York has enough historic sites, hidden places and other activities to satisfy even the most demanding visitor. However, if you are staying for more than a few days, you might want to explore beyond the city. After all, it is at the centre of some of England’s most beautiful countryside and within easy reach of the coast, ancient abbeys and historic towns. Here are nine of the best day trips from York.
Then spend some time wandering around the Montpellier Quarter, the Victorian streets that are now full of galleries, antique shops and restaurants. One place not to miss is Betty’s Tea Room (which you may already have encountered in York) – this is a Yorkshire institution, and one that is worth the inevitable queues!
Harrogate is 34 km from York. The easiest way to get there is by train (the journey takes just over half an hour).
The seaside town of Whitby is one of my favourite places in Yorkshire. As you walk along its narrow winding streets, high above the sea, you get a sense of its mysterious past, a time of seafarers, vampires and ghosts.
The River Esk divides the town into two halves. On the east side is the old town, where you can climb the 199 steps to the 7th century abbey, browse the quaint shops on Church Street, or visit the Captain Cook Museum. The other side of the town, while still old, has more conventional seaside attractions.
There are lots of places to eat and drink. The Board Inn has spectacular views over the harbour, while the Magpie Café (complete with ghost) is reputed to sell the best fish and chips.
Whitby is 75 km from York. It is possible to get there by direct bus or by train (if you don’t mind a few changes). Alternatively, you can hire a car or take an organised day trip. Note that Whitby can be very popular during the summer months – you may prefer to visit out of season.
Scarborough is another clifftop seaside town, larger and more conventional than Whitby. Although it doesn’t have Whitby’s old world charm, it is well worth a visit and has the virtue of being closer to York and on a direct railway line.
If you close your eyes to the rows of amusements lining the seafront you can enjoy the natural beauty of Scarborough, with its two wide bays, steep streets and cliffside walks. Particular attractions include the ancient castle on a rock overlooking the sea, harbour boat trips, and the Sea Life Centre.
Scarborough is 67 km from York and can be reached in under an hour by train. If you are driving it is best to avoid weekends and school holidays.
4. Hull And Beverley
Hull is often overlooked as a tourist destination. However, since it was UK City of Culture in 2017 it has become known for its cultural events and festivals. It is also worth visiting for its museums, marina area and The Deep, one of the country’s largest aquariums.
By contrast, the nearby town of Beverley is small and quirky with a surprising amount to see. (Read more about Exploring Beverley, Yorkshire’s Hidden Secret.)
Hull is 60 km from York and Beverley is 52 km. Both towns can be reached by train from York (change at Hull for Beverley).
5. The Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a holiday destination in its own right, and you could spend several days (or weeks) there. However, if you are limited for time, it is possible to get a flavour of the area in a day trip.
The area is mostly known for its spectacular and varied scenery, hiking and other outdoor activities. However, you’ll also find historic abbeys, unspoilt towns, and more. Read more about What To See And Do In The Yorkshire Dales National Park.
Day trippers could explore by public transport (train and/or bus) or by hiring a car. Alternatively, to pack as much into the day as possible consider taking a tour from York.
6. Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey is in the Yorkshire Dales, but could be a day trip in itself. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, incorporating the ruins of a Cistercian monastery and an extensive landscaped 18th century estate. Read more: Walking Into The Past At Fountains Abbey.
Fountains Abbey is just under 50 km from York and is most easily reached by car.
This is one for book lovers: Haworth was the home of the famous Brontë family. Visitors can explore the Brontë Parsonage Museum and walk in the moors that inspired their work. Apart from the literary connection Haworth is a classic Dales village, not far from the national park. More about Haworth: Exploring The Landscape That Inspired The Brontës.
Haworth is 75 km from York. To get there you could either drive or take a tour from York.
8. North York Moors
Like the Yorkshire Dales, the North York Moors is a national park, a large expanse of stunning countryside with heather moorland, coastal scenery and traditional villages. It is ideal for hiking: the Cleveland Way is a long distance trail around the edge of the Moors, and there is a whole maze of shorter footpaths within the park.
A more leisurely way to explore would be to take a trip on the Yorkshire Moors Railway, a restored steam train running from Pickering and Whitby. Quite apart from the scenery, the line has appeared in many film and TV productions: most notably, Goathland station became Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films.
Pickering (on the edge of the national park and at the start of the steam railway) is 42 km from York. If you don’t want to drive have a look at the following for some suggested day tours.
9. Castle Howard
Castle Howard is a magnificent country house with landscaped gardens. It may look familiar: it has appeared in various TV and film productions including Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited.
You could easily spend a whole day here, touring the house and walking through the very extensive grounds. There are several places to eat, picnic areas and family activities.
Castle Howard is 24 km from York and it is possible to get there directly by bus. English Heritage members can get a 10% discount on pre-booked tickets.