RICHMOND is the Dales' single most tempting historical town, thanks mainly to its magnificent castle, whose extensive walls and colossal keep cling to a precipice above the River Swale. Indeed, the entire town is an absolute gem, centred on a huge cobbled market square backed by Georgian buildings, hidden alleys and gardens.
Most of medieval Richmond sprouted around its castle (April– Sept daily 10am–6pm; Oct– March Mon & Thurs– Sun 10am–4pm; £4; www.english-heritage.org.uk), but much of the town now radiates from the Market Place, with the Market Hall alongside; market day is Saturday, augmented by a farmers' market on the third Saturday of the month. For the local history, visit the charming Richmondshire Museum (April– Oct daily 10.30am–4.30pm; £2.50), down Ryder's Wynd. The keenest interest of all, however, is in the Georgian Theatre Royal (1788), one of England's oldest extant theatres. It's open for both performances (box office Tel:01748/825252, Web: www.georgiantheatreroyal.co.uk ) and tours (mid-Feb to mid-Dec Mon– Sat 10am–4pm, on the hour; £3.50).
A signposted walk runs along the north bank of the River Swale out to the the golden stone walls of Easby Abbey (dawn to dusk; free; www.english-heritage.org.uk), a mile southeast of the town. The evocative ruins are extensive, and in places – notably the thirteenth-century refectory – still remarkably intact.