One of the quieter and least spoilt dales within the National Park, Swaledale has a varied landscape. Beginning high on the Cumbria - Yorkshire boundary and running roughly west to east passing through the town of Richmond.

From the north the tributary dale of Arkengarthdale and its river the Arkle Beck join Swaledale at Reeth the "capital of Swaledale" and is separated from Wensleydale in the south by a ridge of high fells, which are crossed by narrow steep roads, notably the Buttertubs Pass

In June and early July spectacular displays of colourful wild flowers and many different varieties of grass are to be seen in the hay meadows as well as many fine examples of field barns scattered amongst the fields.

Swaledale is possibly best known as the name of a hardy breed of domestic sheep particularly suited to hill farming and can be found on the moors and hills of Yorkshire, County Durham, and areas of Cumbria, the wool is used in the production of the well known Swaledale Woollens.

Another traditional Swaledale product is Swaledale cheese, this used to be made form ewe's milk, but now many varieties are made from cow's milk.

In the past Swaledale was once the centre of a thriving lead mining industry, and one of the first industrial areas of northern England. Prior to the extensive lead mining of the late 18th and 19th centuries both the Brigantes and the Romans are known to have mined lead in the area. Extensive remains of this abandoned industry can be seen on the moors.

Swaledale attracts several thousand visitors a year as holiday get away in which to relax and enjoy in the area, and is a popular destination for hill walking and cycling. The Pennine Way and Coast to Coast long distance footpaths both pass through Swaledale.