Ah, Yorkshire. This magnificent county dominates large swathes of northern England. It is drenched in history and culture, and boasts some of the finest scenery around.
Many visitors to the UK will barely venture out of London. This reluctance to venture north of the capital isn’t exclusive to tourists, either. Plenty of southern-based Brits are equally as unlikely to ever make the pilgrimage beyond the comforting embrace of the M25.
Having called Yorkshire — aka ‘God’s Own Country’ — home for a good chunk of our lives, we can safely say that people are missing out. With bustling cities, epic hikes, beautiful beaches, and some pretty iconic food (Yorkshire pudding & a cup of Yorkshire Tea, anyone?), there are countless reasons why everyone should make the trip to Yorkshire when they can. Here are eight of our favourites:
1) The Amazing Ancient Walls of York
No trip to Yorkshire would be complete without exploring the magical city of York. Offering a welcome contrast to the modern metropolises of Leeds and Sheffield, York’s historic streets are surrounded by roughly two miles of city walls. The origins of the walls stretch back to the Romans, with most of the current structures built during the 13th century.
Vast stretches of the walls are open for visitors to walk. Climbing the steep steps to the narrow walkways will elevate you above the rooftops of the old town, offering classic views across the city to the spectacular York Minster — one of the world’s finest cathedrals. It’s an experience unrivalled by any other city in the UK.
2) The Enchanting Towns and Villages of the Yorkshire Coast
Yorkshire’s coast is home to some of the UK’s finest beaches. If you can tear yourself away from the golden sands, you’ll discover the most picturesque seaside towns and villages anywhere in the country.
Perhaps the most famous is Whitby, with its imposing gothic ruins towering over the fishing boats below. Whitby fish and chips is an institution, and visitors can walk off their meal on the miles of pristine beach.
Just a short bus ride down the coast is our personal favourite — Robin Hood’s Bay. This charming little village is a maze of winding streets and impossibly quaint houses. These were once a perfect place for smugglers to sneak their wares onto the mainland.
3) The Chance to Visit the Yorkshire Dales and Take on the Three Peaks Challenge
The Yorkshire Dales is a special place. You can tell by admiring its splendid limestone pavements and its iconic patchwork of fields and drystone walls. The landscape of this area was forged by nature and, eventually, shaped by the many generations of farmers who have called it home for centuries.
Its network of valleys and hills are a haven for hikers. Perhaps the most famous activity in the Dales is the Three Peaks Challenge. This gruelling 26-mile slog takes in Yorkshire’s most famous peaks — Whernside, Pen-y-Ghent, and Ingleborough. On a pleasant summer’s weekend, hundreds of visitors will set off to conquer the route. Many participants raise money for charities as they go.
The views from the summits are spectacular. However, you’ll need to keep your fingers crossed that you get a clear day. It’s not a guarantee!
4) It’s Got Some of the Finest Abbey Ruins in the World
When you live in Yorkshire, it’s sometimes all too easy to forget how much history is on your doorstep. You’re never too far from a castle, a stately home, or — our favourite — an abbey.
The nearest to us is Kirkstall Abbey. These imposing ruins are perched on the outskirts of Leeds and date back to the 12th century. The abbey is situated next to a busy main road, and it’s a bizarre sight having been thoroughly engulfed by the ever-expanding city. Nonetheless, it’s a marvellous attraction to have on your doorstep.
Somewhat less urban, but no less popular, is Fountains Abbey. This World Heritage Site is home to huge ruins of a gigantic Cistercian abbey, situated among beautiful estate grounds. It’s a real family favourite, with groups often picnicking under the shadows of the abbey’s walls on a sunny day.
5) Leeds is One of the UK’s Best Cities to Eat and Shop
Leeds is Yorkshire’s biggest city and firmly ‘on the map’ as a major shopping and entertainment destination.
The beauty of the city centre is in its size. Absolutely everything in Leeds is walkable. Visitors will find themselves in the heart of the action within minutes of arriving. The jewel in the city’s crown is Trinity Leeds, where shoppers will find all their favourite high street brands.
If you can tear yourself away from Trinity, you’re in for a treat. Our favourite places to shop are in the wonderful little Victorian arcades and the beautiful Corn Exchange building. There you can find dozens of independent shops that will entice you to leave with your wallet a little lighter.
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, you’ll find endless choices of eateries. From our Michelin-starred favourite, The Man Behind the Curtain, to street-food stalls at Kirkgate Market. There’s something for every taste and budget. Whatever your food choice, just remember one thing — no trip to Yorkshire is complete without sampling real Yorkshire Pudding!
6) Yorkshire is a Paradise for Railway Enthusiasts
Yorkshire is a true haven for those with an interest in all things rail. You don’t need to be a trainspotter to enjoy a day out at the National Railway Museum that is a mere stone’s throw from York’s train station. The collections here are truly magnificent — from a real Japanese bullet train to the world-famous steam locomotive, Mallard.
If you’d like to experience the real thing, then Yorkshire has an abundance of heritage railways that will take visitors on a magical steam-powered journey through some of the best scenery around. One of the most popular is the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, whose picture-perfect stations have been used as sets for blockbuster films such as the Harry Potter series and Mission Impossible (yes, really!).
Perhaps the most famous feature on Yorkshire’s railways is the incredible Ribblehead Viaduct. This is a seriously gargantuan feat of 19th century engineering in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Situated on the famous Settle-Carlisle railway line, the viaduct has an impressive 24 arches and provides a stunning landmark for hikers taking on the Three Peaks Challenge.
7) The Opportunity to Stroll Through Historic Brontë Country
When it comes to Yorkshire celebrities, few come close to the Brontë sisters. Literary legends such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were penned in the village of Haworth, nestled at the heart of a classic stretch of beautiful — and, at times, bleak — Yorkshire moorland.
Visitors to Haworth can enjoy a wander down the village’s steep, cobbled main street, which is home to a lovely patchwork of cafes and independent stores – many featuring works by local artists. For those who want to discover more about the Brontë sisters, a visit to their home at the Brontë Parsonage will be a particular highlight. The staff is fiercely passionate about the museum, which offers a fascinating glimpse into their life in the village.
8) The Superb Yorkshire Sculpture Park
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park, or YSP for short, is a truly world-class gallery. It showcases works by artists from the UK and overseas in the most spectacular of settings. Situated in the rolling grounds of a country estate, visitors can spend hours wandering the countryside and admiring the exhibits.
You can find around 100 sculptures outside. Indoor spaces play host to displays and exhibitions which curators frequently update. There’s always something new to see. For visitors who want to combine a wander in the countryside with a healthy dose of culture, there are few better places than the Yorkshire Sculpture Park.
Whatever your reason for coming to Yorkshire, there will undoubtedly be enough to keep even the most demanding visitors occupied. There are countless attractions in this wonderful county which are just as deserving to have a place on this list — from the steel city of Sheffield to the quaint countryside pubs. Although we have only provided eight reasons, we do not doubt that your next visit to God’s Own Country will conjure up plenty more.