Settle: The Yorkshire market town with community spirit and the UK’s oldest music hall

On the western edge of the Yorkshire Dales, and close to the Forest of Bowland, lies Settle. Surrounded by gnarly peaks, limestone scars and sweeping valleys, its attractions include the UK’s oldest music hall, its proximity to the villages of the Dales and its weekly market, with a charter that was granted in 1249.

Residents and farmers from the surrounding area use this market town, which has roots in the Yorkshire cotton industry, as a social hub. It is a thriving base for independent businesses and has a strong sense of community spirit.

Thousands of people come to Settle every year to pound the paths of the Yorkshire Three Peaks, a 24-mile circular walk traversing Pen-y-ghent, Ingleborough and Whernside. It is also on the scenic, 72-mile Settle-Carlisle railway line of 20 viaducts and 14 tunnels, along which the Ride2stride walking and music festival returns from 30 April to 6 May.

Getting there and around

Settle railway station is served by Northern Trains. If you’re travelling by car, it’s just off the A65, which is easily reachable from the A1 and M1 arteries.

The DalesBus network connects Settle to places such as Skipton, Leeds, Ilkley, and Harrogate (dalesbus.org, singles £2).

Drop your bags

A 10-minute walk from the market square, The Falcon Manor Hotel is a country hotel with an imposing Gothic façade, 16 comfortable rooms (some with four-poster beds and slipper baths), and a brasserie-style restaurant serving hearty favourites such as fish and chips, chicken satay with wild rice, and Asian pork fillet. The interiors have a slightly Scottish feel, with tartan-patterned carpets, flagstone floors and log fires. Doubles from £100 B&B, jamesplaces.com/falcon-manor.

There are a few pubs with rooms in the city centre, including The Golden Lion, with rooms from £110, goldenlionsettle.co.uk. Nearby, on High St, King William The Fourth Guesthouse has a ground-floor accessible room. B&B from £95, kingwilliamthefourthguesthouse.co.uk.

Falcon Manor Hotel Settle Yorkshire Image supplied via writer - Charlotte Eggleston-Johnstone
The Falcon Manor Hotel in Settle (Photo: Supplied)

Browse the shops

Settle has its very own Shambles in the heart of the market square. The building, which dates to the 1700s, is topped by residential terraced houses, with shops and cafés on the lower levels. On the ground floor, Limestone Books stocks fiction and non-fiction for adults and children, as well as greeting cards by local artists.

Car & Kitchen has ceramics in pops of pastel pinks, yellows and blues, greetings cards, puzzles, cookware and women’s clothing and accessories.

Settle has a glut of antiques and vintage stores. Among them is Miss Victoria’s Emporium, a fundraising shop with second-hand items including clothes, toys, and furniture, as well as gifts and knick-knacks made by local artisans. Proceeds go towards keeping Victoria Hall – a music hall first established in 1853 – running.

Cosy cafés

Car & Kitchen brews good coffee in modern surrounds. The Folly, a Grade I listed house, is home to The Museum of North Craven Life (currently not open), where big slabs of cake can be enjoyed next to the fire. Ye Olde Naked Man, whose name is rooted in legend, though no one really knows for certain why, bakes a good selection of cakes. Lay of the Land is a family-run garden centre near the river Ribble with a great cafe.

Rainy day refuges

The Grade II listed Victoria Hall, which has festival-ready gardens to the rear, is a grass-roots music venue that has hosted performances from gigs by 70s folk-rock pioneers Lindisfarne and post-punk icons The Undertones to live screenings of the Royal Ballet. People come from all over the world to play. It also functions as a cinema, café and community hub.

For train lovers interested in experiencing a little piece of locomotive history, the Settle Signal Box, disused since 1984, is a small, volunteer-run museum open 10am-4pm most Saturdays (free entry, foscl.org.uk/content/settle-station-signal-box).

There are a couple of art galleries, but for something slightly different, the solar-powered Listening Gallery, set inside a red phone box, is another free attraction. Inside the world’s first “audio gallery”, you pick up the phone, choose a story, and listen to it. It is located near the Post Office and is available every minute of every day (run by settlestories.org.uk).

The waiting room at Settle station (Photo: Nigel Kirby/Loop Images/Universal/Getty Images)
The waiting room at Settle station (Photo: Nigel Kirby/Getty)

A drink by the fire

To mingle with the locals, head to The Talbot Arms. This family-run pub has a selection of locally sourced real ales and a spacious beer garden to the rear. It serves the likes of gammon steaks, curries and sandwiches, which can all be enjoyed in the glow of the fires.

Dinner time

Part café, part inn and part pub, 17th-century coaching inn The Golden Lion is a friendly joint serving great cask ales and excellent grub designed to fuel you for the day – think sausage and mash, Settle (suet) pudding, and delicious burgers – all to wood-burning fires and pictures of the inn’s history lining the walls.

Slightly out of town, but great if you’re hungry after a country walk (and have a car), Rind at The Courtyard Dairy serves pizzas and natural wine. The adjoining cheese shop sells a fantastic selection of British cheeses and supplies Michelin-starred chefs such as Tommy Banks.

Rind at the Courtyard (Photo: Jo Ritchie)
Rind at the Courtyard (Photo: Jo Ritchie)

Spring walks

Settle is the jumping-off point for many hikers to kick off their Yorkshire Three Peaks adventure (you can reach the Ribblehead Viaduct or Horton-in-Ribblesdale starting points via train or car easily from the town).

An array of gentler walks can be found closer to home that traverse Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and Malham Cove, or take you to Victoria Cave, with its prehistoric fossils and coral reef knolls.

Closer still, a 15-minute walk from the market place up to Castleberg, a limestone crag looming about 300ft above the town, rewards you with excellent views over Settle, Giggleswick and the countryside.

Andy Kay at Gordale Scar. Misty and moody. Credit: Visit North Yorkshire / ROAM Image supplied by Julia Lumley
Walks include sites such as Gordale Scar (Photo: Visit North Yorkshire/Roam/Andy Kay/Dan Cook)

Three things you might not know about Settle…

1) Settle’s showreel includes two episodes of Restoration Man, scenes in All Creatures Great and Small, and a location for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Malham Cove).

2) Singer-songwriter John Newman, who wrote the hit UK No 1 “Love Me Again”, was born in Settle.

3) Victoria Cave is home to fossil remains including a mammoth, straight-tusked elephant, cave bear, hippopotamus and hyenas, with the oldest dating back 130,000 years.