The people of Yorkshire are fiercely proud of their beautiful region and who can blame them? There’s easy access to thriving cities, such as Leeds, the beautiful spa town of Harrogate, dreamy coastal spots like Sandsend and Robin Hood’s Bay, picture-perfect country cottages in Helmsley and the patchwork countryside of the Yorkshire Dales. Here are a few must-visits for families considering a trip ‘t’up North’
By Rachel Everett
It’s small enough to walk everywhere and its stellar location means you can make it a base for touring several Yorkshire destinations. Key city sights include York Minster, the Museum Gardens and the winding lane-ways (or ‘snickets’, as they’re known locally) to see immaculately preserved medieval houses on the Shambles. For more, read our York guide.
Where to eat : For brunch head to Dyls, on Skeldergate Bridge next to the River Ouse. Try the free-range scrambled eggs on toasted sourdough with crumbled feta.
Price from £5 for brunch.
Where to stay : The five-star Grand Hotel & Spa is in the heart of the city, and offers a fab buffet breakfast and leisure club access, including a pool.
Price: doubles from £145.
Easy to navigate, with a ton of family-focused attractions, Leeds has an exploding art scene, shows, concerts and galleries. For shopping hotspots, visit the new Victoria area, incorporating the Victoria Quarter and Victoria Gate, and the Trinity centre. Visit the Royal Armouries – take a water taxi from the train station for a different arrival – or head to 700-acre Roundhay Park.
Where to eat: Brasserie Blanc has a fabulous well-priced kids’ menu (£6.95) or head to Trinity and you can’t go wrong – there’s pizza, burgers, Vietnamese pho, Mexican burritos – you name it.
Price: adults from £12; kids £6.95.
Where to stay: Fresh from its refurbishment in January, the Crowne Plaza, just a 10-minute walk to the centre of Leeds, is good value with a handy location.
Price: family rooms sleep four from £96.
Handsome Harrogate has the Stray, a vast expanse of green parkland right in town, lots of lovely boutiques and cafés, the Turkish Baths for older kids and the landmark Bettys CaféTea Rooms. Just outside of town is RHS Garden Harlow Carr and numerous National Trust properties, so bring your card for free entry.
Where to eat: Bettys Café Tea Rooms is a must-do treat, set in an elegant building overlooking the Stray. Come for afternoon tea and marvel at the cake selection.
Price: mains from £10.
Where to stay: Central Hotel du Vin, among rows of gorgeous old houses overlooking the Stray, offers a stylish stay for families and a stellar bistro with special menu deals.
Price: Doubles from £160.
Castle Howard: Perhaps Yorkshire’s grandest stately home. Amble around the 1,000 acres, visit the house, the ice cream and farm shops, the playground and ride the road train. Price: advance family ticket for the house and gardens £43.06.
Yorkshire Wildlife Park: Yorkshire Wildlife Park, near Doncaster, has over 400 animals and more than 70 species, plus play zones, many activities and events. It’s a full day out. Price: adults £17.50; children £14.50; under-threes free.
Dalby Forest: Older kids can bring bikes for the challenging Dalby Forest cycle trails, little ones can hit the themed trails and there’s also a huge playground. Price: £9 for parking.
photo credit: www.yorkshire.com
Hesketh Farm Park, Bolton Abbey and Embsay Steam Train: Hesketh Park Farm has a play area, straw maze, animals to be fed and petted, and it’s close to the crowd-pleasing Bolton Abbey and Embsay Steam Train. Price: Hesketh Farm Park, adults £5.50, children £6; Bolton Abbey and Embsay Steam Train, family ticket £27.50.
Helmsley Castle, Rievaulx Abbey and Helmsley Open-Air Swimming Pool: In this chocolate-box market town, visit the castle, then walk to nearby Rievaulx Abbey and follow that with a dip at the Helmsley Open-Air Swimming Pool. Price: Helmsley Castle family ticket £17.70; Rievaulx Abbey, family ticket from £23.10; Helmsley Pool, adults £5, children £3.50.
Salts Mill in Saltaire: A former textile mill, Salts Mill is perfect for art-loving older kids. Visit the café, take in Hockney’s ‘Arrival of Spring’, then wander by the river. Price: free parking and entry.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park: A jaunt around Yorkshire Sculpture Park, taking in the statues and installations, makes a lovely way to while away an afternoon. Price: parking from £6.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden: Fountains Abbey has a full programme of holiday activities, lovely walks, posh playgrounds and eating options. Bring your NT membership card to get in for free. Price: free with NT membership; family ticket £37.50 without.
Swinton Bivouac: Swinton Bivouac is a luxury glamping site in Masham, set in spectacular woodlands. The luxurious Tree Lodges are well-equipped, there’s a lovely bistro, spa and lots of space.
Price: a yurt sleeping up to five from £184; a Tree Lodge sleeping up to seven from £215.
The Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa : For a child-friendly spa stay, the Feversham Arms is close to heaps of outdoor activities and attractions. Kids will love the prolific breakfast buffet and outdoor pool.
Price: doubles from £160 B&B per night including breakfast and spa facilities.
What makes the Dales so special is the mass of outdoor adventuring for children, whether it’s a trip to the Aysgarth Falls or the Forbidden Corner. Parents are also well-catered for, with inspiring country walks and excellent dining at the Wensleydale Heifer. Here are some ideas on where to start.
Billy Bob’s Parlour: At Billy Bob’s Parlour, an American-style diner, there’s free access to the farm playground for two hours, delicious Philly-cheese steak sandwiches and homemade milkshake.
The Wensleydale Heifer: The Wensleydale Heifer is known for excellent food and offers a warm welcome, where kids can plump for bangers and mash or chicken and chips.
Aysgarth Falls: Meandering along the stream by this triple flight of waterfalls is the loveliest way to spend an afternoon. There are also camping pitches for even more adventurous family travellers. Price: free.
Wensleydale Creamery: For cheese lovers, Wensleydale Creamery even sells Wallace and Gromit-branded Wensleydale, which kids adore. Take in butter and cheese-making demonstrations, and do the cheese tasting. Price: family ticket £9.95.
Forbidden Corner: Forbidden Corner is made up of labyrinths, follies, passages and secret doorways. Get squirted with water, jump inside a giant mouth and find your way out through secret doors. Price: family ticket £44.
Yorkshire isn’t synonymous with beach breaks, but in summer, you’ll find swathes of sand and a retro vibe.
Robin Hood’s Bay: Explore Robin Hood’s Bay – there’s rock-pooling and fossil hunting – and, if you walk 10 minutes to Boggle Hole, there’s a small cove ideal for swimming and sandcastle-building.
Sandsend: Sandsend’s golden sands and petite coves are a pull for families with small children. There’s a stream that runs across the beach to paddle in.
Scarborough: Scarborough’s North Bay, with its backdrop of rainbow-coloured beach huts, is nice any time of year. The main seafront gets chaotic in summer, but zipping in and out of the various amusements is quite nostalgic for adults and fun for kids. Taking the old Victorian tram down to the beach is a fun and inexpensive experience (£1pp).
Sandsend Café, Sandsend: Sandsend Café is perched on the beach and serves tasty sandwiches, homemade cakes and ice cream. It’s a great spot for a bite on sunny days.
The Star Inn The Harbour, Whitby: At Michelin-starred Andrew Pern’s the Star Inn The Harbour expect high-quality seafood dishes, such as garlic-buttered local lobster and tuna sashimi. Pop by the ice-cream parlour if you’ve time.
The Magpie Café, Whitby: The Magpie Cafe is a local institution, just ask anyone. Considered the bet place in town for fish and chips, the queues speak volumes.
The Plough Inn, Scalby: For delicious seafood in a snug, homey pub setting, swing by the Plough Inn in the upmarket village of Scalby, just a short drive from Scarborough.
Gorgeous Cottages: The Tannery is a homey cottage in the tiny village of Harmby, near Leyburn. Part of the portfolio at Gorgeous Cottages, which has properties throughout Yorkshire that are ideal for families, Tannery has two bedrooms – a cosy double and a twin –a large kitchen and luxurious sitting room with log burner, and a terrace with barbecue.
Price: Tannery Cottage starts at £345 for three nights. Check the website for other cottages on the coast.
How to get there
All the cities and some sights are accessible by train and bus, but driving is best for the countryside and coast. The nearest airport is Leeds Bradford.
Leeds, Harrogate and York are all around two and a half hours from London by train.
Young explorers. Yorkshire’s natural assets are plentiful, which makes it the perfect destination for adventurous families. There are many brilliant National Trust and Historic Houses sites, free days at the beach, and gorgeous countryside and forest destinations.
Best time to go
Spring or summer are the best for getting into the great outdoors. Take advantage of local Yorkshire produce, such as fresh strawberries and local cheeses when packing up a picnic.
Hiring car is essential for visiting smaller villages and coastal areas. Welcome to Yorkshire is also a useful resource for planning your trip.