England’s largest county, Yorkshire, is located in the north of England. Having featured countless times in Lonely Planet’s ‘top’ lists, it’s clear that the regions evocative scenery and incredibly preserved history is some of the finest in England.
According to the Yorkshire Network, tourism in Yorkshire & Humber is worth over £7 billion. Incredibly, this is more than the whole tourism expenditure in Ireland or Denmark! Clearly Yorkshire has a lot to offer for international (and indeed national) visitors.
With green dales, brooding moorland, 45 miles of wild coastline, stunning medieval cities and quaint towns and villages, you may well be spoilt for choice deciding where to visit though.
It’s here that myself and some blogging friends come to your aid. We have outlined some of the best places to visit in Yorkshire based on our own experience and knowledge.
We hope that this list inspires you to visit!
Haworth village in Yorkshire is famous for more than just it’s pretty cobblestoned streets and incredible views over the moors. Once home to the Bronte family, Haworth is the place that the famous Withering Heights and Jane Eyre novels were written. It’s easy to see where this literary family found their inspiration.
The Bronte parsonage itself has been turned into a museum, full of artefacts from the Bronte sisters themselves. Each room is decorated as it would have been, and it gives a fascinating insight into their lives.
Just a short walk from the parsonage where they lived you, will find the wild and rugged moorland that Withering Heights was set in. You can follow one of the many walking trails that take you some of the most beautiful spots in the area, ending back in the village for a hearty pub lunch by an open fire.
If you’re after even more history, then Haworth boasts a charming old railway station. You can catch a steam train to the Edwardian Oakworth station that was used as the set for the famous 1970s film ‘The Railway Children’.
If history isn’t for you then not to worry, you can treat yourself to spot of afternoon shopping instead. The specialist, independent shops are full of interesting and unique gifts and souvenirs. You’ll find it hard to leave empty handed.
All along Haworth Main Street you will find pretty little houses full of antiques and collectables. Old fashioned windows frame tempting displays of Fairtrade gifts, gorgeous handmade crafts and beautiful smelling candles and bath salts. You will also find a range of inviting tea shops which will all beckon you in when your feet start aching!
Haworth is a ‘must see’ village on any trip to Yorkshire. Packed with history, culture, charm and beauty, like me, you really won’t want to leave.
Whitby is a small coastal fishing town in North Yorkshire. It is perfectly located for walking and exploring the coastline as well as taking the steam train across the North Yorkshire Moors. The train takes you to Goathland, the Hogsmeade Train Station in the Harry Potter movies, and on to the market town of Pickering. The steam train runs in the summer months from a small train station in the centre of town, as well as limited times during the winter.
The focus of the town is the harbour which is a working fishing harbour with fresh fish landed daily. This means that the numerous fish and chip shops along the harbourside have fish so fresh, it tastes better than anywhere else in England. There are lots of small alleyways and corners with little shops and cafes tucked away waiting to be found.
In the summer small boats take you out past the lighthouses on the jetty to cruise along the coast towards Robin Hoods Bay.
Whitby is also home to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum, documenting the adventures of James Cook who came in 1746 to start his apprenticeship as a seaman. The museum is located in the house where he lodged and retains the period settings.
There is also the Dracula Experience, an odd thing to find in a seaside town but Whitby Abbey is the inspiration behind part of the Dracula story. The Abbey is located at the top of 199 steps that lead from the centre of the town to the small church of St Mary with the ruins of the Abbey behind. On Halloween night the Abbey is illuminated and the story of Dracula is enacted in the darkness of the ruins. Whitby Abbey has a long and dark history which is worth exploring. Whitby is home to a number of ghosts and the Whitby Ghost Walks can be an experience not to be missed.
Known for its 13th-century Gothic architecture, quaint cobbled backstreets and ancient Viking heritage, York is a city in North Yorkshire that’s not to be missed.
Even though I’ve visited York several times as a resident of the nearby market town of Wetherby, I’m always blown away by its breathtaking beauty.
History lovers can spend a whole day getting lost around York’s famous landmarks. These include the York Minster, an awe-inspiring cathedral that has been in operation since the 7th century, The Shambles and the City Walls.
Speaking of The Shambles, this is one of Europe’s most visited streets dating back to Medieval times where it was once the main market area for butchers. Nowadays, it’s made up of independent stores and a variety of trades, from fudge to Harry Potter merchandise. (The Shop That Must Not Be Named, anyone?)
If you like a good stroll, you might want to check out City Walls, which form a walkway on both sides of the River Ouse and encircle the city. Consisting of two miles of surviving masonry, the whole trail will take you approximately two hours to get around on a good day (if you refrain from stopping at every photo opportunity, of course).
However you decide to spend a day in York, whether it’s shopping, eating and drinking along the river or cramming in as many tourist attractions as you can, you’re guaranteed to enjoy your time there. After all, the city of York is truly one-of-a-kind.
Beverley is a small market town in East Yorkshire, a few miles from Hull. In the Middle Ages it was one of the most important towns in England as it was the burial place of St John of Beverley and consequently a major pilgrimage centre.
Today it retains many of its historical features, yet the town is relatively undisturbed by tourists. However there is plenty for visitors to see and do, including medieval buildings, historic pubs, festivals… and a few quirks.
The most important building is the magnificent Beverley Minster, reputed to be the biggest parish church in England. From here you can walk along the old streets to the town centre, noting the higgledy-piggledy buildings, the independent shops and the elegant Georgian houses. There are two market places, one with an 18th century market cross, and close to the Saturday Market is the North Bar, the only remaining part of the town walls.
As you walk, keep your eyes open for plaques on the floor and pictures on the walls. Paintings by the local artist Fred Elwell are scattered about the town. And see if you can find the original of Lewis Carroll’s White Rabbit inside St Mary’s Church.
When you are ready for something to eat or drink, there are plenty of places to choose from, including old pubs with wooden beams and tiny bars.
Beverley hosts an annual Literature Festival in October, and a Fringe Festival in June. It also has a racecourse and a Christmas market.
Leeds isn’t necessarily a city that comes to mind when you’re thinking of Yorkshire tourist destinations. Although it is known for its lively city life, you can find a surprising number of attractions on offer to visitors.
The huge Royal Armouries at Leeds Dock is one of three sites that hosts the UK’s national armoury collection. You can see the exhibits across 5 floors. One of the highlights is the only example of an almost complete, all-metal elephant armour in any public collection in the world. It’s a great attraction for visitors of all ages and you could easily spend half a day here.
If you’re wanting a spot of lunch, call in at the tiled café at Leeds Art Gallery. This room is a work of art in itself. It was originally the library reading room and is covered completely in beautiful tile work from the floor to (and including) the ceiling. If you want to explore more of the city’s art scene, be sure to check out some of the amazing street art throughout the city.
Finally, wrap up your day with some retail therapy; Leeds has a fantastic shopping scene. Trinity shopping centre is packed with popular high street names. Alternatively, check out the designer shops in the Victoria Quarter Arcade, independent boutiques in the Corn Exchange, or swing by the original Marks and Spencer Penny Bazaar in Kirkgate Market.
The historic north eastern township of Durham is a less touristy and unpretentious version of York to many. If you walk down certain laneways and past certain buildings, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in Medieval England.
Durham is probably most famous for its UNESCO listed castle which you can visit on a guided tour. Unfortunately the tour inside is fairly limited as university students live there (I mean, imagine saying you lived in a real life castle for uni?!) but it’s still a fascinating insight into Norman and northern history. It was actually the only Norman castle never to be attacked, so considering its age, it’s in fantastic condition.
I also love visiting Crook Hall and Gardens, a privately owned medieval manor providing an oasis of calm and tranquillity only a few minutes walk away from the town centre. The English country gardens have little nooks and crannies to explore but the best way to enjoy them is by sitting in the grounds with an afternoon cream tea!
Durham isn’t all about the old though, there are so many cool coffee shops, art galleries, boutique gift shops, book stores and restaurants popping up all throughout the cobbled streets. The new and old are blended in a really complimentary way giving the city so much character.
Durham has so much to offer for tourists to the UK (and even for locals like me on a day trip). However to truly do it true justice, you’ll ideally need 2-3 days to get a taste of this wonderfully quaint and historic city.
Visiting Staithes on the North Yorkshire coast was one of the best things I did during my three years living in Yorkshire. Staithes is the perfect place to soak up some sun, take it easy and do some great hiking.
Many visitors come to Staithes as a day trip from one of the nearby cities, but if you opt to stay overnight you’ll have it all to yourself! Almost all Staithes’ tourists are domestic, so if you’re wanting to get off the ‘typical’ UK tourist trail, you can’t go wrong here.
The most popular thing to do in Staithes is hiking the Staithes to Runswick Bay coastal path, which is approximate three miles long. This short hike shows off dramatic landscapes and breath-taking scenery, ending on the sandy beach of Runswick Bay.
Besides hiking, there are plenty of things to keep visitors occupied. The Staithes Heritage Museum is a must-see for history buffs, as it holds a huge exhibition of artefacts owned by famous sailor Captain Cook, who grew up in the village.
If you’d prefer to keep things relaxed, Staithes is the perfect size to wander and window shop. The main street is full of cute, old-timey shops and cafes selling trinkets, homemade cakes, and strong cups of tea. You can’t leave Staithes without trying some of the amazingly fresh seafood on offer. You can’t go wrong with where you get it from – even the pubs will serve fresh, good quality fish.
If you’re looking to relax by the coast, I highly recommend Staithes!
Helmsley is the only historic market town in the North Yorkshire National Park and it’s this medieval market charm that makes this attractive little town so fascinating.
Quaint tea rooms, beautiful small shops and boutique galleries surround the market square in traditional formation with a grand statue of the 2nd Baron Feversham taking centre stage. Towering over the town are the ruins of 900 year old Helmsley Castle, now cared for by the English Heritage. During a visit you can also visit the beautiful English country walled gardens which brim with incredible flowers in the spring and summer, and the Birds of Prey Centre, a fantastic activity suitable for the whole family.
Although you won’t be lost for what to do around Helmsley, you need only potter around, have fish and chips and walk along the very pretty River Rye to enjoy the tranquil rural lifestyle the lucky locals get to experience daily.
The journey to get to Helmsley is stunning – a beautifully wide and windy road runs through smooth green hills and towering trees. It’s an especially popular route for motorcyclists and bike riders.
As the start of the Cleveland Way National Trail, you can be sure that there are some fantastic hikes to be experienced in the area as well.
I hope you have found this information inspiring and consider coming to ‘God’s own country’ a.k.a Yorkshire soon!
Heading to The UK Soon? Don’t forget these essentials!
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Organised your visa? Don’t forget to check the entry requirements for the United Kingdom on the relevant government website for the passport you are travelling with.
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For some travel inspiration for your next trip, how about Lonely Planet’s top 500 places to see… ranked?
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