Muker is small, charming and tranquil village in the heart of Upper Swaledale in the north of the Yorkshire Dales. The sumptuous landscape around attracts keen Swaledale explorers and it is a sought after starting point for walks, whether you are seeking the challenge of hills nearby or something less demanding. The famous Swaledale Woollens is based here and there are a number of local shops and places to stay.
- Small, tranquil village in Upper Swaledale
- Great place for walking where you are an enthusiast or just want a wander
- Home of Swaledale Woollens
- Village shops, local art gallery, craft store and pub
- A number of bed and breakfast guest houses in the village with more in the surrounding area
- Plenty of other attractions a short drive away.
A bit of history
The name Muker (pronounced ‘Mewker’) comes from its origin as a Norse settlement. It is derived from the Norse word “Mjor-aker” which translates as “the narrow acre”. There is evidence that Muker was settled as far back as the Bronze Age – a skeleton found in the early 20th century on Muker Common, along with flints, that appears to date back that far. It’s pretty obvious why the area was settled – Muker located where the Straw Beck meets the River Swale and there is plenty of good meadow land around. No surprise, therefore, that the Vikings settled putting down roots and living off mixed farming. The River Swale would also have been a good source of fish, as it still is in its quieter moments.
Whilst agriculture remained a key industry, this was a more mixed economy than, at first, it seems. There is evidence that lead mines near to the town were worked long before the Roman invasion, with mounds of spa and rock the remains of very ancient mining. In addition, limestone was quarried and coal was mined.
Lead mining grew in importance during the late 18th century and early 19th century. At this stage, the town became an important centre for hand knitting, a diversification from sheep farming in the area. The growth of these industries lead to a spate of building in the town, and many of the cottages, workshops and other buildings date from this time.
Apart from farming, tourism is a large part of the local economy in Muker today, an industry that started in the late 19th century. Large numbers of visitors and holiday makers come to explore the area and marvel and the breathtaking scenery and today the village is a popular starting point for walks. Public footpaths in Upper Swaledale abound.
The landscape is dotted with the traditional late 18th and early 19th century barns and the drystone walls that can be found throughout the Yorkshire Dales. The hay meadows around Muker are a mass of wild flowers at certain times of the year and are of international importance, so are carefully protected. Farmers receive grants which allow them to farm the land by traditional methods, without using artificial fertilizers.
Muker Silver Band
The town is home to the famous Muker Silver Band, a brass band formed in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Well over 100 years old and still going strong, the band now is one of the last surviving bands in Swaledale and Wensleydale. It plays regularly throughout the Yorkshire Dales and, often, much further afield.
More information: Muker Silver Band website
The tradition of hand knitting using local wool in Swaledale dates back over 400 years to the days of Queen Elizabeth I who led new fashion trend of wearing hand knitted stockings. Sheep farming was a large part of the economy of the Dale and, as demand increased, it was only natural that the communities diversified into knitting the coveted woollen stockings. This was a cottage industry, however, and the industrial revolution in the 19th century saw the development of knitting machines. Hand knitting died out rapidly.
In the 1970’s the people of Swaledale saw an opportunity and revived the art of hand-knitting. Swaledale Woollens was born and has thrived, with over 30 people knitting now from their homes. It’s back to the original cottage industry. Swaledale Woollens is now owned by Kathleen Hird with some of the wool coming from sheep reared by the Hirds. All the wool knitted is locally sourced whether from Swaledale or neighbouring Wesleydale.
More information: Swaledale Woollens website
Elsewhere in the village
The Farmers Arms offers a traditional Yorkshire Dales pub atmosphere coupled with home-made food and locally brewed real ales. The village shop and post office also has a tea room and offers accommodation, and also is a Yorkshire Dales National Park Information Point. The old school is now an art gallery and craft shop.
The church of St Mary the Virgin, built during the reign of Elizabeth I in 1580, replaced a chapel of ease that has stood on the site before this. A consecrated graveyard was adjoined the church which would have been a relief to all residents of Upper Swaledale. Up until then, if they wanted their friends and relatives buried on consecrated ground, the had to carry them all the way to the parish church in Grinton, Nr Reeth, many miles away, along the Swaledale Corpse Way, as it became known.
Where to stay
Although Muker is a small village but there are still several places to stay in the area. Here’s some in the village.
|The Farmers Arms, Muker, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 6QG|
Bed and breakfast guest houses
|The Village Stores, Muker, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 6QG|
|Village Stores & Tea Shop|
|The Chapel House, Muker, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 6QG|
|Swale Farm, Muker, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 6QG|
|Swale farm website|
|Bridge House, Muker, Richmond, North Yorkshire, DL11 6QG|
You may also be interested in
- More information about Swaledale
- The Swaledale Corpse Way
- The Yorkshire Dales National Park