If you fancy exploring the world outside of the city, there are plenty of things to do around York. Go walking over moor and down dale, relax in a Harrogate spa, spend a day mucking about on the beach or an afternoon enjoying some retail therapy in Leeds.
The Yorkshire Dales contains both the Dales National Park as well as Nidderdale – an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty – to the east. With its stone-built villages and reddish-purple moorland, waterfalls and woodland, drystone walls and hay meadows it is one of the most spectacular places in England.
James Herriot conveyed the breathtaking beauty of the place better than most. “When I left Glasgow to work as assistant to Siegfried Farnon, I had the conviction, like many Scots, that there was no scenery outside Scotland. I had a mental impression of Yorkshire as a stodgy, uninteresting place — rural in parts, perhaps, but dull. I remember Siegfried saying to me a few days after I had first met him, ‘Wait till you see Swaledale, Wensleydale and Coverdale, my boy.’ [He] was right. I suddenly found myself in a wonderland.”
North York Moors
Stretching from the North Sea coast to the Hambleton Hills, the North York Moors contain one of the largest areas of heather moorland anywhere in the UK. Ever popular with walkers, the moors are criss-crossed by nearly 1400 miles of trails and footpaths.
Much of the high moorland is now open access but you’ll find plenty of excellent walking down dale as well. There are also a number of longer named trails of which the Cleveland Way – some 110 miles in total – is perhaps the most famous. Tumbledown abbeys, ruined ironworks and railway lines all provide a visual connection to the region’s industrial and religious past, and it’s charming villages and hamlets are home to many a fine pub.
An arc of rolling hills extending from Flamborough on the coast, inland to Malton and then round and down to the Humber Bridge, the Yorkshire Wolds are all about leafy lanes and gently undulating countryside. With a very different feel to either the Dales or the Moors, the Wolds are a great place for a picnic, a day out on the bike or an afternoon stroll.
This lesser known corner of Yorkshire also has its own 79 mile national trail – the Wold’s Way – which winds its way through the picturesque hills and hidden valleys. Visiting the area you get the impression that not much has changed in a long time. The small hamlet of Kiplingcotes, just outside Market Weighton, still holds an annual horse race that has been run every year since 1519.
Herriot Country is almost a semi-mythical area of Yorkshire with no one really seeming to know where it begins or where it ends. It takes its name from the pen name of Yorshire-based vet and author James ‘Alf’ Wright who had a practice in the town of Thirsk, about 20 miles north of York.
Some claim Herriot country is thus just this area – the Vale of Mowbray – nestled between the Dales and Moors. However, Herriot/Wright was an enthusiastic walker and spent much time in both national parks and gave his name to a hiking trail in the Dales – the Herriot Way.
Adding to the confusion, when All Creatures Great and Small was made into a television series most of the footage was shot in the Yorkshire Dales – and in the minds of many Herriot Country is associated with these locations.
A designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Howardian Hills nestle between the Yorkshire Wolds, the Vale of York and the North York Moors. Taking their name from the Howard family – significant landowners both locally and nationally – the wooded hills and valleys, rolling farmland, rivers and ruined priories make the Howardian Hills fine walking country.
Although the market towns of Malton and Helmsley are nearby, the area has no towns of its own – the only settlements being a number of pretty villages dotted across the landscape. These villages are a great starting-point to explore the network of footpaths and bridleways that criss-cross the countryside – and a great place to return after a days walk to enjoy a well-earned pint.
Although perhaps not known for it’s coastline Yorkshire really should be. Depending on when – and where – you visit, the Yorkshire Coast can be many things; rugged, bracing, picturesque, relaxing or just great fun.
From tiny fishing villages on the edge of the North York Moors to the bucket and spade kitsch of Scarborough through to Whitby with its gothic weekends – it has something for everyone.
Spend a day on the beach with the kids, enjoy the taste of freshly landed crab or take a trip out to catch some fish of your own. Walk along windswept clifftops, go in search of wildlife or explore ruined abbeys. You never know, you might even need to pack the sun cream.
With plenty of hustle and whole lot of bustle, Leeds is Yorkshire’s twenty-first century capital and a place where old and new exist side by side. You can buy the latest designers brands in the grand arcades of the Victorian Quarter or dine in style in the refurbished Corn Exchange.
Home to The Northern Ballet, Opera North as well as The West Yorkshire Playhouse, culture vultures certainly won’t be disappointed and art lovers can enjoy the city’s gallery and Henry Moore Institute. With some 200,000 students, there is a plenty going on at night as well. A fantastic range of bars, clubs and live music venues, mean Leeds can cater to pretty much all musical tastes.
Phil ‘Phil and Kirsty’ Spencer’s top place to live in the UK, Harrogate is consistently voted as ‘the happiest place to live’ in Britain. Visiting you can see why.
Famous for its reviving waters, ‘The English Spa’ as it became known in the eighteenth century was popular with wealthy visitors and the town grew in size and style as a result.
Although the Royal Baths are now a Chinese restaurant, you can still sample the Turkish Baths today which are just around the corner – but beware the chill of the plunge pool. Tree-lined boulevards, open green spaces in which to promenade, and the Montpellier Quarter all give parts of Harrogate a slightly European feel – making the town unlike anywhere else in Yorkshire.
Only a couple of miles from Harrogate, Knaresborough is a picturesque market town that is well worth a visit. Perched atop a rocky outcrop, overlooking the River Nidd some 120 feet below, Knaresborough’s castle is believed to have been at one time a royal residence. From here you can see the equally impressive Gothic-style Victorian viaduct that carries the railway line across the river.
Knaresborough can also lay claim to have England’s oldest tourist attraction, Mother Shipton’s Cave – the birthplace of a fifteenth century prophetess who predicted the untimely end of Mary Queen of Scots. Have a lazy day boating on the river, explore the castle ruins and wander the cobbled alleys before enjoying a cream tea in one of the town’s many cafes.
The Yorkshire fishing port of Whitby has been an ever popular tourist destination since the arrival of the railway in the nineteenth century. You can experience the golden age of steam yourself by travelling into the town on the restored North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
Whitby has a charming mix of history and sea-side holiday fun, with the abbey ruins on the steep east cliff overlooking the harbour, the Blue Flag beaches and the jumble of medieval streets below. On an overcast and windswept day the town can take on an a somewhat eerie character, and is perhaps the reason why Bram Stoker chose Whitby as the place where his famous vampire came ashore after his journey from Transylvania.
Founded by the nineteenth century industrialist Sir Titus Salt and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Saltaire is a Victorian model village just outside of Bradford. It was built for the workers at the large woollen mill that still towers above the neat stone houses.
Complete with wash houses, hospital, library, concert hall and gymnasium, Salt intended to provide for all his employees educational and recreational needs. Like Bournville in Birmingham, another village built by Victorian industrialists, this was supposed to be an alcohol-free zone so no pubs were constructed. Today the mill houses a restaurant and up-market shops as well as a gallery of works by the artist David Hockney.
York YO60 7DA (15 miles from York)
Although not technically a castle, this grand country house was built on a site of a former castle and it is from this which it takes its name.
Taking more than a hundred years to construct, Castle Howard is one of eighteenth century Britain’s finest architectural achievements – both inside and out.
Home to the Carlisle branch of the Howard family for over 300 years, this grand house is surrounded by nearly a thousand acres of listed parkland and gardens complete with statues, temples, fountains and lakes.
Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal
Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY
Three attractions in one, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal contains the ruins of a Cistercian abbey, an elegant Georgian water garden as well as a medieval deer park.
Falling into disrepair following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1539, the abbey ruins are a historical monument to perhaps the country’s most significant religious revolution – Henry VIII’s break with Rome. The water gardens were developed during the eighteenth century by Tory MP William Aislabie in the style currently then en vogue.
Coach Rd, Beningbrough YO30 1DD
Situated just 8 miles north of York and overlooking the River Ouse, Beningbrough Hall is a large Italian-inspired red-brick mansion which was built in the early eighteenth century to replace a more modest Elizabethan manor.
It is currently home to a collection of some 100 portraits on loan from the National Portrait Gallery, featuring people who have made, and are making, a contribution to British history and culture. The walled gardens and surrounding parkland are perfect for a relaxing stroll.
Kirby Misperton, Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 6UX
Part theme park, part zoo and part holiday resort, Flamingo Land has something for everyone. Eight extreme rides, including the record breaking Mumbo Jumbo, a dozen family friendly attractions, soft play areas, kids coasters and regular free shows will keep you more than entertained.
Boasting over 140 species of mammals, reptiles and birds, Flamingo Land is also the UK’s most visited zoo with regular feeding times, keeper talks and a sea lion show. If you want to visit for longer you can stay in their holiday village or pitch up your own tent or caravan in the campsite.
Malton, North Yorkshire YO17 6RT
Housed in a former prisoner of war camp, Eden Camp is a multi-award winning museum that was created as a tribute to all those – civilian and military – who endured hardship through the Second World War.
As well as housing a large collection of military vehicles and hardware, the sights, sounds and smells of the Home Front and Front Lines have been carefully recreated in the museum’s exhibits. The second half of the museum covers British military involvement in other periods both pre- and post-1945.
Forestry Visitors Centre, Low Dalby, Thornton-le-Dale YO18 7LT
Located in Dalby Forest on the southern edge of the North York Moors, Go Ape is the perfect day out if you fancy some monkeying around.
Swing from rope to rope, scramble up cargo nets suspended metres above the forest floor and launch yourself along zip wires through the tree tops.
With a minimum age restriction of ten years, Go Ape is a great day out with teenagers or something different to do on a corporate event or stag do. They are now offering a ‘Forest Segway’ as well (which is hopefully more exciting than it sounds).