Birthplace of Yorkshire puddings, Marks & Spencer and the Brontë sisters, God’s Own County is a gift that just keeps on giving. From vast stretches of unspoiled countryside, to historic cities and storybook seaside towns, escape to a beautiful slice of England’s biggest county with AJ Odudu as she visits the Yorkshire Dales and discover more things to do further afield.
AJ's top tips on how to escape the everyday in Yorkshire
Go for a Sunday roast at a traditional local pub, you’ll get to try some proper Yorkshire puds
Don’t forget Yorkshire has a coast – there are some beautiful bays and seaside towns that are well worth a visit
Remember to bring your walking boots/comfortable shoes – there’s so much glorious untouched landscape to discover on foot in Yorkshire
AJ's Yorkshire highlight
"We have such amazing National Parks here in the UK and the Yorkshire Dales is just awe-inspiring – the perfect place to just get outdoors and breathe. There are so many ways to explore – biking, walking or just exploring all the villages like Malham and their cosy pubs. Autumn is such a great time to visit, the waterfalls are in full swing and you can always find a pocket of the Dales just for yourself.”
Discover natural hidden gems
Deep in the woods near Malham Village is a small yet magical waterfall named Janet’s Foss. It’s said that the cave behind the tumbling water is the home of Jennet the Queen of Fairies. The woodland walks that lead to the waterfall are fairytale-like in themselves, and are great if you’ve got the dog with you. Make sure you keep an eye out for the tree stumps studded with hundreds of lucky pennies – visitors can add one to the stumps if they want to make a wish to Jennet. What would yours be?
Another beautiful leafy setting is Hardcastle Crags, a beauty spot in the South Pennines with more than 400 acres of unspoilt woodland, 15 miles of footpaths, fabulous autumnal funghi and the super sustainable (and off-grid) Gibson Mill visitor centre. If the weather isn’t holding up, then escape to Stump Cross Caverns. This unique phenomenon has a history dating back millions of years, and an underground tour will reveal remains of prehistoric creatures and fascinating stalagmites and stalactites that protrude from the ceilings.
Yorkshire, like the rest of England, is chock-a-block with pubs, and some of the best are found in the countryside. Take the Lister Arms, for example, surrounded by the spellbinding scenery of the Yorkshire Dales. Welcoming thirsty travellers for hundreds of years, this 17th-century coaching inn is still one of Yorkshire’s favourite locals and is famous for its Yorkshire comfort food and a wide selection of ales. Nestle down in one of the armchairs and with a pint in hand and admire the historical features, from the mounting block where riders would climb onto their horses, to the low beams and original fireplaces. If all that cosiness gets the better of you, then you’ll be glad to know you can stay the night in one of the pub’s characterful bedrooms.
Head over to the Tan Hill Inn in Swaledale which, at 528 metres above sea level, is the highest pub in Britain. Along with age-old interiors, this pub is loved for its mouth-watering ales and regular events, from gigs to stargazing.
With miles of untouched countryside, it’s no surprise there are plenty of breathtaking viewpoints in Yorkshire. One of the most distinctive is Malham Cove, a large limestone formation originally created from glacier water in the last ice age – the top of the cove is pattered with deeply eroded limestone pavement, making it one of the more unique beauty spots in the Yorkshire Dales (and perhaps one of the reasons it featured in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1). Make your way up here for glorious views over the village of Malham and the surrounding Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Down in South Yorkshire is one of the Peak District’s most famous landmarks, Higger Tor. There are a bunch of walking routes that lead to this Dark Peak hotspot, and once there you’ll enjoy views overlooking the Burbage Valley and the Iron Age hill fort of Carl Wark.
From ancient battlefields to industrial feats, Yorkshire has a wealth of history to explore. In a tranquil valley close to the town of Helmsley you’ll find Rievaulx Abbey, once one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries. The impressive ruins are some of the most complete in Britain, and the extensive museum provides a glimpse into its development and the monks who once called it home. Packed with unique archaeological finds, a visit here shines a light on North York Moors’ turbulent religious past.
For more insights into Yorkshire’s turbulent history, pay a visit to Middleham Castle which used to be home to the notorious Richard III. The now-roofless keep is one of the largest in England. Be sure to lap up the gorgeous countryside views of Wensleydale from its viewing platform.
As well as national parks and medieval cities, Yorkshire is famous for its scenic seaside towns. Scarborough, for example, was Britain’s first-ever seaside resort, and has seen tourists flock here for almost 400 years. It was originally popular for its soothing spa waters, but today you’ll find much more going on. As well as ice cream parlours and amusements, this coastal town has two award-winning beaches, a medieval castle and, of course, a warm Yorkshire welcome. It’s also aptly nicknamed the Dinosaur Coast, thanks to the fossils you can find scattered along the beaches.
Whitby, 30 miles north of Scarborough, is an ancient seaport teeming with beauty and character. Here you’ll find more Blue Flag beaches, a world-famous steam train and, dominating the skyline, Whitby Abbey – an iconic gothic ruin that served as inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Book in at the Jet Black Jewel, a boutique hotel with nine bespoke bedrooms, each celebrating a local folklore or legend. Oh, and you’re guaranteed gorgeous vistas of Whitby beach and town. Further up the coast is the gorgeous fishing village of Staithes, clinging to the hillside and full of winding cobbled streets and charming 18th-century cottages. Stay the night in a quaint B&B and enjoy a spot of rock pooling, stretch your legs on the cliff-top paths or enjoy watching the many artists who holiday here to paint the awe-inspiring scenery.
Escape to peace, quiet, and luxury at The Private Hill. Set within a farm, this countryside retreat is home to a collection of geodesic domes. Each has cosy twin or super-king beds, a minibar, wood-burning stove and transparent windows with views that stretch over 60 miles (don’t worry, there are curtains for when you want a bit of privacy). You’ll also get to enjoy breakfast, afternoon tea and three-course dinners in the romantic Jane’s Dome, meet inquisitive alpacas and explore the local surroundings as you please. It’s like having a little piece of North Yorkshire to yourself for a few days – pure bliss!
If you prefer to be amongst the trees, opt for a treehouse built on stilts in a wooded area of the North York Moors. Each of Studford Luxury Lodges has a hot tub and sauna, cosy, contemporary interiors and full floor-to-ceiling glass doors to fully immerse you in nature.
Child-friendly attractions are definitely not in short supply in Yorkshire. Home to 5,000 underwater animals, The Deep is one of the world’s most spectacular aquariums. Built inside a futuristic building overlooking the Humber Estuary (you may have seen it on a Royal Mail stamp!), the aquarium houses all sorts of sea creatures from jellyfish to seahorses. Visit the Lagoon of Light, with its array of colourful fish and coral, get a glimpse into the underwater world of nurse and touch sub-zero walls in the Kingdom of Ice, home to penguins.
Get hands on at DIG in York, where kids can be trainee archaeologists for the day and discover artefacts from the Roman, Viking, Medieval and Victorian eras in four indoor excavation pits. Or spark young imaginations at Eureka! The National Children’s Museum in Halifax. Climb into a giant mouth, experience the sounds and smells of the wilderness and explore a child-sized town at the UK’s only fully interactive museum for children.
Gourmet grub is plentiful in Yorkshire, meaning you never have to look far for something good to eat. The Michelin-starred Black Swan at Oldstead, for example, is a top-notch fine-dining restaurant in a tiny village on the edge of the North York Moors. It’s been owned and run by the Banks family since its inception and its head chef, Tommy Banks, also has a sister restaurant, Roots, in York. The tasting menu changes based on what’s available in the garden or can be foraged. Expect plates like scallops with squash and bacon, and damson brandy treacle tart, all washed down with a plum sangria.
If you’re on a city break in Sheffield, head over to the highly reputable Rafters. This two AA-Rosette institution is a feast for the eyes and the palette and makes for a special dinner (or tea, as they say in Yorkshire) while on an autumn break to the Steel City.
Get your adrenaline pumping with a gorging and canyoning activity in the Yorkshire Dales. Lost Earth Adventures host two high-octane packages in the western Dales by Beezley Falls, and in the eastern Dales close to Nidderdale. You and your group will have the chance to get hands-on exploring ancient gorges carved out over millions of years, jumping off boulders, scrambling up waterfalls, sliding down rock chutes and taking on ziplines on this epic adventure activity, all in the beautiful surroundings of a national park.
Water babies will love Sheffield Cable Waterski’s inflatable aqua park assault course, where you’ll tackle a range of obstacles floating atop a lake. Or, if you want to get a bit more technical, you can gear up and take on waterskiing, wakeboarding or kneeboarding at England’s biggest cable wake park. If you prefer dry land, then why not get behind the wheel at the North Yorkshire Off Road Centre. Home to ukLANDROVERevents, you’ll have the chance to drive a 4x4 around an off-road track full of obstacles and a variety of terrain. Or put yourself to the test on Yorkshire's only Via Ferrata course in How Stean Gorge - made up of beams, ladders and cables set in the rocks, this high-wire course is pretty spectacular.