Busy market town in Wensleydale, home of Bolton Castle. Excellent base to explore from.

Town Centre, Leyburn

Town Centre, Leyburn1

The market town of Leyburn sits on the banks of the River Ure in Wensleydale. The name comes from the words ‘Ley’ or ‘Le’ meaning clearing, and ‘burn’ meaning stream.

There are 2 markets, plenty of pubs and restaurants, a wide range of speciality shops and attractions like historic Bolton Castle with its connections to Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Wensleydale Railway.


In brief

  • Traditional Yorkshire Dales market town
  • Markets and range of speciality shops
  • The annual Dales Festival of Food and Drink is held here
  • Hosts the traditional Wensleydale Agricultural Show each year
  • Ride a steam train along the Wensleydale Railway
  • The historic Bolton Castle is nearby

A bit of history

In common with towns and villages across Wensleydale, growth of Leyburn was based on agriculture and the industries associated with it. The Norman Conquest saw powerful allies of William the Conqueror granted lands in the area. The nearby Bolton Castle was built by Sir Richard le Scrope, Richard II’s Lord Chancellor, starting in 1379, completed 20 years later. The current owner, Lord Bolton, is a direct descendant of Sir Richard le Scrope.

Leyburn grew in size as local people moved to live under the protection of the castle. By the 1800s the area was prosperous enough to warrant funds being raised to build a railway line to connect the East Coast line at Northallerton with the Settle to Carlisle line at Garsdale. The line closed during the 20th century and is currently being reopened by volunteers.

Leyburn today

The town is a focal point for tourists wanting to enjoy Wensleydale, walk along the Shawl and try other routes, and visit well known sites in the area such as Bolton Castle, Askrigg and Aysgarth. Busy and popular markets are still held weekly on Fridays, attracting plenty of locals and visitors. A farmer’s market is also held once a month.

The town has been used in various television programmes over the years including a documentary, ‘The Department Store, Milner’s’, on BBC4 in 2008 and ‘Heartbeat’, the drama series set in the 1960s.

Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle

Bolton Castle2

Bolton Castle was built by Sir Richard le Scrope, Richard II’s Lord Chancellor, starting in 1379. The family had grown in power over the years and could trace its ancestry back to the Norman Conquest. The Castle 20 years to complete.

It became famous, or maybe, notorious, in 1568 when Mary, Queen of Scots was held here from July of that year under the watchful eye of Henry Scrope, the 9th Baron Scrope of Bolton, who felt it would be more secure than Carlisle where she was originally kept. In the event, Mary was only at Bolton Castle for 6 months; in January 1569 she was moved to Tutbury in Staffordshire where she remained for the next 18 years.

Leyburn Shawl

Town Centre, Leyburn

Leyburn Shawl3

Leyburn Shawl is an escarpment overlooking the town from where you can get lovely views over Wensleydale and the Coverdale Fells. It’s nearly 2 miles long with a grassy path along its length, stretching into longer circular walks for the more adventurous.

The name comes from a story about an attempt by Mary Queen of Scots to escape Bolton Castle. During her flight she headed for Leyburn but dropped her shawl on the escarpment. The shawl, when it was found, gave a good idea of where she was headed and she was quickly recaptured.

Dales Festival of Food and Drink

Launched in 2002, the Dales Festival of Food and Drink weaves together three Yorkshire Dales staples – Food, Farming and Fun … and drink, of course. Locally sourced organic food and award winning beers feature, along with talks, demonstrations, exhibits and a Speaker’s Corner for established authors and speakers. For the younger at heart, there’s a range of rides and entertainments.

The Festival is held in early May, spread over 3 days, and there is an entrance charge for adults. Children under 16 get in free.

More information: Dales Festival of Food and Drink website

Wensleydale Agricultural Show

A traditional Dales show held close to Leyburn each year. There is a good range of competitive events for livestock such as sheep, cattle and horses as well as over 60 poultry classes. In addition you’ll find horticultural and handicraft classes, dry stone walling and Wensleydale Sheep competitions, local brass bands playing and a wide range of other activities.

The Show generally takes place in August. There is an entrance fee with reductions for children and free entry for the under 5s get. Parking is free.

For information: Wensleydale Agricultural Show website

Wensleydale Railway

Leyburn Station

Leyburn Station4

The Wensleydale Railway was originally 40 miles long, built in the 19th century to connect the East Coast railway at Northallerton with the Settle to Carlisle line at Garsdale. It ran successfully until the 1950s/60s when it was closed for passengers. Some 18 miles were torn up and the land sold to local farmers. The remaining 22 miles continued to be used to transport stone from the local Redmire Quarry until 1989.

A group of enthusiasts sought to resurrect passenger services on the line and after some battles succeeded. The line opened in 2003 along a 12 mile length from Leeming Bar to Leyburn, with another 5 miles opening the following year as well as 3 more stations.

The railway now offers tourist rides throughout the Dale, mostly on diesel trains but occasionally on a steam train.

More information: Wensleydale Railway website

Where to stay

Leyburn is a good sized Yorkshire Dales town so there is plenty of choice when it comes to places to stay. Here’s a few.

Pubs & Hotels

The Black Swan Hotel
The Golden Lion Hotel
The Sandpiper Inn

Bed & Breakfast guest houses

Clyde House
The Dales Haven Guest House
Grove House

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1© Copyright Anthony Harrison.
2© Copyright wfmillar.
3© Copyright Gordon Hatton.
4© Copyright Ashley Dace.
All photos licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.