River Swale Facts

Located in Yorkshire, England, the River Swale is a key tributary of the River Ure. The River Swale is approximately 118 km in length, and its source is the confluence of the Birkdale Beck and the Great Sleddale Beck in the Yorkshire Dales. It joins the River Ure near Myton-on-Swale.

Facts About the River Swale

  • According to the Yorkshire Rivers Trust, the River Swale is the fastest flowing river in the UK.
  • The River Swale’s valley is known as Swaledale.
  • Numerous settlements have been built close to the River Swale, including the villages of Healaugh, Reeth, Grinton, Marske, Catterick, Thrintoft, Skipton-on-Swale, Catton, Topcliffe, Asenby, Brompton-on-Swale, and Hudswell. The River Eden also flows past the town of Richmond.
  • Lots of different species of trees grow close to the River Swale, including ash, birch, rowan, hawthorn, hazel, holly, and bird cherry.
  • The River Swale was once known as England’s River Jordan because in the 7th century St Paulinus, the first Bishop of York, supposedly baptised thousands of people in the river’s waters at Brompton-on-Swale.
  • The River Swale’s name may derive from the Anglo-Saxon word sualuae meaning tumultuous river.
  • It is said that the river can rise 3 metres in only 20 minutes.
  • Although the River Swale catchment was once the home of the lead mining industry, now the main industry is agriculture.
  • The River Swale is crossed by the Great North Road at Catterick.
  • The River Swale flows below Richmond Castle, built in the 11th century.
  • The waters in some sections of the River Swale appear to be brown in colour. This is because the river runs through peat in its upper course.
  • People have reported finding deposits of gold in the River Swale.
  • Richmond Falls are a series of beautiful waterfalls along the River Swale, close to the town of Richmond.
  • The Swale Way is a walk that follows the course of the river. It has been detailed in a book by Stuart W. Greig.
Richmond Castle from the River Swale (Early 1900s)

Visit our Rivers resources page, or learn more about some of the UK’s longest rivers.