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Yorkshire Dales and More: The Top 5 Day Trips from York

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1 month ago

There’s no doubt that York in England’s north is a must-visit city on any trip to the UK, and the surrounding area is host to incredible sights that are ripe for day trips from York. This stunning city is steeped in history, from its founding in 71 AD and growth as a powerhouse in Roman Britain, to the era of Viking rule as Jorvik (York’s Viking name). And York is even considered one of the best places for solo travelers in Europe.

Exploring the imposing Minster, well-preserved castle and ambling around the quaint cobbled streets of The Shambles are all bucket list-worthy experiences. But beyond York’s Roman walls lies the coast and countryside of North Yorkshire, England’s largest county, with plenty waiting to be explored. The beauty is not only in the breath-taking scenery, but the sheer variety of what day trips from York have to offer.

Each of our five top day trips from York gives you the opportunity to explore some of North Yorkshire’s finest nature, history, and charm.

Whitby

If you only have time for one day trip from York, although I’d very much recommend making time for more, make sure you choose Whitby. On North Yorkshire’s rugged coastline, Whitby was the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. You can also take a great tour from York to Whitby.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey is always my first stop whenever I visit the town. Perched on a hillside overlooking the River Esk and the North Sea, it’s the perfect place to take in a panorama of Whitby before setting out to explore. It’s well worth the £10 entry fee to get up close and take in the ruins which inspired Dracula.

Like Count Dracula coming ashore in Whitby and climbing the 199 steps which lead to the Abbey, we recommend that you climb the steps.

Although you can drive up and park just 100 metres away these days, going by foot is part of the experience.

Captain Cook Memorial Museum and Whitby Museum

Once you’ve made it back down to the town, another of our top picks is the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. James Cook was born in Marton (around 30 miles north of Whitby) in 1728. Aged 18, he moved to Whitby where he began an apprenticeship in the merchant navy under the guidance of John and Henry Walker. Their house is now the Captain Cook Memorial Museum.

If you’ve been inspired by the history of Captain Cook, head along to the Whitby Museum to learn a little more about the town’s past. Housed in a grand Victorian building, the Whitby Museum gives a fascinating overview of life in the area from Jurassic age to the present day.

Tate Hill Sands

Of course, you can’t come to Whitby without visiting the beach. Sitting in the shadow of the Abbey, Tate Hill Sands is our top pick. It’s far quieter and more secluded than the main beach, making it the perfect spot for relaxing with a book, snoozing on the sand or taking a paddle.

Local tip: Round off your day in Whitby with a portion of fresh Fish & Chips from The Fisherman’s Wife.

It’s my favorite place to grab a bite in town. You can eat in, but I always think it tastes better on a bench overlooking the harbour. It’s a reason why Whitby is one of the top day trips from York.

How to get to Whitby from York

The easiest way from York to Whitby is by bus. Yorkshire Coastliner’s 840 operates a direct service from York to Whitby every two hours (except Sundays when services run twice per day with a change in Malton). The journey time is around two-and-a-half hours, and it’s best to buy your tickets in advance.

Local tip: All the buses on this route are double-deckers. For the best views, nab a seat on the top deck.

Harrogate

The problem with any list is that the further you read, the less important every item sounds. That’s not the case with Harrogate! My local town and an all-round top destination, a visit to this ancient spa town really is a must. Plus, it’s quick and easy to reach on a day trip from York.

The Stray

As soon as you arrive in Harrogate, take a walk out to The Stray. This massive, grassy park surrounds one side of the town and is, for reasons I’ll never understand, almost always deserted.

Local tip: Tucked away in the southwestern corner of The Stray, Tewit Well is a natural spa water well discovered in 1571.

The structure which surrounds it was added in 1842, having previously been used as a pump room for the nearby spa waters. It’s quite a site to behold.

Royal Pump Room Museum

Next up, head to the Royal Pump Room Museum, housed in the old pump house. This small, but fascinating exhibit tells the stories of Europe’s strongest Sulphur well and the people who made pilgrimages to visit it.

Turkish Baths

If exploring Harrogate has left you a little worn out, a great place to relax is the Turkish Baths. Dating back to the 19th century, this beautifully designed building is one of only seven remaining Turkish Baths in the United Kingdom. Opened in 1897, the baths continue to offer relaxing hammams and a massive array of spa treatments.

Betty’s

Before heading back to York, be sure to leave time for a visit to Betty’s Café Tea Rooms. Betty’s has six outlets across North Yorkshire now, but Harrogate is where it all began in 1919. A British icon, Betty’s serves their own range of tea and coffee and homemade cakes, which are disturbingly addictive. In recent years, the menu has evolved to include full meals and alcoholic beverages too.

Local tip: For the quintessentially English experience, opt for Betty’s Traditional Afternoon Tea.

As good as the teas are, I always prefer it with a glass of Collet Rosé Champagne.

How to reach Harrogate from York

By far the easiest way to get to Harrogate is by train. Trains run every half hour and the journey takes around 35 minutes. Tickets can be purchased at the station, but for the best deals it’s worth booking online in advance.

Yorkshire Dales

Covering 841 square miles, the Yorkshire Dales National Park could easily keep you occupied for a week let alone a day. To visit Yorkshire and skip the dales would simply be wrong: like going to New York and missing out Times Square, or visiting London and ignoring Big Ben. Visiting the Dales is one of the ideal days trip from York whilst you’re in the area.

There are so many amazing spots in the Yorkshire Dales to visit. Most of the best scenery is located within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Travel tip: As with all National Parks in the UK, it’s free to enter and drive or hike around.

The Dales are a series of rolling valleys, with expansive greenery interspersed with traditional drystone walls and woodland. Some of the most notable dales are Nidderdale, Ribblesdale, Wensleydale and Wharfdale. There are ten named dales in all, plus around thirty smaller, unofficial dales.

Hawes

Every dale is unique, with different attractions. Wensleydale, for example, is famous for the making of cheese. Visiting the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes is a must for cheese lovers. Their visitor centre has a great exhibition, plus there’s the opportunity to pick up some artisan cheese to take home.

Hawes is also home to the Dales Countryside Museum which is a fantastic place to learn about the region’s culture.

Waterfalls and Ribblehead Viaduct

Close by, the stunning Hardraw Force and Aysgill Force waterfalls make for exhilarating viewing. For a spot of history, the ruins of Pendragon Castle are well worthy of a visit. Just over the valley, Ribblehead Viaduct is another famous landmark (it’s not the one in the Harry Potter films though!).

Local tip: The best views of the viaduct are from the road, not the railway.

Check the train times in advance and have your camera at the ready to get a shot of the small train trundling across this magnificent structure. This awe-inspiring example of Victorian engineering carries the Settle to Carlisle railway line (which, despite the name, actually starts in Leeds).

Getting to the Yorkshire Dales

Because the Dales cover a wide area, how to get there depends on exactly where you want to go. The best way by a long stretch is to drive yourself with a rental car or to take a full-day tour that takes you to the best spots. Either way, visiting the Dales will be one of your best day trips from York.

If you decide to use public transport, the best option is to head for Leeds by train (around 35 minutes, up to 10 trains per hour). From Leeds, join the Settle to Carlisle line which stops in several towns and villages in the Yorkshire Dales National Park.

Castle Howard

Just 15 miles north of York, this imposing, stately home has featured in dozens of films & TV programs. Some of the most famous include Brideshead Revisited, Bridgeton and The Courtship.

Completed in 1811, it took over 110 years to build. Despite the name, Castle Howard is not a castle in the sense of a fortified building. It was built for the Third Earl of Carlisle, Charles Howard, and remains in the Howard family to this day. The current owner is Nicholas Howard.

Much of the house and its landscaped gardens are open to the public. The grounds are open year-round, but the house is closed through winter (early November to late March). Tickets are available for the house and gardens, and can be purchased in advance for the purchased in advance for the best deals.

Guided tours and talks on the Castle’s history are on offer throughout the day and can be arranged upon arrival, or you can take a private, half-day tour with a knowledgeable local guide. Make sure to stop by the farm shop selling produce from the estate and the garden centre. All of these add up to make visiting Castle Howard one of the best day trips from York.

Getting to Castle Howard

Getting to Castle Howard from York really couldn’t be easier. The Castleline Bus, operated by Transdev, runs four times per day between York and Castle Howard, taking around an hour. Tickets are purchased onboard from the driver with cash or contactless card. You can also take a private car like an Uber, or take the bus from York to Malton and then take a short Uber to Castle Howard.

Local tip: The bus carries on to the quintessential market town of Malton. If time permits, try to visit both Castle Howard and Malton in one day for the ultimate day trip experience.

North York Moors

Home to one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the UK, the North York Moors National Park covers over 550 square miles to the north of York, making it another of our top day trips from York.

Like the Dales, the Moors are spread out and there’s several options of places to visit. My top suggestion is to head for Pickering. This quaint market town dates back to the Anglo Saxon period.

Pickering is also the starting point of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a scenic heritage line where steam trains haul passengers through the unspoilt countryside. The line extends to Goathland, Grosmont and finishes in Whitby.

Local tip: For lunch, stop off at Willowgate Bistro in Pickering town centre.

A favorite among locals, Willogate Bistro serves an exquisite menu which showcases the best of Yorkshire’s rich produce.

Another top sight in Pickering is Pickering Castle, a motte and bailey style castle on the edge of the national park. It is open from the end of March through to early November, and tickets can be purchased on arrival or via English Heritage.

How to get to the North York Moors

The best way to reach the Moors from York is by bus. Yorkshire Coastliner’s 840 service runs every two-hours from York Railway Station and takes just under 90 minutes. Every other hour, the journey requires a change of bus in Malton.

The bus continues from Pickering to Goathland and Whitby, both of which are also great day trips from York.

Travel tip: Coastliner route 840 between Pickering and Whitby has been voted as the most scenic bus ride in Britain.

For the best experience, I recommend taking the bus one way, and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway train back.

So there are our top 5 picks for a day trip from York. If time permits, I’d say take them all and more. There’s so much more to Yorkshire than the city and, as amazing as York is, for a true flavor of Yorkshire it pays to get out and about to explore the scenery, meet the people and experience one of the most spectacular corners of England.


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