For me Swaledale falls into two very different feeling halves, with the divide at Reeth. To the east of Reeth the valley is still dramatic, running between steep sided hills, with the Swale winding its way along the valley bottom before escaping from the hills at Richmond. To the west of Reeth the valley is wild, bounded by mountains like Rogan's Seat and Great Shunner Fell.
Unlike Wensleydale, Swaledale is not surrounded by side valleys. The only major dale to run into Swaledale is Arkengarthdale, joining the dale at Reeth. This adds to the drama of the upper valley,
A defining characteristic of upper Swaledale is the series of small villages, ending with the tiny isolated hamlet of Keld, hidden behind Kisdon close to the top of the valley. Gunnerside sits at the foot of the valley of Gunnerside Beck, with entertaining walks alongside the stream.
Perhaps the best placed village is Muker, sitting at a most unusual split in the valley. Here the Swale turns north, running between Kisdon and Black Hill, while the road continues on to the west, passing behind Kisdon, before joining the river at Keld. As a result, a long section of the River Swale runs through what almost feels like a quiet side valley, with no motor access, something that is unique in the major dales.