Leyburn, Yorkshire
Leyburn, Yorkshire

Leyburn is a pretty market town in Lower Wensleydale and the eastern gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. Leyburn is an excellent base for outdoor-lovers to enjoy some of the best walking trails in the Dales, including popular walks to nearby Bolton Castle and Redmire, the terminus of the Wensleydale Railway.

This bustling town has a regular open-air market every Friday and is home to a range of independent shops including a popular chocolatier, and a tea pottery.

Leyburn is in the middle of one of the least-populated areas of England, so if you want to get away from it all and enjoy a countryside break it is the perfect destination. It is also surrounded by historic sites such as Middleham Castle, home of Richard III, and Bolton Castle, once a prison for Mary, Queen of Scots.

Leyburn police station, 1877
Leyburn police station, 1877

One popular walk takes in Leyburn Shawl, a limestone escarpment offering superb countryside views. The Shawl takes its name from the legend that Mary, Queen of Scots dropped her shawl here while making an attempt to escape from Bolton Castle where she was imprisoned by Elizabeth I. The only trouble is, it never happened. The name Shawl may come from 'shalle', meaning dwellings, or from 'shaw', meaning woods.

One unusual visitor attraction is Tennants auction house, one of the largest auctioneers in England. Tennants has become a tourist destination in its own right, and host touring art exhibitions, balls, weddings, and lectures. There are two other arts venues; The Garden Rooms and The Old Schoolhouse Arts Centre, which doubles as the town's cinema.

The Black Swan pub
The Black Swan pub

Wensleydale Railway

If you don't fancy enjoying walks in the countryside why not take the Wensleydale Railway, a 22-mile heritage railway line linking Northallerton to Redmire. Leave your car behind and explore Wensleydale by rail.

The railway began in 1846 with an Act of Parliament authorising a line between Bedale and Northallerton. Several abortive attempts were made to extend the line and it was not until 1878 that the railway reached Hawes, with connections to Settle and Carlisle. The railway mainly transported milk and quarried stone. Passenger service stopped in 1964 and parts of the track were taken out.

Leyburn rail station on the Wensleydale Railway
Leyburn rail station on the Wensleydale Railway

The Wensleydale Railway Association (WRA) restored the remaining track and launched a regular passenger service pulled by 1950s diesel locomotives. The railway now carries an estimated 50,000 visitors every year and there are plans afoot to extend the line to Hawes and beyond.

There are 35 listed buildings in Leyburn. None are listed Grade I (the highest designation) but there are two Grade II* buildings; The Roman Catholic Church of St Peter & St Paul and Leyburn Hall. Leyburn Hall was built in 1750 for John Yarker in neo-classical style. Another historic building (Grade II listed) is the Black Swan Hotel on Market Place, built in the early 19th century.

Even older is the Bolton Arms Hotel, dating to the late 18th century. The Anglican parish church of St Matthew was built in 1868 to a design by the architect CG Wray. At the northern edge of the Market Place is the Town Hall, dated to 1856 and incorporating an earlier building erected by Lord Bolton.

St Matthew's Church, 1868
St Matthew's Church, 1868

The Forbidden Corner

Easily reached from Leyburn is this four-acre garden in Tupgill Park, complete with underground tunnels, follies, and secret chambers arranged as a huge labyrinth. The Forbidden Corner was laid out in the 1980s as a private pleasure garden and opened to the public in 1997.

The garden is designed as a maze, and visitors are given a checklist of items to look for as they explore the labyrinth of passages, tunnels, towers, water features, and sculptures. The Forbidden Garden was awarded recognition as the best 20th-century European folly by the Folly Fellowship.

Did you know?

Alf Wight, the real-life vet who wrote the popular James Herriot series of book, spent the first decade of his career as a junior partner with Frank Bingham in Leyburn. Bingham was the inspiration for Ewen Ross in Wight's books.

Constable Burton Hall
Constable Burton Hall

Constable Burton Gardens

Three miles east of Leyburn off the A684 is Constable Burton Hall, a historic Georgian mansion in Palladian style designed by John Carr of York for the Wyvil family. The Hall is normally not open to the public, but the superb gardens are. Stroll through a stream garden with water features, a Tudor terrace garden, and an acer walk bursting with colour in autumn. The highlight is a lime avenue thought to be 350 years old.

Middleham Castle

A two-mile walk from Leyburn brings you to the historic town of Middleham, home to Middleham Castle, built in the 12th century by the powerful Neville family. A later Neville owner was Richard Neville, Earl of Warwick, known as 'The Kingmaker'. Richard, Duke of Gloucester (later King Richard III) spent his childhood at Middleham Castle.

In 1985 a metal detectorist walking near the castle found a 15th-century jewelled pendant known as The Middleham Jewel. The jewel is in the Yorkshire Museum in York but a replica is on display in the castle.

In Middleham's market place stands a ruined medieval cross known as the Swine Cross, so-called because the worn carving looks like a boar.

Getting There

Leyburn is at the junction of the A684 and the A6108 about 11 miles west of Bedale. There is a long-stay pay and display car park behind the Golden Lion Hotel on the Market Place.

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About Leyburn
Address: A684, Leyburn, Yorkshire Dales, Yorkshire, England
Attraction Type: Town
Location: At the junction of the A684 and the A6108 about 11 miles west of Bedale. Parking behind the Golden Lion Hotel on the Market Place.
Location map
OS: SE113905
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express


HeritageWe've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.

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Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low to exceptional) on historic interest

Wensley, Holy Trinity Church - 1.5 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Middleham Castle - 2.1 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

Coverham Abbey - 2.6 miles (Abbey) Heritage Rating

Coverham, Holy Trinity Church - 2.8 miles (Historic Church) Heritage Rating

Braithwaite Hall - 2.9 miles (Historic Building) Heritage Rating

Constable Burton Hall Gardens - 3.1 miles (Garden) Heritage Rating

Jervaulx Abbey - 4.6 miles (Abbey) Heritage Rating

Bolton Castle - 4.9 miles (Castle) Heritage Rating

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