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News Top 5 cool, unique and charming places to visit in Yorkshire

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Top 5 cool, unique and charming places to visit in Yorkshire

With its Viking history, Norman castles, industrial cities two national parks, Yorkshire is an incredibly diverse and beautiful staycation destination. We look at five unmissable places to visit.

Yorkshire is called God’s Own Country for a reason. England’s biggest county is covered with rolling moors and lush-green dales, across a landmass half the size of Belgium that stretches from the North Sea coast to the edges of Greater Manchester. From tranquil seaside towns to bustling cities, these five destinations some of the most beautiful places to visit in Yorkshire show that it’s anything but grim up north.

Leeds

View of Brewery Wharf on Leeds Waterfront

Leeds tends to fly under the tourist radar, but it’s one of the UK’s coolest cities. It’s also one of the best places to visit in Yorkshire, with a thriving nightlife and a wealth of cultural attractions.

  • Shop from independent makers in the grand Victorian-era Leeds Corn Exchange building. Browse vintage streetwear at Alt Box, handmade jewellery at Dion Smith and contemporary homeware at Simcha Gallery before grabbing an espresso at Bruschetta by Food Cabaret.
  • Indulge your macabre side at the Thackray Medical Museum. You’ll learn all about the history of medicine as you stroll through galleries themed around Victorian streets, 19th-century operating theatres and 70s sexual health clinics.
  • Head to the Royal Armouries and explore the world’s largest collection of arms, dating from the 15th century to the modern day, set over five floors. There are often events like jousting, archery and falconry to watch, too.

Insider tip: Leeds Kirkgate Market has an enticing array of street food. Treat yourself to a local twist on a burrito from the Yorkshire Wrap company. Their large, fluffy puddings wrap roast meat and hot gravy into a parcel of Sunday roast, on the go.

Malham

Stone wall near Malham, Yorkshire

The village of Malham is always a hit among adrenaline addicts and geology geeks. No other place in the Yorkshire Dales has as many limestone formations. Set just off the Pennine Way, it’s surrounded by some of the best places in Yorkshire to stretch your legs among some natural wonders.

  • Put on your climbing gear and scale rugged limestone cliffs like the famous Malham Cove, a huge amphitheatre of rock with climbing routes to suit all abilities. The Right Wing and Upper Terrace are the most peaceful spots, away from the public footpaths.
  • Go cave exploring at White Scar Cave. The longest show cave in Britain is home to waterfalls and interesting stalagmite and stalactite formations. There are five tours, with a guide, each day.
  • Admire Gordale Scar, a canyon carved into the dales that has captured imaginations for generations. The British artist J. M. W. Turner painted it in 1808, while poet William Wordsworth described it as ‘terrific as the lair where the young lions couch’.

Insider tip: seek out Janet’s Foss for some wild swimming. Legend has it that this pool is home to the queen of the fairies – and you can see why. It’s a truly fantastical place for a splash, with crystal clear waters and a petite waterfall.

Knaresborough

Aerial view of Knaresborough, one of the best places to visit in Yorkshire,  featuring the viaduct over the River Nidd.

Built into a deep gorge, and with its own viaduct and castle, the market town of Knaresborough is one of Yorkshire’s most iconic and peaceful places to visit.

  • Hop in a vintage rowing boat and take a punt along the River Nidd, which runs through the town and underneath the famous Knaresborough Viaduct, which spans the valley.
  • Get lost in the warren of narrow cobblestone alleys that wind their way up the cliff face, stopping in at Yorkshire Mixture for traditional pick ‘n’ mix sweets or The Farm Dairy for artisan deli goods.
  • Pay pilgrimage to Mother Shipton’s Cave, England’s oldest tourist attraction. It’s home to a petrifying well that turns items to ‘stone’ over three to five months. The water has a high mineral content, leaving deposits and a stone-like surface behind on objects as it evaporates.

Insider tip: Market Day is on Wednesday, with stalls set up in the main square from 7:30am until 3pm. Pick up farm fresh fruit and vegetables and home-baked cakes to enjoy by the river.

Staithes

Aerial view of Staithes ith its small sandy fishing beach , one of the best places to visit in Yorkshire

You’ll find the quaint fishing village of Staithes just a short drive from the famous beach town of Whitby. It was once the largest fishing port in the North East, but today it’s better known for its easy access to the clifftop paths, which run along the coast and provide breath-taking views of the North Sea.

  • Go rockpooling on the small sandy beach. At low tide, the cluster of tide pools teems with life: look for crabs, periwinkles and butterfish.
  • Learn all about the famous explorer James Cook at the Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre. He moved here aged 16 to work in a shop, and it was here that he fell in love with the sea.
  • Discover quaint streets with names like ‘Dog Loup Alley’, the narrowest in Northern England at just 18 inches wide. Unless you’ve just eaten a big Yorkshire pie, try and squeeze through (most people have to go sideways).

Insider tip: Staithes and nearby Runswick Bay sit on the Dinosaur Coast, so named because there’s so many fossils to be found. Join an organised fossil-hunting trip for an alternative day out. While you’re beachcombing, look out for nuggets of pyrite, too – aka fool’s gold – which can be found in the area.

Harrogate

Image of Harrogate

Once a luxury getaway for wealthy Victorian tourists, the spa town of Harrogate is one of the poshest places to visit in Yorkshire (and even the UK) thanks to its upscale independent boutiques, elegant wine bars and perfectly maintained Georgian architecture.

  • Go antique shopping in the swish cobblestone lanes of the Montpellier Quarter. Its streets are lined with pavement cafes and more than 50 independent shops and galleries.
  • Treat yourself to a dip and massage in the ornate Turkish baths. Inside it’s decorated with intricate Italian mosaic floors, Islamic arches and Moorish design touches.
  • Take a stroll through Valley Gardens in Low Harrogate, with its 17 acres of themed gardens, floral displays and English Heritage Grade II-listed parkland. Stop by on a Sunday to hear the oompah band play.
  • Mystery fans may want to book a room at the Old Swan Hotel, where writer Agatha Christie turned up 11 days after mysteriously disappearing in 1926, registered as ‘Mrs Teresa Neele’ from Cape Town.

Insider tip: The original Betty’s Tea Room is a local institution, and popular for a reason. For a real treat, book ahead for a pink champagne afternoon tea upstairs in the Imperial Room. The towering stand is laden with coconut and lime Battenberg, sultana scones and Bleiker’s tea-smoked salmon sandwiches.

Are you ready to discover more places to visit in Yorkshire?

That’s really just scratching the surface. Yorkshire is full of hidden gems and incredible places to visit, so why not hire a car and start exploring?

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The best places to visit in Yorkshire: FAQs

Aerial view of Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire
What is the most beautiful part of Yorkshire?

There are so many beautiful places to visit in Yorkshire, it’s hard to choose just one. There’s the city of York with its ramshackle medieval buildings, the North Yorkshire moors covering 1,400 miles of unspoiled wilderness and the Flamborough Headland Heritage Coast with its impressive chalk cliffs. To find the most beautiful areas, it’s best to hop in your car and start exploring.

Is there a beach in Yorkshire?

Yes – many! With over a hundred miles of coastline, Yorkshire is home to some of Britain’s finest beaches. There’s the long sweep of golden sand at Filey, the Blue Flag sandy beach at Whitby, rugged Robin Hood’s Bay, and of course the stunning seaside resort of Scarborough – locally known as ‘Scarbados’.

What can you do for free in Yorkshire?

From exploring the Yorkshire Dales and Moors to wandering around fascinating museums, there are plenty of free things to do in Yorkshire. Just do a bit of research before you go, and you’ll soon have a jam-packed itinerary that won’t impact your piggy bank.

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