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Guide to Yorkshire: where to stay and eat, places to visit and best walks

Discover the best places to eat, drink and stay in Yorkshire. Discover amazing days out and walks, extraordinary wildlife highlights and much more with our county guide.

Yorkshire village and countryside

Yorkshire is the largest county in England, covering a total land area of 11,903 km2 – that’s almost six times the size of Luxembourg. The county is so large, in fact, that it has over time been divided into four smaller civil administrations: North Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and the East Riding of Yorkshire.

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The county as a whole is extremely diverse. The coastline varies in character from long, sandy beaches to dramatic cliffs. It has sprawling uplands, barren mountains and lush rolling hills, as well as tranquil river valleys – or dales – crashing waterfalls and heather moors. The villages and towns run deep with history, and castles, ancient forts and prehistoric art dots the countryside.

Such variety and the sheer size of Yorkshire makes it one of the most rewarding counties to visit in England. To help you make the most of your trip to Yorkshire, we’ve put together a county guide, revealing the best places to visit, where to walk, places to stay and eat, and much more.

Summer in the countryside
Gorgeous summer morning in Knaresborough, a market town in North Yorkshire/Credit: Getty

Wildlife in Yorkshire

Red deer can be found in the woodlands around Rievaulx Abbey and roe deer, foxes and badgers are common throughout the county. Most exciting of all is recent camera-trap footage of a male pine marten on Forestry Commission land. This has led to the three-year Yorkshire Pine Marten Project, to help develop a conservation plan for these elusive mammals.

Red grouse sightings are almost guaranteed on any walk across the high moors of Yorkshire. Short-eared owls can be found quartering the upland landscape, while barn owls will be silently hunting lower down in the dales. The mewing call of the buzzard will give their location away, so head to Wykeham Forest Raptor Viewpoint for great bird-of-prey sightings. Check out the feeders at the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre for views of rare willow tits.


Places to visit in Yorkshire

Malhamdale

Rocks and countryside
Malham Cove is a true icon of the Yorkshire countryside/Credit: Getty

Bill Bryson called it his favourite view in the world: the panorama of Malhamdale, seen from the road that comes off the wind-bitten tops of Kirkby Fell into the hamlet of Kirkby Malham. From beside a rusty field gate you can take in the entire dale, a smooth jigsaw of sloping fields, drystone walls and cottages overlooked by the crescent-shaped cliffs of Malham Cove. It’s a vista that stops drivers in their tracks. 

Aysgarth Falls and Bolton Castle

Waterfalls in winter
The River Ure flows over the Lower Falls of Aysgarth Falls/Credit: Getty

Visit Aysgarth Falls, a magnificent series of three stepped waterfalls celebrated by Wordsworth and Turner on their 19th-century tours. Here a sheltered path through woodlands leads to viewing platforms overlooking the wide, terraced cascades and continues to the 14th-century Bolton Castle.

Wensleydale Creamery, Hawes

Market town in hills
Hawes is the highest market town in England, situated in Wensleydale on the River Ure/Credit: Getty

The doorstop-sized chewy flapjacks on offer at the Aysgarth Falls National Park Centre’s tea room may be good, but be sure to leave room in your belly to enjoy the cheese shop at the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes, where you can nibble on free samples of Yorkshire’s most famous export while muttering “Cracking cheese, Gromit”. Rescued from closure by a management buyout in 1992, this 19th-century creamery is the custodian of a cheese-making tradition begun by 12th-century Cistercian monks.

Over time, this local process was perfected and the name Yorkshire Wensleydale is now secured by European Protected Names status. All sorts of variations on the original recipe are made here using milk sourced directly from local farmers, including ginger, cranberry, blue and special reserve. But the tangy, crumbly original is still the best. No self-respecting Yorkshire lass would dream of eating Christmas cake without it.

Courtyard Dairy, Settle

Their award-winning Courtyard Dairy on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is so compact that, without stepping over the threshold, you can almost reach the counter. Here the owner Andy stands, cheerfully handing out samples to every person who pops a head in.

Runswick Bay, Runswick

Small cottages in coastal settlement
Regular erosion of the cliffs around Runswick Bay make it a hotspot for fossil hunting/Credit: Getty

The pristine, mile-long sands of the former fishing village of Runswick Bay on the North Yorkshire coast were recently crowned “Britain’s best beach” by the Times and Sunday Times. 

With its sheltered, sweeping bay, golden sands and delightful cluster of pantile red-roofed cottages tumbling down to the sea, it is a firm favourite with many families. The beach, which once provided anchorage for scores of brightly coloured fishing boats, is now more popular for rockpooling, Jurassic Age fossil-hunting and bracing coastal walks.

Ilkley Moor

Moorland at dawn
Dawn among the heather at the Cow Calf rocks on Ilkley Moor/Credit: Getty

Ilkley Moor is part of the larger Rombald’s Moor, and lies directly above the lovely spa town of Ilkley. Ideal for walking, birdwatching, rock climbing or simply absorbing the panoramic views, the moor is also home to a series of fascinating ancient monuments.

One of the best known attractions of Ilkley Moor is the Cow and Calf, in Ilkley Quarry. This craggy outcrop and the smaller, single rock beneath it are said to be reminiscent of a cow sheltering her calf, both looking out across the moor.

Hebden Dale, Midgehole

Gibson Mill, beside Hebden Water
Gibson Mill, beside Hebden Water was one of the Industrial Revolution’s first mills and produced cotton cloth until 1890/Credit: Getty

The River Calder strikes through West Yorkshire’s Pennine Hills in a yawning trough of a valley, deepened by glacial meltwaters as the last ice age ended 12,000 years ago.

Feathering the main vale is a series of side valleys, hung between the high moors and the Calder. Of these, the most spectacular is Hebden Dale, chiselled into the uplands above trendy Hebden Bridge.

Richmond

There are at least 50 other towns called Richmond worldwide, but this one’s the original. Voted UK Town Of The Year in 2009, the North Yorkshire hub certainly has its fans. The Rough Guide To Britain referred to Richmond as “the Dales’ most tempting historical town… an absolute gem.”


Best walks in Yorkshire

Hanging Grimston Wold

8.6 miles/13.8km | 5 hours | moderate

Open Dale, North Yorkshire
Open Dale, North Yorkshire/Credit: James Bradley

Take a hike through peaceful dales and wolds and along country lanes on this moderate-level route through the Yorkshire Wolds. The circular walk passes though Thixen Dale, Open Dale and Water Dale and includes a great panoramic view of the Vale of York as well as a welcome drink at the Cross Keys in Thixendale.

Thixen Dale and Hanging Grimston Wold walking route and map

Deep Dale and Bishop Wilton

6 miles/9.8km | 4 hours | moderate-challenging

Deep Dale, Yorkshire Wolds
Deep Dale, Yorkshire Wolds/Credit: Jim Bradley

This walk at the western edge of the Yorkshire Wolds is probably one of the area’s more demanding routes. To get to the start of the walk, turn off the A166 at the top of Garrowby Hill, signed ‘Millington/Pocklington’. Head south along the Roman Road – they did seem to like it here. About halfway down the road you can pull onto the grass verge opposite Callis Wold farm, leaving room for tractors to turn.

Deep Dale and Bishop Wilton walking route and map

Settle to Stainforth

8.5 miles | 6 hours | moderate-challenging

Green lane in the countryside
Goat Scar Lane Yorkshire Dales, England/Credit: Alamy

The limestone hills around this classic Yorkshire town are laced with delights, from ferocious waterfalls and flitting northern wheatears to intriguing bone caves and slinking green lanes.

Settle to Stainforth walking route and map

Roseberry Topping

7.8 miles | 5 hours | moderate-challenging

Roseberry Topping, North Yorkshire (Getty)
Roseberry Topping in spring: Credit: Getty

Quilted with banks of bluebells, sorrel and stitchwort, Yorkshire’s Matterhorn in the North York Moors National Park is a spring masterpiece

Roseberry Topping walking route and map

Muker Meadows

6.8 miles | 4 hours | moderate

Muker Meadows, North Yorkshire
Wildflowers bloom on Muker Meadows in North Yorkshire/Credit: Dave Willis

In late spring, Swaledale’s hay meadows burst into life – a colour bonanza best absorbed after a cup of Yorkshire tea and a slice of cake.

Like so much in Swaledale, the name Muker is of Norse origin. The village sits on the banks of the River Swale as it emerges from the deep valley between Kisdon Hill and Black Hill, swinging east on its journey to the North Sea. Solid, stone lead-miners’ cottages gather protectively around the tea shop, the Farmers’ Arms, the Victorian Literary Institute and St Mary’s Church.

Muker walking route and map

Discover more walking routes and Yorkshire:


Places to stay in Yorkshire

The Angel Inn at Hetton

County pub in Yorkshire
The Angel Inn at Hetton/Credit: Geograph

The Angel Inn at Hetton pub lies a short drive from Malhamdale into Wharfedale along a narrow road that’s so scenic you’ll wish it lasted longer. With its low, beamed ceilings, cosy snugs and crackling fires, it has been on the food-lover’s must-do list since its days under the ownership of Pascal’s father, Denis Watkins. He and chef-director Bruce Elsworth are credited with revolutionising local pub grub: Pascal recounts how his father ‘invented’ the Yorkshire gastropub by banning chips in a spontaneous huff after the darts and dominos team complained he’d forgotten to send out their regular bowls of free fries.

Classic yet unpretentious French-inspired food (try the signature ‘Little Moneybag’ starter, a crispy fine pastry parcel filled with seafood in a butterscotchy lobster sauce) is dished up with friendly informality in portions generous enough to satisfy a Yorkshire walker. It’s a winning recipe that has inspired many who have cooked and eaten here.

King’s Head, Kettlewell, Upper Wharfedale

Country pub in Yorkshire
King’s Head, Kettlewell/Credit: Geograph

Here, the modish, bare-bones interior is dominated by a vast inglenook fireplace and chalkboard menu. This is written daily according to the produce that comes Michael’s way: the King’s Head is the type of local where gamekeepers bring in bagfuls of pheasants and neighbours hand over prize marrows in exchange for a couple of pints.

Michael loves winter and the comfort food it inspires: hungry hikers coming in off the Dales Way will catch scent of dishes such as nine-hour-braised featherblade of beef, or steak-and-ale pie. His pies are renowned for their pastry lids, which balance crunch and softness, their generous fillings of slow-cooked beef and tart baby onions bathed in a full-flavoured, fruity gravy. He’s only too happy to reveal his secret ingredients: half-suet-half-shortcrust pastry mix and a local microbrew called Hetton Pale Ale.

Low Mill, Bainbridge

The upmarket Low Mill guest house blends modern-rustic luxury (antique furnishings, sumptuous woollens) with urban eclecticism (ceramic dogs, vintage leather sofas). It’s not just the warm welcome and peaceful setting that keep guests coming again. Jane is an accomplished cook and her three-course evening meals offer the best dining in the area. A typical winter menu might feature locally smoked salmon with yellow beetroot fritters, clove-perfumed spiced lamb rump with sweet potato chips and salted caramel chocolate mousse. It’s like a supper club with rooms.

The Mallyan Spout Hotel, Goathland

Country hotel in Yorkshire
The Mallyan Spout Hotel, Goathland/Credit: Geograph

The charming Mallyan Spout Hotel is a three-star country-house hotel with luxury rooms. The restaurant offers a range of local produce and in winter a roaring log fire makes the bar a cosy place to retreat; from £110. 01947 896486, mallyanspout.co.uk

North Yorkshire Moors Railway Camping Coaches, Goathland or Levisham

The steam railway offers fully equipped camping coaches at Goathland and Levisham stations with unlimited NYMR travel included; from £730 for one week. 01751 472508,

Youth Hostel Association Helmsley, Helmsley

There are five youth hostels in the National Park and this purpose-built hostel is a great base for exploring the Tabular Hills; dorm beds from £15. 0345 371 9638, yha.org.uk/hostel/yha-helmsley

The Lion, Settle

Yorkshire town in snow
Visit Settle in winter/Credit: Alamy

Homely touches make all the difference to the modern-rustic rooms above this lively dining pub: fluffy hot-water bottle covers, fresh milk and a proper teapot with a knitted cosy to brew the perfect mug of Yorkshire tea. B&B from £85 per room per night. Duke Street, Settle, BD24 9DU. 01729 822203, Book The Lion, Settle via Booking.com

Beck Hall, Malham

Located beside a stream with an old clapper bridge, this quirky small hotel has a cosy snug for winter nights and shabby-chic bistro serving local produce. It’s so dog friendly that your mutt gets its own special mat to sit beside you at dinner. B&B from £80 per room per night. Cove Road, Malham, BD23 4DJ. 01729 830729, Book Beck Hall, Malham via TripAdvisor


Where to eat in Yorkshire

Abbey Stores and Tea Room, Rosedale Abbey

Tea rooms in countryside
Abbey Stores and Tea Room, Rosedale Abbey/Credit: Geograph

Proper Yorkshire portions, whether it be breakfast, lunch or just a good slab of cake and a mug of Yorkshire Tea. Try the Ploughman’s Platter for a true taste of Yorkshire. 01751 417475, abbeytearooms.business.site

The Geall Gallery and Art Café, Grosmont

A quirky combination of art gallery and rustic tea room with a tasty selection of soup, sandwiches and bakes. Spend a while browsing the art and crafts on display before you catch your steam train. 01947 895007, chrisgeall.com

The Traddock, Austwick

The head chef at this elegant, informal hotel sources the best produce on his doorstep to create seasonal menus. Splash out on an overnight stay – the recently refurbished roof suite is exquisite. Mains from £16.50. 015242 51224, www.thetraddock.co.uk

Elaine’s Tea Rooms, Feizor

Hardcore walkers and cyclists put in a few hours before arriving for their full English at this welcoming cafe in a tiny hamlet. Home-made scones taste extra special after the two-mile walk across fields from nearby Austwick. 01729 824114

Stage 1 Cycles, Hawes

Seek out the dog-friendly café in a cycle-hire shop next to the Dales Countryside Museum. Its coffee is the best in North Yorkshire, according to good authority. 01969 666873, stage1cycles.co.uk

Berry’s Farm, Swinithwaite

Cafe and shop selling home-reared meat and produce from Wensleydale and beyond. Its ‘Goldilocks’ pork, a flavoursome cross between a Duroc boar and Mangalitza sow, is a speciality. 01969 663377, berrysfarmshop.com

Lion Inn Blakey Ridge, Kirkbymoorside

At 402 metres, the Lion Inn ranks as one of England’s highest pubs. Perched high on Blakey Ridge, roaring log fires and low-beamed ceilings together with a good range of hearty meals and local ales offer all you need to escape the winter chill. 01751 417320, lionblakey.co.uk

Birch Hall Inn, Beck Hole, Goathland

Step back in time to this hidden gem. The cosy snug will be popular on cold days where simple food, like pie and pickle or ‘Beck Hole’ butties, thick wedges of Yorkshire ham or cheese on plain and simple bread are served through the tiny serving hatch. Wash this down with a pint of the pub’s very own ‘Beckwatter’ beer. 01947 896245, beckhole.info/bhi.htm


Where to buy local Yorkshire produce

Kacao, Richmond

Young chocolatier Kelsey Anderson makes fresh-cream truffles, single-origin bars and jars of chocolate buttons to fill the stockings of cocoa lovers. 01748 473053, kacao.co.uk

Jackson’s of Cracoe, Cracoe

Award-winning sausages from this farm shop and butchery (its locally made jams are great, too). 01756 730269, jacksonsofcracoe.co.uk 

The Angel’s Share, Richmond

This artisan bakery sells slow-fermented loaves, quiches and patisserie (try the Yorkshire curd tart) from the restored Victorian Station building. 01748 828261, theangelssharebakery.com 

Mainsgill Farm, East Layton

One of the North’s biggest farm shops with a food hall and butchery (selling home-reared meats, pies and ready meals) and café serving fresh local food. 01325 718860, mainsgillfarm.co.uk

Raydale Preserves, Stalling Busk

The Kettlewells have been hand-making preserves on their family farm since 1978. Look out for their wide range of jams, jellies, chutneys and curds at farm shops and delis across the Dales. 01969 650233, raydalepreserves.co.uk

Kilnsey Park Estate, Kilnsey

Rainbow trout are reared in spring water and smoked over oak in traditional ovens. Catch your own in the fishing lake or visit the café, where trout paté, trout quiche and trout-and-chips are menu staples. 01756 752150, kilnseypark.co.uk


Visit a Yorkshire brewery

Beer in glasses
Visit a brewery on your trip to Yorkshore/Credit: Getty

The Yorkshire Dales could have been designed by a beer drinker, so liberally dotted are they with traditional, fire-warmed pubs linked by easy-to-follow footpaths just challenging enough to work up a thirst. Here, you don’t just eat the view, you drink it. The Dark Horse Brewery’s Hetton Pale Ale is brewed at Hetton; the Settle Brewery’s Main Line Bitter is crafted next to the sidings of the Settle to Carlisle Railway; the Wensleydale-based Yorkshire Dales Brewing Co names its beers after nearby landmarks, hence Butter Tubs ale and Buckden Pike. 

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You can drink Buckden Pike while gazing up toward it at the White Lion Inn in Cray. This dinky pub has been given a minimalist makeover by its young owners, and its bistro-style menu is the talk of Upper Wharfedale. It is the northernmost stop on the Alesway, a trail of 17 real-ale pubs that follows the Wharf upriver from near Ilkley, through honeypot settlements such as Burnsall, Grassington and Kettlewell. And as one of three pubs at the corners of the so-called Buckden triangle, it’s the perfect spot to fuel up for – and recover from – a seven-mile circular walk that showcases the dramatic limestone geology of this U-shaped glacial valley.