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North Yorkshire is renowned for its natural beauty and not just within its National Parks, it stretches county-wide. It covers a total of 3,341 square miles, making it the largest county in England – with 40% of that area covered by National Parks. So you can see why it is such an appealing place to walkers and other people who love the outdoors. North Yorkshire also has many well-known cities and towns, such as York, which in itself offers a treasure trove of walks that allow you to enjoy the history of the city.
The features of North Yorkshire are vast and include:
- 2 National Parks – Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors
- Yorkshire’s ‘three peaks’ – Whernside (also Yorkshires highest point), Pen-Y-Ghent and Ingleborough, amongst many (many) other peaks
- The rivers Swale, Ure and Ouse, as well as the country’s ‘most dangerous’ stretch of river – the Strid
- The longest cave system – Three Counties System
It also possesses a laundry list of landmarks and places that are well worth a visit, here are just a few:
- Bolton Abbey
- Stump Cross Caverns
- Brimham Rocks
- Malham Cove
- Castle Howard
- York Minster
A little more about the National Parks
North York Moors
North York Moors become a National Park in 1952 – covering a total of 554 square miles, including a large stretch of coastline. About 40% of the 554 square miles is covered by heather moorland – which makes it one of the largest coverings in the UK. The most common animals in the moorland area Swaledale sheep, and Grouse – the latter being raised for shooting. Get ready for a few startled Grouse making you jump if you wander off the beaten track.
The coastline of the North York Moors is perhaps best known for some of its picturesque fishing villages and towns, such as Whitby and Staithes. The National Park itself is a walkers dream, with footpaths and rights of way in every direction – including the well-known Cleveland Way which runs a total of 110 miles, if you fancy walking the lot.
The Yorkshire Dales became a National Park in 1954 – it was Britain’s seventh. The Yorkshire Dales covers a large expanse, even creeping slightly into Cumbria. The Yorkshire Dales has some truly dramatic features, both man-made and natural – from the limestone pavement at Malham to the Ribblehead Viaduct. Walking in the Yorkshire Dales is an extremely popular pastime – for both locals and visitors alike, it’s also popular with cyclists, drivers, runners and climbers (to name but a few).
Abbeys in North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire has a large selection of famous abbeys that offer great days out.
Bolton Abbey offers a very versatile day out, with a selection of walks in all directions, including through the valley of Desolation to Simon’s Seat, or up to Strid Wood.
Fountains Abbey is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is the best preserved Cistercian abbey in Britain and it also shares the adjoining parkland of Studley Royal. It offers plenty to see and do, for both those looking for long walks, and those look for a lazy saunter.
Perhaps the most famous of all the abbeys is Whitby Abbey, located rather impressively perched on the clifftop, overlooking Whitby and the sea.
There are other abbeys to enjoy, such as Rievaulx and Jervaulx, dependent on the part of Yorkshire that you are looking to travel to.
Country Houses in North Yorkshire
Country Houses often combine a beautiful stately home, with amazing grounds which often leave you wondering what it would actually be like to live here. Perhaps even wishing. There are no shortage of historic houses in North Yorkshire to visit and, again, they make versatile locations that give something for everyone.
Castle Howard is one of the most famous – it’s a truly magnificent house with lots of beautiful grounds, too – in fact, there’s something like 1,000 acres to be explored.
Newby Hall is yet another great destination – it offers extensive gardens to help inspire anyone with green fingers – as long as you visit at the right time of year!
Castles in North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire has a lot to offer for anyone who wants to take in a bit of history, and in many ways there’s nothing more satisfying to see than great castles. You can see medieval castles, such as Bolton Castle – which held Mary Queen of Scots after she had fled from imprisonment in Scotland. You can also take in castles such as the one perched atop the hill in Knaresborough which overlooks the River Nidd, or visit Skipton Castle which withstood fierce sieges during the civil war.
History in North Yorkshire
As well as the castles, the abbeys and the country houses that are dotted around North Yorkshire, there are plenty of other elements of history to enjoy. Such as the remains of the old alum works at Ravenscar – or the iron age fort on Ingleborough. There are old mills to visit, a variety of churches to enjoy, other forts like the one on top of Ingleborough, former mining areas, priories and also railways – the most famous of which is surely the North York Moors Railway.
One element of history which is very much on offer in North Yorkshire is Roman History – you can see it in:
The impact the Roman’s had on us is undeniable, and the artefacts they left behind are there for all to enjoy.
There’s also a whole host of museums that you can visit such as Yorkshire Air Museum, Eden Camp, Barley Hall, Captain Cook Memorial Museum, Clifford’s Tower, National Railway Museum, and The World of James Herriott.
Geographical Features in North Yorkshire
There are some truly spectacular views to be seen, created purely by rock alone – one of the most famous in North Yorkshire being Brimham rocks. This truly amazing collection of geographical features in such close proximity really needs seeing to be believed – it’s unbelievable how rocks can stack and sustain themselves in such preposterous positions. The rocks, which are gritstone, have been weathered over time to create such surreal shapes and all the main features have their own name, such as the Sphinx.
Whilst Brimham rocks is one of the major geographical attractions in North Yorkshire, it’s not the only one. North Yorkshire is home to a rather sizeable amount of caves, from showcaves such as Stump Cross Caverns and White Scar Cave, to the lesser-known ones such as Yordas, a former show cave. There are also caves which really should only be entered with people who know what they are doing, such as Gaping Gill and the Three Counties System.
You might also want to pay a visit to Malham Cove to enjoy the amazing sheer wall of rock, or the limestone pavement at the top. Whilst you’re in the area you may as well pay a visit to Gordale Scar.
There’s also places like:
- Kilnsey Crag
- Roseberry Topping
- Norber Boulders
Rivers, Reservoirs, Canals and Waterfalls in North Yorkshire
These often make the most popular destinations for walks, as they offer a very clear direction to travel and often areas of beauty to appreciate.
Rivers in North Yorkshire are of varying size and distinction, perhaps one of the best known rivers is the River Ouse which runs through the city of York. There is also the River Ure which runs through the Yorkshire Dales and includes Aysgarth Falls. There is also the River Wharfe which for much of its length, offers a natural boundary between North and West Yorkshire.
Reservoirs in North Yorkshire are numerous, some in very close proximity to one another – such as Fewston, Swinsty and Lindley Wood. For something a bit different, Thruscross Reservoir is great when the water level is low as it reveals the remains of the village – West End – that was flooded to make way for the reservoir.
Canals in North Yorkshire immediately makes you think of Leeds-Liverpool Canal, which runs partially through the county and includes some great villages along the way, such as Gargrave.
There is also no shortage of waterfalls in North Yorkshire, to name but a few you could take a look at the multiple falls at Ingleton, or those at Aysgarth. You also have falls such as the one at Gordale Scar, Hardraw Force or Falling Foss.
Wildlife in North Yorkshire
For those looking to enjoy some of the nature that North Yorkshire has to offer, you won’t be disappointed. One of the major nature destinations in North Yorkshire has to be Bempton Cliffs where you can view a whole array of nesting seabirds – including Puffin’s. Whilst you’re in the area, you could also pop down to Filey Dams for more wildlife to enjoy.
Quaint Villages in North Yorkshire
There are far too many quaint villages in North Yorkshire to list, in fact we can barely scratch the surface. The first one that really springs to mind as a destination has to be Thornton-le-Dale, with its famous thatched cottage, you could also take the time to visit Hutton-le-Hole, a rather idyllic and peaceful place.
If you’re more interested in destinations within the Yorkshire Dales, then look no further than West Burton, with the standard pruned village green and it’s not far away from Jervaulx Abbey. Another favourite in the Yorkshire Dales is Kettlewell, for one of those slower, more meandering walks – it’s got everything you need.