With the iconic North York Moors spanning 554 square miles, historic castles, and stately homes, 26 miles of coastline, bustling, picturesque market towns and historic cities, there are plenty of things to do in North Yorkshire.
You’re sure to fall in love with some of the most beautiful natural landscapes in England, be blown away by the unspoilt sandy beaches, and inspired by the range of activities on offer in North Yorkshire.
The North York Moors is an idyllic destination for walkers, cyclists, horse-riders, and nature lovers, with a wealth of indoor and outdoor activities to enjoy throughout the year.
Related: Holiday Parks in Yorkshire
Walking and Hiking in North Yorkshire
White Horse Walk
The three-mile trail from Sutton Bank National Park Centre takes you to the famous Kilburn White Horse landmark carved into the hillside. The route is popular with hikers, walkers, nature lovers and bird watchers. You will be enchanted by beautiful wildflowers and unrivalled views from the escarpment edge at Roulston Scar.
Helmsley and Rievaulx Abbey
Imagine the quintessentially English market town, with a busy market square, quaint tea rooms, welcoming pubs, overlooked by old castle ruins.
You’ve discovered Helmsley.
Surrounded by the majestic North York Moors, The Ebor Way and the Cleveland Way both begin here.
One of the most delightful walking routes runs from Helmsley to the peaceful ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, founded in 1132.
Follow the gentle 7-mile circular route for panoramic views of town and castle before walking down through pretty bluebell woods to arrive at the peaceful village and ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, described by St Aelred as ‘everywhere peace, everywhere serenity’. This is still true today.
Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay
This more strenuous 11-mile walk takes you along some of the finest coast and moorland of the North York Moors National Park.
Related: National Parks in the UK
Starting from the Ravenscar Visitor Centre, the route heads west to Stony Mart Moor passing Cook House, Spring Hill, and Thorny Brow before passing through Alison Head Wood.
The gently undulating path offers incredible views before dropping down to the old Scarborough-to-Whitby railway line and along to the famous smugglers’ haunt of Robin Hood’s Bay.
The picturesque village is a delight with its old fishermen’s cottages and a lovely beach. Boggle is the local name for a hobgoblin thought to live in the caves along the coast and Boggle Hole is perfect for rock-pooling and fossil-hunting.
North Yorkshire Beaches
Oh, we do love to be beside the seaside!
With miles of vast sandy beaches, traditional seaside towns set against the spectacular backdrop of the moors, North Yorkshire has welcomed generations of bucket- and- spaders for an unforgettable family holiday. Not to mention fabulous fish and chips!
Whitby is perfect for a paddle in the Blue Flag waters. Explore the rock pools, relax in the sun, or go for a walk on the cliffs. Whitby Abbey overlooks the clean beach and is a popular attraction.
27 miles down the coast, with 5 miles of golden sand, Filey was ‘Beach of the Year’ in 2018. The historic promenade features a Sculpture Trail and to the north, Filey Brigg marks the end/start of the Cleveland Way Walk. Filey is also immensely popular for sailing enthusiasts.
Scarborough has been a magnet for holidaymakers since the spa opened in the 17th century.
With two glorious, long sandy beaches, spectacular scenery, and lots of attractions for all the family, Scarborough is the classic British holiday resort.
Despite its popularity, the town has kept its charm and character. The southern end of North Bay is popular for swimming, and surfing. Blue Flag North Bay is overlooked by the 11th-century ruins of Scarborough Castle.
A miniature railway built in 1931 links Peasholm Park, where miniature sea battles are re-enacted on the lake and Scalby Mills, where there is a sea life centre.
North Landing is one of the lesser known and most beautiful coves in Yorkshire, with a secluded, sandy beach and rock pools. Perfect for swimming and bird watching.
The national park’s 26-mile (42-kilometre) coastline is known as the “dinosaur coast”. Fossil hunters will find traces of “sea monsters” and fossilized plants and preserved dinosaur footprints.
Historic Houses and Gardens
Speaking of old things, Ripley Castle has belonged to the Ingilbey family for over 700 years.
If only the castle walls could talk!
You’d hear blood-curdling tales from a sometimes gruesome past, of kings and queens, plagues, civil war, and the secrets hidden behind the panelling in the Knight’s Chamber. Tales of a fearless daughter who held Oliver Cromwell at gunpoint in the library.
The Walled Gardens with extensive herbaceous borders, display the National Hyacinth Collection in April and the Kitchen Gardens include rare collections of herbs and spices, vegetables, and fruit trees. Take a leisurely walk around the lake and wander into Deer Park.
York Minster, the largest medieval cathedral in Northern Europe, is considered one of the world’s most beautiful Gothic buildings.
It took over 250 years to build and the craftsmanship is breath-taking.
Climb the 275 steps to the central tower for stunning views from the highest point in York. The Nave houses a magnificent collection of medieval stained glass. The Minster is one of the most popular attractions in Europe.
Castle Howard is one of England’s best-known and finest historic houses in England, famous as the location for the film Brideshead revisited.
In summer, the air is heavy with the scent of heritage roses, arbours, and colourful borders.
Set in a thousand acres of parkland with woodlands, temples, and statues, you can easily spend a day exploring the stunning grounds.
The children will love the adventure playground by the lake and can run free through the gardens, looking for clues in a fun, guided activity.
Built in the 1690s, Newby Hall is an exceptional 18th-century country house situated near Ripon in North Yorkshire, a must for antique lovers.
The superb collection includes a rare set of Gobelin Tapestries, classical statues, and some of Chippendale’s finest furniture.
Newby Hall’s 25 acres of award-winning gardens are full of rare and beautiful plants and for the children, there’s a fabulous Adventure Garden with a moated fort and water play features, including a sandpit, paddling pool and swings for the toddlers.
The interactive water play area guarantees hours of fun. Newby’s famous miniature railway is a delight for adults and children alike, as is the beautiful Woodland Discovery Walk.
Things to do with Children in North Yorkshire
York Chocolate and Sweet Trail
Unwrap York’s surprisingly sweet and chocolate history. This self-guided murder mystery trail provides clues to what happened to “Lotta Smarty’s” as you hunt along the 1.5-mile circular walk for answers.
An engaging thing to do for children of all ages, from 5-95 and they´ll send you a text if you get stuck.
Lightwater Valley Theme Park
An action-packed day out in Ripon with over 30 thrilling rides. Flying swings, dinosaurs, the Wild River Rapids, pirates at Skull Rock and the wonderful Lady Bird coaster will delight and keep you on the go all day.
For the little ones, there’s the Lightwater Express Train, the Eagle’s Creek Farm tractor ride as well as indoor and outdoor play areas.
Mother Shipton’s Cave
Mother Shipton’s Cave has been open since 1630 but beware! The magical powers of the water turn all it touches to stone.
Explore the mysterious cave where Mother Shipton was born during a violent storm. There’s a children’s version too and a crazy adventure park.
Don’t forget to make a wish in Mother Shipton’s enchanted well. They always come true.
Big Sheep and Little Cow Farm
Big Sheep and Little Cow Farm offer a chance to stroke and feed chinchillas, goats, pigs, llamas, donkeys, and chat to a sweet Shetland pony.
You can visit and feed all the animals on the farm tour while learning about how the farm is run.
The children will have a blast in The Woolly Jumpers Play Barn with slides, rope swings, tunnels, and platforms to climb.
There’s a separate ball pool and soft play area for the under 3s, while parents relax with a coffee.
JORVIK Viking Centre
JORVIK Viking Centre houses some of the most astounding discoveries in modern archaeology.
First learn about the famous Coppergate Dig before you travel around 10th century York, experiencing life as it was then.
The sights, sounds and even the smells of the Viking Age are brought vividly back to life as you journey back 1,000 years.
Some of the most beautiful and rare Viking artefacts in the world, from earrings and socks to frying pans and padlocks and even a fossilised Viking poo!
Using the latest in cutting-edge technology, you can delve into York’s Viking history, handle real artefacts while you talk to some friendly Vikings.
Betty’s Tea Rooms
Exhausted after all the walking, hiking, exploring? Time for tea and cakes at Betty’s, a Yorkshire institution, founded over a century ago.
Try a Fat Rascal or a slice of mouth-watering chocolate cake with cream. Nothing is too much trouble at these traditional tea rooms, which just about sums the North Yorkshire experience.
There are so many things to do in North Yorkshire, where will you start?