What's the attraction?
Go now if you want to enjoy some solitude in this particular corner of "God's own county". The Dales – a collection of river valleys and hills, most of which fall within the Yorkshire Dales National Park (0300 456 0030; www.yorkshiredales.org.uk) – may well get much busier following ITV's new 12-part documentary series, The Dales, which began this week. In it, Yorkshire-born comedian Adrian Edmondson visits the regional attractions and meets the locals – from vets to shepherdesses. The tourist board ( www.yorkshire.com) is expecting the series to have as positive an impact on visitor numbers this summer, as All Creatures Great and Small did a generation ago.
With supreme walking in the country close at hand, it would be a shame to visit the Dales without going for a hike. The latest long-distance route to open is the Six Dales Trail, a 38-mile ramble that runs a scenic – but little-walked – route up and down six dales from Otley to Middleham ( www.sixdalestrail.org.uk). It's easy enough to follow independently, but if you'd rather have your bags carried for you and your accommodation pre-arranged, walking specialist Contours Tours has recently started to offer the route as part of its self-guided holidays (01629 821900; www.contours.co.uk). Prices start at £260 per person for a four-night journey, B&B.
Also new this year is Ingleton Overground Underground – a new family-friendly weekend event on the western edge of the Dales where visitors can try anything from climbing taster sessions to safety-conscious "skills in the hills". Running from 27-30 May, its events are individually priced (01524 241843; www.ingletonovergroundunderground.co.uk). For more ideas on active endeavours in the Dales, see www.yorkshire.com/outdoors.
Pen to paper
At Craven Auction Mart this August, it'll be canvases rather than cattle under scrutiny. Skipton's Art in the Pen event is an annual exhibition of contemporary painting, jewellery, textiles, ceramics, photography and sculpture that takes place in a refurbished (and cattle-free) auction ring. Running 12-14 August this year, there will be art for sale and lively debate (01756 709666; www.artinthepen.org.uk; entry £1).
Festivals are almost as commonplace as dry-stone walls in the Dales during the summer. Kicking off the season is the Dales Festival of Food and Drink in Leyburn, which celebrates its 10th anniversary from 30 April to 2 May with Morris dancing and sheep shearing. Epicurean attractions include Turkish food created using local produce and a real ale festival (01748 828747; www.dalesfestivaloffood.org; admission from £8).
Other well-established shindigs include Grassington Festival, with a varied arts programme running from 17 June to 2 July (01756 752691; www.grassington-festival.org.uk) and the musically-minded Swaledale Festival, 28 May to 11 June (01748 880019; www.swaledale-festival.org.uk).
For something a little more offbeat, try the Hardraw Gathering (0113 250 9639; www.hardrawgathering.co.uk) folk music festival, from 29 April to 2 May. Although weekend tickets have now sold out, it's still possible to go along to the pub performances during the day for free. Alternatively, pay £2 at the festival's HQ, the Green Dragon pub (01969 667392; www.greendragonhardraw.com), for access to Hardraw Force, Britain's biggest waterfall. Behind the pub is also the site of an annual brass band contest; this year's takes place on 11 September.
Saved from bankruptcy by the promotional backing of Wallace and Gromit, Wensleydale Creamery in Hawkes is now doing a rejuvenated trade in all things cheese-related. And there's now more reason to visit, because its visitor centre has received an £800,000 makeover. It now incorporates a museum, viewing gallery, expanded cheese and gift shops and a licensed restaurant. You can even buy a truckle of Wallace and Gromit Real YorkshireWensleydale while you're there (01969 667664; www.wensleydale.co.uk; admission free, tours from £2.50 per person).
Raise a glass
With real ales flowing from the Black Sheep Brewery, Theakston's at Masham and the Wensleydale Brewery at Leyburn, it's unlikely you'll go thirsty in the Dales. To quaff with good conscience, though, there's only one place to head to this summer: the community-owned George and Dragon pub in the village of Hudswell, in Swaledale (01748 518373; www.georgeanddragonhudswell.com). Re-opened after a co-operative buyout last year, it serves a range of real ales (many of them local), as well as homemade food. It also serves as the village shop and library. And in summer, visitors can also enjoy its huge pub garden, where you can sit and sup before a vast Swaledale panorama.
Wandering around in the dark might not be the most obvious way to appreciate the majestic landscapes of the Dales, but it's certainly one way to escape the crowds. And if you join Team Walking's (01423 871750; www.teamwalking.co.uk) night navigation experience, you'll be in safe hands. Taking place 6pm-10.30pm on 17 April (from Kettlewell) and 27 November (from Grassington), the courses cover compass and distance-estimation skills with the aim of teaching how to navigate in poor visibility. The course costs £39 per person, including equipment.
What Google will tell you...
Yorebridge House hotel (01969 652060; www.yorebridgehouse.co.uk), in the Wensleydale village of Bainbridge, was voted "Most Romantic Hotel in the UK" by TripAdvisor users earlier this year. A former schoolhouse-turned-boutique hotel, TripAdvisor describes it as "perfect for a romantic rendezvous". B&B starts at £180.
What Google won't tell you... until now
"Lead mining was once a large-scale industry in the Yorkshire Dales," Andrew Denton, of Welcome to Yorkshire, says. "That its history can be traced right back to Roman times is fairly well known. What isn't, however, is the fact that Yorkshire lead has been found in the frescos of Pompeii and in the plumbing of classical Rome."
'The Dales', presented by Adrian Edmondson is on ITV1, Mondays at 8pm
Who said that?
"Gradually, little by little, [Yorkshire people] find a little corner for you in their hearts, and begin to acknowledge you when they drive past with what I call the Malhamdale wave. This is an exciting day in the life of any new arrival. To make the Malhamdale wave, imagine you are holding a steering wheel. Now take the index finger of your right hand and very slowly extend it, as if you were having a small involuntary spasm. That's the Malhamdale wave. It doesn't look like much, but it speaks volumes." – Bill Bryson, Notes from a Small Island (1996)
"Was the aim frustrated by force or guile/When giants scooped from out the rocky ground/Tier under tier/This semicirque profound?" – William Wordsworth, "Malham Cove" (1819)
"Yorkshire is a state of mind." – Howard Moon, The Mighty Boosh (2004)