Hawes is a rare example of a market town located at the upper end of a dale, in this case Wensleydale. In fact its apparently remote location is the reason for its success. Hawes lies at the junction of four passes through the hills - south to Settle and Lancaster, west to Sedbergh, north to Swaledale (across Butter Tubs pass) and just west of the town north to Kirkby Stephen.
The town gained its Market Charter in 1700, when the packhorse dominated transport. It gained a further boost in 1795, with the arrival of the Richmond to Lancaster turnpike. The railway arrived in the 1870s, when the Wensleydale Railway rached up the valley to join the Settle to Carlisle railway at Garsdale. The railway may be gone, but the railway station is still here, now acting as a tourist infomation centre, craft centre and car park.
The town still boasts a flourishing market and a good selection of small interesting shops running along the single main street, running east to west along the southern side of Wensleydale . The town is actually a little south of the River Ure - the stream that cuts through the town is the Gayle Beck, running out of Sleddale.
The location of Hawes makes it a perfect base to explore the hills, which rise above the town on three sides, the tallest being Great Shunner Fell, at over 2,300 feet. The Pennine Way drops into Hawes after skirting the flanks of Dodd Fell to the south.
Hawes is famous for the Wensleydale Creamery, home of Wensley Dale cheese. Here you will find an excellent cheese shop, with plenty of samples to taste and a good restaurant with excellent views across the hills. It is also possible to watch the cheese being made on days when production is underway.
Hawes also contains the Hawes Ropeworks (free entry on my last visit), where you can watch a wide variety of ropes being made, some almost entirely automatically, some almost by hand.