Quarrying is one of the oldest industries in the AONB: grants for mineral rights to Fountains and Byland Abbeys in the 12th century included stone.
By the end of the 18th century there were many quarries in Nidderdale, designed to meet local need. As the area became more industrialised through the development of mills and the subsequent growth of villages like Summerbridge and Glasshouses, the quarries expanded. However the arrival of the railway in 1862 was the real turning point for the quarry industry in Nidderdale as it enabled cheaper transportation and a wider market place.
Scotgate Ash Quarry to the north west of Pateley Bridge, was the largest quarry in Nidderdale. It was developed in the 1870s by George Metcalfe, who also owned the Pateley Bridge Brewery and Glasshouses Mill. In 1871 Metcalfe installed a 'self acting inclined railway' to bring stone down from the quarry to the Pateley Bridge railway line, 600 feet below. The railway gave Scotgate Ash a large advantage over its competitors as big blocks of stone could be transported down in a few minutes .
The quarry produced building stone and very large flagstones, sometimes 16 feet square and only 6 inches deep. These flagstones were used for docks and railway platforms all over Britain including York railway station. The stone was also used at the Natural History Museum and the National Gallery in London.
After the railway other quarries opened up like at Guisecliffe, Dacre and Thornthwaite and later in 1902 Middle Tongue Bank.
The construction of Scar House and Angram Reservoirs in the early 20th century maintained demand for stone in the Upper Dale.
However, the First World War and falling demand for building materials as well as competition from cheaper materials such as brick had a resounding impact on the quarrying industry that companies could not recover from. Scotgate Quarry closed in World War 1 and Middle Tongue Quarry in the 1920s. The remains of Scotgate can be seen from the public footpaths that encircle it. After the reservoirs had been completed only Duck Street Quarry and Coldstones Quarry at Greenhow were left.
Coldstones Quarry is still open as a limestone quarry and is now home to the modern art sculpture, the Coldstones Cut.