A Yorkshireman would probably call it God’s own country.
To the thousands of walkers, ramblers, hikers, joggers and mountain climbers who visit the Yorkshire Dales every year, it is a land of great contrasts, expanses of scenery, waterfalls, ‘scars’ and tarns.
It can throw four seasons at the unseasoned walker in one day, and can lurch from bitterly cold, horizontal blizzards to beautiful, gut-wrenching vistas in a moment.
What the Dales isn’t is predictable.
On our visit to Malhamdale, an eight-hour walk took in huge contrasts – from the chocolate box village of Malham, past the beautiful Janet’s Foss waterfall and the outstanding geological feature of Goredale Scar, to the beautiful ‘water feature’ of Malham Tarn to finish at Malham Cove – a 300ft rock face that once held a waterfall.
The rock formations are sometimes breath-taking
No, the weather isn’t always exactly tropical: when we joined a walk in March we were lashed with snow, side winds and temperatures so cold you could extract a tooth without anaesthetic.
But that merely serves to make the hot chocolate – or something stronger! – in the pub afterwards taste so much better.
The area around Malhamdale is rich with Herriot-style countryside. Dry stone walls are a feature of the area, with sheep and birds of prey staking an equal claim to the tranquil but jaw-dropping scenery.
For the hardier walker, Pen-Y-Ghent is a challenging, but extremely rewarding hike.
One of the three peaks of Yorkshire, Pen-Y-Ghent takes in 1,700ft of ascent through nine miles of fairly strenuous walking.
Once at the peak, the views are outstanding on a clear day.
We took a weekend break with HF Holidays. Set up exactly 100 years ago by founder T A Leonard, the company believes in environmentally-friendly outdoor holidays to suit all abilities and temperaments.
It now boasts 19 country houses in UK’s national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, with independent hotels used overseas.
What HF does really well is cater for all needs – whether it is a strenuous climb, a relaxing ramble or even a session of Pilates or falconry.
Tour guides are trained, patient and couldn’t be more accommodating.
And if the other sites are anything like Newfield Hall, where we stayed, it is a far cry from a backpacker’s hostel!
The stately home-style hall comes complete with chandeliers, sweeping staircase and comforting fireplace.
An indoor, heated swimming pool caters for those who can’t get enough exercise, and the views stretching over the Dales from the ‘drawing room’ are like a watercolour painting.
But beware: those trippers who believe their long trek will shift the pounds had better think again.
Food is not a scarcity: huge breakfasts are followed by plentiful packed lunches (with an afternoon tea of jam and scones squeezed in), to be topped off with a beautifully cooked evening meal.
In short, it’s enough to set you off on a long ramble to walk it all off.
Yorkshire is definitely a place to cleanse the lungs, dust off the cobwebs and pay back the investment in those walking boots.
Guided walking breaks for three nights in April at Malhamdale cost from £259.
A seven-night stay in May/June would cost £699.
For more information visit www.hfholidays.co.uk