Best things to do in Yorkshire

Jos Simon

written by
Jos Simon

updated 14.02.2024

Yorkshire, it has been said, is “a country in a county”. The very name brings countless images to mind – wild moors, medieval cities, vast steelworks and more. This diversity is part of the county’s appeal. Here is our pick of the best things to do in Yorkshire.

This article is inspired by our Rough Guides guidebooks — your essential guides for travelling the world.

1. Try your hand at cable waterskiing

An electric cable instead of a boat tows you around the water at Rother Valley Country Park near Rotherham – this park is one of the few places in the country to offer cable waterskiing.

The "ski-lift" pulls up to eight waterskiers or wakeboarders at intervals around the shallow waters. Speeds vary from 16 miles/hr (beginners) to 36 miles/hr (experts). It’s environmentally friendly, and costs a fraction of what you’d pay for speedboat-towed skiing.


Adventure seekers will want to try cable waterskiing © jeff gynane/Shutterstock

2. Push your boundaries with a Via Ferrata route

Originally invented by the Italians to move troops around the Alps, Via Ferrata – meaning “iron road” – centres have spread across the world. In Yorkshire, the Via Ferrata at How Stean Gorge is the place for adrenalin junkies.

One of just a handful in England, it offers a lengthy scramble along the chasm using fixed beams, cables and ladders. “Iron Way” courses that are put on in the gorge involve expert-accompanied wading through waterfalls, rock traversing, abseiling, scrambling up ladders and along beams, with your very own DVD of the experience recorded on the guide’s head-cam. It's invigorating (or insane) depending on your point of view.

3. Mush with huskies across the Moors

You don’t need snow for this husky-trekking – you can become a “musher” on grass at Pesky Husky in Staintondale between Scarborough and Whitby. Learn to drive your own team of dogs or, if you're feeling a little less energetic, opt for a gentle hike through the North York Moors with some canine companions instead.


Husky in North Yorkshire © Tongsai/Shutterstock

4. Fuel your adrenaline with a mountain boarding session

This is snowboarding – but not as you know it. This version uses boards with four wheels to whizz up and over the rocks and there's not a snowflake in sight. Try it at Another World Mountain boarding centre in the hills above Ogden Reservoir north of Halifax.

Ogden Reservoir in Halifax, Yorkshire © Shutterstock

Ogden Reservoir in Halifax, Yorkshire © Shutterstock

5. Learn to play pétanque

Near City Square in Leeds is a little area named Bond Court where you'll find the delightful, if little heralded, Leeds Petanque Court. Here you can indulge in a quintessentially French, and extremely civilized, game of boules. And it’s absolutely free. The wedge of gravel is overlooked by a noticeboard bearing the rules and there are tables and chairs around the court for spectators.

Also, the city of Bradford in West Yorkshire is famous for its curry trail so don't miss a chance to try some of the best curries in Britain.

Playing petanque © Shutterstock

Playing petanque © Shutterstock

6. Immerse yourself in The Yorkshire Dales National Park

The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a true natural wonder that is sure to take your breath away. With its rolling hills, dramatic limestone cliffs, and picturesque villages, the park is a paradise for hikers, nature lovers, and outdoor enthusiasts.

Take a scenic drive through the park, stopping at charming towns like Grassington and Hawes along the way. Or, explore the park's many hiking trails, which range from gentle strolls to challenging treks, and discover stunning vistas and hidden gems around every turn.

You'll also find a wealth of wildlife, from red squirrels and otters to rare birds like the black grouse and peregrine falcon.

The Yorkshire Dales, seen from the Buttertubs Pass

The Yorkshire Dales, seen from the Buttertubs Pass © Shutterstock

7. Get lost in the Forbidden Corner

The Forbidden Corner is a unique and exciting attraction and one of the best things to do in Yorkshire. This whimsical folly maze is full of surprises and illusions that will keep you guessing at every turn.

Explore a labyrinth of tunnels, hidden chambers, and secret gardens, each with its own magical theme and unexpected twist. Encounter statues that come to life, fountains that spray you when you least expect it, and a giant dragon that breathes smoke and fire.

8. Visit Fountains Abbey ruins & Studley Royal Water Garden

The Fountains Abbey ruins and Studley Royal Water Garden are a breathtaking combination of natural beauty and historic charm.

Step back in time and explore the stunning ruins of the 12th-century Cistercian monastery, one of the best-preserved examples of its kind in Europe. Marvel at the towering arches and intricate carvings of the abbey's cloisters, chapter house, and dormitory, and imagine life in this once-thriving religious community.

Afterwards, wander through the picturesque Studley Royal Water Garden, which features a series of tranquil lakes, cascading waterfalls, and colourful flower beds.

Travelling with the whole family? Don't miss our guide to the best places to travel with kids.

Fountains Abbey, Ripon, Yorkshire © Shutterstock

Fountains Abbey, Ripon, Yorkshire © Shutterstock

9. Spend a day at Flamingo Land

A day in this adventure playground is one of the best things to do in Yorkshire with all the family. This amusement park features over 100 rides, shows, and attractions, including roller coasters, water rides, and live animal exhibits.

Get your adrenaline pumping on the park's signature rides, like the Mumbo Jumbo, one of the world's steepest roller coasters, or the Kumali, a looping coaster that reaches speeds of up to 50 mph.

Explore the park's animal exhibits, which include over 140 species from around the world, including giraffes, tigers, and of course, flamingos.

10. Enjoy a great view at Sutton Bank

Whether you're a nature lover, a photography enthusiast, or simply looking for a peaceful and rejuvenating escape, Sutton Bank is the perfect destination. This is one of the best things to do in Yorkshire for anyone who wants to experience the beauty of Yorkshire's countryside in all its glory.

This scenic viewpoint overlooks the rolling hills and lush countryside of the North York Moors National Park, offering a stunning panorama that stretches for miles. Take a leisurely stroll along one of the many hiking trails that wind through the park. Or, simply relax on the grassy hilltop and soak in the beauty of the surrounding landscape.

Sutton Bank at Sunset, North Yorkshire, UK © Shutterstock

Sutton Bank at Sunset, North Yorkshire, UK © Shutterstock

11. Discover Castle Howard — one of the best things to do in Yorkshire

Castle Howard is a magnificent and historic house that offers visitors a glimpse into the grandeur and opulence of Yorkshire's past.

Built in the 18th century by Sir John Vanbrugh, the house is a masterpiece of Baroque architecture, featuring ornate interiors, exquisite furnishings, and a world-renowned art collection. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful grounds, Castle Howard is a must-visit destination for anyone interested in the heritage and culture of Yorkshire.

The Atlas Fountain at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire © Shutterstock

The Atlas Fountain at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire © Shutterstock

12. See Mother Shipton's Cave's unique rock formations

Mother Shipton's Cave is a fascinating and mysterious attraction that is shrouded in legend and folklore.

This natural limestone cave is located in Knaresborough, Yorkshire, and is said to be the birthplace of the famous prophetess Mother Shipton. While here, explore the winding passageways of the cave. Here you'll find unusual rock formations, underground streams, and eerie stalactites and stalagmites.

Dreaming of getting out of the city? Our tailor-made trip service allows you to go on the trip of your dreams without the planning or hassle. Our Refreshing English Countryside Break trip will take you through picturesque villages, patchwork hills, and winding country roads. Our trips are completely customisable and are crafted by local craft experts.

13. Discover local history at the York Castle Museum

York Castle Museum is an award-winning museum that provides a fascinating and immersive glimpse into the rich history and culture of Yorkshire.

Located in a historic prison building, the museum features interactive exhibits, hands-on activities, and a vast collection of artefacts and objects that showcase the daily life, customs, and traditions of the people of Yorkshire over the centuries.

Step back in time and explore the recreated Victorian street, Kirkgate, which features authentic shops, homes, and businesses from the era.

York Castle Museum in York © Shutterstock

York Castle Museum in York © Shutterstock

14. Explore Clifford's Tower — one of the best day trip destinations

Clifford's Tower is a historic castle keep that offers stunning views of the city and the surrounding countryside. Built in the 13th century on the orders of King Henry III, the tower is an iconic landmark that offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and the city of York.

Spend a day exploring the tower's rich history, including its use as a royal palace, a prison, and a military barracks.

Ready to immerse yourself in the history of England? Our tailor-made trip service makes travelling easy by taking care of the planning and booking. Our England Historical Highlights trip takes you from Buckingham Palace to the mysterious Stonehenge. Our trips are crafted by local travel experts and are completely customisable.

Clifford's Tower, York © Shutterstock

Clifford's Tower, York © Shutterstock

15. Visit the National Railway Museum

Yorkshire is known for its world-class museums- and The National Railway Museum is no exception. With its vast collection of locomotives, carriages, and artefacts, the museum offers a fascinating insight into the development of railways in the UK and around the world.

Another popular attraction for trail enthusiasts is the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. This popular attraction is known for its scenic routes and vintage steam locomotives.

Planning a trip to England? See our guide to England through photos for inspiration.

16. Tour The York Minster

York Minster is one of the most iconic landmarks of York, England, and a must-visit destination for anyone interested in history, architecture, or religion. As one of the largest and most spectacular cathedrals in Europe, York Minster boasts an incredible collection of medieval stained glass, intricate stonework, and breathtaking vaulted ceilings. Visitors can explore the cathedral's rich history and cultural significance through guided tours, interactive exhibits, and special events.

York Minster © David Ionut/Shutterstock

York Minster © David Ionut/Shutterstock

Or, find the accommodation in Yorkshire of your dreams on any budget.

There are countless fantastic things to do in Yorkshire. Ready to start planning your trip? Check out the Rough Guide to Yorkshire, or the Rough Guide to England. Read more about the best time to go, the best places to visit and best things to do in England. For inspiration, learn about getting there, getting around the country and where to stay once you are there.

If you prefer to plan and book your trip to Yorkshire or the rest of the UK without any effort and hassle, use the expertise of our local travel experts to make sure your trip will be just like you dream it to be.

We may earn commission when you click on links in this article, but this doesn’t influence our editorial standards. We only recommend services that we genuinely believe will enhance your travel experiences.

Top image © albinoni/Shutterstock

Jos Simon

written by
Jos Simon

updated 14.02.2024

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