Yorkshire Dales, North Yorkshire
Up to 10 million people visit this natural paradise every year to thrill to a uniquely English landscape that has long inspired writers and artists - and also to enjoy a wide range of family activities and outdoor pursuits, to absorb the local history and culture, to explore the wildlife and the cuisine, and often simply to escape the stresses of everyday life in the city. There's a feeling, here, of time almost standing still.
The rich geology of the area's 1,600 square miles - nudging into Cumbria - brings a hugely diverse landscape, much of it contained within the Yorkshire Dales National Park and in designated areas of outstanding natural beauty.
The Dales themselves are river valleys, and the features that surround them, top to toe, are breath-taking, from the dramatic peaks, cliffs, gorges, waterfalls and highland plateaux of the Pennines to the lower-lying acres of rolling, grassy hills and drumlins, moors, wetlands, parklands, farmlands dotted with old barns, ancient woodlands, delightful meadows filled with wildflowers and herbs, lakes, river walks, hayfields and pastures, bordered by traditional, picturesque drystone walls.
The limestone country has produced awe-inspiring chains of underground caves lined with stalactites and stalagmites.
Ramblers, hikers, hill-climbers and cyclists never tire of the Dales, and sports fans of all persuasions are well provided for, from the gentler activities of fishing and canoeing to the more daring: mountain-biking, horse-riding, pot-holing and abseiling.
The train, meanwhile, takes on an old-fashioned romance with excursions on the Settle To Carlisle Railway and the Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway .
The market towns and tiny villages - some more than 1,000 years old - are hospitable and charming. Visitors may sample delicious local produce - anything from Wensleydale cheese to Theakston's beer - in tea-rooms, inns and restaurants, while stocking up for the homeward journey at farmers markets and farm shops .
Culture vultures are spoilt for choice in the Dales with its spread of museums , ancient ruins, stately homes and castles at Skipton , Raby, Middleham and Richmond . The historic city of Ripon has a splendid cathedral, while Harrogate is an old spa town. The Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden - a World Heritage Site - is one of the area's most popular attractions.
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