Wild, dramatic, sparsely populated, Arthengarthdale is a step back in time. Home of the highest pub in England, the Tan Hill Inn.

Photo of Arkengarthdale by Ray Ellis

Looking down Arkengarthdale1

Arkengarthdale, a candidate for the dale with the most convoluted name, is the most northerly of the Yorkshire Dales. The Arkle Beck (small river) runs through the valley bottom and joins the River Swale at Reeth.

The name is thought to stem from “Arkil’s Garth”; Arkil being an 11th century Viking chieftain and ‘garth’ meaning ‘yard’ or ‘garden’ or, maybe, ‘hollow’. Arkengarthdale became well-known in the 1970s when it was featured in the TV programme ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ and again in the 80s with the ‘A Woman of Substance’ min-series.

In brief

  • Most northerly of the Yorkshire Dales
  • Sparsely populated with dramatic scenery
  • Featured in TV series, ‘All Creatures Great and Small’ and ‘A Woman of Substance’
  • The Tan Hill Inn, the highest pub in England, is at the head of the valley
  • Its moors are used for the annual Scott Trial, a cross-country motorcycle endurance event.

A bit of history

Photo of the Old Powder House, Arkengarthdale by Gordon Hatton

Old Powder House, Arkengarthdale2

The Romans appear to have mined for lead in the valley (a lead ingot with the name Hadrian stamped on it was found nearby in the 19th century). Of course, the Romans didn’t do the digging themselves – they used Brigantian slaves to do the heavy work.

The Vikings populated the dale in the 10th century and left, in addition to the name Arkengarthdale for posterity, a large number of other Viking place names like Fagger Gill, Kitley Hill, Langthwaite and Whaw.

The Normans had an impact after their conquest in 1066. A swathe of North Yorkshire was given to Count Alan, a member of William’s family, the same Alain Le Roux/Alan Rufus who built castles at Richmond and Middleham. He kept Arkengarthdale as a hunting “forest” policed by forest rangers. By the 14th century eight gamekeepers were employed to stop poaching.

When the Earls of Richmond died out at the end 16th century, Arkengarthdale went back to the Crown and in 1628 was to the City of London. In 1656 the valley was bought by Oliver Cromwell’s doctor, Charles Bathurst, whose family held it until 1808. After that the estate changed hands a number of times and is currently owned jointly by the Duke of Norfolk and a Dutch shooting syndicate.

Photo of an Ore truck, Arkengathdale by David Seale

Ore truck, Arkengathdale3

Apart from estate management, the main employment since Roman times was lead mining, particularly in early 19th century when hundreds were involved in mining, washing and smelting the ore. By the end of the 19th century, however, mining had died out and many of the people moved away to seek alternative employment.

Arkengarthdale today

Today, the economy of Arkengarthdale is based on hill farming, grouse shooting and tourism.

The shooting estate is owned by the Duke of Norfolk and a Dutch Shooting syndicate with the estate, shooting calendar and bookings handled by a sporting agency based in Leyburn.

Tourists come to experience the wild North Yorkshire moorland, enjoy quiet yet challenging walks, and to travel the winding, in many cases ‘unclassified’, roads through the tiny and wonderfully-named settlements found in Arkengarthdale – Raw, Arkle Town, Langthwaite, Booze, Eskeleth and Whaw.

Scott Trial

Photo of Scott Trial rider James Dabill, 2014 by Padres Hana

Scott Trial rider James Dabill, 20144

Dating back to 1914, The Scott Trial was started by the founder and owner of the Scott Motorcycle Company who first challenged his employee to a race through the Yorkshire Dales. It has continued, with breaks and changes, since then (apart from 2001 when there was a foot & mouth disease outbreak). The race was moved to Swaledale in 1950 and is now a cross-country race over 84 miles split up into 76 sections. It now attracts both enthusiastic amateurs and international professional riders and raises money for local charities.

More information:Scott Trial website

Tan Hill Inn

The Tan Hill Inn proudly carries the accolade of “Gt Britain’s highest Inn – 1,732 ft a.s.l”. The current inn dates back to the 17th century and today offers, in addition to traditional liquid refreshments, lovely meals and accommodation. It is also a wedding venue, offers Christmas breaks and holds a variety of events throughout the year (music nights, rallies, St Valentine’s celebrations, steak nights and more).

Visiting all year round is fun, but visiting in winter is a particular thrill. Not only does the landscape taken on a winter wonderland look but there is also a good chance of getting snowed in. It’s then that the rooms, meals, beer and camaraderie come into their own.

More information: Tan Hill Inn website

Where to stay

There are a few places actually in Arkengarthdale itself such as:

Tan Hill Inn
The Charles Bathurst Inn

For more places to stay nearby in Swaledale try Reeth or Richmond.

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1 Photo by Ray Ellis
2 Photo by Gordon Hatton
3 Photo by David Seale
4 Photo by Padres Hana (own work)
Photos 1-3 licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence
Photo 4 licenced for reuse via wikimedia commons