Wensleydale is fondly reffered to as the 'Broad Dale' as it often feels as though you are simply in rolling hills rather than a valley. It is home to the shortest river in England - the Bain which flows between Semerwater, one of Yorkshire's few natural lakes and Bainbridge. It is also one of the few Dales not named after the river which flows through it. In the case of Wensleydale, the river is the Ure whilst Wensley is a tiny village which was once a market chartered, bustling place where sheep sales took place.
It has 3 parts to it, being Upper, Middle and Lower Wensleydale. Thornton Lodge is in Upper Wensleydale whilst Leyburn (11 miles to the East) is in Mid Wensleydale and Bedale is in Lower Wensleydale. Our bit, in Upper Wensleydale merges into Cumbria if you keep going Westwards.
Thornton Lodge lies a little beyond the western end of Thornton Rust. The hamlet consists of around 50 properties, a Village Institute for social gatherings and a small Mission Room where church service is held once a month.
There has been a settlement at Thornton Rust for centuries, the village being named after St Restitutious for whom there was a chapel at the eastern end of the village in the past. It sits on a natural plateau as the land tumbles down to the River Ure below. There are footpaths down to the river and up a permitted route onto Addleborough. Owing to it's location on a spur road which joins the A684 at Worton and Aysgarth, the lane is much quieter than the main road and so is much safer for walking and cycling along.
There are no pubs or shops in Thornton Rust, these being located in Aysgarth, Askrigg and Bainbridge - slightly larger villages between 2-3 miles to the east, north-west and west of Thornton Rust respectively. Hawes is 7 miles to the west of the hamlet and Leyburn is 11 miles to the east. Both these small market towns have supermarkets, petrol stations, chemists and newsagents.
Is the larger village of Upper Wensleydale, referred to as a market town. It is situated 7 miles from Thornton Lodge on the A684 to the west of us, so if guests are coming from the M6 direction and pass through it, they're nearly at the house.
It is home to a number of visitor attractions. At the western end of town is the Wensleydale Creamery and visitors centre where people can both observe the cheese being made and also sample the many different varieties. There is also a museum, shop and large cafeteria/restaurant.
A short stroll from the creamery is Gayle Mill, which was restored around 10 years ago and where volunteers can provide guided tours and wood sawing demonstrations take place. The mill produces items for sale.
Hawes itself has an abundance of cafe's, galleries, independent shops and pubs making it a bustling hub during the summer season. There are walks in numerous directions from the town and copies of the pamphlet showing these can be purchased from either the newsagents or the tourist information centre.
The tourist information centre is located at the eastern end of Hawes inside the Countryside museum which is near the Ropemakers. The museum provides an insight into bygone ways in the dales and also hosts art exhibitions from time to time.
Bainbridge is around 2.5 miles to the west of Thornton Lodge on the A684 going towards Hawes. It is home to my fantastic butcher Hammonds of Bainbridge - some guests bring ice packs I freeze for them so they can take some of their sausages home with them.
It also has a really lovely tea shop called the Cornmill where you can also get cakes and buns to take away, which is really handy for people wanting to go to nearby Semerwater.
There is a tiny petrol station where you can buy newspapers and a luxury hotel which is open to non residents if they're not holding a wedding there. There is also a pub on the village green wher fishing permits can be purchased and a childrens playground.
is around 4 or so miles from Thornton Lodge, along the A684 towards Bainbridge. There are two roads to the lake, one before you turn down the hillside to Bainbridge and one signed as a left turn up the village green - this is why it's around 4 miles or so as the distance varies depending on which route you choose - both are lovely.
There are a couple of little hamlets on the way to Semerwater and also a turning to visit Raydale Preserves where they make amazing jams and chutneys in small batches, the old fashioned way. The lake itself is gorgeous - my favourite view of it is from the top of Addlebrough, my second favourite view is coming back from Swaledale over Askrigg common as it comes into view. It's a glacial lake, one of only a few in Yorkshire and comes with its own legends. Englands shortest river, the Bain flows out or it to Bainbridge where it joins the Ure.
Known by many for it's waterfalls, which were painted by JMW Turner in the 19th Century and form part of a trail people can follow of the views and objects he imortalised.
The falls are located around 3 miles or so from Thornton Lodge. Most people take their car but it is walkable too. There are footpath maps of the area and it's possible to walk along the lane to Aysgarth and then pick up the tracks to the falls, or to continue along the main road, past the George & Dragon and Aysgarth Falls Hotel, which both serve very good food, and then down the steep bank past St Andrews church.
The church yard at St Andrews is reportedly the largest in England and the church itself has a screen from the time of the reformation saved from a nearby Abbey.
There are a number of walks that centre from Aysgarth Falls. Popular with guests is one of around 5 miles which goes through Freeholder Wood (a beautiful bit of ancient woodland where you can view the middle and lower falls), across pastures to Castle Bolton and then back via a choice of routes. This is a great walk as there is a cafe at the Castle so people can refuel and the Castle is lovely to look around in its own right.
I dont appear to have a picture of Askrigg - but this is of Addlebrough and you get a cracking good view of it from the other side of the valley - which is where Askrigg is! It's about 2 miles from Thornton Lodge if you got the unsigned way across the bottom of the valley and about 3 miles if you go via Bainbridge and follow the signs.
There are some lovely little walks there and if you dont mind the yomp back up the hill to us from the main road, it's possible to walk over the fields to have dinner at one of the pubs/hotels there. There are 3 - the Kings Arms at the bottom of the village near the church, The White Rose in the middle and The Crown at the top end. There's also a little village shop, a tea room and a village bakery.
You can stay on this side of the valley to get to Hardraw which is near Hawes, and gain access to Hardraw Force which is Englands longest single drop waterfall. You can also turn off near the Crown pub and take the road up over Askrigg Common into Swaledale. This is the route I suggest to my guests when I show them the lovely circular drive they can do, as this road comes out just the east side of Muker.
We have our own medieval castle around 5 miles from Thornton Lodge. Much of the Castle is still intact and is sometimes used as a wedding venue. They have birds of prey and wild boar as visitor attractions and people are able to see the habitable parts of the castle as they were in Elizabethan times. There is a very good tea shop at the castle which is a bonus for those guests who choose to do the lovely walk from Aysgarth falls and back.
For guests doing my circular drive round Swaledale, one of the options for coming back is to take the Redmire road as signed at Reeth, which comes out near the castle and allows a visit to be tagged on to the end of the drive before returning to Thornton Lodge. This is popular with guests although I need to point out that for people who struggle with steps it isn't possible to visit much of the castle structure since it involves a deal of climbing stairs.
The castle remains in the private ownership of Lord Bolton and his family who work hard to promote the castle and area in general. The Estate has a number of fishing beats along the River Ure which flows through it, information of which is available via my fishing link to the right.
Another place I'll have to make a point of taking a specific picture of! Whilst our postal address says Leyburn, that's just a peculiarity of the postal system. We're 11 miles west of Leyburn and each of the times I've received a call from guests announcing they're in Leyburn but can't see us, my heart sinks, especially if I'm pretty sure they've come via the M6 and so passed our lane 20 mins ago!
yes, 11 miles does take around 20 mins to drive through the valley! but, we have gorgeous scenery whilst you do that. I really like Leyburn - it has all the things I was used to as a townie but without any of the national chain shops. My favourite shop in Leyburn is called Saffron - they're an indian restaurant but also do takeaways and when I'm on my knees with either work or jobs hubby's had lined up when I'm shut, they are my salvation on a Saturday night when I can't face cooking. The guys drive over from Bradford every day and I'm so glad they do!
Leyburn has some great independent shops - Campbells the grocers where you can lose track of time marvelling at all the exceptional produce,Serendipity and House & Home for homewares, several outfitters and country stores, a chemist and newsagents, pubs, teas shops, cafes ,apetrol station, dentist, antique shops - and is home to Tennants, the largest auction house in the north of England. They have a restaurant there and are open during the day for people to view items in upcoming sales. I love it when i have people staying with me who are going to bid at auction and many of my own original antiques in the house were bought there when I was sourcing items for the house.