Littondale

Littondale, a lovely side-dale to Wharfedale, follows the River Skirfare. Pen-y-Ghent dominates the head of the valley.

View down Littondale. Photo by Chris Downer

View down Littondale

Photo by Chris Downer1

Littondale is a small valley in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It’s one of the few Dales not named after the river running through it, the River Skirfare, but after the village of Litton that lies partway up the Dale.

The fertile, smooth, glacial valley is criss-crossed with the iconic drystone walls and dotted with the barns and sheep so typical of many of the Yorkshire Dales.

Pen-y-ghent, one of the Three Peaks, lies at the head of the valley.

Location

Landscape

Littondale is actually a side-dale leading off Wharfedale. As with all the Yorkshire Dales, a river flows through the valley bottom; in the case of Littondale this is the River Skirfare. Formed by glaciers over many thousands of years, the valley sides are shallow and smooth, now criss-crossed with the drystone walls, barns and sheep so typical of the Yorkshire Dales.

The retreat of the glaciers left rocks, large and small, strewn over the valley, and it was these lumps of limestone and Yoredale rock that was used to construct the lines of drystone walls, barns and houses in the dale.

The action of water on limestone over the millennia has also left Littondale with a number of shake holes and sink-holes which lead to underground cave systems like the one at Boreham Cave. The dale leads inexorably up to Pen-y-ghent, one of the Yorkshire Three Peaks which sits at the head of Littondale.

A bit of history

The fertile Littondale has been inhabited and farmed for 5,000 years or more, going back to the Bronze and Iron Ages. Settlements from those times are still visible if you know where to look. Saxon cultivation terraces (lynchets) can also be found in the valley.

The Normans, following their 1066 conquest, turned Littondale into a hunting ground for 200 years. In the 13th century, Littondale was given to the monks of Fountains Abbey; the residents of the Dale then focussed on sheep farming.

Towns and villages

Hawkswick
Arncliffe
Litton
Halton Gill
Foxup

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1 © Copyright Chris Downer and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence