The best things to do in Yorkshire

Penned on the 21st May 2024

The best things to do in Yorkshire

Affectionately described as ‘God’s country’, Yorkshire is a charming county brimming with heritage, culture and natural beauty. A staycation here can be spent rambling world-renowned walking trails amongst evocative landscapes, exploring historical architecture and vibrant cities, visiting famous film and book locations, or savouring a Yorkshire brew and a tasty pie in a welcoming pub. 

Whether you’re seeking a romantic escape for two or an action-packed adventure for the whole family, there is a huge variety of things to see and do in this northern English county. We’ve listed some of our favourites to get you inspired.


Explore the historic city of York

Looking across historic buildings of York Minster with the cathedral in the background

Known for its rich Roman, medieval and viking heritage, York is one of the UK’s finest and most beautiful historic cities – and a must-visit for history buffs. Ancient streets and architecture are well-preserved in the heart of the city, including the famous Shambles, where you’ll find cobbled paving stones and quaint shops housed in crooked buildings, believed to be the inspiration behind Diagon Alley in the Harry Potter movies. Travel over 1000 years back in time at the interactive Jorvik Viking Centre. And don’t miss the mighty York Minster, the largest medieval cathedral in northern Europe. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, call into one of York’s many historic pubs for a hearty lunch. The Golden Fleece is one of the oldest, dating back to 1503 – just beware that it’s also one of the most haunted, reportedly! 


Hike the Yorkshire Dales

A patchwork of undulating hills in the Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park offers mile-upon-mile of rolling pathways to explore the county’s breathtaking scenery and wildlife. In fact, there are 2,638km of footpaths here, spanning magnificent valleys, wild moorlands, and dramatic limestone crags and waterfalls. For a challenging long-distance trek choose a section of the remote and rocky hills of one of England’s most iconic trails, the Pennine Way – or take on one (or all) of Yorkshire’s very own Three Peaks. Or if you’re after a route that’s a little more leisurely, try the 4.5-mile Malham Landscape Trail, which takes in Malham Cove, a striking 230-feet tall limestone cliff where a waterfall higher than Niagara Falls once plunged. It’s also a filming location for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.


Sample Wensleydale cheese

The cheese counter at The Wensleydale Creamery in Yorkshire

The world-famous Wensleydale cheese originates here in Yorkshire – and cheese fans will be delighted to visit The Wensleydale Creamery to learn all about how it’s made. Situated in the market town of Hawes in Wensleydale itself, surrounded by the stunning Yorkshire Dales landscape, these artisan cheesemakers date back 1000 years and are proud custodians of their time-honoured recipes. Discover their family story and get a glimpse into their traditional-meets-modern processes in the Visitor Experience, before heading to the on-site restaurant, coffee shop or gift shop to sample the range of goods for yourself. From classics like Wensleydale & Cranberry and Wensleydale Blue, to naturally oak-smoked cheese, to blends like Yorkshire Wensleydale & Stem Ginger, there’s sure to be something that’ll take your fancy.


Take a Brontë tour

A wooden bench on a footpath through Haworth Moor in Yorkshire

Yorkshire’s impressive landscapes have long inspired artists and writers – and some of the most renowned are the Brontë family, who lived in the village of Haworth in West Yorkshire. Now known as ‘Brontë Country’, there are several places in this beautiful area where you retrace the three sister’s steps. Visit their home at Brontë Parsonage, now a museum filled with 19th-century literary artefacts. Explore the ruins of Top Withens, the moor-top farm that inspired Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Or walk the 2.75-mile route to the Brontë Waterfall where you’ll find ‘Charlotte’s Chair’, an L-shaped stone where Charlotte Brontë would sit and write. Perhaps pack a notebook and pen in case inspiration strikes for you, too. 


Spend a day at the seaside at Whitby

The historic ruins of Whitby Abbey on the cliff in Whitby in Yorkshire

If you’re seeking a gorgeous day out beside the sea, Whitby is sure to deliver. At this pretty coastal town you’ll find a picturesque harbour with bobbing boats, golden sandy beaches, colourful beach huts and plenty of spots to pick up a mouthwatering portion of Whitby’s famous fish and chips. There’s plenty more to do here once you’re done with the traditional seaside activities. You can learn all about explorer Captain James Cook’s awe-inspiring 18th-century voyages at the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and explore the historical sites that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula novel, the gothic St Mary’s Church and the imposing ruins of Whitby Abbey perched high on East Cliff with panoramic views over the coast.


Ride the Victorian railway

A historic train passing through a woodland in Levisham along the North Yorkshire Moors Railway

There are two heritage railway lines connecting small towns and rural villages across Yorkshire, both offering a unique opportunity to hop aboard majestic steam locomotives and classic diesel engine trains. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway dates back to 1832 and chugs for 24 picturesque miles through the countryside between Whitby and Pickering, to a 1930s-themed station that’ll transport you to this charming bygone era of travel. In West Yorkshire, the Keighley & Worth Valley Railway is a 5-mile track through Brontë country – and was also featured in the original 1970s movie, The Railway Children. Take a look at their Dining Trains dates to enjoy a meal on board one of the beautifully restored carriages as you travel along the Worth Valley. 


Meet the animals at Yorkshire Wildlife Park

A meerkat standing on a rock at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park in Yorkshire

Animal lovers of all ages should visit Yorkshire Wildlife Park on the outskirts of Doncaster, South Yorkshire. Rated as the UK’s number one ‘walkthrough wildlife adventure’, an immersive 800-metre pathway meanders through the park, guiding visitors to see over 400 animals from across the globe. There are all sorts of exotic creatures to discover, from beautiful Amur tigers and adorable red pandas in the Eurasian Experience to gigantic giraffes, cheeky meerkats and majestic lions in the African Plains. The park prides itself on being a centre of conservation too, working closely with charities for the welfare of animals. Look out for the inspiring and educational talks from keepers throughout the day. And if you’ve got little ones in tow who still want to let off some steam after seeing the animals, there are several outdoor play areas for them to run around. 


Drink craft beer in Leeds

People sat outside drinking beer at the North Brewing Co taproom in Leeds

Leeds is Yorkshire’s largest city with bustling nightlife and a thriving craft beer scene. You’ll find independent breweries, bars and taprooms galore across the city, each offering beer lovers a chance to taste their ranges of unique hoppy creations. Try the popular Northern Monk craft brewery and Grade II-listed taproom in Holbeck, where there are typically over 20 different beers to choose from on tap. Head to North Brewing Co at Springwell where you can enjoy your freshly brewed pint in the huge outdoor terrace with DJs and food trucks, hopefully in the sunshine. Or for an American-style craft brew pub with an extensive beer list and pizza menu, visit Tapped right in the city centre. 


Marvel at Ribblehead Viaduct

People walking along a footpath in the foreground of the Ribblehead Viaduct in Yorkshire

For a scenic walk in a breathtaking location, head to Ribblehead Viaduct on the border of Cumbria and North Yorkshire in a remote area of the Yorkshire Dales. Part of the Settle-Carlisle railway, this impressive structure has 24 mammoth arches and is a triumph of Victorian engineering, designed by John Crobsy and built in the late 1800s. Some 2300 workmen were employed to build the bridge and, sadly hundreds lost their lives whilst constructing the line from a combination of accidents, fights and, smallpox outbreaks – memorials lie along the line to commemorate many of their lives. If you fancy a good stomp during your visit, hike this 7.9-mile circular route from Ribblehead Viaduct to Force Gill Waterfall and Whernside Mountain. 


Visit a Bridgerton film set

The stately façade of Castle Howard in Yorkshire

Castle Howard is a grand stately home and gardens just outside of York, set in a National Landscape (formerly AONB). The building is over 300 years old and today remains home to the Howard family. If it looks familiar it’s because it played the part of the Duke of Hastings’ family estate in the first season of Bridgerton. Period drama fan or not, you’ll enjoy admiring some of England’s finest examples of baroque and Palladian design in the architecture and interiors, followed by a wander in the surroundings grounds. There are statues, temples, lakes and fountains to discover amongst the stunning gardens and parkland, as well as woodland footpaths leading to phenomenal countryside views. Young visitors will enjoy the adventure playground too. 


Learn about the industrial revolution in Sheffield

A series of fountains and historic buildings in Sheffield

Yorkshire is well-known for its industrial heritage but Sheffield, the ‘steel city’, is perhaps one of its most famous. A great place to start if you want to learn more about the city’s metalworking past and part in the Industrial Revolution is Kelham Island, Sheffield’s oldest district, once the beating heart of the industry. The man-made island is now home to an excellent museum, along with a vibrant array of cool cafés, bars, breweries and restaurants, should you want to stop for a bite to eat and something cold to drink. Afterwards head to Abbeydale Industrial Hamlet for a frozen-in-time insight into the life and work of a steelworker back in the 1700s, when Sheffield’s reputation as the Steel City was just beginning. 


Unwind at the Turkish Baths

A beautifully tiled bath at the Turkish Baths in Harrogate in Yorkshire

Harrogate in North Yorkshire was known as ‘the English spa’ in its heyday, thanks to its bubbling thermal springs – Charles Dickens, Queen Victoria and Agatha Christie were just some of the esteemed visitors who came to enjoy the spas since their development in the late 1800s. One of the most popular destinations was, and still is, the Turkish Baths. Having been carefully restored to their original glory, nowadays you can enjoy a relaxing visit amongst the elaborate Turkish interiors and book in for a rejuvenating traditional steam bath and scrub treatment. You’ll also find a spa pool, aroma room and foot spas, should you wish to soak for a little longer, as well as a more contemporary spa treatment menu of facials, massages and manicures. 


Admire the art at Yorkshire Sculpture Park

A series of metal sculptures in a field at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in Yorkshire

If you’re seeking a memorable cultural activity in the great outdoors, you’ll love Yorkshire Sculpture Park between Wakefield, Leeds and Sheffield. In this 500-acre area, art and nature are brought together with over 100 sculptures displayed in the historic parkland, woods and lakes, from internationally acclaimed artists such as Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, as well as many others from as far away as Japan. There are also four indoor galleries, a fun programme of creative events, food kiosks and a canteen serving freshly prepared food from local suppliers. Plus the shop is a great place to pick up a new piece of Yorkshire art to take home.


Discover ancient ruins at Fountains Abbey

The historic ruins of Fountains Abbey in autumn in Yorkshire

Fountains Abbey & Studley Royal Water Garden is a World Heritage site managed by the National Trust in North Yorkshire. From humble beginnings, the abbey was built by monks seeking a simpler existence back in 1132 – and now makes up the remains of one of the best-preserved examples of Cistercian abbeys in the whole of England. When John Aislabie inherited the site he set about creating an elegant garden, filled with glassy ponds and statues, incorporating the romantic ruins into his design. The green lawns stretch down to the riverside, often with stags and bucks wandering the grounds, and it truly is a magical spot for a peaceful walk and a picnic. 


Where to stay in Yorkshire

A cosy bed by an open door overlooking fields in Yorkshire at Sammi's Fright Train

For a one-of-a-kind glamping experience nearby, take a look at Sammi’s Freight Train. This beautifully upcycled railway carriage is settled on the edge of a working farm near Richmond, with tranquil views of the surrounding verdant countryside. With a wood-fired hot tub too, could there be a more heavenly base for your adventures in Yorkshire?


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