Capital of Swaledale, a picturesque market town, home of the Swaledale Festival.

Reeth from Fremington Edge by Mick KnaptonReeth regarded as the capital of Swaledale, sits in the in the Yorkshire Dales National Park where Swaledale meets Arkengarthdale.

It’s a picturesque market town with a long history and some wonderful walks nearby, the best known of which is Fremington Edge which gives great views of Swaledale.


In brief

  • Capital of Swaledale
  • History dating back to Saxon times
  • Starting point for many of Swaledale’s best known walks
  • Hub for the Swaledale Festival in May/June
  • Hosts the annual Reeth Agricultural Show in August
  • Nearby Grinton is the end point of the Swaledale Corpse Way

A bit of history

The name Reeth comes from old English and means “the place by the stream”. The town itself on the junction of the River Swale and the River Arkle, one of which was, presumably, ‘the stream’ from its name. In Saxon times it was merely a small settlement on the forest’s edge but grew over the years so that by the time the Normans arrived it was large enough to be recorded in the Domesday Book.

Farming was always important in Swaledale, as it still is. Reeth, granted a charter to hold a weekly market and four fairs a year by William & Mary in the 17th century, quickly became the place local farmers went to sell their animals and it continued to thrive as a result. Other industries arrived to help the development of the area. Lead had been mined in the area as far back as Roman times. By the 18th century it had become a significant industry centred on Reeth. The town also became a centre for traditional hand knitting, a natural development from local sheep farming.

Many successful market towns held a country fair each year and Reeth was no exception. Markets and fairs were popular as a way to sell stock, catch up with friends and family and buy both essentials and luxuries needed through the year. Reeth’s Bartle Fair (its charter was granted on St Bartholomew’s Day in 1695) was so popular that at one stage six fairs a year were held as well as the weekly market. Regretfully, many enjoyed them too much. The Fairs became notorious for drunkenness and fighting, and eventually they ceased to be held.

Reeth today

Today Reeth is a more tranquil place, popular with visitors to the Yorkshire Dales who want to enjoy the Swaledale landscape and try the many lovely walks in the area. The town has many tea rooms to relax in, craft shops producing traditional, high quality goods and museums showcasing the history and development of the area.

Reeth market

Reeth Market is held each week on Friday with a large number of stalls set up in the market square offering a wide range of goods.

Swaledale Museum

This independent museum showcases the heritage of Swaledale and Arkengarthdale. Housed in the old Methodist Day School, built in 1836, in the heart of Reeth, there are a range of collections, displays and exhibitions showing the geology and geography, as well as the growth and decline of local industries.

There is a small entry fee of £3 per adult. Children under 12 accompanied by an adult are free.

More information: The Swaledale Museum website .

Reeth Folk Museum

The Swaledale Folk Museum is based in the Old Merchant School in Reeth. It is a treasure house of over 500 objects connected with life and work in the dale. The Museum can be found off Reeth Green, down by the Post Office shop.

The Museum is open from Easter Monday to 5th September, on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays from 10.30am- 5.30pm. On Bank Holiday Mondays and Sundays the opening hours are 2pm – 5pm.

Swaledale Festival

The Swaledale Festival runs for 2 weeks around the end May/beginning of June. Although centred in Reeth, the concerts, exhibitions and classes are held in a wide range of locations throughout the surrounding area. The Festival is widely respected in the art world and attracts world renowned musicians, artists, actors and poets from around the world.

More information: The Swaledale Festival website

Where to stay in Reeth

Reeth is a great base from which to explore the whole of Swaledale. There are plenty of places to stay whether you are looking for hotels or bed and breakfast guest houses. Here’s a selection, although there are many more to choose from.

Pubs & hotels

The Buck Hotel
The Kings Arms

Bed and breakfast guest houses

Cambridge House

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