice in Wonderland and you can hunt out some of the author’s classic characters in The Spa Gardens.
Listen out for the hornblower on a visit to Ripon. Each night at 9pm a horn is sounded in Ripon’s market square - a tradition that dates back more than 1000 years.
The large natural rock formations at Brimham Rocks are perfect for climbing up, scrambling though and generally exploring. There’s plenty of adventures to be had in ‘nature’s playground’ and you can try geocaching, orienteering and geospotting to find some of Brimham Rock’s finest views.
Dog-friendly? Yes, dogs can go exploring at Brimham Rocks
Take a stroll through the beautiful Nidderdale countryside with a friendly Llama or Alpaca by your side. Nidderdale Llamas offers a range of trekking experiences that are suitable for ages 7 and above - a great (and somewhat different) way to explore the beautiful Nidderdale countryside.
Dog-friendly? Four-legged friends will have to sit this one out.
How Stean Gorge is a dramatic limestone ravine in Nidderdale where you can try a range of outdoor activities including gorge walking, caving and abseiling. There’s also a lovely cafe on-site where you can look out over the natural wonder through an impressive clear glass floor.
Dog-friendly? Well-behaved dogs are welcome at the How Stean Gorge cafe.
There’s lots to explore at this well-loved National Trust site which comprises the ancient 900 year-old Fountains Abbey ruins and the beautiful Studley Royal Water Garden. Within the 800 acres you’ll find follies, tunnels, water features, woodland walks, wildflowers and a deer park.
Dog-friendly? Dogs on leads are permitted at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden.
This annual celebration of Nidderdale agriculture takes place each September in Pateley Bridge and celebrates the best of country living with show jumping displays, shopping marquees, handicrafts, and livestock classes.
Nidd Art Trail
Follow the Nidd Art Trail and take a look around Nidderdale’s various galleries, craft shops and workshops with a range of artwork and sculptures on display. The trail is an annual August event and comprises of around 40 mini-exhibitions across the whole of Nidderdale - a great way to uncover hidden treasures.
Masham Sheep Fair
Masham was once a hub for sheep sales with up to 70,000 sold in the market square each year. This history is celebrated each September with the annual Masham Sheep Fair - a fun-filled weekend which features lots of sheep as well as Morris dancing, bell ringing, craft stalls and a children’s fair.
Harrogate Food and Drink Festival
Sample a range of Yorkshire foodie delights at the Harrogate Food and Drink Festival, which takes place in August. Wares on offer include cheeses, jams, chocolates and gin - there’s also chef demonstrations, live music and tasty street food in the beautiful grounds of Ripley Castle.
Where to stay in Nidderdale
Has this inspired you to visit pretty the Nidderdale countryside around Harrogate? Below is just a selection of our Nidderdale cottages that are perfect for a short break or holiday.
A romantic one-bedroom bolthole with an idyllic setting looking out over Nidderdale’s Washburn Valley. Head outside to make the most of a beautiful view from the cottage’s elevated private terrace.
This dog-friendly one-bedroom cottage is spacious, elegant and has a lovely enclosed garden that’s just right for four-legged friends. Characterful stone walls and contemporary interiors combine to give the perfect blend of old and new.
This quintessential country cottage is tucked away in a secluded Nidderdale spot and there’s a choice of walks to try straight from the front door. The 2-bedroom cottage is dog-friendly and an ideal choice for couples and smaller families.
With a bubbling hot tub looking out over gorgeous grounds (which include a packhorse bridge and gentle stream) the luxurious White Willow Lodge is an extra-special Nidderdale holiday home for up to 6 people. Find out more.
Browse our range of Nidderdale holiday cottages and start planning your visit to this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near Harrogate. With acres of beautiful countryside, natural attractions like Brimham Rocks and the delights of Harrogate on its doorstep, Nidderdale is a perfect choice for relaxing romantic getaways and fun-filled family holidays.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.