Nidderdale AONB

Gouthwaite Reservoir - Nidderdale AONB, England
Gouthwaite Reservoir, Nidderdale AONB ©

Nidderdale – Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is located in North Yorkshire in northern England. The area was first designated a AONB in 1994, the area covers just over 600 square kilometres, it is one of the Yorkshire Dales although the area is not part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Located directly to the east of the national park, the two protected areas are located next to one another. The area is well known for its moorland, valleys, historic gardens, parks and country houses.

The local population of approx 16,000 live in towns and villages located across the AONB such Pateley Bridge and Dacre. The area covered under the AONB designation covers an area from close to Middleham in the north to Ripon in the east to Harrogate in the south to Kettlewell in the west. The area is of national importance for nature conservation and includes of Sites of Scientific Interest (SSSI), Conservation Areas and Scheduled Monuments.

The key features and special qualities of the Nidderdale AONB include the variety of nationally significant landscape areas, natural environment including fauna and flora, historical archaeological sites and settlements including the Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden World Heritage Site. The area is important for wildlife and habitats with a number of protected wildlife sites, moorland and grassland sites The key features combined with the peace, tranquillity and natural beauty of the area makes the area special.

The main industries in the AONB include farming, agriculture and tourism. Much of the area covered under the AONB is remote and despite being one of the Yorkshire Dales is less well known than its national park neighbour. The area is a popular destination for visitors, for day trips, weekend breaks and longer stays. There are a number of scenic villages and small towns located in the AONB, the largest settlement is the town of Pateley Bridge. Main settlements located close by include Harrogate, Bradford, Leeds, Halifax and Ripon.

The area is popular for outdoor activities including climbing, canoeing, caving, wildlife watching, horse riding, walking and cycling with a range of routes and trails to explore. Visitors can enjoy some of the finest landscapes and natural scenery in England whilst exploring and enjoying the great outdoors.

Quick Facts

Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty:

Year of Designation: 1994

Population: 16,000 (approx)

Size in square kilometres: 603

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs): 9

Conservation Areas: 14

Scheduled Monuments: 126

Main Settlements close by: Harrogate, Leeds, Bradford, Halifax and Ripon.

Located in: North Yorkshire.


The Nidderdale AONB is located in the northern English county of North Yorkshire, the location of the AONB to the east of the larger Yorkshire Dales National Park means it is possible for visitors to explore both areas, time permitting. Nidderdale is sometimes missed by visitors to the area with the Yorkshire Dales National Park enjoying a higher profile, however the remote nature of Nidderdale appeals to many visitors looking to explore a range of landscapes and scenery away from the crowds.

The AONB includes a number of relatively small settlements, peace and tranquillity where visitors can enjoy an area much of which is remote providing a complete contrast to the traffic and congestion of the major towns and cities. The AONB area itself is sparsely populated compared to the population centres in the surrounding areas. There are no major towns or cities that fall within the AONB boundary the largest settlements is the town of Pateley Bridge, in addition there are a number of historic towns and small villages that are full of history and character.

The Nidderdale AONB have a rich history and includes a number of historic archaeological and historical sites for visitors to explore including the famous Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden World Heritage Site. The area is of national importance for its landscape, ecology and geology. Local towns located close to the AONB border include Masham, Otley and Ilkey provide convenient places from which visitors can tour the Nidderdale AONB. The commercial development in the AONB area has been limited in order to help protect and maintain the special qualities of the area ensuring visitors can enjoy the natural beauty and landscapes in Nidderdale.

The location in the north of England means the AONB is easily assessable from across the north west and north east of England, the Midlands and East Anglia, southern Scotland and north Wales. From Newcastle, Durham and much of north east England the area is 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes by car, from Leeds it is 45 minutes by car, from Birmingham and much of the Midlands it is 3 hours to 3 hours 30 minutes. From Liverpool and Manchester it is approx 2 hours, from Cambridge it is 3 hours 30 minutes and from London and much of southern England it is 4 hours 30 minutes to 6 hours away.

Tourist Information Centres and information points are located at various locations close by to the Nidderdale AONB. The TIC based inside the AONB is located at Pateley Bridge, whilst there are centres in Harrogate, Ripon, Knaresborough, Masham, Otley and Ilkey located close to the AONB. The tourist information centres provide visitors with information, help, advice and tips on the AONB area and the surrounding areas.

Each of the centres has knowledgeable staff offering useful local knowledge with further information on local attractions, places of interest, things to see and do, along with local advice and tips. A visit to the tourist information centres provides a good first port of call for visitors helping to better plan and organise trips in and around the local area, find out about local events, public transport options and accommodation facilities.

Local Accommodation includes a range of hotels including historic and contemporary, B & B’s, Guest Houses, Self Catering houses, holiday homes and cottages. Local accommodation is available in Pateley Bridge and Bouthwaite. Towns located in the area including Masham, Otley and Ilkey and the larger settlements at Harrogate, Leeds and Bradford, provide good access to local facilities and accommodation from which to explore the AONB and the surrounding local areas in southern England.

The Nidderdale AONB provides a place for visitors can explore a number of historic towns, villages and hamlets and enjoy the remote nature of the area away from the stresses of town and city life. Many of the towns and villages have preserved their history, traditions and heritage offering visitors a fascinating insight in to local history and culture. There are a number of local attractions and places of interest for visitors to explore further.

Local Towns include Pateley Bridge located in 13 miles north west of Harrogate in the heart of the Nidderdale AONB. The town is a scenic one and is the largest settlement within the AONB, surrounded by picturesque countryside the town has been a source of inspiration for many years for artists and writers. The compact market town includes a number of local shops and amenities including independent shops, tea shops, places to eat and accommodation options, making it a convenient place from which to explore the local area.

Local attractions include the Nidderdale Museum based include the original Old Workhouse dating back to the 19th century. Inside there is the museum, arts and crafts businesses, a cobbler's shop, school room and a number of exhibitions, displays, artefacts and relics that tell the story of the history of the area and way of life through history.

The museum started back in 1975 and includes several exhibition rooms that showcase the lives of local people, there are sections that look at local industry, transport, agriculture and religion among others. A visit to the museum offers a fascinating insight in to the social history of the area.

The Nidderdale Show (also referred to as the Pateley Show), is an annual event held in September. The agricultural show is one of the leading agricultural shows in the UK showcasing livestock, produce and crafts in the Yorkshire Dales. Visitors can explore a number of events, stalls and marquees at the show.

Otley is located on the River Wharfe just over 10 miles from Harrogate on the southern edge of the AONB area. The historic market town was once known for its manufacture of printing presses. The town still has regular street markets and monthly farmers markets selling fresh and organic produce. There are a choice of shops in the town ranging from high street names, supermarkets, a choice of local bakeries and butchers to smaller independent and specialist shops. Visitors can choose from a range of traditional pubs and inns that offer a choice of food and drinks.

Local attractions include the Courthouse, a local centre for the arts that is housed inside a 19th century magistrates court. The centre hosts a number of exhibitions and events throughout the year and includes a cafe. Visitors can watch a show, see a film, listen to musical performances and see exhibitions at the centre.

The Otley Museum in the town includes a number of collections with documents, photographs and artefacts telling the social history of the local area. Otley hosts one of the oldest agricultural shows in England usually held just before the spring bank holiday in May.

Ilkey is located just under 20 miles to the east of Harrogate on the southern western edge of the AONB. The historic Victorian spa town is known for its floral displays, wide streets and Victorian architecture, its history as a spa town and the scenic countryside that surrounds it makes it a popular destination for visitors to the AONB and the surrounding areas.

The town centre is home to a number of independent shops, there are Victorian parades at the Grove and Brook Street that include a choice of speciality shops. There are a choice of pubs, eateries and tea shops in the town offering visitors a choice of food and drinks options. The towns choice of shops, amenities and accommodation facilities makes it a popular base for visitors.

Local attractions include the Manor House Art Gallery and Museum housed inside a historic building there is an art gallery, museum and education centre on site. The museum includes a umber of archaeological artefacts, the ground floor includes historic exhibitions of the town and social history whilst the first floor includes a changing programme of temporary exhibitions. The compact town hosts a number of events and festivals including the Ilkley Summer Festival that is held in August and the Ilkley Literature Festival that usually takes place in October.

Stumps Cross Caverns is located north west from Harrogate, it is one of the main show caves in the UK. The cave system is extensive and was discovered back in 1860 by miners. Inside the caves include colourful stalactite and stalagmite formations thought to date back up to 200,000 years. Visitors can see some wonderful natural formations in the caves and its importance is illustrated by its status as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The cave system extends to beyond the show caves and have a approximate length of 6 kilometres.

Visitors can enjoy guided tours to see the show caves and the interesting formations after which they can see a film in the lecture theatre that gives more details on the caves, the history of the area and how the caves were created. Facilities on site include tea rooms where visitors can find a choice of food and drinks including cakes, desserts and a choice of meals. The gift shop includes a choice of minerals, fossils and crystals and offers a choice of gifts, souvenirs and mementos. A visit to the caves offers an interesting and educational day out for the whole family.

Brimham Rocks is located 10 miles north of Harrogate in North Yorkshire within the AONB area. The area is under the guardianship of the National Trust, visitors can see dramatic moorland rock formations in a site over 50 acres. There is an impressive collection of rock formations that include interestingly shaped rocks such as The Eagle and The Gorilla, Spot the Dancing Bear and the Rocking Stones. The rocks were formed approx 320 million years ago and the site includes a labyrinth of paths.

Brimham House includes an exhibition and offers some refreshments, the area is located in scenic countryside with heather moorland and scenic woodland offering visitors the chance to enjoy this natural wonder and take the best of the great outdoors.

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Park is located 10 miles north of Harrogate, it is one of the most acclaimed and famous attractions in the area, having been a World Heritage Site since 1986. There are ten historic buildings visitors can explore in scenic surroundings. The site is noted for its historical, architectural and cultural significance and includes water gardens, ruins and historic surroundings making for a fascinating place to visit. The site includes an impressive Georgian water garden and the largest abbey ruins in the UK.

The estate is over 820 acres in size and is owned by the National Trust, the Abbey dates back to 1132 and is the largest monastic ruin in the UK, whilst the Fountains Hall is a building dating back to the Jacobean era, with a number of rooms inside for visitors to explore. St Mary's Church provides a fine example of High Victorian Gothic architecture. There is also a Deer Park that houses approx 500 wild deer, visitors can see red, fallow and sika deer in the park. A visit here offers an interesting and enjoyable day out for the whole family with lots to see, do and enjoy.

How Stean Gorge is located just over 20 miles from Harrogate in the north of the Nidderdale AONB. Visitors can see a stunning 20 metres deep limestone gorge that provides plenty of action and adventure for the whole family. How Stean Gorge is geographically unique providing one of the few places in the UK where visitors can enjoy both rocksports and paddlesports in a single day. Visitors can also tour the gorge, caves and canals along with taking part in a range of outdoor activities.

Outdoor activities at the centre include abseiling, canoeing, caving, climbing, gorge walking, kayaking and via ferrata - high wire adventures. There is a cafes on site offering hot meals and choice of drinks.

Gouthwaite Reservoir is located a few miles from Pateley Bridge in the heart of the AONB. It is both a nature reserve and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). The area includes viewing areas for bird watching enthusiasts, the natural landscape that includes tree and shrub cover along the shorelines ensures the nature reserve provides a fine habitat for small birds. There are a number of species of birds to look out or including Redstarts, Blackcaps, Willow Warblers and Spotted and Green Woodpeckers. During the winter months visitors can catch a glimpse of birds of prey including Buzzard, Merlin and Osprey that are on migration.

Walking offers visitors one of the best and environmentally friendly ways to discover the AONB and the surrounding areas, there are a number of popular walks in the area for visitors to try. The Nidderdale AONB includes a choice of landscapes and terrain, with a number of footpaths and bridleways offering both shorter and longer walks for walkers of all abilities. Walks include the Pateley Bridge Circular walk, Beverley Tree Trail and Dacre Walls Walk. A number of long distance paths go through Nidderdale including the Nidderdale Way, Six Dales Train and Dales Way.

Cycling provides both a cost effective and environmentally friendly way to explore the Nidderdale AONB. There are a number of quiet country lanes and more challenging terrain making the area suitable for cycling. There are a number of cycle routes in the area these include the Northern Loop route a 40 mile circular route and the Southern Loop route, a 38 miles circular route.

Visitors to the Nidderdale AONB in northern England will find a quiet, scenic area full of character and historic charm known for its moorland, valleys and historic attractions. Visitors can explore a number of historic towns and villages in and around the AONB. Nidderdale includes plenty of remote areas provides a place where visitors can get away from the traffic and congestion and enjoy the landscapes, wonderful views and enjoy the great outdoors.

How to Get There

Nidderdale AONB is accessible by both car and public transport.

By Car:

The town of Harrogate is located next to the AONB area and provides a convenient located from which to explore the area with a choice of accommodation and local amenities. Located approx 220 miles from central London. From London take the A406 North Circular and then exit on to the M11 towards Cambridge/Stanstead. At junction 14 exit on to the A14, from the A14 exit on to the A1(M) towards Peterborough. Continue along the A1 and A1(M) until junction 45 and exit on to the A659 to the exit for the A168 towards Wetherby/Otley and then take the A661 that goes to Harrogate. The approx journey time is 4 hours 15 minutes to 4 hour 45 minutes depending on traffic and time of day.

By Train:

The train station at Harrogate has regular services from both Leeds and York railway stations. From London King's Cross station there are regular services to both York and Leeds stations, where there are onward services to Harrogate. The journey time is approx 3 hours, depending on service, connections and time of day. The Transdev Harrogate & District bus service no. 24 runs from Harrogate to Pateley Bridge through Lower Nidderdale.

By Bus/Coach:

There are regular buses available from London Victoria Coach station Harrogate. The approx journey time is 5 hours t 5 hours 30 minutes depending on time of day and traffic. From Harrogate visitors can use the Transdev Harrogate & District bus service no. 24 for services in to the AONB area. Coach services to Harrogate are provided by National Express

Contact Details

Nidderdale AONB
The Old Workhouse
King Street
Pateley Bridge
North Yorkshire

Telephone: +44 (0)1423 712950

Website: Nidderdale AONB


For Local Search and Directions see: Nidderdale (AONB) Map

Tips & Other Considerations

The weather and climate can be unpredictable, there can be elements of all four seasons in one day. Ensure you check the weather forecast before you travel and have the correct clothing and footwear including comfortable walking shoes, fleece, raincoat and umbrella.

Follow travel advice and remain alert, vigilant and aware of your belongings at all times especially your wallet/purse and valuables and ensure they are hidden away from public view. If you have a bag try to use a shoulder bag with a good quality, strong strap, that is put across your shoulder not on your shoulder making it more difficult for anyone to take your bag.

If you are travelling by car to the Nidderdale AONB in North Yorkshire ensure you are well prepared with maps and Sat Nav to aid your journey, particularly if you are not familiar with the local area and roads. Use the journey planner for door to door directions. Check traffic updates before you travel.

If you are looking for car parking in and around the AONB, ensure you fully understand the rules, regulations & charges for car parks and street parking. The rules & regulations can be complex & confusing if you are unclear, it is wise not to park there.

If you are travelling by public transport, check for service updates prior to beginning your journey for any delays, disruption or cancellations to services that may impact on your journey. Ensure you have the service timetables for the trains, trams, buses and coaches. Remember when the last services are and ensure you make it to the train/bus/coach stops well in time to avoid missing the service.

AddThis Social Bookmark Button

Disclaimer: The information given in on this website is given in good faith and to the best of our knowledge. If there are any discrepancies in no way do we intend to mislead. Important travel details and arrangements should be confirmed and verified with the relevant authorities.
Copyright © 2024 Essential Travel Guide Ltd. All Rights Reserved. No part of this site may be reproduced in any form or by any means without our written permission.