Yorkshire is the largest county in England, full of beautiful towns and villages, some being the prettiest in the UK, so a trip ‘up North’ as the Brits like to say, makes a fabulous destination for a great holiday.
Yorkshire’s towns are nestled in two of the best national parks in England – North York Moors National Park and Yorkshire Dales National Park. It is in these landmark locations that visitors will find the most picturesque countryside in the UK.
Rolling hills and dales are scattered with babbling streams and brooks, while chocolate-box stone cottages and winding cobbled lanes are common in “God’s Own Country” – the fitting title given to Yorkshire.
If you plan on visiting Yorkshire for the first time, the dramatic east coast is a great place to start and is where visitors will find some of the most charming towns and villages in Yorkshire. You will be spoilt for choice from the cute fishing village of Staithes to the historic town of Whitby – famous for its connections to Bram Stoker and Dracula!
Yorkshire is the most historic county in England, and its deep-rooted past is one of the reasons it is so unique. From medieval castles, churches, abbeys and stately houses, Yorkshire’s historical places of interest offer a glimpse into this stunning part of England.
In this post, I have highlighted 13 of the most beautiful places in Yorkshire. Which one of these quaint villages and towns in Yorkshire will be your favourite?
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Map of Yorkshire Towns and Villages
Most Charming Towns in the Yorkshire Dales
Ingleton is a charming small town in Yorkshire lying on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales. Ingleton’s central location means the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park is a short, 30-minute drive away, plus The Lake District and The Forest of Bowland can easily be visited as a day trip.
Most visitors use Ingleton as a base for enjoying adventurous outdoor activities in the local rural area such as cycling, climbing, hiking and caving. There are guided tours available in Ingleton for these activities, and also plenty of self-guided activities.
One of Yorkshire’s highest peaks, Ingleborough, lies on Ingleton’s doorstep and is a popular hiking route for visitors. Don a hard hat and explore underground at the nearby Yorkshire showcaves Ingleborough Cave or White Scar Cave, the largest show cave in England. Enjoy a seasonal swim in Ingleton’s delightful open-air heated pool or wander along the banks of the River Doe and River Greta to view Ingleton’s impressive, historic viaduct. Visitors can have a go at climbing at the indoor climbing wall at Inglesport outdoors shop.
The highlight of Ingleton has to be the spectacular Ingleton Waterfalls Trail. This beautiful, privately-owned 7-kilometre trail is a riverside woodland trail that passes seven pretty waterfalls on route. My favourite waterfall, Thornton Falls, is idyllic. The path is not technically challenging but is not suitable for wheelchairs or pushchairs, and sturdy footwear is recommended.
After a long day walking, reward yourself with a sweet treat from the enticing Seasons Bakery or a relaxing drink at the quirky microbar, The Old Post Office.
Photo credit – Map Made Memories
Grassington is a lovely idyllic Yorkshire town located in the Craven district and the perfect base for exploring the nearby Yorkshire Dales – Wharfedale and Nidderdale. Grassington is one of the best small villages in the Yorkshire Dales and is the perfect place to park up and head out on a walk. Many circular walking routes start in the area and lead you around the wonderful Yorkshire countryside.
One of the most charming walks from Grassington is the Grassington to Conistone walk, leading up through the village to an old drove road, then returning on the Dales Way path. The walk is stunning, leading through endless fields, rivers, and back over banks overlooking the surrounding countryside.
Discovering the Delights of Grassington
Once you have explored the surrounding countryside, you can return to the village and head to one of the many country pubs in Grassington for lunch or find a place to stay in Grassington for longer.
If pub lunches aren’t your style, you can visit a smaller cafe, tea room or the traditional fish and chip shop. The village is a great place to gather with friends for a weekend of fine food and even better views.
If you struggle to walk up hills, you may find reaching the fish and chip shop a struggle, but you can find more places to eat in the village’s main square.
One of my favourite things about Grassington is the unique shops selling homemade products, from fresh produce to woollen items.
The charming cobblestone streets of Grassington create the stunning foreground to many beautiful pictures and is a perfect place to sit, paint, draw or enjoy the scenery. You may also spot some famous film scenes within the picturesque town from Wuthering Heights and Dolittle.
Grassington is a very authentic Yorkshire town and is a great place for visitors to stop and explore.
Photo credit – Inside Our Suitcase
Need A Place to Stay in Yorkshire? Check Out My Review of Stunning Yorkshire Accommodations to Book for a Road Trip
For a perfectly traditional Yorkshire town with an absolutely stunning surrounding landscape, Malham should be at the top of your bucket list.
You’ll find Malham tucked away in the south of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, nestled between rolling hills, rich meadows and towering limestone gorges. Though the town is tiny, you’ve got enough amenities for an enjoyable stay, with several campsites, B&Bs, pubs and food options.
It’s as quintessential as you’ll get for the region, filled with friendly local grazing animals and picture-postcard views.
Outdoor Activities in Malham
For most, a trip to Malham is driven by a passion for getting into the surrounding hills – it’s got some of the best walking trails in the UK.
Plenty of local trails for beginners, all the way to multi-day epics, can take you through the national park.
And it’s not just hiking. Malham is also home to some of the UK’s most challenging and most famous sport climbing routes.
The towering walls of Malham Cove bring climbers in from around the world, and it’s a marvel to see.
Malham Tarn Archeological Walk allows hikers to check out archaeological ruins around the reserve.
If you’re visiting, check out Janet’s Foss, a stunning waterfall and natural pool right in the town.
Another incredible natural wonder is Goredale Scar, an imposing limestone gorge with a powerful waterfall coming down. For the adventurous, you can even scrabble up its face to the valley top!
Photo credit – Veggie Vagabonds
Most Beautiful Towns in North Yorkshire
The beautiful Yorkshire town of Harrogate is home to some of the best attractions in Yorkshire and a firm favourite for visitors to North Yorkshire. The Victorian spa town of Harrogate is a good spot for shoppers with a mix of independent and quirky shops alongside high street chain stores.
Betty’s Cafe Tearooms is a destination in its own right and began its story in Harrogate in 1919. The cafe started by selling Yorkshire’s famous ‘Fat Rascal’ scones before evolving into Harrogate’s must-visit attraction.
As a spa town, Harrogate is best known for its Victorian Turkish Spa Baths, dating back to 1897 and fully restored to their former glory. Spend some time relaxing in the warm baths before indulging in a full body massage – heaven!
Harrogate and its surrounding area are rich in historical sites from medieval castles to stately homes and not forgetting Fountains Abbey, Britain’s best-preserved monastic abbey ruins, only a short drive away.
Of course, no visit is complete without a walk around the Valley Gardens Harrogate. The English Heritage Grade II Listed gardens sit along with 17 acres of woodland, known as The Pinewoods.
Pateley Bridge is a small market town in Nidderdale near Harrogate. It is just outside the Yorkshire Dales National Park and is so pretty you can’t help but like it.
Comprising of one main road lined with several independent shops, the first is the oldest sweet shop in England dating back from the 17th century. Follow the Pateley Bridge Heritage Trail and find some other fascinating locations in the town.
Walk from the car park to the top of the road, and you will come across Cocoa Joe’s the chocolate drinks specialist. I chose the origin of chocolate that I wanted it made from (Venezuela), and it was delicious.
A walk through the Pateley Bridge park and along the river is a relaxing way to spend a while or follow the hour-long Bewerley walking trail to Fishpond Wood.
And before you leave this charming town, grab a bite to eat at The Bridge Inn, located by the bridge and river.
Helmsley is one of the prettiest towns in Yorkshire and the only market town in the North York Moors National Park. Set around the market square are several charming tea rooms, small independent shops and boutique galleries. Take time to amble around and enjoy the views of the 900-year-old ruins of Helmsley Castle towering over the town.
Don’t miss Helmsley Walled Gardens; these are (in our opinion) the star attraction of the town. Within the gardens, you’ll find yourself immersed in a kaleidoscope of floral colours against the backdrop of the castle ruins. They provide the best views of the castle by far, and if you only book one attraction in Helmsley, it should be the Walled Gardens.
The National Bird of Prey Centre in Helmsley provides another wonderful activity and is a great option if exploring with the family. They have 2-3 flight displays per day with different birds and have an indoor area if the weather is bad.
Nearby, you’ll also find Rievaulx Abbey dating back to 1132. It remains one of the most complete of England’s abbey ruins. There is a popular scenic 7-mile circular walking route from Helmsley Castle to Rievaulx Abbey for keen walkers.
There are plenty of places to stay in Helmsley and it makes the perfect base to explore the beautiful Yorkshire towns and countryside. Helmsley is also the start of the Cleveland Way National Trail, so numerous walks and hikes start from this point.
If you are staying in York, Helmsley should definitely be on your list of things to do near York as it is only a 40-minute drive away.
Located only 4 miles from Harrogate and 17 miles from York lies Knaresborough, a historic, charming town with medieval characteristics.
The grand Knaresborough viaduct takes centre stage over the River Nidd and today has become a landmark of Knaresborough. The historic town has become increasingly popular because of the rowing boats with the 1851 viaduct and rocky gorge as a backdrop.
Some of the best things to do in Knaresborough include visiting Knaresborough Castle, built-in 1100 in the Norman period, learning at the museum, appreciating the Bebra Gardens, and exploring Knaresborough Square.
Also, you can walk along the riverside next to the River Nedd, admire the St John the Baptist Church and explore the independent shops in the town.
One of the most popular activities is to hire a rowing boat and take pictures with the viaduct’s arches. Just remember that this activity is only open from March to October because of the great British weather. Luckily, the Knaresborough Visitor Centre has a knowledgeable staff that can help you plan more activities (if you need them) and help you find suitable accommodation.
I believe a visit to Knaresborough is unforgettable, especially if you visit the 15th-century Mother Shipton Inn, where you can have delicious local food overlooking the River Nidd.
There is so much character to the pub that you can have a quintessentially British experience, and the staff are always helpful and accommodating.
Knaresborough is magical, and there is no denying that it is one of the most beautiful towns in Yorkshire.
Photo credit – Average Lives
Surrounded by the rolling beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, Richmond is an elegant market town and a must-see for anyone road-tripping in Yorkshire. This gem of a town in the county of North Yorkshire was founded by the Normans in 1071, around the “riche-mont” or strong hill, that gives the town its name.
First of the Richmonds!
The Richmond in Yorkshire was the first location in the world given the place name Richmond – many have since followed!
Today, the town is dominated by the huge Norman castle, which stands proudly on the skyline overlooking the River Swale, and celebrates its 950th anniversary this year. Recognised as the best-preserved Norman castle in England, Richmond castle has a rich history through the ages and is a highlight of any visit to the town.
With its fabulous position in Swaledale, Richmond is often called “the gateway to the Dales”, and there is much to see and do in the town and local area.
Explore the Georgian and Victorian architecture around the lively cobbled marketplace before taking a wander along the rushing Swale river to see the local waterfalls. If you fancy a longer walk, go east along the river for a mile to reach the pretty ruins of Easby Abbey, which dates from 1152.
Around the town, there are fabulous hiking and rambling routes through the Dales or head out with your camera for moody skies, isolated stone barns that characterise the area and lush green patchwork fields.
Check out The Station, a gorgeous Victorian railway station that has been restored and filled with local art and craft exhibits and heritage, an in-house cinema and even an ice-cream parlour. Try Mocha for the best hot chocolate in town!
Idyllic Towns in West Yorkshire
Haworth is a beautiful village in West Yorkshire with its cobbled main street lined by pretty independent stores is known by visitors for being the home of the Bronte sisters, authors of Wuthering Heights. Its rugged and rough landscape was the inspiration for the novel and is now what makes it a magnet for walkers.
For book lovers, Haworth village is really special as it is where Emily Bronte brought to life Cathy and Heathcliff, the lovers from Wuthering Heights. There are many things to do in Haworth, and number one is to visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum, a look at the Bronte family’s lives in the early 1900s.
Haworth Railway Station is another great place to visit and was the location for the iconic 1970s film ‘The Railway Children‘. Watch the steam trains chugging past on their route through the Yorkshire countryside.
Stroll through Bronte Country
For walkers, there are plenty of chances to enjoy the landscape. Top Withens Walk is a popular Yorkshire walk and takes you out of Haworth along signposted pathways to the moorland that inspired the Brontes to write their epic novels.
The Railway Children was also filmed in Haworth, and visitors can find a walking route map following locations from the film here.
Bronte Waterfall Walk is another charming walk and does not entail climbing up to Top Withens (I chose this as the easier option!)
There are plenty of charming places to stay in Haworth.
He’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the sameEmily bronte – Wuthering Heights
Hebden Bridge is one of the liveliest artistic communities in Yorkshire, and for a town with only 4,500 living there year-round, there are plenty of things to do.
It is a beautiful old Yorkshire market town, lovingly referred to as the UK’s “lesbian capital” due to being an LGBTQ+ friendly town since the 1970s. Hebden Bridge sits directly between Leeds and Manchester, making it the perfect place for a Northern day trip or weekend getaway.
Visitors to Hebden Bridge can enjoy a stroll in Calder Holmes Park, where on sunny days, they can find a cafe selling Northern Bloc ice cream (a Leeds favourite).
And those looking for a gorgeous view over the town and more places to explore can walk up the hill to Heptonstall, a small charming village which seems like it has not changed in the last 200 years.
Hebden Bridge Arts Scene
Music fans should check out the Trades Club listings, a Hebden Bridge institution offering live music, drinks at reasonable prices (unheard of for a gigs venue), and friendly staff. Check out the Hebden Bridge Picture House. One of the few one-screen Art Deco cinemas left in the UK showing the latest arthouse and independent releases.
Hebden Bridge has an incredible cafe scene. Mooch Cafe Bar, the Lovegrows Tearooms and The Art Cafe all offer great coffee with a relaxed, friendly vibe. Those wanting a cosy sit-down meal can head to Aya Sophia or the Old Gate Bar & Restaurant for more traditional pub fare.
The jewel in Hebden Bridge’s crown, however, is Vocation & Co. Brewery. Vocation’s beers are available nationwide, but it all started right here in Hebden Bridge. Vocation’s well-stocked bar will assure you of a good welcome, just like in the rest of the town.
Hebden Bridge has been voted as the “fourth funkiest town in the world”, the best small market town in the UK, and “the greatest town in Europe”.
Prettiest Towns on the East Coast of Yorkshire
Robin Hood’s Bay
One of the most charming villages in Yorkshire is Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire coast, in the North York Moors National Park. If you are looking for a seaside getaway, this is the perfect place.
With a fascinating history of smuggling—back in its heyday in the 18th century, virtually everyone in the town was involved in the smuggling industry.
With the cutest cottages and cobblestone roads, you can easily spend a day wandering in the narrow, winding streets. The town is divided into an upper part, where the main car park is, and a lower part, with the majority of the shops, pubs, and cute streets are located.
You can also visit the Robin Hood’s Bay Museum or the Old Coastguard Station (run by National Trust).
Stretch your legs on the short walk (approximately 1 mile) to Boggle Hole. If you prefer a longer walk, Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay along the Cleveland Way (approximately 6-7 miles) is one of the best hikes in Yorkshire. The views over the coast are stunning! It’s possible to walk one way and then travel from Robin Hood’s Bay back to Whitby by bus.
Robin Hood’s Bay is also the endpoint for the 182-mile multi-day Coast to Coast walk across the country. Whether you’re hiking to Robin Hood’s Bay or just wanting to relax, enjoy a pint with seaside views at the Bay Hotel in the lower part of the town.
If you are looking for accommodation in Robin Hood’s Bay, please check availability and rates here.
The seaside village of Staithes is a popular place to visit in North Yorkshire and was once one of the largest fishing ports in the North East of England.
Staithes’ charming 18th-century cottages and narrow cobbled streets are reminders of a bygone era in this sleepy village.
Staithes Harbour is as picturesque as any visitor could wish for, with colourful flat-bottomed fishing boats called “cobles” bobbing around on the water.
Fishing is still the primary industry in Staithes, so you must visit Cod and Lobster for a freshly caught fish meal.
For nature lovers, explore the “Dinosaur Coast” and try fossil-hunting and pool-dipping.
Several popular coastal trails in Staithes allow walkers to explore the surrounding area with dramatic clifftop views. A popular walking route is Staithes to Port Mulgrave – a circular walk along The Cleveland Way.
The village of Staithes also has a fabulous claim to fame as being where Captain Cook lived and worked and first realised his love of the sea.
Visitors can see a complete replica of the shop he worked in, and the adjoining museum will allow a glimpse into Cook’s life before and during his voyages.
The old village of Staithes has some great places to stay, from charming cottages and B and B’s to the old police station called Peelers Rest!
A round-up of the best towns in Yorkshire wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the famous coastal town of Whitby best known for Whitby Abbey, the ruins of a Benedictine monastery, which looms over the town below.
Run by English Heritage, Whitby Abbey was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Take the 199 steps from the Abbey to the sea and follow in Dracula’s footsteps as detailed in the Dracula novel. There are lots of Goth-related paraphernalia in the town thanks to this connection with Dracula. Moreover, Whitby hosts the biggest Goth Weekend in Europe every year.
In addition to Whitby Abbey, the old town was a famous Victorian seaside resort. It was known for producing Jet jewellery (made from black Jet stone) which Queen Victoria made famous for mourning wear.
Whitby Beach is wide and sandy and one of the best beaches in Yorkshire.
In summer, the water attracts holidaymakers even though it won’t match the waters of the Med in temperature! If you want to get on to the water rather than in it, you can take tourist boats to view the beach and harbour from a different perspective.
Famous Maritime Connections
Before tourism, Whitby had a long maritime tradition. Famous explorer Captain James Cook, famed for discovering New Zealand and Australia, lived in nearby Staithes and learned his trade in Whitby. The whalebone arch on the hill opposite Whitby Abbey also attests to its importance in the whaling trade. Fishing in Whitby is still important to the local economy.
Whitby is also the UK’s number one destination for lovers of the quintessential British seaside meal. Make sure to check out the best fish and chip shops in Whitby on your visit. Also, there are lots of quirky small restaurants and cafes and a couple of well-known fine dining establishments.
With so many things to see and do in Whitby, you may want to stay overnight, and there are plenty of places to stay in Whitby. We stayed in a rental house right in the heart of the old town, which made walking everywhere convenient.
There are parking lots near the old town, but it is best explored on foot as it is a rabbit warren of old narrow streets and some are for pedestrians only. Bigger hotels, like the Dolphin Hotel or Rathwaite Sandsend, are a mile or two outside of Whitby’s historic centre.
I hope this post has shown you the wonders that Yorkshire can offer and will encourage you to visit the county if you haven’t been before.
Of course, there are also some impressive cities in Yorkshire to visit including York – the capital of Yorkshire, Ripon, Leeds, Bradford, Sheffield, Wakefield and Kingston-upon-Hull.
Collectively they are known as the 7 cities of Yorkshire, and you may like to add one of them to your Yorkshire Travel itinerary as a comparison to Yorkshire’s beautiful small towns.
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