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The Old School Art Gallery & Craft Centre

Surrounded by the high fells, waterfalls and wild-flower meadows of Upper Swaledale, The Old School Muker Gallery & Craft Centre is now the largest independent contemporary art gallery in the Yorkshire Dales National Park. From our home in Muker’s 19th century grammar school we showcase the work of over 50 of the best independent artists and makers, working in a diverse mix of styles and mediums, all of whom share our passion for the Dales countryside. The school’s private, walled garden, contains sculptural work and on a good day is the ideal place to unwind and soak up the views of Kisdon, Buttertubs and the surrounding fells, with a coffee or a cold drink. 

Our enthusiasm for the landscape is matched only by our love for original art and handmade crafts. Much of our time is spent searching for new, unique and affordable work, and we still feel a real buzz whenever a customer discovers something new and loves it just as much as we do. We believe in the importance of art and craftmanship in everyone’s lives. What matters isn’t some great knowledge of art, but how it makes you feel every day, the connections and memories it evokes, and the joy it brings, whether it’s a humble postcard, a piece of pottery or an oil painting. 

Muker & Upper Swaledale

Sometimes a name tells you all you need to know. Muker means “narrow acre” in Old Norse and in the early 10th century Norse settlers made the strip of land between the River Swale and Straw Beck their home. The names of the surrounding landmarks, and many of the words of the local dialect, are a lasting echo of their presence and influence. 

The most Northerly of the Yorkshire Dales, hemmed in by high fells and accessed by high passes, Upper Swaledale can still feel a remote and atmospheric place, almost an adventure in itself to reach. For those who make the journey and discover its hidden charms - ancient paths, tight knit villages, waterfalls, countless field barns and wildflower meadows - the effort is worth it. Perhaps Ella Pontefract put in best when in 1934 she wrote of Swaledale: “Whichever way you enter, and in whatever season, you will feel its spell and be content”.

Muker grew as the lead mining industry flourished. It’s difficult to believe, but at one time the village was served by four pubs along with all the shops needed to support a thriving community. Of those pubs the Farmers Arms, with a reputation for good ale and food, continues to draw thirsty walkers through its doors. Close by, Gillian, at Swaledale Woollens, provides all the jumpers, socks, hats, scarves and blankets, to see you through the harshest winter. At the Teashop and Village Store, Nick and Alison serve scrumptious homemade food, their deserved five-star review status on Tripadvisor a testament to both their culinary skills and their hard work. Proud of its heritage, the Village Institute houses a display of historic photographs charting (amongst other things) the history of the famed Muker Silver Band. 

There’s been a school at Muker since 1678 (rebuilt in 1849) and perhaps its most famous pupils were the celebrated wildlife photographers and film makers Richard & Cherry Kearton. When the school closed in 1979, Barbara Laxton, keen for it to remain in use, transformed it into a tea shop and art gallery. Richard & Polly took over in 2017 and it’s now the largest gallery & craft centre in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with a reputation for its collection of handmade ceramics and artwork that reflects the surrounding landscape.  

Fine ale, great food, homemade cakes, warm jumpers, stirring band music, wonderful crafts and art, all surrounded by glorious walking country, and within easy reach of Richmond, no wonder those Vikings were happy to settle at Muker all those years ago!

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