Overview & description

This ancient woodland has been restored to its former glory and boasts original features such as grottos and glades, rustic temples and waterfalls, as well as carpets of bluebells in spring and an impressive number of woodland birds.

This amazing place lies at the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales, within the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The 47 hectares (120 acres) of ancient semi-natural woodland sit within a steep rocky gorge of the River Ure. Here the Grewelthorpe Beck tumbles down the gorge through a series of pools and weirs into the mighty river.

The land at and around Hackfall has a fascinating history and was first recorded in the Domesday Book in 1086 as belonging to the Saxon landowner Gospatric (Earl of Dunbar). It passed through the hands of several knights of the realm as a reward for supporting the King, though if they later displeasured him, he was inclined to take it back!

Hackfall was turned into a beautiful and wild romantic garden in the 18th century by William Aislabie who added follies, grottos, waterfalls, and a spectacular fountain, after his father, John Aislabie, bought the site in 1731.

The site is also a fascinating place for the keen naturalist. Hackfall has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) because of the large number of birds, plants, insects and other invertebrates that make their home here. If you’re lucky, you may catch a glimpse of blue as a kingfisher heads downstream or hear the whistle of an otter; while in spring and summer you will be able to enjoy a variety of woodland plants, including bluebells and ramsons.

This wonderful place has inspired artists, poets and writers for centuries, from romantic landscape painter Turner to modern-day Masham artist, Ian Scott Massie. Download the Hackfall 'art swatch book at and be prepared to be inspired too.

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