Days out in North Yorkshire
As the largest Yorkshire county, North Yorkshire understandably features a wide range of things to do. From exploring the scenic Yorkshire Dales or the North York Moors to discovering its historic city of York or many of its smaller market and coastal towns like Ripon, Harrogate, Whitby, Scarborough, or Northallerton. When they say there’s something for everyone, North Yorkshire delivers.
With almost 2,000 years of history inside York’s city walls, there’s plenty to discover in this historic place. York Minster, the city’s magnificent cathedral, is an architectural wonder with its 80m long and 30m wide nave and a glorious example of medieval stained glass. There is also a 2-mile walk around the York City Walls will give you even more insight into the city’s history.
For a family-friendly look into over 400-years of York history, the York Castle Museum has exhibitions, displays, and a recreation of a Victorian street. While transport buffs can visit the National Railway Museum and its huge collection of locomotives alongside excellent displays and exhibitions. York Dungeon shows the darker side of York’s history with an immersive experience you’ll never forget.
Attractions outside the city centre include the York Maze – a great family day out kids will love, with the largest ‘maize maze’ in Europe, plus plenty of rides, attractions, and shows. The Yorkshire Air Museum has over a century of aviation history on-site including a faithful reconstruction of a Halifax II, HR792 plane plus the Canadian Hangar, filled with many of the museum’s amazing exhibits.
Scarborough is an iconic seaside resort with its beach and family-friendly attractions including Luna Park funfair and Alpamare water park. Just up the coast in Whitby, the fantastic beach and seafront sit alongside the famous pier and lighthouse. Take the climb up 199 steps towards Whitby Abbey for fantastic views.
In Thirsk, the World of James Herriot will be of great interest to fans of the books or the TV show about the famous Yorkshire vet, and in historic Harrogate, enjoy the splendour of the former spa town’s architecture before you explore the Royal Pump Room Museum or enjoy a tipple at the Cold Bath Brewing Co.
If outdoor pursuits are what you’re after, North Yorkshire has everything you need. The Yorkshire Dales National Park covers almost the entire western half of the county and features beautiful scenery and a wealth of natural attractions and amazing locations including Aysgarth Falls, Malham Cove, and Bolton Abbey. On the eastern side, the North York Moors National park provides equally stunning landscapes, covering moorland, coastline, forests, and dales.
Broughton Hall, Skipton
Broughton Hall has an associated landscape park and pleasure grounds. Other features include an Italianate terraced garden designed by William Andrews Nesfield and a walled garden restored in the late-20th century and redesigned by Dan Pearson.
The Yorkshire Arboretum
The Arboretum planting began in 1975. It was the vision of James Russell and George Howard 1920-84,(created Lord Howard of Henderskelfe in 1983). It represents an amazing development in both botany and horticulture for future generations. It comprises one of the most extensive collections of hardy woody plants in Europe.
Topography, geology, and climate
Magnificently rural in large parts, North Yorkshire’s landscapes feature plenty of different land qualities that give the county its diverse range of soils and fertility levels.
Across the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales in the west, soils are a mix of low fertility, high acid, upland peaty loam and blanket bog peat soils. The central divide between the dales and the moors are again, something of a mix. Largely consisting of loam and clay in different quantities, more free-draining mild acid, sandy soils occur in and around York.
The North Moors in the east feature higher ground features blanket bog peat soils, turning to high acid upland peat and loam soils and even lime-rich soils. More low fertility, slowly permeable, and seasonally wet acid loam and clay soils and lime-rich loam make up southern areas.
Though similar in temperature to its east, west, and southern Yorkshire neighbours, there can be variations in climate across the county from very cold to very dry. Average summer high temperatures can reach around 21ºC (70ºF) with winter temperatures averaging 1ºC (33ºF). Rainfall averages at around 600mm (24”) but can be significantly more on the higher ground of the Dales and Moors.
North Yorkshire’s parks and gardens
Alongside its stunning, natural landscapes, North Yorkshire has a fantastic selection of gardens to visit within its borders. From hidden gems to stately homes, there’s more than enough to keep keen gardeners and horticulturalists inspired. But we highlight the best of the best North Yorkshire has to offer.
- North Yorkshire West
Taking advantage of its countryside surroundings, RHS Harlow Carr in Harrogate is one of five flagship RHS gardens and certainly lives up to its billing. Covering almost 60-acres, there are plenty of extensive landscapes to explore, all highlighting the very best in diverse plantings.
Highlights include the Main Borders, one of the earliest features of this garden, these expansive borders are packed with herbaceous perennials, bulbs, and grasses that provide colour and texture across the seasons. The Scented Garden is a much smaller addition but packs a punch, being filled with heavily scented roses and herbaceous plants.
The Streamside is fantastically organic and naturalistic, displaying plenty of moisture-loving plants with plenty of colours. This also leads to the Queen Mother’s Lake, a wonderfully serene space with marginal plantings, wildflower meadow, and specimen trees. Like other RHS gardens, there’s no shortage of areas to explore and enjoy for every garden lover.
Just north of Harrogate, Ripley Castle is a 14th-century stately home covering around 130-acres of Pleasure grounds, a walled garden, and extensive surrounding parkland to enjoy. Alongside several glasshouses containing an admirable collection of tropical and exotic plants, the Walled garden is a wonderful sight throughout the whole year. Highlights include fabulously aromatic Hyacinths and well-stocked herbaceous borders together with a walled kitchen garden wide a wide variety of herbs and rare vegetables.
In Skelton-upon-Ure near Ripon, Newby Hall Gardens took shape in the early 20th-century and have evolved into an award-winning attraction. Covering around 40-acres, these lush gardens have more than enough ‘rooms’ and areas to keep everyone entertained. From the 172m, double herbaceous borders, packed with seasonal colour and texture including delphinium, campanula, and crambe cordifolia, to the fabulous Rose garden, Water garden, and Tropical garden, plus a national collection of cornus (dogwood). An outstanding garden to visit.
- North Yorkshire East
Just inside the eastern half of the county, Beningborough Hall Gardens near York provides spacious Victorian gardens, beautifully redesigned by garden designer, Andy Sturgeon. With renewed and reinvigorated planting schemes, you can see the effects in the beautiful double herbaceous borders and South border, as well as both the Walled garden and ha-ha walk and American gardens. An amazing collection, with colour and variety all through the year.
The Helmsley Walled Garden near Thirsk is a peaceful and inspirational garden for gardeners and every visitor. With central pathways leading you through different areas and ‘rooms’, the 5-acre site provides everything you want a garden to offer. Expect a naturalistic approach in some stunning examples including the Kitchen garden, Clematis garden, and the tranquil Garden of Contemplation, with plenty more to discover.