Not only is Yorkshire the UK’s biggest county but its national parks and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty make it one of the country’s loveliest places to visit.
Yorkshire is blessed with a trio of national parks and three Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty meaning there are plenty of free-to-access places where you can make the most of the great outdoors and get some fresh air in your lungs.
So whether you want to experience waterfalls cascading down dramatic gorges, immerse yourself in the sights and smells of an English country garden or seek out some wonderful hidden gems, Gorgeous Cottages has compiled some of the most beautiful places in Yorkshire. For even more inspiration read our guide to the best places to stay in Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is where you’ll find Yorkshire’s highest mountains, tallest waterfalls and deepest caves, so is the place to go if you’re looking for dramatic scenery and outdoor activities. It’s also home to rare and protected wildlife such as red squirrels which you can see at Snaizeholme near Hawes and beautiful wildflower meadows which can be found around Muker and Grassington.
The landscape of the Yorkshire Dales is peppered with traditional villages that seem to be lost in time and criss-crossed with the classic dry stone walls that this area is synonymous with. Limestone pavements that were created in the ice age can be found in Malhamdale and Wharfedale while Wensleydale is the best place to seek out tumbling waterfalls such as Aysgarth Falls and Hardraw Force.
- Walking around Malham Tarn which is the largest natural lake in the Dales and discovering nearby Malham Cove which is a huge natural amphitheatre formed out of limestone rocks.
- Driving along the Buttertubs Pass to Hawes; it’s one of the highest roads in the Yorkshire Dales with spectacular views of the surrounding fells and valleys.
- Enjoying a pint at the secluded Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale which is Britain’s highest pub and dates back to the 17th century.
- Tackling the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge and climbing Pen-y-ghent, Whernside and Ingleborough for panoramic views of the surrounding landscape which includes the impressive Ribblehead Viaduct.
- Cycling the Swale Trail from Reeth to Keld, a family-friendly valley bottom route which takes you through Swaledale’s beautiful hay meadows and undulating green countryside. Discover more Yorkshire cycling routes.
North York Moors National Park
Head to the North York Moors National Park and you’ll find wide open spaces, grazing sheep and vast swathes of rare heather-clad moorland which gives a pink or purple hue to the hills during late summer.
You’ll find pretty villages complete with chocolate-box cottages and traditional Yorkshire pubs dotted throughout the magical moorland of the North York Moors and some of our favourites include Hutton-le-Hole which has a stream running through the middle of it and Rosedale which lies at the centre of five different walking paths.
The North York Moors is also home to a large stretch of heritage coastline with towering cliffs, sandy beaches and picturesque places such as Robin Hood’s Bay, which was once a hub for fishing and smuggling. Follow the path of the River Esk through idyllically peaceful moorland and eventually you’ll reach the sea at Whitby where you can hunt for fossils on the beach.
- Exploring more than 8,000 acres of woodland at Dalby Forest which lies on the southern slopes of the North York Moors National Park.
- Whistling through the countryside on a NYMR steam train which will take you from Pickering to Whitby. Stops on the way include Goathland which became Hogsmeade in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.
- Stargazing in internationally recognised dark skies from the Moors National Park Centre at Danby.
- Following the first part of the Cleveland Way National Trail from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey and enjoying a picnic with a view from this beautiful site.
- Wandering through a carpet of bluebells in Newton Wood on your way to the top of Roseberry Topping, the most distinctive peak in the North York Moors.
The rolling green countryside of Nidderdale lies between Harrogate and the south-eastern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Along with lovely towns such as Ripon and Pateley Bridge, this area is home to some of Yorkshire’s most fascinating natural features such as Brimham Rocks and How Stean Gorge.
Brimham Rocks is a wonderful collection of giant rock formations that visitors are able to climb on and clamber over while How Stean Gorge is a spectacular limestone ravine with caves, footpaths and a glass-bottomed visitor centre so you can look out over the water.
A more recent addition to the Nidderdale landscape is The Coldstones Cut, a huge sculpture that has been cut into the side of a limestone quarry which visitors can climb up for panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
- Discovering the arts and crafts of the area by visiting the King Street Workshops in Pateley Bridge or following the Nidd Art Trail around some of Nidderdale’s smaller studios and galleries.
- Walking at least part of the 53-mile Nidderdale Way which circles around the pretty villages and reservoirs of the region and is typically split into four sections.
- Heading to Hackfall Woods which is an area of wildlife-rich ancient woodland with grottos and glades that’s set within a rocky gorge of the River Ure.
- Visiting Ripley Castle, a 14th-century country house that’s surrounded by a magnificent deer park and a French-style model village.
- Seeking out The Druid’s Temple which is a 19th-century folly near Masham, styled on a prehistoric stone circle.
Hambleton and Howardian Hills AONB
The Howardian Hills, which were designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1987, is full of grand estates with landscaped parks, gorgeous gardens and large stately homes. The most impressive of these country estates is Castle Howard which gives the area its Howardian name. Enjoy woodland walks, mooching around market towns and bustling villages and spending time by the fire in a traditional country pub.
The landscape of the neighbouring Hambleton Hills is a little more dramatic with limestone crags, high peaks and rocky outcrops, making a visit to this lesser-known part of Yorkshire an ideal choice for walkers.
- Visiting Sutton Bank National Park Visitor Centre where there’s an adventure play park, special cycle trails and a wonderful view across the glacial Gormire Lake.
- Looking out for the White Horse of Kilburn, a distinctive shape that was cut into the Hambleton Hills by Thomas Taylor in 1857.
- Following in the footsteps of Captain Cook by visiting the riverside village of Great Ayton which was the explorer's boyhood home and walking to Captain Cook’s Monument on Easby Moor.
- Combining a summertime stroll with trying to catch a fish or two along the winding banks of the River Rye.
- Seeking out statues, follies and woodland gardens in the impressive grounds of Castle Howard before taking a tour around the Yorkshire stately home.
With a bucolic patchwork of rural farmland and green fields, the Wolds are one of Yorkshire’s most peaceful places for a getaway. This lesser-known region of God’s Own Country is made up of low hills to the east of York and stretches out to the chalk-white cliffs at Flamborough.
The Yorkshire Wolds is a must-visit destination for history lovers as not only is it rich in archaeological remains, but there’s also the deserted medieval village of Wharram Percy to explore and the Rudston Monolith which is the largest standing stone in Britain.
The Yorkshire Wolds is also home to the Yorkshire Nature Triangle which, with more than 30 different nature reserves, is one of the best places around for watching wildlife. Highlights include the thousands of seabirds that nest each year at RSPB Bempton Cliffs and the elusive otters which can be spotted in the wetlands of Top Hill Nature Reserve near Holderness.
- Visiting the market town of Malton which is known as Yorkshire’s Food Capital due to its regular foodie fairs and the number of artisan producers that are based here.
- Heading to Spurn Point, a coastal peninsula with quiet beaches, walking trails and wonderful wildlife that curves between the North Sea and Hull Estuary.
- Sitting down on the Huggate Poetry Bench where you can listen to a poem by Ian McMillan as you look out over three Yorkshire Wolds valleys.
- Climbing 119 steps to the top of the historic Flamborough Head Lighthouse for a panoramic view across the coast.
- Tackling one of the five different walking trails to explore the 330 acres of natural parkland that surrounds Burton Constable Hall. Discover more Yorkshire walks.
Covering the Pennine Hills in West Yorkshire, Bronte Country is famously the area that inspired Charlotte, Emily and Anne to write classic novels such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. At the heart of Bronte Country is Haworth, a cobbled village that’s high in the hills and home to the Bronte Parsonage Museum where the sisters grew up.
You can see many of the locations that were important to the literary family by following The Bronte Way which is a long-distance pathway that takes in much of the atmospheric moorland and tumbling waterfalls in the South Pennines landscape that surrounds Haworth.
- Travelling in style on a vintage Keighley and Worth Valley steam train and visiting Oakworth Station which was famously featured in The Railway Children. Discover more Yorkshire film and TV locations.
- Exploring 400 acres of nature-rich woodland at Hardcastle Crags, a Yorkshire National Trust site which features gentle streams to paddle in and the historic 19th century Gibson Mill.
- Enjoying a 6-mile circular walk along Haworth Moor to visit Top Withens, a derelict farmhouse that provided inspiration to Emily Bronte for her classic novel Wuthering Heights.
- Having a picnic amongst the unspoilt moorlands of Penistone Hill Country Park and enjoying the view from a trig point that’s 1,030ft above sea level.
- Visiting the Haworth Christmas Festival in December to get into the festive spirit with craft stalls, carol singing and a magical torchlight procession through the pretty Yorkshire village.
Beautiful Yorkshire waterfalls
Yorkshire is home to more than 60 waterfalls that range from dramatic single-drop cascades to gently tumbling stepped falls. Some are close to towns and villages so are fairly easy to reach while others are hidden further off the beaten track and need a little more effort to find.
Here is a selection of the loveliest waterfalls to seek out:
This series of stepped waterfalls on the River Ure in Wensleydale has a Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitor Centre with a car park and cafe close by, so is easily accessible. Aysgarth Falls is a popular spot for a paddle and a picnic and was famously featured in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
One of Yorkshire’s most magical waterfalls, Falling Foss is hidden within a beautiful tea garden that’s on the edge of the North York Moors close to Whitby. There’s an easy 2-mile woodland trail to get to the falls and the gentle May Beck stream is ideal for even the littlest feet to dip their toes in.
Just a short distance from the thundering Mallyan Spout waterfall near Goathland is the lesser-known but equally beautiful Thomason Foss. The falls are located in a woodland gorge close to the hamlet of Beck Hole and it’s a challenging walk to reach them but wild swimming in the plunge pool at the bottom makes it all well worth the effort.
Lumb Hole Falls
This series of small falls near Hebden Bridge cascade into a semi-circular pool that’s another great choice for wild swimming, especially as you are surrounded by mesmerising scenery and seemingly hidden from the rest of the world. Lumb Hole Falls are surrounded by rocky crags that are covered in green moss which gives this secret Yorkshire waterfall an otherworldly feel.
Hayburn Wyke Waterfall
This picturesque waterfall is one of Yorkshire’s hidden gems, located in the secluded coastal cove of Hayburn Wyke near Ravenscar. You’ll walk along winding woodland paths to reach a double-drop waterfall with flat rocks where you can sit and watch the water cascading onto the rocky beach below.
Other favourite Yorkshire waterfalls include:
- Ingleton Waterfall Trail – a series of six falls within a 5-mile circular route
- Kisdon Force – a couple of drops on the River Swale near Keld
- Hardraw Force – at 100 feet this is England’s biggest single drop falls
- Janet’s Foss – this pretty waterfall tumbles into a peaceful pool near Malham
- Catrigg Force – a hidden waterfall in a deep wooded gorge near Settle
Beautiful Yorkshire gardens
North Yorkshire was the inspiration for Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden and there are plenty of colourful real-life gardens dotted around this gorgeous county where you can breathe in fragrant flowers and wander amongst the trees.
Along with classic English country gardens, there are also tree-filled arboretums to explore and the extended grounds of grand Yorkshire estates with lakeside walks and hidden follies.
Studley Royal Park
This UNESCO World Heritage Site features the ancient atmospheric ruins of Fountains Abbey ruins and the beautiful Studley Water Garden which has remained largely unchanged since its design in the 18th century. Follow riverside paths to find secret statues, wander amongst the romantic ruins and then relax with a picnic beside glistening ponds at this truly special place.
There are 25 acres of colourful gardens to explore at Newby Hall, a country house on the banks of the River Ure near Ripon. Originally designed in the 1920s the gardens features one of Europe’s largest double herbaceous borders and a rock garden that’s reached by wandering through a Laburnum-clad pergola.
Scampston Hall and Gardens
This regency country house near Malton is best known for the award-winning Scampston Walled Garden that was designed by Piet Oudolf. The garden blends contemporary design with traditional styles and is set within the 18th-century walls of the original kitchen garden. Scampston also features acres of Capability Brown-designed parkland with lakes, bridges and woodland gardens to wander around.
RHS Harlow Carr
This RHS garden in Harrogate is part of the Yorkshire countryside and features a wildflower meadow and arboretum that are havens for local wildlife and the Sub-Tropicana Garden which is full of colourful flowers. One of the highlights of this Yorkshire garden is Streamside which follows the path of a meandering beck with an array of different plants and shrubs.
Located on the site of a medieval priory near Wakefield, Nostell’s grand Georgian treasure house is surrounded by around 300 acres of parkland and gardens. Follow winding pathways around formal pleasure grounds to discover a glistening lake and fragrant rose garden before stepping through a gothic archway into Nostell’s historic Menagerie Garden.
Other Yorkshire gardens worth visiting include:
Yorkshire’s prettiest towns and villages
Yorkshire has no shortage of picturesque towns and pretty villages where you’ll find country pubs, cobbled streets, chocolate-box cottages and lots of traditional English charm.
Here are some of our favourite pretty places to visit during your next Yorkshire getaway:
This small Yorkshire market town is located high in the Upper Wharfedale countryside next to the River Wharf and centred around a cobbled market square that’s filled with traditional stone cottages and independent shops. Staying in a Grassington cottage is like stepping back in time so it’s no wonder that it was used to represent a fictional 1940s Yorkshire town in the recent series of All Creatures Great and Small.
Nestled in Coverdale on the edge of Wensleydale, Middleham is a popular village that’s best known for a large castle that was the childhood home of Richard III. It’s surrounded on all sides by wonderful Yorkshire Dales scenery and home to a number of leading racing stables so you’ll regularly see horses being walked through the village on their way to the nearby gallops.
This pretty horse-shoe-shaped cove is part of North Yorkshire’s heritage coastline with a small sandy beach that’s sheltered from the wind by the surrounding cliffs. Distinctive red-roofed fishing cottages seemingly cling to the side of the cliff at Runswick Bay and you can wander down car-free streets and admire the views on your way to the beach below.
Thought by many people to be the prettiest place in Yorkshire, Thornton-le-Dale is a North York Moors village with a babbling brook, a beautiful (and much photographed) thatched cottage and lovely woodland walks. A small triangular green is marked with an ancient market cross and there’s a family-friendly nature trail you can follow around the village.
This Yorkshire spa town is located on the banks of the River Nidd with a maze of medieval cobbled streets and hidden alleyways that will take you high up into the heart of Knaresborough with lovely views out over Nidderdale. Traditional wooden boats are available to hire if you fancy rowing along the river and there’s an ancient castle to explore with gorgeous surrounding gardens.
Other beautiful Yorkshire towns and villages include:
Ready to discover Yorkshire?
If all these beautiful places have inspired you to plan a getaway to Yorkshire, you’ll find lots of lovely cottages where you can rest your head after days of exploring the coast and countryside.
Whether you fancy staying in a romantic retreat in a pretty North Yorkshire village or having a fun-filled family holiday at the seaside, browse our full range of cottages to find your perfect base.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.