With heather clad moorland, dramatic dales’ scenery, an abundance of pretty villages and some excellent foodie choices, Yorkshire is a county that was made for exploring. In fact, there’s so much to see and do in ‘God’s own Country’ that it can be hard to know where to start.
That’s where we come in! Here at Gorgeous Cottages we love seeking out the best things to do in this beautiful county and so have put together an ‘Insider’s Guide’ to help you plan a memorable short break or holiday to Yorkshire. So, grab a cuppa and let us inspire you with some of our favourite places to go and the best things to do.
Yorkshire has miles and miles of coastline to explore with rocky shores, sandy beaches and some spectacular cliff-top views. From quaint fisherman’s coves to seaside towns that are steeped in history, you certainly won’t be short of something to do. Whale watch in Whitby, go rock pooling in Runswick Bay, then explore the meandering cobbled streets of Robin Hood’s Bay - once a haven for smuggling! We've compiled some of our favourite things to do in Whitby, Scarborough and Robin Hoods Bay to give you lots of holiday inspiration.
Whitby and Scarborough may be the towns where most tourists flock, but there are lots of lesser-known beaches to seek out for the summer where you can beat the crowds. Some of our favourites include:
Saltburn - a Victorian seaside town which includes an original pier and Yorkshire’s oldest funicular tram. Stay nearby at The Old Police House.
Runswick Bay - this sheltered bay is as pretty as a picture with red-roofed houses clinging to the cliff tops and a wide swathe of sandy beach. Stay nearby at The Retreat.
Port Mulgrave - there’s fossils aplenty to be found at this hidden beach that’s accessed by a wooden ladder. Stay nearby at The Beach House - Sandsend.
The magical North York Moors
They say the best things in life are free and in Yorkshire you can explore two National Parks to your heart’s content.
The North York Moors are home to heather-clad hills, Dalby Forest - one of the best places to go stargazing in the UK, and even a heritage steam railway (the NYMR). Stretching out to the coast there are lots of pretty villages to visit including Hutton-le-Hole which has a stream running right through the middle of it and Thornton-le-Dale which looks like it has come straight from a chocolate box! Helmsley is a popular market town with a historic castle and a gorgeous walled garden to explore and Pickering is the starting part for the NYMR railway where you can catch a steam train through rolling moorland all the way to Whitby on the coast.
Head to Blakey Ridge to enjoy the view - at over 1,300 feet it’s the highest point of the North York Moors - or walk through the beautiful Esk Valley to the Yorkshire Coast and call in villages like Lealholm and Ruswarp along the way. You can also follow the popular Cleveland Way National Trail which takes in much of the North York Moors including popular landmarks such as Roseberry Topping and Rievaulx Abbey.
Take a look at some of our favourite family-friendly North York Moors walks and start exploring.
The darling Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales is a rugged landscape that encompasses some of the highest peaks in England (Ingleborough, Whernside and Pen-y-Ghent make up the Yorkshire Three Peak Challenge), and is home to lots of traditional stone built barns and cottages. You’ll find crags, caves and waterfalls amongst landscape that is sometimes wild, sometimes peaceful, but always breathtaking.
Hawes, home to the famous Wensleydale Cheese factory, is the only market town in the Dales but Richmond and Leyburn are both close by and there are villages and hamlets aplenty to discover with lots of scenic Yorkshire Dales walking routes connecting them. Some of our favourite Yorkshire Dales villages include:
- Reeth where you can enjoy 360-degree views from the village green
- Middleham which is home to around 500 racehorses which get walked through the village daily on their way to the gallops
- Grassington which hosts a popular Dickensian festival on it's cobbled market square each December
Lesser known Dales to seek out include Raydale (home to the Semerwater Reservoir), peaceful Littondale and the wildly beautiful Arkengarthdale. Pretty waterfalls to seek out include Hadraw Force, the largest single drop waterfall in England, and the much more gentle Aysgarth Falls which is perfect for a paddle.
Dramatic cliff-top walks, heather-clad moorland, steam trains that have come from a bygone age and an abundance of beautiful scenery makes Yorkshire the perfect setting for a spot of romance. It’s up to you whether you squirrel yourselves away in cosy cottage for two, sit outside to enjoy the view during an al fresco summer lunch or go out exploring in the Yorkshire countryside.
Perfect summer picnic spots include the beautiful grounds of the 12th-century Jervaulx Abbey in Nidderdale, the coastal cliff-tops at Ravenscar where you can watch the crashing sea below and the gardens of Treasurer’s House which are an oasis of calm in the centre of York.
For somewhere a little different, head to the Yorkshire Wolds where the gently rolling hills and unspoilt scenery make the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. This lesser-known part of Yorkshire was an inspiration for the artist David Hockney and you’ll find scented lavender fields, vineyards, Elizabethan stately homes and wonderful wildlife amongst its many charms.
If you’ve been inspired to spark a little romance, make sure you take time to consult our other blog on romantic weekend getaways to Yorkshire and sweep your loved one off their feet.
Stylish towns and pretty villages
It’s not all about the countryside though. As well as York and Harrogate, both heaven for anyone wanting a bit of retail therapy, towns such as Helmsley have injected some serious style into Yorkshire. Think micro-breweries, independent boutiques as well as restaurants which are embracing the latest food production techniques.
There are also lots of villages to visit with traditional 17th and 18th-century inns, tea rooms, riverside walks and even a castle or two! We recommend the following and you can click on the links to see our cottages in those areas:
Pateley Bridge – a previous winner of the Great British High Street’s ‘Village of the Year’ award, Pateley Bridge has a lovely riverside location in Nidderdale plus a high street brimming with tea rooms, independent shops, award-winning butchers and the oldest sweet shop in England.
Hutton-le-Hole – Set in a peaceful valley within the North York Moors, this is a classic English village, complete with babbling brook and local pub. It’s also the setting for the Ryedale Folk Museum which tells the story of rural life from the Iron Age to the 1950s.
Ripley – Home to a 700-year-old castle, complete with magnificent grounds and a world famous ice cream, this lovely village is just 3 miles from Harrogate.
For more must-visit villages read our guide to The prettiest villages in Yorkshire.
With plenty of farmland and a long fishing heritage, you will never have to travel too far in Yorkshire to find the freshest fish, meat, fruit and vegetables. As well as famous Yorkshire products like Wensleydale Cheese, there is a whole range of Artisan producers who create high-quality items that are homemade rather than mass produced.
You’ll also find regular farmers’ markets in many Yorkshire towns. Malton in North Yorkshire has become a bit of a mecca for local foodies - recognised by Antonio Carluccio - and each month you’ll find lots of local suppliers congregating at their monthly food market.
Restaurant choices in Yorkshire range from rustic and hearty to seriously fancy and there are even some Michelin-starred restaurants to try such as Andrew Pern’s The Star Inn at Harome and the Black Swan at Oldstead by Tommy Banks.
There’s no need to head into the city to enjoy the finest food either as many Yorkshire restaurants have picturesque settings with stunning views. Provenance is key in the region so you’ll find lots of seasonal dishes using the freshest local ingredients. Take a look at our blog on Yorkshire food and drink producers to find out more.
Country pubs and Yorkshire tea rooms
Of course the best thing about a little break in the country is discovering a hidden gem of a pub, complete with original features, log fires and beautiful settings and there are certainly plenty of charming pubs in Yorkshire. You won’t have far to walk to enjoy some real ale, or a G&T if you prefer, and some excellent home-cooked food as traditional inns are dotted around the various villages and hamlets throughout the region.
Yorkshire pubs worth seeking out include the Lion Inn at Blakey Ridge, the 19th-century Birch Hole Inn (quite possibly the smallest pub you’ll ever drink in) and Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale which is the highest pub in Britain. For our top ten suggestions of pubs in Yorkshire, make sure you browse this guide.
We do love a nice cup of tea in Yorkshire and there are numerous tea-rooms and restaurants that will serve you a top-quality brew along with a selection of sandwiches, cakes and other tasty treats.
Bettys is probably the most famous tea room around and no trip to Yorkshire is complete without sampling one of their fat rascals or treating yourself to a Lady Betty Afternoon Tea. We also recommend the Black Swan at Helmsley which offers a traditional and luxurious afternoon tea in a characterful building that dates back 500 years.
Yorkshire is a brilliant playground for four-legged friends and there’s an abundance of dog-friendly Yorkshire cottages, pubs, cafes and even shops that will welcome doggies with a bowl of water and a treat.
Helmsley has a wide range of independent shops, tea rooms and attractions (including Helmsley Castle) that you can happily explore with doggies in tow. Helmsley Walled Garden is a great dog-friendly day out and you can call in with them for refreshments at the on-site Vine Cafe.
The country pubs around Reeth’s lovely village green are all dog-friendly and there’s a shallow section of the River Swale at the bottom of this Yorkshire Dales village for splashing about in.
If your dogs prefer a paddle in the sea, the beach at Robin Hoods Bay is one of a selection of Yorkshire beaches that are dog-friendly all year round - in fact there aren’t many places in this pretty coastal village that four-legged friends aren’t allowed!
Yorkshire’s dog-friendly pubs and restaurants that are worth a visit include The Grapes Inn Slingsby (which is Georgian and Grade II listed ) and The Wensleydale Heifer in West Witton which is renowned for top quality locally sourced steak and seafood.
Yorkshire’s castles and stately homes
Yorkshire is a bit of a haven for stately homes, castles and abbeys so there are plenty of places where you can delve into some English history.
Stately homes include mansions and country houses from the Georgian, Elizabethan and Regency periods and you’ll find walled gardens, woodland walks and beautifully recreated rooms. Some of our favourite places to visit include Castle Howard, Sledmere House and Burton Agnes Hall.
Yorkshire’s castles provide a fascinating insight into some of the bloody battles of the past and examples include Bolton Castle which is one of the UK’s best preserved medieval castles and Middleham Castle which was the childhood home of Richard III with the largest castle keep in the country. Why not read more about some of the best historic houses to visit?
Yorkshire in books and on screen
It’s no surprise that the beautiful Yorkshire countryside has been the inspiration for some literary classics. The three Bronte sisters are arguably the most famous authors to have come from Yorkshire and were inspired by the moorland near their home in Haworth. Today the Bronte Parsonage Museum, the 19th-century home of the Brontes, showcases their life and classic works such as Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre.
Another famous book with roots in Yorkshire is Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The gothic Whitby Abbey was one of the inspirations for this classic horror tale. The imposing remains are perched high on a cliff and though you’ll have to climb 199 steps to reach it, the views from the top are well worth the effort.
Yorkshire has also featured in a plethora of films and classic TV series and there are lots of filming locations to seek out during a getaway to 'God's Own Country'. The village of Goathland will be recognisable to many as Aidensfield from TV's Heartbeat and Kettlewell in the Yorkshire Dales was turned into Knapely for the film Calendar Girls with Helen Mirren. Harewood House near Leeds has featured in Downton Abbey and Victoria, Malham Cove was used for a scene in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and Grassington is the setting for the latest TV version of All Creatures Great and Small.
Beautiful Yorkshire holiday cottages
Yorkshire has lots of gorgeous old Georgian townhouses, stone barns and traditional cottages that have been transformed into some truly stunning holiday lets.
As well as original features such as oak beams and fireplaces (complete with wood-burning stoves), you’ll find lots of design flare with sumptuous fabrics, monsoon showers, statement furniture and Farrow and Ball wall colours.
Whether you are looking for a romantic getaway for 2, a family-friendly barn conversion or a celebration for 20, you will find some great choices of luxury properties in Yorkshire.
Ready for a visit to Yorkshire?
So there you have it - just some of the things that we think makes Yorkshire so special. We’ve just scratched the surface in this guide but you’ll find lots more inspiration on the Gorgeous Cottages blog. If you're ready to start planning you're getaway to God's own country, browse our full collection of Yorkshire Cottages and find your perfect base for exploring pretty villages, market towns and wonderful national parks.
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.