A TRIP to the Yorkshire Dales is made all the more enjoyable by a visit to one of the National Park’s pubs.

From old coaching inns in market squares to quirky hostelries in picturesque villages, the area has much to offer for a pint and a spot of relaxation.

Yorkshire author and historian Paul Chrystal has written a book celebrating many of these characterful and well-known watering holes. His selection is accompanied by a potted history of each pub or hotel, interesting anecdotes and photographs.

His introduction begins with a quotation: ‘As the famous 18th century literary figure Samuel Johnson says ‘there is nothing that has yet been contrived by man, by which so much happiness is produced, as by a good tavern or inn.’

Pubs and their names, like the names of towns and villages, hills, fields, rivers and dales, often tell us much about local history in the vicinity, famous local people and local topography, he writes, before describing how advancements in transportation, such as the arrival of turnpikes and railways influenced the spread of pubs.

There are many pubs with the name Craven Heifer in West and North Yorkshire, the name derived from a large cow bred by the Rev W Carr in 1807 on the Duke of Devonshire’s estate. To this day she remains the largest cow ever shown in England, weighing 312 stone, 8llb and measuring 11 feet four inches from the tip if her nose to her rump.

The cow was taken on tour, attracting much attention and was so large that a special door twice as wide as the norm had to be built to get her in and out of the cow shed. This doorway can still be seen on the estate.

One pub named after this fine beast stands in Grassington Road, Skipton, a town with its fair share of hostelries, some with murky pasts.

Chrystal reveals how, at the Cock & Bottle in Swadford Street, prostitutes reputedly entertained navies working on the Leeds-Liverpool Canal. They would ply their trade in small rooms up in the gables at the front of the building.

Not far from Skipton, the Devonshire Arms in Bolton Abbey is located in a glorious setting on the Bolton Abbey Estate. Now a hotel and spa, it has a long tradition of hospitality. Owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire, the building we see today was built in the early 17th century on the site of an inn.

‘The 4th Duke of Devonshire took it on in 1753 as part of the Bolton Abbey Estate,’ writes Chrystal. ‘It was further developed by the 5th Duke, a man with considerable vision who exploited the tourist potential when he established miles of footpaths so that visitors could enjoy the splendid local views.’

Also in Wharfedale, the Old Hall Inn in Threshfield, a Georgian building, takes its name from the 14th century hall to its rear.

Cellars at the Red Lion in Burnsall date from the 12th century and the original ‘one up, one down’ structure that is not the bar originates from the 16th century when it was a ferryman’s inn. The popular pub is on the Dalesway long-distance footpath and the Way of the Roses cycle route.

A handy size of for a glove compartment, the paperback’s chapters focus upon different dales, including Malhamdale and Airedale, Nidderdale and Wensleydale. It also covers the Three Peaks area, Sedbergh and Dent and the Lune Valley.

There’s also a section in the area’s breweries serving the National Park, the best-known probably being Theakston’s and Black Sheep, both in Masham.

Helen Mead