Yorkshire is the largest county in the UK, spanning 2.9 million acres. Because of this, we’ve found ourselves coming back to the area to enjoy more activities, places to visit and gorgeous hikes, finding new favourites each time we visit. Now we have our campervan, we’re discovering even more cute villages and points of interest that we found simply by staying in a new area. Below we’re sharing our favourite things to do in Yorkshire, giving you a variety of options so you can tailor your trip to the activities and places that interest you! Whether you’re looking to discover some history in cities and towns or stomp across the Dales on a hike, here are our top things to do in Yorkshire to appreciate this vast county.

Tea in Harrogate

During our first ever trip to Yorkshire we were eager to visit Betty’s Tea Room in Harrogate and find out what all the fuss was about. Our top tip is to book in advance, especially on the weekend and during holidays! Betty’s Tea Room has stood in Harrogate since 1919, and their traditional afternoon teas and delightful selection of cakes and sweet treats mean it has retained its popularity even in a modern age. This place is truly special – from the vintage carts loaded with an array of desserts, pulled across the cafe by the friendly and welcoming waitresses, to the interior decor giving nods to the past while remaining bright and modern. Betty’s is not to be missed for those that love a sweet treat! If you visit during a holiday season, especially at Christmas, be sure to dive into the adjoining shop for luxury holiday themed gifts and a fabulous display of pastries and cakes to take away. If you don’t manage to book a table (or the queue is too long – yes, people queue around the corner to get in!) then make sure you at least pass by the Tea Room to appreciate the immaculately dressed windows, and peek into the beautiful cafe.

A touch of magic at Malham Cove

Harry Potter fans will recognise the peculiar landscape at Malham Cove from The Deathly Hallows. This large limestone formation is the result of a waterfall carrying meltwater from glaciers at the end of the Ice Age, but today it is frequently visited by those keen to walk in the footsteps of Harry and Hermione, who are seen camping here in the penultimate film in the franchise. If you’re looking to hike to this spot, we recommend parking at Watersinks car park due to its proximity to a path leading to the Cove, and the fact that it’s free to park here – even in a campervan.

We enjoyed a 5.3km loop hike starting at the car park, following the Pennine Way across the wide open landscape to reach the Cove. The view from up here over Malham Beck below is breathtaking, and we timed our arrival perfectly just as the sun was setting, lighting up the sky in fiery shades of orange and casting long shadows across the jagged stones. It’s important to wear sturdy shoes here – even in walking boots you’ll need to concentrate on where you’re placing your feet so you don’t slip between the cracks! If you have time, it’s possible to continue your hike down into the valley and into Malham village where there are a handful of tea rooms and pubs to take the weight off your feet, as well as B&B and glamping options for those in need of a place to stay nearby.

Take in the sea air and sights of Whitby

The picturesque seaside town of Whitby, with its juxtaposition of quaint, cobbled side streets and the dramatic silhouette of Whitby Abbey above, is a must-visit on your Yorkshire trip. The breeze off the North Sea whistles through the harbour, giving you an excuse to pop into one of the many cafes and restaurants offering shelter from the cold sea air outside. The Magpie Cafe in particular is famous for its fish and chips! Take your time to explore the town on foot, diving down alleyways and perusing the wares of the cute independent shops lining the harbour, before making your way over to the West side of town to take a perfectly-framed photo of Whitby Abbey through the whalebone arch that stands overlooking the River Esk.

Once you’ve eaten and shopped your way around town, head up the famous (and steep) 199 steps to the Church of St Mary – a pilgrimage site for literary fans as the Church is referenced in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula. For us, the main attraction was a little further on at Whitby Abbey. This 7th century ruined monastery inspired Stoker’s tale, and visiting here it’s easy to see why. The Gothic architecture creates ominous shadows and invites exploration into its rich history. Tickets for Whitby Abbey are available to buy in advance for a cheaper rate, and give visitors access to the museum where you’ll learn more about the history of the Abbey as a monastery, view artefacts discovered on site, and see the progression of the Abbey though time. We’d highly recommend visiting around sunset to see the Abbey in all its dramatic glory, the stark silhouette of the Gothic ruins adding to the eerie atmosphere at dusk.

Explore a Site of Special Scientific Interest at Brimham Rocks

As National Trust members, we have free access to some of the most stunning and interesting historical properties and sites across the UK. At Brimham Rocks, visitors are able to walk around these strange rock formations freely, even climbing atop of them to gain a view over the countryside all around. These jagged rocks were formed by moving continents and changing weather conditions over 320 million years, and most have been given animal names due to their unusual shapes provoking the imagination. (We naturally gravitated towards ‘Watchdog’!). Both Brimham Rocks and the surrounding heather moorland are both Sites of Special Scientific Interest – a wonderland for climbers, walkers, naturalists and geologists. Discovering interesting formations around every corner, we spent hours here reading about the site’s rich history, trying to wrap our heads around just how long these rocks have been standing! Brimham Rocks is a natural awe-inspiring playground for children and adults alike, plus dogs are welcome to explore on lead.

Indulge in all things cheese at Wensleydale Creamery

While hunkered down in the little market town of Hawes for a few days while waiting for heavy snowfall to melt, we visited the famous Wensleydale Creamery. Just a 20 minute walk from our park up spot at the Hawes Caravan and Motorhome Club site, Wensleydale Creamery is a cheese-lover’s paradise! Entering through the shop, we were greeted with shelves PACKED full of waxed cheeses, gift boxes of crackers, cards, kitchenware, home decor and an abundance of Wallace and Gromit themed memorabilia. The shop alone is a feast for the eyes, but the real jewel in the crown is their restaurant – Calvert’s.

We opted to overlook the 1897 Coffee Shop in favour of something a little more substantial than refrigerated sandwiches and bottled drinks, and we’re delighted we did. We indulged in a ‘Wensleydale Mac and Five Cheese’ and the ‘Ultimate Wensleydale Creamery Toastie’, both oozing with a variety of cheeses. We also treated ourselves to that day’s drink special – butterscotch white hot chocolates – to warm ourselves up against the chilly snow scene outside. Every member of staff we met was incredibly welcoming, and for those looking to learn more about the process as well as enjoy the outcome, Wensleydale Creamery offer guided site tours too. The Wensleydale Creamery has a dog-friendly seating area in the outdoor section of the 1897 Coffee Shop, with panoramic views over the Dales, for those in need of a place to enjoy a cuppa and take the weight off their feet with their four-legged friends.

Discover York’s rich history

We love when a city has a Park and Ride system, where visitors park up on the outskirts and ride a bus into the centre. The city of York has 6 Park and Ride locations dotted around the perimeter, which was especially useful for us arriving in our campervan. Catching the bus was a breeze and once we’d arrived in the city, our first stop was a free 2 hour walking tour guiding us through famous historical spots and giving us an overview of the creation of the walled city. This tour was very history-focused, and less about ‘hidden gems’ as other tours we’ve enjoyed in other cities, but if you’re a history buff you’ll love it! For more history head to towering York Minster, where you can pay to tour this grand 13th century Gothic cathedral. Our favourite part was admiring the enormous stained glass windows, pouring a kaleidoscope of colours into the Church as the sun beamed through. Sadly for us the City Walls were closed on the day we visited York due to icy conditions, but we’d highly recommend walking the walls if you have the time, for a unique perspective on what was once a walled Roman city.

Amongst the usual restaurant chains and shops there’s another stop for Harry Potter fans at the famous Shambles, which is said to have provided inspiration for the set of Diagon Alley in the early stages of film production. This narrow cobblestone street with uneven, overhanging buildings is now home to more than a few Harry-Potter themed shops, capitalising on growing interest from tourists. You’ll also find the world-famous York Ghost Merchants selling one-of-a-kind handmade ghost trinkets, playing into local lore that York is ‘the most haunted city in Europe’. The queue to visit the shop has been recorded at 3 hours long during peak times! Another unique place of interest is Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, the shortest street in York at only a few yards, with the longest name. There’s a little something for everyone in the city!

Admire Ribblehead Viaduct

A quick stop-off point around 20 minutes drive from Hawes, Ribblehead Viaduct stands proudly in the middle of the Three Peaks. This feat of Victorian engineering is the longest structure on the Settle-Carlisle Railway, and is Grade II listed. It’s possible to walk the footpath right up to the viaduct, however we believe the finest view is from farther back to appreciate the impressive structure. There are a few lay-bys along Blea Moor road that facilitate visitors looking to park up and admire the viaduct from afar. We chose this spot, though there are several, all of which are free of charge. If you time your visit right you’ll catch one of the steam trains that still use the line, and capture a picturesque image of a steam train whistling over the viaduct.

Stroll through gardens and ruins at Fountains Abbey

If visiting Whitby Abbey sounded like your cup of tea, Fountains Abbey is an equally impressive and stunning place to visit. Our first trip to Fountains Abbey saw us both declare it as one of our favourite National Trust properties we’ve ever visited! This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to one of the largest and best preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. Once home to devout monks, the colossal ruins that remain provide a glimpse into the past and make for unique photography points along the silhouettes of the window frames. We loved being able to walk right amongst the ruins, appreciating every angle of the preserved architecture – the cellarium was a real highlight, with its incredibly well preserved vaulted ceilings and shaped windows flooding the space with patches of sunlight.

Back outside, a pristine riverside path snakes its way from the Abbey to the High Ride path and aptly named Surprise View – a natural window through the trees providing a picturesque view of the Abbey from afar. There are walks around the Studley Royal Georgian water garden, behind the Abbey, where the elegant ornamental lakes, temples and canals provide many places to simply sit and enjoy the tranquility of your surroundings. We loved strolling along the woodland pathways for a peaceful walk away from other visitors at the Abbey, and if you have a dog with you they are able to explore all the outdoor areas as well as the visitors centre restaurant. We recommend coming here in the Autumn, when fallen leaves frame the Abbey in an array of gold and orange. Don’t leave Yorkshire without seeing it for yourself!

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