Settle down in Settle for a great day out!
A great town in an iconic setting
There’s so much to see and do in Settle, a unique market town with a mix of heritage and incredible scenery, nestled in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales and of course, part of the iconic Settle-Carlisle Railway, which is a member of the Great Scenic Journeys collection.
Settle is the gateway to some fabulous scenic walks for the adventurous, such as to Winskill Stones, Ribblehead but there’s also some charming sojourns that can be made for those with maybe a couple of hours or less to spare in the town between trains.
A classic manageable ramble is on The Riverside Walk which is on the route of the Ribble Way, a 69-mile long-distance footpath that follows the River Ribble from its mouth to its source. Access is by Settle Bridge at the northern end of the town, from Mill Lane or Bankwell Road at the centre and from Station Road at the southern end. Stroll past old cotton and snuff mills which were so crucial in yesteryear and wonder at the award-winning Settle Hydro which harnesses the river to create clean, green electricity for local homes. There’s also the chance to check out nature at its finest, maybe a salmon, kingfisher or heron.
Meanwhile, Castleberg Crag is an iconic feature steeped in the history of Settle. No trip to the town can be made without a glance over at the Crag! It’s a tall limestone rock and has been recognised as a beauty spot for centuries, ever since travellers started touring Britain’s natural wonders. The first visitors in the mid-18th century wrote that the rock had been laid out as a giant sundial and a Samuel Buck sketch of 1720 survives showing huge slabs of stone with the hours marked out on them running down the side of the hill. By 1800, the sundial was long gone and instead the townspeople had laid out a path to the top so that visitors could enjoy the fine view. Over the next 100 years, the area has iteratively been developed, with more paths cut, trees and shrubs planted and amusements added such as swings, a roundabout and roller skating.
The pleasure grounds were enjoyed by locals and by visitors who came in on the railway line from the towns of the West Riding and Lancashire, with Castleberg becoming a popular picnic spot for these excursions. Many of the plants from the pleasure grounds are still there, including lilac, buddleia and peony alongside spurge laurel, dogwood and two different sorts of whitebeam. It’s a haven for wildlife too!
A short walk from Settle is Scaleber Force which is a majestic 40ft waterfall situated in the Scaleber Wood Nature Reserve. The generally clear crystal water emanates from Stockbale Beck and it plunges over limestone cliffs, plummeting into a deep pool.
It’s not all jaw-dropping scenery, there’s plenty going on in the town itself. The Folly, is the Yorkshire Dales’ sole Grade 1 listed building regularly open to the public. Built in 1679, it’s home to the Museum of North Craven Life and regales the enthralling memories of Settle folk and depicts the stunning local landscape. There’s a fab coffee shop at the Folly serving fab festive afternoon tea!
Meanwhile, the world’s oldest music hall enjoys pride of place in Settle. A grade two listed building, dating from 1853, this Victorian gem has stood the test of time, hosting a vast range of events that include concerts, theatrical performances, dances, and community gatherings. Its architecture showcases intricate details, from ornate ceilings to elegant balconies, creating an intimate yet grand ambiance. The hall’s acoustics are renowned, enhancing the experience of live music and performances. Stepping inside feels like a journey through history, where the echoes of past performances merge with the vibrant energy of present-day events, making the Victoria Hall a cherished cultural centre piece in Settle. It also predates the Settle-Carlisle Railway by 13 years!
St. Alkelda’s Church stands as a historical treasure, its origins dating back to Norman times. This ancient place of worship embodies architectural evolution, blending Norman and medieval elements that captivate visitors. The church’s exterior showcases sturdy stonework, while its interior boasts magnificent medieval features like a striking Norman doorway and intricately carved pillars.
Stepping inside, it feels really tranquil overlooked by stained glass windows filtering kaleidoscopic light onto the ancient stone floors. The church’s nave leads to a chancel adorned with ornate woodwork, adding to the ambiance of reverence and awe. St. Alkelda serves as more than a mere building; it’s a testament to the enduring legacy of faith and craftsmanship that has endured for centuries in the heart of Settle.
Settle has its quirks! There’s an ancient law that dictates that every sheep found wandering the streets after dusk can legally be claimed by the town’s mayor. This archaic tradition, dating back centuries, symbolizes the historical ties between the town’s governance and its agricultural roots. While it might seem whimsical, it’s a nod to Settle’s rural heritage and a reminder of a time when livestock roaming freely was a common sight. Though seldom exercised, it adds a touch of eccentricity to the town’s history, showcasing a bygone custom that still lingers within the fabric of Settle’s folklore.
For places to eat, Ye Olde Naked Man Cafe is a quaint and charming spot that captures attention with its quirky name and inviting ambiance. Despite its peculiar name, the cafe exudes warmth and hospitality, drawing locals and visitors alike with its cozy interior, eclectic decor, that includes vintage memorabilia and local artworks, and delicious fare.
There’s also the Bumble Bee coffee shop which is a small, friendly, bee-themed coffee shop selling breakfasts, cakes, paninis, sandwiches and delicious coffee. Wonky Cake, Courtyard Dairy Cafe, and The Lay of the Land Cake and Coffee Shop are also charming places that are well worth checking out!
As well as the incredible Railway, Settle is also famous for its market, which is held every Tuesday. It’s a vibrant tapestry of sights, sounds, and aromas that bring the town alive. Nestled in the heart of the town, the market transforms the streets into a bustling hub of activity, attracting both locals and tourists.
Stalls adorned with colourful displays offer a diverse array of goods, from locally sourced produce like fresh fruits, vegetables, and cheeses to artisanal crafts, clothing, and unique trinkets. The air is filled with the scents of freshly baked goods and aromatic street food, enticing passersby to indulge in culinary delights.
Finally, it’s back to the railway and if it is on a Saturday, the fascinating signal box is open to the public. Be sure to also browse the wonderful gift shop on the station with its range of goodies. The shop is staffed by the Friends of the Settle-Carlisle which is tasked with preserving, nurturing and developing this world-renowned line and do so much to ensuring it is a great, timeless experience.
Another great feature of this route is that The Settle-Carlisle Trust owns stations along the line, where folk can stay in beautifully refurbished accommodation too!
For more information regarding the role of this fabulous organisation, click onto The Settle-Carlisle Railway Development Company