Knaresborough Viaduct, Yorkshire

16 Fantastic Day Trips from York, UK That You Will Love

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The historic city of York is one of England’s hottest tourist destinations, with a heritage dating back to the Vikings and Roman times and an abundance of historic sites to enjoy, including York Minster, the National Railway Museum, the medieval city walls and the Jorvik Viking Centre.

After you’ve explored the city, taking day trips from York is the perfect way to explore more of Yorkshire, including the scenic Yorkshire Dales and the spectacular Yorkshire Coast, the ancient buildings, and the thrilling history of England’s biggest county.

This guide shares 16 of the best days out from York in nearby towns, cities, and picturesque villages to get a taste of what a great place Yorkshire is to explore.

How to Choose the Best Day Trips from York

There is so much to see and do in Yorkshire that it can be hard to choose what’s best, especially if you have limited time. After years of living in North Yorkshire and exploring Northern England, I’ve picked the best locations for days out from York.

The only problem is you’ll want to come back again and again to explore more of Yorkshire’s quaint villages, coastal towns and beautiful scenery!

1 – Castle Howard

Visiting Castle Howard is perfect on day trips from York

Home to the Howard family, Castle Howard is a grand 17th-century country house with extensive gardens, just half an hour from York city centre.

You might recognise this magnificent 145-room stately home as the filming location for the iconic 1981 British TV series Brideshead Revisited or the 2008 movie of the same Evelyn Waugh novel. You may also have spotted this grand historic building in the Netflix drama Bridgerton.

One of the top 10 buildings you must visit in your lifetime

The Telegraph, 2018

A real treat for history lovers, Castle Howard is one of the most opulent buildings in Yorkshire and the most beautiful stately homes in England. it includes the 145-acre Yorkshire Arboretum, with its collection of more than six thousand rare trees. Entry to Castle Howard’s house and gardens is included in the York Multi-Day Explorer Pass, and it’s one of the most popular days out from York.

2 – The North York Moors National Park

The majestic beauty of Whitby Abbey from across the North York Moors
Whitby Abbey

For pure escapism, one of the best day trips from York is a visit to the magnificent North York Moors National Park. Millions of visitors flock to the north of England each year to enjoy the wide-open spaces of Yorkshire’s beautiful national parks.

Quaint little towns and villages abound in the North York Moors National Park, with traditional stone dwellings and ancient dry-stone walls that hug the heather-clad hills and valleys as far as the eye can see. Helmsley village, with the National Centre for Birds of Prey, is an exciting option for a day trip from York and the town of Malton is a foodie paradise.

Pro Tip: Walking is the best way to experience the Yorkshire countryside. Stop along the way to admire the views and enjoy hearty refreshments at the local pubs. Some of the most popular walks include the coastal Ravenscar Loop (1.5 miles), the famous Coast to Coast Walk (198 miles) from Cumbria to Robin Hood’s Bay, and the short, scenic walk from Robin Hood’s Bay to Boggle Hole (3 miles). 

Best-selling day trips from York to the North York Moors:

  1. North York Moors and Whitby Tour
  2. Moors, Whitby and The Yorkshire Steam Railway
  3. Day Trip to Whitby and The North York Moors

3 – North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Dating back to 1836, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs from the pretty coastal town of Whitby through much of the beautiful countryside of North Yorkshire.

The line closed in the mid-20th century amid sweeping changes to the railway network; however, it reopened in 1973 as a heritage rail line, running restored steam trains. Today, more passengers use the North Yorkshire Moors Railway than any other heritage railway in Britain. It’s one of the busiest steam engine train lines in the world.

Pro Tip: The train journey from the old station at Pickering to Whitby is the perfect day out from York for fans of steam trains and Harry Potter. The steam train ride even passes through Hogsmeade Station!

Best Organised Tour: Moors, Whitby and the Yorkshire Steam Railway Tour from York

4 – Harewood House

View of Harewood House on day trips from York
Harewood House from the Parterre garden

A short, scenic drive from York (around 75 minutes by public transport) will get you to the glorious Harewood House. Once the family home of the “Yorkshire Princess“, every aspect of Harewood is stunning, and you can easily spend a whole day here. 

The house is a treasure trove of antiquities and art, but the real gem is ‘below stairs’ in the kitchens. If you’re a Downton Abbey fan, you’ll adore Harewood, one of the movie’s locations!  

The gardens are a real highlight, with so much to entrance visitors. A short journey across the lake by chain-link ferry brings you to the vast kitchen gardens that burst with the freshest seasonal produce for the table.

Pro Tip: Watch out for the Instagramable bridge and the stepping stones in the Himalayan Garden and Harewood Castle – a real hidden gem.

5 – Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey in Yorkshire

The Bolton Abbey estate comprises thirty thousand acres of lush green hills and 80 miles of well-marked footpaths in the heart of the glorious Yorkshire Dales. Bolton Abbey is one of the loveliest day trips from York.

Just a 60-minute drive from York, there’s something here for all visitors, including 60 stepping stones across the river, an aqueduct, the rather fabulous Valley of Desolation and Simon’s Seat, plus the quirky Barden Tower

Most famous, though, is the 12th-century Priory Church and ruined Augustinian Priory in the heart of Bolton Abbey Estate. In 1539, King Henry VIII stripped the Priory of assets during the dissolution of the monasteries. Luckily, the abbey’s nave was saved as a place for local people to worship, which they still do today.

The village has the same old-world charm as the abbey, with award-winning restaurants, tea rooms and pubs offering substantial home-cooked dishes to recharge your batteries after a good walk. 

Recommended tour: Haworth and the Yorkshire Dales including Bolton Abbey.

6 – Bolton Castle

The ruined walls of Bolton Castle, North Yorkshire

Not to be confused with Bolton Abbey, Bolton Castle in Wensleydale is one of Britain’s best-preserved medieval castles and one of the best day trips from York for royal history lovers.

Mary Queen of Scots, cousin of Queen Elizabeth the First, was the castle’s most famous resident. She was imprisoned here by Elizabeth for six months from July 1568 before being moved to Tutbury, where she remained a prisoner until she was executed 18 years later.

You can visit the apartments in the South-West Tower where Mary lived with her retinue of 30 servants. You’ll also find lovely gardens at Bolton Castle, including a maze, a herb garden, a wildflower meadow, a rose garden, and a vineyard; plus, there are regular falconry displays to enjoy.

Recommended Tour: Bolton Castle is about a 75-minute drive from York; however, this comprehensive Yorkshire Dales Day Trip from York provides a more leisurely way to visit and a way to see more of the Yorkshire countryside in one day. Don’t think about going by public transport – the trip is ghastly!

7 – Harrogate

Montpellier Quarter Harrogate
Montpelleier Quarter, Harrogate

The elegant spa town of Harrogate exudes the class and style of a bygone era. Just 45 minutes from York on a direct train ride that takes you over the spectacular Knaresborough Viaduct, Harrogate is a top contender as one of the best day trips from York.

Regularly voted ‘Best Place to Live in the UK‘, Harrogate is a charming town with interesting shops, heaps of Regency history, and some of the best restaurants and coffee shops in North Yorkshire.

How to get there: Parking in Harrogate is expensive! Take the train direct to the centre of Harrogate from York station. The journey time is approx. 40 minutes through the beautiful Yorkshire countryside, and Harrogate is very easy to walk around.

Pro Tip: Don’t forget to visit the utterly fabulous Royal Baths, the Royal Horticultural Society Gardens at Harlow Carr, and the iconic Betty’s Tearoom for the most luxurious afternoon tea experience. 

8 – Haworth

Haworth Village Yorkshire
Beautiful view from Haworth Village Yorkshire

Tucked away deep in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Haworth was home to the Bronte sisters. Almost everything in this quaint little village has a ‘Bronte’ twist, but it’s no bad thing. 

Visit Haworth to see the Bronte Parsonage Museum and to learn more about the lives and writing of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte, famous for Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, respectively. Afterwards, linger to enjoy the village’s tearooms, the incredible view and the independent shops.

Pro Tip: Parking in Haworth can be tricky. Head for Oxenhope instead (SatNav BD22 9LB) and ride on the steam heritage railway to Haworth instead. 

Recommended organised coach trip to Haworth from York: Haworth and Yorkshire Dales Day Trip from York

9 – Knaresborough

Knaresborough Viaduct, Yorkshire

Best known for its soaring Victorian viaduct which spans the scenic River Nidd, pretty Knaresborough is a lovely town to visit. Wander along the riverside and maybe take a rowing boat out (or stop for afternoon tea).

Then climb up to the ruins of Knaresborough Castle or visit Old Mother Shipton’s Cave (reputed to be Britain’s oldest tourist attraction). Time your visit for mid-June, and you might get to see the Great Knaresborough Bed Race!

Pro Tip: The best view of the viaduct is from the paths around the castle, but come prepared, as it’s quite a steep climb up from the riverside. Sturdy shoes are essential!

How to get there: Knaresborough is easy to reach on day trips from York Central Station, as it’s on a direct train line, and the journey is only 30 minutes.

10 – Kilburn White Horse

Kilburn is a small village near the town of Thirsk (famed as the home of the fictional vet, James Herriot).

Kilburn’s claim to fame is the huge 150-year-old white horse carved into the hillside near the village, inspired by the famous ancient white horses in the UK’s South Downs, including the Uffington White Horse.

Today, the figure measures 318 feet long by 220 ft high, covering about 1.6 acres of the hillside, making it the biggest and most northerly hill figure in England.

Pro Tip: While there’s a car park beneath the white horse, the best place to see the white horse is from Bagby Lane, just outside Thirsk. 

12 – Whitby

Whitby view

Perched high above the town on a windswept and desolate headland, you’ll find Whitby Abbey, the dramatically ruined 11th-century Benedictine monastery that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

Then there’s the ancient parish Church of St Mary to visit if you can climb the 199 steps to see it. Whitby is also famed as the 17th-century home of explorer Captain James Cook, with the Captain Cook memorial museum a great spot to visit.

Pro Tip: Whitby is THE place to have ‘proper’ fish and chips (fries). Head for the Magpie Cafe at 1 Pier Road for fish straight from the fishing boats in the harbour, fried in the crispiest batter. It’s not posh, but it is delicious, and the view is to die for.

The seaside town of Whitby isn’t easy to reach by public transport from York and, as it is a tourist hotspot, parking can be challenging. Here are some of the best day trips from York to Whitby by coach:

Related Post: Must-Try Yorkshire Food (17 Best Things To Eat and Drink, including Fish and Chips)

UNESCO World Heritage Sites

Yorkshire boasts two of the United Kingdom’s 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, both of which are within easy reach of York.  

13 – Saltaire

Saltaire Victoria Hall is one of the best day trips from York
Victoria Hall, Saltaire by Tim, modified from the original

Just one hour by road or train from York, Saltaire is on the outskirts of Bradford in West Yorkshire.

Saltaire Village is named after the Victorian philanthropist Sir Titus Salt who built a textile mill known as Salts Mill on the River Aire during the Industrial Revolution.

He also built all the houses, bathhouses, hospitals, almshouses, and churches that make up the ‘model’ village of Saltaire that now has protected UNESCO World Heritage status. 

From the moment you arrive in Saltaire on your day trip from York, it’s like stepping back to the Victorian era, but it’s not all about history. Salts Mill houses an art gallery with works from local artists, including David Hockney

How to get there: Take the train from York station to Saltaire (via Leeds). Alternatively, book a hire car. It’s easy to find parking, and visiting Saltaire is one of the loveliest Yorkshire Dales day tours from York.

14 – Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens

St Mary's church Fountains Abbey
St Mary’s Church at Fountains Abbey

Founded in 1132, Fountains Abbey is England’s largest and best-preserved monastery. It’s also a UNESCO World Heritage site and one of the best places to visit near York, UK.

The waters of the River Skell wind past the abbey ruins into Studley Royal Water Gardens, where moon-shaped ponds, mirrored lakes, formal hedges and laurel banks provide the perfect framing for the ancient abbey ruins.

As well as the ruined abbey and the water gardens, make time to see Fountains Hall, Fountains Mill, and St Mary’s Church in the medieval deer park. You can easily fill a full day exploring here and still yearn to come back for more.

How to get there: The trip by public transport is grim (there’s no direct train, so it’s buses all the way, with connections to negotiate). Only a complete masochist would attempt it! The easiest option is to book the Castle Howard and Fountains Abbey day trip from York.

Best Cities for Day Trips from York

15 – Leeds

Leeds Town Hall
Leeds Town Hall. Image credit Adobe

The great city of Leeds is warm, welcoming, and vibrant, with plenty of galleries, museums, and exhibitions in the city centre to tempt culture vultures, including the Royal Armouries Museum, the Thakray Medical Museum, and the Leeds City Museum.

If you love to shop, there’s a half-mile of pedestrianised shopping, plus Harvey Nicholls and John Lewis stores within the Victoria Gate shopping and leisure area.

Whatever you do, don’t miss the covered Victorian shopping arcades – packed with designer boutiques and independent boutique shops in the beautiful old Corn Exchange!

For something more traditional, check out Kirkgate Market, the largest covered market in Europe, with excellent pubs and restaurants nearby. Fazenda is spectacular (but only if you enjoy meat!).

Inside one of the glorious Victorian architecture shopping arcades in Leeds
The beautiful shopping arcades in Leeds by HOBS

Only 20 miles away from York, the friendly city of Leeds is a great choice for day trips from York. 

How to get there: Hop on a direct train from York, and you’ll be in Leeds in just 30 minutes.

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16 – Durham

What to do in Durham - visit the Cathedral or view it from the riverside
Durham Cathedral from the riverside

Captivating Durham is an hour and a half drive north from York, and conveniently on the train line from York to Edinburgh. Condé Nast’s Traveller Magazine readers voted Durham the ‘Best City in the UK‘.

One of Britain’s most picturesque cities, thanks to its many beautiful buildings, riverside setting and UNESCO World Heritage sites – Durham Castle and the vaulted, Romanesque Durham Cathedral. You’ll also find ancient university colleges, botanical gardens, and an Oriental Museum exhibiting Asian, Egyptian, and Middle Eastern artefacts.

Take time to stroll the winding cobbled streets, explore the fascinating, unique shops and luxuriate in independent tearooms, coffee shops, and cafes.

More Ideas For Day Trips by Train from York

Some of the best places near York to explore if you have a little more time include Yorkshire’s great cities.

  • Wakefield – for Wakefield Cathedral, the Hepworth Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the excellent National Coal Mining Museum.
  • Sheffield – for the best shopping in the North, the Millennium Gallery, the Winter Garden, Botanical Gardens and Kelham Island Museum.  The beautiful city of Sheffield is also on the doorstep of the stunning Peak District – an area of outstanding natural beauty.

You may also see the Lake District, Manchester (and its marvellous Northern Quarter), and even London or Edinburgh suggested as great day trips from York; however, I beg to differ. All of these are fantastic locations, with top attractions, but I don’t believe the travel time vs time in location makes them a good option for an easy day trip from York.

How to Visit York

York is easy to visit by road and rail.

If you’re driving to York from London or Edinburgh, take the A59 or the A64 from the A1M (motorway), and use York’s convenient Park and Ride services.

York railway station is just 30 minutes from Leeds, where direct trains to London and other national locations are available.

The closest airport to York is Leeds Bradford, and Manchester offers the nearest international airport.

Where to Stay in York

York is popular all year round, so there are plenty of quality places to stay. Here are some of my favourites:

For a touch of luxury, pick York’s only 5-star hotel – The Grand Spa Hotel.

The Judge’s Lodgings is an excellent mid-budget hotel in a fabulous, central location, while the Judge’s Court Hotel is ridiculously pretty, quirky, and budget-friendly.

Wrap Up – The Best Day Trips from York

So there you have it – a host of ideas for great day trips to the Yorkshire Dales and beyond. Whether you prefer a city break, action-packed adventures or exploring Yorkshire’s lush green countryside, there are Yorkshire day trips here to tempt everyone to explore the walled city of York and the surrounding areas.