This post was most recently updated on October 31st, 2017
With its combination of breathtaking scenery and centuries of history, Yorkshire is a wonderful place to visit. Whether you want to visit a secluded fishing village, spend a morning browsing a farmer’s market or tour historic cathedrals and abbeys, the North of England’s largest county has something for everyone. Join us on a tour of ten of the best things to see and do in the home of the best cup of tea in England.
1. North Yorkshire
The location for some of Yorkshire’s most historic towns and cities – Whitby, Harrogate and York itself – the north of the region has a world of other treats to offer. It was North Yorkshire that was the setting for James Herriot’s well-loved series of books based on his experiences as a veterinary surgeon in the area, and its rolling hills and dales provide a haven for walkers, photographers and nature lovers.
Whilst there, why not pay visit to Scarborough Fair, inspiration for the famous song. Today it is home to a magnificent collection of vintage fairground rides, steam engines, cars and mechanical organs.
The iconic seaside town of Whitby has a long history of fishing and exploration, with the earliest settlement dating back to 656AD. Its east cliff is dominated by the ruins of Whitby Abbey, home to England’s first poet, Caedmon, and immortalised in Bram Stoker’s spine chilling novel Dracula.
Its natural harbor has double piers where you can enjoy fishing expeditions and explore the golden sands of Whitby’s beaches. On a cooler day, take a stroll through the town and be rewarded with quaint shops, excellent restaurants, and historic architecture.
3. North York Moors National Park
One of the most popular national parks in the UK, the North York Moors offers miles of heather-clad moorland together with breath-taking views across the North Sea. Almost a quarter of the moors are covered by woodland and it boasts the largest concentration of ancient trees in the north of England.
Nestled in its midst are the stunning remains of Rievaulx Abbey, once one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries. Today the site is owned by English Heritage, and visitors can take an audio tour of the ruins and visit the museum to hear the dramatic story of the Abbey’s rise and fall.
4. West Yorkshire
Another location with an impressive literary legacy, West Yorkshire was home to the Brontë sisters and the inspiration for their classic books. Now a museum, the Brontë Parsonage (pictured above) in the picturesque village of Haworth provides a fascinating insight into the life of the family.
Anyone interested in the history of rail travel will relish a visit to another of West Yorkshire’s gems: the Middleton Railway, established in 1758 and the world’s oldest continuously working railway. Today it is run by a group of volunteers and still offers passenger services on weekends and public holidays.
This historic city in North Yorkshire was the seat of the House of York, who fought the bloody Wars of the Roses against the House of Lancaster between 1455 and 1487. York also plays a prominent role in Roman and Viking history, and visitors to the Jorvik Centre can experience what it was like to live in the tenth century Viking city.
For those interested in exploring the wider Humber region, York is the perfect starting point. It is well-connected by road and rail to cities including Doncaster, Leeds, Scarborough and Hull, and further afield to Liverpool.[thrive_text_block color=”light” headline=”Note”]For more ideas on what to do in this great city, take a look at ‘York: The 9 Must See Attractions‘ [/thrive_text_block]
6. East Riding of Yorkshire
The East Riding of Yorkshire consists of a low crescent of chalk hills, the Yorkshire Wolds, surrounded by fertile plains. The Wolds themselves offer miles of walking and cycling through attractive landscapes, while those in search of more urban delights should pay a visit to the market town of Beverley, with its awe-inspiring Minster and popular racecourse.
On the southern border, close to Hull, the Humber Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge when it was opened in 1981. It has since slipped to eighth place, but remains the longest that can be crossed on foot or by bicycle – if you’re planning to test it out, take a snack and drink to keep you going!
7. Yorkshire Dales National Park
This high-elevation park includes massive pastoral landscapes where sheep are raised for the thriving wool industry. Millions of tourists have visited since the area was designated a national park in 1954, taking in its rolling limestone moors, dales, and waterfalls. Several long-distance walking and cycling routes cross the area, and there are five visitor centres.
The parks many points of interest include Bolton Castle, the Yorkshire Three Peaks and the spectacular Aysgarth Falls, a triple waterfall enthused over by visitors including the Victorian art critic John Ruskin, J.M.W. Turner, and William Wordsworth.
The seaside village of Staithes is known for its grand harbour nestled between steep cliffs and breakwaters. Most of the locals are involved in the fishing and boating industry, and it’s still possible to see glimpses of traditional village life – the Staithes Fishermen’s Choir is still going strong and many of the local women still buy traditional Staithes bonnets from the village’s sole remaining bonnet maker.
Staithes’ most famous resident was Captain James Cook. He worked as a grocer’s apprentice in the village it was there that he gained his passion for the sea. While the shop where Cook once worked has since been lost to coastal erosion, parts were recovered and incorporated in “Captain Cook’s Cottage”, home to many generations of one lucky local family.
Close to the serene River Wharfe and part of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is the beautiful village of Burnsall. Orignally an Anglo-Viking settlement, the village church contains a number of ancient carved stones and a small exhibition that are well worth a visit.
The Dales Way footpath runs through the village and walkers can follow it south along riverside and through woodland and moors to explore Barden Tower and historic Bolton Abbey. For those feeling particularly energetic, a number of routes lead to the spectacular fells that surround the village.
If you are a literary fan, no visit to Yorkshire would be complete without a visit to the village that author James Herriot called home. Thirsk is located between the North York Moors National Park and the Yorkshire Dales. Village life centres on the bustling, cobbled market square with its town clock, independent shops and cafés. A market is still held here twice a week – plan to visit on a Monday or Saturday if you want to see it in action.
For those who want to find out more about the life and work of the author of All Creatures Great and Small, Herriot’s former home and surgery has been converted into an award-winning museum. And it’s not the only museum this small village has to offer: Thirsk Museum can be found in the former home of another of the village’s famous sons – Thomas Lord, the founder of Lord’s cricket ground.