Hawes is a small and bustling market town at the head of Wensleydale and is surrounded by high fells. It has a cobbled main street and stone buildings from the 17th century onwards and still has shops which are individually owned family businesses and which are unique to the town. There are good craft shops, pubs, cafes, restaurants and food shops and there is a weekly market on Tuedays-this is shopping how it used to be. Hawes, whose name originates from the word Hause meaning a narrow neck of land, has had a market charter since 1699 when it was granted by William III. You can still see the old market toll-house next to the Market Hall and one of the oldest buildings dates from 1668 when it was built as a Quaker rest house-there is still a strong Quaker community in the area.
There is a fascinating Dales Countryside Museum which shows the history of the area from agriculture through to lead mining and the present day. The Hawes Ropeworks, where you can see rope being made on its rope walk exports its rope all over the world.
This is a traditional dairy farming area, with the grass locally being rich in herbs which helps to give the local Wensleydale Cheese its distinctive flavour. This cheese has been made in the area since the Cistercian Monks developed the recipe in the 1100’s and is still made today. The best place to see the cheese being made and its history, along with plenty of free samples to whet your taste buds, is the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes. The Creamery was rescued from closure in 1992 when it was bought out by locals and has gone from strength to strength since then promoting real Wensleydale made in Yorkshire across the world.
This is true limestone country which you can’t miss in the landscape and buildings. There are numerous limestone pavements, caves, crags and waterfalls including the nearby Hardraw Force (force is the local dialect for waterfall) and the unique and spectacular Buttertubs Pass from Hawes into Swaledale-this is a true mountain pass with stunning views. The Buttertubs are 20 metre deep limestone potholes which you can look down into at the top of the pass. It is said that the name of the potholes comes from the times when farmers would rest there on their way to market from Swaledale into Hawes. During hot weather they would lower the butter they had produced into the potholes to keep it cool.
This is a thriving little town in a beautiful location and well worth spending a bit of time exploring.