Littondale is a classic Dales limestone valley, with a narrow flat base, steep grassy sides and exposed limestone scars and pavements on the slopes. The northern slopes of the valley are almost unbroken from their junction with Wharfedale up to Cosh Beck Head, while the southern slopes are dramatically cut by the valleys of Cote Gill, Cowside Beck and Pen-y-Ghent Gill. The upper reaches of the valley are dominated by Pen-y-Ghent, and to a lesser extent by the great bulk of Fountains Fell. The valley contains four evenly spread villages – from east to west Hawkswick, Arncliffe, Litton and Halton Gill, each of which began as an Anglian village. The valley then became a Norman hunting preserve, before becoming part of the vast estates of Fountains Abbey. From then on sheep farming dominated on the hills.

The valley is surprisingly well provided with roads. Two minor roads enter the valley from Wharfedale, joining at Arncliffe. A minor road leaves the valley at Arncliffe, heading south towards Malham Tarn and Stainforth, while a second minor road leads to Stainforth from Halton Gill, almost at the head of the valley, this one running within a mile of the summit of Pen-y-Ghent.

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