The historic walled city of York is one of England’s hottest tourist destinations, with a heritage dating back to the Vikings and an abundance of historic attractions to enjoy. 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, plus the ancient buildings and the thrilling history of England’s biggest county.
This guide shares 16 of the best day trips from York UK to get a real flavour of what Yorkshire has to offer.
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How to Choose the Best Day Trips from York
There is so much to see and do in Yorkshire, it can be hard to choose what’s best to do, especially if you have limited time. After years of living in and exploring North Yorkshire, I’ve picked locations that are easy for days out from York. The only problem is you’ll want to come back again to explore more of Yorkshire!
#1 Castle Howard
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 from the iconic 1981 British TV series Brideshead Revisited or from the 2008 movie of the same Evelyn Waugh novel.
One of the top 10 buildings you must visit in your lifetimeThe Telegraph, 2018
A real treat for history lovers, Castle Howard is one of the most opulent buildings in Yorkshire and it includes the 145-acre Yorkshire Arboretum, with its collection of more than six thousand rare trees. As entry to Castle Howard house and gardens is included in the York Multi-Day Explorer Pass, it is one of the most popular days out from York.
#2 The North York Moors National Park
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 Yorkshire every year to enjoy the wide-open spaces in the county’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).
If you don’t have a car, here are some of the best day trips from York to 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.
You might also like: 10 Sensational UK Heritage Railways
Pro Tip: The steam train from the old station at Pickering to Whitby is the perfect day out from York for fans of steam trains and Harry Potter. The train even passes through Hogsmeade Station!
Best Organised Tour: Moors, Whitby and the Yorkshire Steam Railway Tour from York
#4 Harewood House
A short and scenic 45-minute drive from York (around 75 minutes by public transport) will get you to 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, which was one of the locations for the movie!
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 very Instagramable bridge and stepping stones in the Himalayan Garden.
#5 Bolton Abbey
Picturesque Bolton Abbey tucked away in the verdant heart of Wharfedale in the glorious Yorkshire Dales, 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 Priory Church and ruined Augustinian Priory which dates to 1154 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 wily old Prior negotiated with Thomas Cromwell to save the nave of the abbey as a place for local people to worship, which they still do today.
Related Post: What to see and do at Bolton Abbey
Thirty thousand acres of lush green hills and 80 miles of well-marked footpaths surround the ruined Priory today, with plenty to explore.
The village has the same old-world charm as the abbey and many places to eat. There are award-winning restaurants, plus tea rooms and pubs offering substantial home-cooked dishes to recharge your batteries.
Pro Tip: Try to find the Money Tree in the estate gardens.
Recommended tour: Haworth and the Yorkshire Dales including Bolton Abbey.
#6 Bolton Castle
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 when she was imprisoned by Elizabeth for six months from July 1568. Later, Elizabeth moved Mary to Tutbury, where she remained a prisoner until Elizabeth ordered her execution 18 years later.
Today, 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.
Pro Tip: Bolton Castle is about a 75-minute drive from York. If you don’t want to drive, this comprehensive Yorkshire Dales Day Trip from York provides a more leisurely way to visit, and a way to see much more of the Yorkshire countryside in one day. The trip by public transport is ghastly!
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.
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.
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 beautiful Yorkshire countryside, and Harrogate is very easy to walk around.
Tucked away deep in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Haworth was home to the Bronte sisters. Almost everything in this uber-quaint little village has a ‘Bronte’ twist to it, 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. 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 take the short heritage steam train ride to Haworth instead.
Best Organised Coach Trips to Haworth from York: Haworth and Yorkshire Dales Day Trip from York
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 boat out (or stop for afternoon tea).
Then climb up to the ruined 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 annual madness of 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
#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.
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 up to see it. Whitby is also famed as the 17th-century home of explorer Captain James Cook.
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 unutterably delicious and the view is to die for.
Whitby isn’t easy to reach by public transport from York and, as a popular tourist town, parking can be challenging. Here are some of the best day trips from York to Whitby by coach:
UNESCO World Heritage Sites
Yorkshire boasts two of the United Kingdom’s 32 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, both within easy reach of York.
Just one hour by road or train from York, Saltaire is on the outskirts of the city 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, hospital, 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 in time 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 – visiting Saltaire is one of the loveliest Yorkshire Dales day tours from York.
#14 Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens
Founded in 1132, Fountains Abbey is the largest and best-preserved monastery in England. 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 and 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). The easiest option is to book the Castle Howard and Fountains Abbey day trip from York.
Best Cities for Day Trips from York
The old industrial city of Leeds is warm, welcoming, and vibrant with plenty of galleries, museums, and exhibitions to tempt culture vultures.
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.
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!).
Only 20 miles away from York, the
How to get there
Hop on a direct train from York, and you’ll be in Leeds in just 30 minutes.
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 plus 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 the choice of independent tearooms, coffee shops, and cafes.
Related Post: What to do on a day trip to Durham
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 are Yorkshire’s great cities.
- Wakefield – for Wakefield Cathedral, the Hepworth Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park and the simply awesome National Coal Mining Museum
- Sheffield – for the best shopping in the North, the Millennium Gallery, the Winter Garden, Botanical Gardens and Kelham Island Museum.
How to Visit York
How to Get To York
The most convenient airport for York is Manchester, with a journey time of just under two hours. York is also 2 hours by train from London and 2 hours 45 minutes from Edinburgh.
If you’re driving to York, take the A59 or the A64 from the A1M (motorway), and use convenient Park and Ride services.
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:
York’s only 5-star hotel
Perfect, central location
Find more places to stay in York here.
Pin for Later – Day Trips from York UK!
Have I included your favourite day trips from York here? Do let me know in the comments if you’ve got more recommendations! As always, I love to hear from you