The largest Dale within the Settle Area
Ribblesdale is the upper valley of the River Ribble which rises in the hills above Ribblehead and flows 75 miles to join the Irish Sea near Lytham. The river flows southwards through the Settle Area, passing through or near-to the settlements of Horton in Ribblesdale, Stainforth, Langcliffe, Giggleswick, Settle, Rathmell, Long Preston and Hellifield. Below Hellifield the river turns to the south-west and flows to the sea through the Ribble Valley.
The dale has long been a vital routeway through the Dales with several well-used droving and packhorse routes established during the 18th Century. Today, the Settle-Carlisle railway travels up the length of the dale before continuing its journey to Carlisle.
The dale is dominated by the highest peaks in the National Park and has the greatest concentration of caves.
The farming of sheep and cattle has been an important way of life in the dale for thousands of years as can be seen from the numerous farmsteads, field barns and many miles of drystone walls.
The limestone geology of the dale has been exploited since the 18th Century for the production of lime (used to ‘sweeten’ the acidic pastures and make them more productive) and the quarrying of stone for building, road surfacing and other uses. The number of abandoned quarries and remains of lime kilns seen throughout the dale is a reminder of this industrial past. Quarrying is still a significant activity with large, active quarries at Helwith Bridge and Horton in Ribblesdale.
Access to fast-flowing rivers and streams plus good road and later rail transport routes made some of Ribblesdale’s southern settlements ideal for the location of large textile mills. Evidence of such mills can be seen in Settle and Langcliffe.
In and Around Ribblesdale