Readers Digest
Magazine subscription Podcast
HomeLifestyleTravelPlaces To Visit

A brief guide to North Yorkshire

A brief guide to North Yorkshire

From the picturesque Dales, moors and coastline to York, market towns and amazing history, North Yorkshire is a fascinating region to visit and explore

The largest county in England, covering the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors, the City of York, many market towns, and a popular coastline along the North Sea, North Yorkshire is a perfect region for a weekend break or a longer holiday.

History, quaint villages, dedicated hiking trails, and plenty of sights and attractions offer something for all generations and varied interests, all within an easy drive or train ride from major cities, and with plenty of choices of Airbnbs, camping sites and hotels.  

The moors and the Dales

The North York Moors are one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the UK, with purple flowers covering the landscape all summer. Both the moors and the Dales are National Parks, with the moors near the coast being flatter than the Dales, which offer hills, valleys and a generally more dramatic countryside.

"The North York Moors are one of the UK's largest expanses of heather moorland, with purple flowers covering the landscape all summer"

Both areas are famous for hiking, with cross country and coastal paths available for all fitness levels.

The cities and villages

York Minster at sunsetThe magnificent York Minster at sunset. Credit: chrisdorney

The City of York, with its minster, is the historic capital and county town, full of history, great shopping, and a haven for all things Harry Potter, with the medieval Shambles having provided inspiration for Diagon Alley.

Then there is Harrogate, a spa town, and Northallerton, a bustling market town, plus other towns such as Richmond and Ripon, all with their own charm and worth visiting.

The many small villages give the Cotswolds a run for their money, and make North Yorkshire perfect for a road trip, following the country lanes from village to village.

Family activities

Apart from visiting the many Harry Potter sights and learning about Viking history at the Jorvic Centre in York, there is Old Mother Shipton's Cave in Knaresborough, England's oldest tourist attraction (open since 1630) and is perfect for families, with all sorts of activities and creepy sights, plus the opportunity to row on the River Nidd under the scenic viaduct.

"Old Mother Shipton's Cave in Knaresborough is England's oldest tourist attraction, open since 1630, and is perfect for families"

Lightwater Valley Theme Park is great fun with fewer crowds than some of the larger parks, while the country hall Newby Hall offers an adventure garden, and Duncome Park is home to the National Falconry Centre.

The coast

Whitby Bay and Whitby AbbeyWhitby Bay with Whitby Abbey ruins overlooking the seaside town. Credit: Andrew Briggs

The North Sea coast is dotted with famous seaside towns such as Scarborough and Whitby, which are both fun for all the family, with Scarborough offering a lovely little red funicular, and Whitby the abbey ruin made famous by no other than Count Dracula. Save your money for the hefty entrance fee for Whitby Abbey, and instead, hike past it on the public footpath. It actually looks better from afar.

Further along is Sandsend, a perfect one-hour walk from Whitby, past its colourful beach huts. In Runswick Bay, you can enjoy the scenic setting and also go fossil hunting, with the coast slowly peeling away, shedding its ancient secrets after every rainfall. And one bay further north, the little harbour of Staithe has a gorgeous little pub, the Cod and Lobster, perfect for lunch.

Foods to try

Every region has its specialties, and North Yorkshire is no exception. There is the most obvious, the Yorkshire pudding, best tried in Robin Hood Bay’s Victoria Hotel on a Sunday, outside with stunning views across the bay.

"Try the Yorkshire curd tart, and the fat rascal—a biscuit full of fruit, cinnamon and nuts—made in Yorkshire for more than 200 years"

When in York, Harrogate or Northallerton, make a beeline for Betty’s Cafe Tea Rooms, an institution in North Yorkshire and famous for its breakfast and afternoon teas, but also the best place to try the typical Yorkshire curd tart, and the fat rascal—a biscuit full of fruit, cinnamon and nuts—made in Yorkshire for more than 200 years.

As for the most famous cheese in the county, Wensleydale, which you may know from Wallace and Gromit, head straight to the Wensleydale Creamery in Hawes.

Quirky things to do

The white chalk horse at Sutton BankThe white chalk horse on the hillside at Sutton Bank. Credit: Anne Coatesy

Something fun for the entire family is the Forbidden Corner, a garden full of follies near Leyburn in the Dales. There are caves, tunnels, dragons, castles and so much to discover that you can spend all day there, staying for lunch or dinner at the onsite Saddle Room.

There is a large white chalk horse, like those Wiltshire is famous for, on Sutton Bank near Thirsk; while in York you can go on a cat treasure hunt, by downloading a trail card.

Banner photo: Bluebells around Roseberry Topping in North Yorks Moor National Park. Credit: mariotlr

Keep up with the top stories from Reader's Digest by subscribing to our weekly newsletter


This post contains affiliate links, so we may earn a small commission when you make a purchase through links on our site at no additional cost to you. Read our disclaimer

Loading up next...
Stories by email|Subscription
Readers Digest

Launched in 1922, Reader's Digest has built 100 years of trust with a loyal audience and has become the largest circulating magazine in the world

Readers Digest
Reader’s Digest is a member of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (which regulates the UK’s magazine and newspaper industry). We abide by the Editors’ Code of Practice and are committed to upholding the highest standards of journalism. If you think that we have not met those standards, please contact 0203 289 0940. If we are unable to resolve your complaint, or if you would like more information about IPSO or the Editors’ Code, contact IPSO on 0300 123 2220 or visit