Path to Gordale Scar

National Parks are 'areas of great natural beauty giving opportunity of open-air recreation, established so that the natural beauty can be preserved and enhanced, and so that the enjoyment of the scenery by the public can be promoted' (Act of Parliament, 1949).

Next to industry, perhaps the thing that has the greatest impact on the environment of the Dales today is tourism. The Yorkshire Dales is one of 15 National Parks in the UK.

The Yorkshire Dales is a recreational area and tourism is an important source of employment (tourist attractions such as shops, hotels, cafes and public houses).

Each year about 10 million tourists enjoy the scenery of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. They visit by car as well as on coach excursions.

Many tourists flock to famous or particularly beautiful sites — the so-called 'honey pots' — such as Malham Cove. Others want to pursue their hobbies through walking, riding, cycling, climbing, caving, off-road motor cycling, bird watching, shooting (grouse are raised on the heather moorland), etc.

However, tourism results in problems: erosion of the paths, overcrowding of popular sites and villages, traffic congestion and disturbance to local people, farms and wildlife.

How can 'honey pot' sites be protected from the thousands of visitors in the summer months so that they maintain their natural beauty and charm?

At Malham Cove, visitors are encouraged to stay on the recently constructed paths and steps have been cut into the limestone hillside. Although these were built to relieve the pressures on the scenery, there is a danger that their construction detracts from the quality of the site they were designed to protect.


Thornton Force, Ingleton

Why do visitors flock to the massive limestone areas of the Mendip Hills, Peak District or Yorkshire Dales? Maybe it's because of the breathtaking landscapes that include high cliffs, gorges and waterfalls? Visitors to such areas can readily appreciate the aesthetics of impressive landforms due to their scale or, in the case of a waterfall, the noise.

But what makes a landscape attractive and do visitors appreciate the nature of the geological features and the processes that shaped the landscape? The concept of 'geotourism' attempts to conceptualise what we see as attractive in an area, which may be a combination of attributes such as:

  • 'gazing' at the landforms and landscapes
  • learning about the processes that shaped the landforms
  • tourism activities e.g. sports, accommodation, catering facilities and tours
  • socialising with local people
  • Aquino et al., 2017 provide a diagram to attempt to explain the  Conceptual framework on geotourism consumption and experience production.