Things to Do in North Yorkshire: A Guide to the Region's Best Attractions

4 months ago   •   12 min read

By More Yorkshire
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Things to Do in North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire, a county in England, boasts a rich landscape that combines natural beauty with historical depth. As you explore this region, you'll encounter vast national parks, where the opportunity to hike scenic trails or partake in walking tours presents itself. The history of North Yorkshire is embedded in each step you take along cobbled streets and past ancient structures, such as the gothic splendour of York Minster cathedral, complete with its magnificent stained glass.

For a more spiritual experience, you can visit the numerous churches and cathedrals that are scattered throughout the county. These architectural marvels offer a glimpse into the ecclesiastical heritage of England. If you're inclined towards the paranormal, ghost tours bring the county's folklore to life, transforming these historic sites into thrilling adventures.

Cultural activities are abundant, with choices ranging from cultural to historical tours that detail the stories behind North Yorkshire's development. The area is also well known for its charming coastal towns like Whitby and Scarborough, offering waterfront experiences that are as enriching as they are picturesque. Whether you're in the mood for a leisurely cruise on the River Ouse or an extended multi-day tour to truly immerse yourself in the local atmosphere, North Yorkshire is a place that promises both memorable experiences and the warmth of traditional English hospitality.


Historical Landmarks

North Yorkshire is a treasure trove of historical landmarks, from the awe-inspiring cathedrals to the remains of ancient abbeys. Each site tells a story, revealing pieces of the past through their imposing structures and intricate details.

York Minster

As one of the largest cathedrals of its kind in Northern Europe, York Minster dominates the skyline with its remarkable Gothic architecture. You'll find some of the most spectacular stained glass windows in the world here, which illuminate fascinating stories through both their visuals and their history. Venture below to the crypt and discover the layers of history that have shaped this monumental site.

Whitby Abbey

Perched high on a cliff, Whitby Abbey overlooks the seaside town of Whitby. Its gothic ruins serve as a testament to the abbey's history, once a centre of religion and learning. As you explore, you'll find yourself steeped in the abbey's rich past, amidst a backdrop that has inspired literature and art through the ages.

Castle Howard

Castle Howard is not a traditional castle but rather a stately home with a remarkable story. This baroque masterpiece, situated within a vast estate, offers a glimpse into the grandeur of times gone by. The house's dramatic facades and opulent interiors are a must-see, as are the carefully landscaped gardens that surround it.

Ancient Ruins

The region's landscape is scattered with ancient ruins, each offering a unique window into a distant past. You'll encounter remnants of centuries-old abbeys and castles, like the soaring arches of Rievaulx Abbey and the formidable ruins of Scarborough Castle, which boast panoramic views of the coastline and the North Sea. These sites provide a silent yet powerful insight into the region's dynamic history.

As you visit these landmarks, take a moment to appreciate the artistry and endurance of North Yorkshire's historical inheritance, entrenched in every stone and every pane of stained glass.


Natural Beauty and Parks

North Yorkshire offers an expansive canvas of rolling dales, rugged moors, and tranquil waterfalls. Your penchant for serene landscapes can be satiated through the rural majesty and well-maintained gardens within this historic UK county.

Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales, known for their riveting landscapes and classic rural beauty, are a patchwork of river valleys (dales) and hills. The area caters to a variety of outdoor activities ranging from walking to cycling. Features such as the Ribblehead Viaduct add a touch of majesty to your experience amidst these sweeping green valleys.

North York Moors National Park

Within the boundaries of the North York Moors National Park, you'll find yourself amidst heather-clad moorland and dense forests. The park showcases a different facet of the county's natural beauty, contrasting the Dales with higher elevations and moorlands that bloom a vibrant purple during late summer.

Waterfalls

  • Aysgarth Falls: A triple flight of waterfalls, surrounded by forest and farmland.
  • Hardraw Force: England's highest single-drop waterfall boasting a stunning 30-metre plunge.

In North Yorkshire, these natural cascades offer not just a spectacle, but also inviting trails and picnic spots nearby.

Gardens

  • Betty's Tearoom Gardens: Quintessentially English gardens perfect for relaxation after a delicious treat.
  • Newby Hall and Gardens: Featuring award-winning herbaceous borders and tranquil woodland.

Whether you prefer structured garden elegance or the wild beauty of a rural park, North Yorkshire serves both with aplomb.


Seaside Adventures

North Yorkshire's coast offers a plethora of activities. Whether you're seeking the traditional beach holiday or an adventurous day out, Whitby and Scarborough provide a stunning backdrop for a variety of seaside experiences.

Whitby Coastline

Whitby is renowned for its dramatic cliffs and historical harbour. Your visit to the Whitby coastline could start with a stroll along the beach, with its sweeping views and the picturesque ruins of Whitby Abbey in the distance. If you're eager for activity, why not try your hand at fossil hunting or engage in the time-honoured tradition of crabbing by the piers?

  • Fossil Hunting: Search the intertidal areas for hidden prehistoric treasures.
  • Crabbing: Enjoy this family-friendly activity along the harbour.

The coast here is also perfect for long, reflective walks, allowing you to soak in the maritime charm that envelops the town.

Scarborough Beach

In Scarborough, you're presented with a vibrant seaside setting. The South Bay is the busier part of the beach, adorned with classic amusement arcades and seafood stalls. For a quieter experience, the North Bay provides a more serene atmosphere and is ideal for a relaxing day by the sea.

  • South Bay:
    • Arcades: Provide fun for all ages with a variety of games.
    • Seafood: Savour fresh local delights from various stalls.
  • North Bay: A peaceful retreat that is perfect for a tranquil beach day.

Additionally, Scarborough Castle, with its historical allure, overlooks the coastline. The site offers a glimpse into the past while you enjoy the modern comforts of a seaside resort.

Activities in Scarborough range from traditional beach pursuits like building sandcastles to water sports for the more adventurous. Whether it's taking a boat tour around the bay or trying out surfing, you're sure to find something to satisfy your quest for seaside thrills.

  • Boat Tours: Join a cruise and explore the coast from a different perspective.
  • Surfing: The waves cater to both beginners and experienced surfers.

Outdoor Activities

North Yorkshire presents an array of outdoor activities set against the backdrop of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors. You're spoilt for choice with scenic walking trails and climbing spots that cater to both seasoned adventurers and casual day-trippers.

Walking Trails

Yorkshire Dales: This extensive network of walking trails offers you breathtaking views across rolling hills and lush valleys. Whether you opt for a leisurely stroll or a challenging hike, the Dales won't disappoint.

  • Popular Trails:
    • Ingleton Waterfalls Trail.: A picturesque walk leading to a stunning waterfall.
    • Malham Cove: Limestone formations with panoramic views from the top.

North York Moors: Vast heather-clad landscapes await as you traverse this area. Explore ancient woodlands and rugged coastline paths.

  • Key Routes:
    • Cleveland Way: A 109-mile adventure that skirts the moors and coastal regions.
    • Roseberry Topping: A distinctive hill offering spectacular vistas.

Climbing Spots

Climbing Activities: Grasp the opportunity to climb within the diverse scenery of North Yorkshire, from natural rock faces to well-equipped indoor walls.

  • Outdoor Climbing:
    • Brimham Rocks: These natural formations are ideal for bouldering and traditional climbing.
    • Almscliffe Crag: A prominent gritstone crag popular with climbers of all levels.
  • Indoor Climbing:
    • Parthian Climbing Harrogate: Offering a variety of bouldering problems and climbing lines for all abilities. It's perfect for days when the weather is less than favourable.

Family Attractions

North Yorkshire offers a wealth of family-oriented attractions, guaranteeing memorable days out for all ages. Whether you are seeking thrill-rides or prefer the nostalgia of vintage steam travel, there's something for everyone.

Flamingo Land

Flamingo Land is a unique destination that combines a theme park, zoo, and resort all in one. Offering an array of roller coasters and rides suitable for thrill-seekers, as well as gentler options for younger family members. The park is home to a diverse collection of animals, where you can witness exotic species including the park's namesake flamingos.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Experience the grandeur of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, where you can step back in time aboard historic steam trains. Travel through the heart of the scenic North York Moors National Park. It's more than just a train journey; it's an opportunity to explore the region's rich history with family-friendly events and activities at various stations en route.


Cultural Experiences

North Yorkshire is a treasure trove of cultural experiences, blending historical richness with vibrant market town atmospheres and diverse local events that are sure to enchant visitors.

Market Towns

Harrogate stands out as a quintessentially British market town brimming with historic sites and Victorian elegance. As you stroll down the Montpellier Quarter, you will find yourself surrounded by antique shops, galleries, and the famous Bettys Tea Room, an epitome of the town's charm.

Ripon has an impressive cathedral, Ripon is another gem awaiting your discovery. Immerse yourself in its traditional market square, which comes to life with stalls and local produce every Thursday.

Local Events

  • York Christmas Market: This festive event transforms York into a winter wonderland, complete with unique gifts and seasonal treats.
  • Big Ideas By The Sea: A cultural event that brings a blend of thought-provoking talks and innovative ideation to the Yorkshire coast.

By engaging with these cultural experiences, you gain insight into North Yorkshire's identity, one that’s proudly showcased through its historic sites, market towns, and local events.


Food and Drink

North Yorkshire is renowned for its splendid array of culinary hotspots, ranging from quaint cafés to tantalising local produce markets. You're sure to find something to please your palate.

Cafés and Tea Rooms

Indulge in the quintessentially British experience of afternoon tea at one of Harrogate's elegant cafés and tea rooms. The town prides itself on an abundance of such venues, where you can enjoy freshly brewed teas, delicate finger sandwiches, and an assortment of cakes and pastries.

Local Produce Markets

When it comes to local produce markets, North Yorkshire doesn't disappoint. The county is dotted with markets where you can find fresh, locally-sourced fruits, vegetables, meats, and cheeses.

  • Skipton Farmers Market: Held on the first Sunday of the month, this market offers a fantastic selection of Yorkshire produce.
  • Harrogate Farmers Market: Taking place on the second Thursday of each month, here you'll discover high-quality local produce that is perfect for creating your own gourmet dishes.

Discover the authentic taste of North Yorkshire at these indulgent hotspots that celebrate the county's rich culinary heritage.


Guided Tours

North Yorkshire offers a diverse range of guided tours, enabling you to immerse yourself in the rich history and natural beauty of the region. You'll find experienced guides who bring the past to life and show off the landscape's breath-taking diversity.

Heritage Tours

Heritage tours in North Yorkshire transport you through the historical tapestry that drapes across the county.

With certified guides, you can explore ancient ruins, stately homes, and charming market towns.

The city of York, with its iconic York Minster and well-preserved city walls, features prominently in many heritage itineraries. Tours usually vary in length, but even short walks are dense with historical insights and local anecdotes.

  • Historical & Heritage Tours: Go back in time with tours that focus on architecture and events that have shaped the county.
    • Examples: Roman York, Viking heritage, medieval market towns.

Nature and Wildlife Tours

For those who are keen to experience North Yorkshire's varied landscapes, nature and wildlife tours are a splendid choice. You can venture into the North York Moors or Yorkshire Dales, where you’ll encounter an array of wildlife and see the rolling hills and valleys that make up this remarkable area.

  • Hiking and Wildlife Trails: Discover the remote heather moorland, lush valleys, and expansive coastal cliffs.
    • Examples: Guided walks in the Dales, birdwatching excursions, nature photography tours.

Each tour provides a deep dive into the elements that make North Yorkshire a truly captivating part of the UK.


Architecture and Engineering

When you visit North Yorkshire, you're in for a visual treat, from the historic spans that cross its waterways to the striking modern designs that stand out against the rural landscape.

Historic Bridges

With 24 massive stone arches stretching 400 metres across the Batty Moss valley, Ribblehead Viaduct is not just a feat of Victorian engineering but also offers a dramatic gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is not only functional but has become an iconic silhouette against the wild moors.

  • Location: Near the settlement of Ribblehead, in North Yorkshire
  • Completed: 1874
  • Usage: Part of the Settle-Carlisle Railway

Whitby Swing Bridge This historic bridge has served as a strategic crossing for the River Esk since 1909, seamlessly blending its Edwardian engineering with the timeless charm of the surrounding maritime town. The mechanism that allows it to swing open for boat traffic still fascinates those interested in mechanical engineering.

  • Location: Whitby, a seaside town in North Yorkshire
  • Opened: 1909
  • Feature: Its ability to swing open

Arts and Literature

North Yorkshire's rich arts scene and literary heritage offer a compelling experience for culture enthusiasts. From prestigious galleries to guided tours based on literary classics, the region is a trove of artistic and literary marvels.

Galleries

In York, you'll find a thriving art scene with multiple galleries showcasing both contemporary and historic works. Notable amongst them is the York Art Gallery, which features fine paintings, ceramics, and perhaps most impressively, stained glass. North Yorkshire has an abundance of art spaces, some of them nestled in scenic rural settings, offering a diverse range of visual arts—from traditional to avant-garde.

At Whitby, delve into the Pannett Art Gallery, a hidden gem with a stunning collection that captures the essence of the coastal landscape and its historical context through art.

Literary Tours

York's literary history is one to traverse with enthusiasm. A literary tour here will often touch upon the city's remarkable array of stained glass, as many of its historical narratives are intricately woven into the fabric of its architecture. The Brontë sisters, among other literary figures, are associated with North Yorkshire's moorland, and a guided walk around these areas brings their stories vividly to life.

In Whitby, a literary tour will not only illuminate the town's influence on literature but also its connections to famous novels, such as Bram Stoker's 'Dracula', which found inspiration in the ominous ruins of Whitby Abbey overlooking the North Sea. While exploring, you'll be walking the same cobbled streets that authors have trodden and written about for centuries.


Frequently Asked Questions

North Yorkshire offers a wealth of experiences for all ages and interests, from family-friendly activities to romantic getaways, and outdoor adventures to tranquil coastal visits.

You and your family can enjoy a mix of educational and fun-filled activities, such as llama trekking at Nidderdale Llamas for a hands-on experience with animals, or exploring the historic streets of York with its array of interactive museums and the iconic York Minster.

Where can couples find romantic experiences in the region?

Couples can indulge in the charm of North Yorkshire by ambling through the cobbled streets of York, taking a River Ouse cruise, and enjoying the picturesque landscapes. For a more secluded retreat, explore the idyllic countryside or dine in a cosy village pub.

What are some must-visit hidden gems for an unconventional day out?

Discover unusual attractions like Gaping Gill, a large natural cave, or drive through the scenic Buttertubs Pass. These lesser-known locations offer unique experiences away from the crowds.

Which coastal destinations should not be missed when visiting North Yorkshire?

The dramatic coastline of North Yorkshire is home to gems like Whitby with its iconic Abbey, or the quaint charm of Robin Hood's Bay. Both provide remarkable scenery and are perfect for seaside strolls or exploring local heritage.

Can you suggest outdoor pursuits that are suitable for those bringing their pets along?

North Yorkshire's diverse landscapes are ideal for outdoor enthusiasts and their pets. From dog-friendly beaches in Scarborough to walking trails in the Yorkshire Dales, there's plenty of space for your pet to explore.

What places offer engaging and educational experiences for teenagers?

Teenagers can immerse themselves in the rich history of York's Viking Centre, or challenge their minds at the Jorvik DIG. The region's castles and historic sites also offer interactive tours that bring the past to life.

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