Fall under the spell of rolling moors and flat-topped hills rising above the valley floors, and you will agree that the dales have some of the best scenery England has to offer.

The Yorkshire Dales, protected as a national park since the 1950s, provides some of the best scenery England has to offer. Take in views of high heather moorland and flat-topped hills rising above green valley floors, whether you’re out for a walk or riding the famous Settle to Carlisle line.

The pretty village of Malham sits within the largest area of limestone country in England. A half-mile walk leads to Malham Cove, a huge rock amphitheatre with 80m-high vertical cliffs. Gordale Scar, a mile east of Malham, is a deep limestone canyon with scenic cascades.

Evocative ruins are all that remain of 12th-century Bolton Priory by the River Wharfe in the tiny village of Bolton Abbey. Wordsworth and Turner were both inspired by its soaring arches (+44 1756 710238; Bolton Abbey; daily; free but £6 per vehicle).

The Ribblesdale skyline is dominated by the Three Peaks (Whernside is highest at 735m). The full 25-mile circular route is a demanding 12-hour walk, but the climb from Horton to Pen-y-ghent summit (694m) is a more manageable 1½ hours and takes in part of the Pennine Way.

At White Scar Cave, a series of underground waterfalls and impressive dripstone formations lead to the 100m-long Battlefield Cavern (+44 1524 241244; near Ingleton; 10am-4pm, closed weekdays Nov-Jan; £7.95).

The 72-mile Settle-Carlisle Line was a major feat of Victorian engineering. Northern Rail passenger trains cross the spectacular Ribblehead Viaduct and reach remote Dent station - England's highest (Settle to Carlisle 1¾ hours; £16.80 single).

Eat and drink
A traditional caff run by the same family since 1965, the Pen-yghent Cafe fills walkers with fried egg and chips, homemade cakes and pint-sized mugs of tea, and sells maps and walking gear (+44 1729 860333; Horton-in-Ribblesdale; closed Tues; mains £3-£7).

Devoted to the production of Wallace and Gromit's favourite food, the Wensleydale Creamery has tours, a museum, shop and restaurant showcasing the cheese (+44 1969 667664; Gayle Lane, Hawes; daily; from £4.95).

Overlooking the Leeds-Liverpool Canal in the market town of Skipton, Bizzie Lizzie's is a fish-and-chip restaurant, which has won several awards, and takeaway counter. Burgers and chicken are also on the menu (+44 1756 701131; 36 Swadford Street, Skipton; 11.30am-9pm; mains from £5.40).

Chaste is far from coy when it comes to promoting Yorkshire produce - from vegetable hotpot to black pudding and mashed potato. Flagstone floors and original beams enhance the country feel (01969 667145; Market Place, Hawes; lunch and dinner; mains around £13).

A pub-restaurant with rooms, The Angel Inn dates back over 500 years, with dark wood beams and panelling. Dishes include asparagus, pea and mint risotto, and duck breast with thyme mash (+44 1756 730263; Hetton; lunch and dinner; mains £13-£27).

Set in a rambling 18th-century country house on the edge of Malham village, Beck Hall has 18 individually decorated rooms - we like the Green Room, with its old furnishings and four-poster bed. A stream flows through the garden and there's a tearoom (+44 1729 830332; Malham; from £50).

A delightful guesthouse set in an old stone building, Herriot's is close to the bridge by the waterfall in Hawes, a picturesque market town. The seven rooms are decorated in a variety of styles, and set above an art gallery and coffee shop (+44 1969 667536; Main Street, Hawes; from £75).

Just off the main square in the handsome Georgian village of Grassington, Ashfield House is a secluded 17th-century country house behind a walled garden. Inside, it has exposed stone walls, open fireplaces and a cosy feel (+44 1756 752584; Summers Fold, Grassington; from £90).

Behind the unassuming green door of Millgate House lies one of the most attractive guesthouses in England. The Georgian building is fine in itself, crammed with period details, but the superb garden at the back steals the show. Book the Garden Suite if possible (+44 1748 823571; Market Place, Richmond; from £110).

The Devonshire Arms features rooms individually decorated by the Duchess of Devonshire with high quality and beautiful furnishings - most have four posters and sitting areas and all are themed in relation to the local area. The ruins of Bolton Priory are close by (+44 1756 710441; Bolton Abbey; from £238).

How to go
Leeds is the nearest major city, with rail connections across Britain (London, 2¼ hours, from £22.50; Edinburgh, 3 hours, from £55.50). Skipton is 45 minutes by train from Leeds. The A1 to the east and M6 to the west provide the nearest motorway access to the national park.

Find your way
In addition to the Settle-Carlisle line, there are plentiful local bus services around the Dales, with the main hubs at Skipton and Richmond - see traveldales.org.uk. The national park authority is trying to ease crowding on narrow roads, so try to avoid taking a car.

The article 'Mini guide to the Yorkshire Dales' was published in partnership with Lonely Planet Magazine.