Fun Things to do in Middleham [Yorkshire Dales]

I visited Middleham Castle. It was a journey steeped in history, one that transported me back to the times of the Plantagenets and the tumultuous events of the Wars of the Roses.

The English countryside was draped in a soft mist that morning, giving the landscape an ethereal quality as I made my way to the historic site.


Key Takeaways

  • Middleham offers a blend of historical and equestrian attractions.
  • The local cuisine reflects traditional Yorkshire flavors with a modern twist.
  • The town provides a range of activities for history enthusiasts and families alike.

As I approached the castle, the formidable stone structure emerged from the fog, its imposing walls standing as a testament to its storied past. Middleham Castle, once a seat of the powerful Neville family and the childhood home of King Richard III, loomed before me, its size and grandeur far more impressive in person than any photograph could convey. The remaining keep, which was the castle’s fortified tower, stood at an impressive height, with walls up to 11 feet thick in some places, designed to withstand sieges and the ravages of time.

Middleham castle

I passed through the castle’s entrance, the ancient stones of the gateway worn smooth by centuries of visitors. The air was cool and damp within the walls, a stark contrast to the warmth of the day outside. I could almost hear the echoes of medieval life all around me—the clanking of armor, the murmur of courtiers, and the distant sound of horses in the courtyard.

As I wandered through the remains of the great hall, now open to the sky, I tried to imagine the feasts and gatherings that once filled this space. The hall would have been the heart of the castle, its high ceilings supported by strong wooden beams, now long gone. I stood there, in the midst of history, feeling a connection to the lives that had unfolded in this very spot.

Exploring further, I found myself in what would have been the castle’s chapel. Though the roof had not survived the passage of time, the remaining arches and windows hinted at the solemn beauty it once possessed. I pictured the stained glass that might have adorned the windows, casting colorful light across the stone floors during services.

castle ruins

The castle grounds were extensive, and I took my time meandering through them. I walked along the curtain walls, marveling at the panoramic views of the Yorkshire Dales that they offered. The strategic position of Middleham Castle, high on a hill, became evident as I looked out over the lush green valleys and the quaint rooftops of the village below.

I paused to read the informational plaques dotted around the site, each one providing insights into the castle’s construction, its various owners, and its role in English history. I learned about the extensive stables Middleham once housed, reflecting its reputation as a center for horse training—a legacy that continues in the town to this day.

As the day wore on and the mist lifted, I found a quiet spot within the castle’s inner bailey to sit and reflect. I was surrounded by ruins that were once alive with the daily hustle and bustle of medieval nobility. Now, there was a peaceful stillness, a sense of time standing still.



History of Middleham

I find that Middleham, a town steeped in history, is nestled in the Yorkshire Dales. Its story begins in the 11th century, with the construction of Middleham Castle. This castle became the childhood home of Richard III and commands attention with its immense keep, one of the largest in England.

In the Middle Ages, Middleham developed around the castle and was an important market town by the 15th century. Its prosperity can be credited to horse breeding and training, industries that still thrive today. In fact, I’ve learned that Middleham is often referred to as the “Newmarket of the North” due to its equestrian significance.


Sifting through historical records, I’ve noted that religion played a significant role in daily life, as evidenced by the Church of St. Mary and St. Alkelda. This church, built in the 14th and 15th centuries, showcases fine medieval architecture and the town’s commitment to maintaining its heritage.

Century Historical Significance
11th Construction of Middleham Castle
15th Middleham emerges as a market town
15th Middleham Castle, the home of Richard III
Medieval Development of horse breeding industry

I appreciate the rich tapestry of Middleham’s past, which continues to influence the town’s character and its people’s pride. As I walk through the stone-paved streets, I am reminded that these paths have been trodden upon for centuries, each cobblestone a testament to Middleham’s enduring legacy.

nearby farmland with cows

Middleham Castle

Middleham Castle, an intriguing fortress in Yorkshire, beckons me with its storied walls and rich history that trace back to the 12th century. Renowned as the childhood home of Richard III, it offers a unique journey through England’s medieval past.

castle walls

Castle Tours

The heart of Middleham’s allure is the opportunity to walk through the same chambers and halls as historic figures once did. I’m struck by the detailed preservation efforts as I explore the castle keep, which stands as a testament to the architectural prowess of its era. The informative plaques guide me through an immersive experience:

  • Chambers: Discover the personal living quarters of nobility.
  • Great Hall: Envision grand feasts and gatherings held by the lords of the castle.
  • Kitchens: Uncover where lavish medieval banquets were prepared.

Events and Reenactments

The castle comes alive with various events that transport me back to the days of knights and royalty. Reenactments are particularly spectacular, with participants in full costume, adding color and vitality to the venerable stone walls. Upcoming events include:

  • Medieval Jousting: Witness the excitement of knights competing in a traditional tournament.
  • Archery Demonstrations: Learn about the importance of archery in medieval warfare.

These events offer a tangible connection to the past, engaging visitors in active learning and entertainment amidst the historical backdrop of Middleham Castle.

Horse Racing Heritage

Middleham is revered for its deep-rooted connections to horse racing. With a rich history of racing and training, this small Yorkshire town is renowned for its equine excellence.

Stables and Training Yards

I have found that Middleham boasts an impressive array of stables and training yards, a testament to its equestrian legacy. These facilities provide state-of-the-art care and training for thoroughbred racehorses. Notable yards include:

  • Mark Johnston Racing: Known for producing numerous winners.
  • Jedd O’Keeffe Racing: A yard with a reputation for top-notch horse welfare and training.

Each stable has its own unique approach to training, blending tradition and modern techniques to create champions.

Middleham Gallops

Situated on the stunning Middleham High Moor, the Middleham Gallops are an iconic feature of the town’s horse racing heritage. This expansive stretch of training ground is:

  • Accessible: Trainers from various yards bring their horses here.
  • Historical: The Gallops have been used for training racehorses for centuries.

The ground offers a variety of turf and all-weather tracks, allowing for year-round training.

Local Cuisine

In Middleham, I’ve found that the local cuisine revolves largely around cozy, traditional pubs and delightful tea rooms and cafes, each offering their own unique selection of culinary delights.

Traditional Pubs

The White Swan
I can personally vouch for the heartiness of the traditional Yorkshire pudding served at The White Swan. Pair it with a rich gravy and a slice of roast beef for a satisfying meal.

The Castle Keep
The Castle Keep’s signature ale pie is a must-try. Crafted with locally brewed ale and encased in a flaky pastry crust, it’s a true testament to the region’s flavors.

Tea Rooms and Cafes

Meadow’s Scones
For an authentic local experience, Meadow’s Scones offers a variety of homemade scones. The buttery, fruit-laden scones there are a perfect midday treat, especially when paired with clotted cream and jam.

Cobbled Corner Café
At Cobbled Corner Café, I appreciate not just the warm, inviting atmosphere but also their exemplary Victoria Sponge Cake – a balanced sweet treat that complements their range of specialty teas.

Outdoor Activities

Middleham offers a wealth of outdoor activities, with serene walking trails and picturesque cycling routes that cater to nature lovers and fitness enthusiasts alike.

Walking Trails

I’m particularly fond of the Middleham Castle Walk, a trail looping around the historic castle ruins. It’s a relatively easy path, perfect for a family outing, and stretches for about 2.5 miles, offering both history and stunning views.

For a more challenging hike, I often take the Coverdale Circuit. This 8-mile trail takes you through varied terrains, including riverbanks and rolling hills, and the panoramic views from the top are truly rewarding.

Cycling Routes

Cycling enthusiasts can enjoy the Middleham Gallops, a route known for its connection to the horse racing industry. It’s an excellent way for me to stay fit and indulge in the scenic beauty, over a distance of about 10 miles through quiet country lanes.

For those who prefer a shorter ride, the Leyburn Loop is a 5-mile journey that takes you around Middleham with picturesque sights and a taste of the local heritage. It’s especially suitable for a relaxing afternoon cycle.

Cultural Attractions

Middleham is rich with cultural gems. From the historic “Middleham Jewel” to contemporary art displays, there’s a charming array of attractions.

Middleham Jewel Exhibition

I find the Middleham Jewel Exhibition a treasure trove of medieval history. It showcases the Middleham Jewel, a 15th-century gold pendant encrusted with a sapphire. This piece gives us invaluable insight into the period’s craftsmanship.

Art Galleries

For art enthusiasts, Middleham’s galleries offer captivating exhibitions. Local artists display their work, ranging from traditional landscapes to modernist pieces. Here are some highlights:

  • The White Swan Gallery: Specializing in local scenes
  • The Castle Keep: Featuring rotating contemporary exhibitions

Shopping Destinations

In Middleham, I find the quaint combination of antique shops and local craft stores to provide a charming shopping experience.

Antique Shops

My strolls through Middleham often lead me to its antique shops, where history meets charm. Here’s what you can expect:

  • The Timeless Trove: An emporium of history, where each item tells a story.
  • Past & Present: Offers a mix of vintage treasures from various eras.

Local Craft Stores

Middleham’s craft stores are a testament to the town’s creative spirit. A couple of must-visits include:

  • Handmade Haven: Authentic, handcrafted goods showcasing local talent.
  • Artisan’s Alcove: Features unique pieces ranging from pottery to handwoven textiles.


Accommodation Options

Middleham offers a variety of charming places to stay, ensuring comfort throughout your visit.

Cozy Bed and Breakfasts

The Castle View Inn provides a stunning vista of Middleham Castle, accompanied by homemade breakfasts that are the talk of the town. I thoroughly enjoyed the warm, homey atmosphere during my stay. It is awesome.

At Grange House, you’ll be treated to rooms that blend rustic charm with modern amenities. The friendly hosts make you feel right at home.

Holiday Cottages

Meadow Cottage: With its two bedrooms and a fully equipped kitchen, this cottage is perfect for family stays. I found the private garden to be a delightful spot for a morning cup of tea.

Stonegate House: Here’s a traditional cottage that sleeps four, featuring a cozy fireplace that I found ideal for relaxing after a day of exploring Middleham’s historic sights.

Special Events Calendar

I love attending the vibrant festivals and events that Middleham has to offer throughout the year. Here’s a glance at some of the must-visit happenings on the calendar:

Middleham Castle Summer Fete
July 10th – 11th
The grounds of the historic Middleham Castle come alive with the summer fete. Expect handicraft stalls, traditional games, and delightful local foods.

Richard III Festival
August 22nd
I mark my calendar for this day as we commemorate the history with reenactments, medieval music, and a parade through town.

Middleham Town Carnival
September 5th
Join me in witnessing the colorful floats, dancers, and musicians that fill the streets. It’s fun for all ages!

Christmas in Middleham
December 1st – 24th
The festive season brings twinkling lights and Christmas markets. I never miss the caroling and mulled wine on Christmas Eve.

Event Date(s) Highlights
Middleham Castle Summer Fete July 10th – 11th Crafts, Games, Food
Richard III Festival August 22nd History, Music, Parade
Middleham Town Carnival September 5th Floats, Dance, Music
Christmas in Middleham December 1st – 24th Lights, Markets, Caroling

For further details on these and other events, I always check the Middleham Visitor’s Centre website. Let’s experience the charm of Middleham together this year!

Nature and Wildlife

In the heart of the Yorkshire Dales, Middleham is a haven for nature lovers like me. Its diverse landscapes offer a variety of habitats that are perfect for wildlife spotting and outdoor activities.

Local Nature Reserves

The Quarry Hills Nature Reserve is a must-visit for anyone inclined to explore diverse flora and fauna. I find its limestone rich soil supports a unique mix of grassland vegetation. It’s a particularly good spot for wildflower enthusiasts with orchids blooming in the warmer months.

Hackfall Wood, another local gem, seemed like a page out of a fairytale with its ancient woodlands and trickling waterfalls. Birds and small mammals are abundant here, and I love the peaceful walks along the River Ure, which runs through the reserve.

Birdwatching Spots

Penhill Beacon offers more than just breathtaking views; it’s also one of my favorite places for spotting upland birds. The sky here often has circling birds of prey, like the majestic red kite or the swift peregrine falcon.

Gathered around Jervaulx Abbey, birdwatchers can enjoy the sight of species such as the green woodpecker and nuthatch. The old trees and the nearby river attract a diverse avian population, which is especially rich during the migratory seasons.

Family-Friendly Activities

Middleham offers a range of family-friendly activities that are perfect for a day out with the kids. From well-maintained playgrounds to scenic picnic areas, there’s something to keep everyone happy and engaged.


The Middleham Castle Playground is a favorite among the little ones. I find the play area is well-equipped with slides, swings, and climbing frames that cater to a wide range of ages. The soft rubber flooring ensures safety for all children.

  • Location: Adjacent to Middleham Castle
  • Age group: Suitable for 2-12 years
  • Facilities: Benches for seating, trash bins

Picnic Areas

For a relaxing meal outdoors, The Riverside Picnic Spot is my go-to choice. It boasts:

  • Views: Overlooking the River Ure
  • Seating: Numerous benches and picnic tables
  • Amenities: Public restrooms nearby, a designated parking area

I find it’s a idyllic setting perfect for an afternoon picnic, where families can enjoy their lunch amidst the tranquil sounds of nature.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some kid-friendly activities to enjoy in Middleham?

I find that children love visiting The Forbidden Corner. It’s a unique garden and attraction full of mazes, sculptures, and secret passages that promise adventure. The Middleham Castle also has a fascinating history and open grounds that are perfect for young explorers to run around and learn about the past.

Can you recommend any popular pubs to visit in Middleham?

I certainly enjoy a visit to Richard III Hotel, named after the castle’s famous former resident. It’s a cozy spot with a warm atmosphere and great food. The Black Bull is another pub where I like to relax with good company, offering a selection of ales and a hearty menu.

When is the market day in Middleham and what can I expect to find there?

Market day in Middleham is every Friday. I love wandering through the market because I always find a diverse range of goods from fresh local produce to handcrafted items. It’s also a wonderful place to chat with locals and soak up the community atmosphere.

What shopping opportunities are there in Middleham?

For a small town, I find that Middleham offers a surprising variety of shops. There are arts and crafts stores, antique shops, and boutiques. I like browsing through the offerings at The Little Chocolatier for satisfying my sweet tooth or picking out a unique gift at one of the local craft galleries.

Could you tell me about the historical significance of Middleham Castle?

Middleham Castle holds an important place in England’s history. I am always impressed that it was once the childhood home of Richard III and it impresses me with its Norman architecture. The castle, now in ruins, gives you a palpable sense of the past and offers incredible views of Wensleydale.

Where can I find information about the gallop times for the Middleham racing stables?

I usually recommend that visitors go to the Middleham trainer’s website for the latest gallop times. The gallops are often held on the Low Moor, and by checking online or asking at the local tourist information, you can get the up-to-date schedules for when the Middleham yards exercise their horses. It’s a fantastic opportunity to see racehorses in action!