Go on a drive you’ll never forget through some of Yorkshire’s most beautiful surroundings.
Whether you’re exploring the rolling hills of the North York Moors or looking out across the North Sea coast, the journey to get to these stunning parts of Yorkshire can be just as good as the destination. These city escapes will see you take on winding drives through the most incredible parts of God’s Own Country all year round – which one will you try first?
The Tan Hill Inn
Visiting the highest pub in Great Britain is an experience in itself, and the journey from Leeds to get there is something else. Instead of shooting up the A1 and A66, take the scenic route along Otley Road, then on to the B6161 and B6160, which takes you through the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Beauty and the Yorkshire Dales National Park, before finishing up on the renowned Buttertubs Pass just south of the destination.
You’ll pass a seemingly endless array of landmarks on the way like the Otley Chevin, Lindley Wood Reservoir and Aysgarth Falls with stunning views of God’s Own Country pretty much everywhere after Otley. From rolling hills to quaint villages you wouldn’t get to see otherwise, there are some amazing discoveries to be made. The end point, The Tan Hill Inn, is a unique Yorkshire attraction – a small, traditional 17th century pub at the southern tip of the North Pennines. You can stay the night at the pub, which makes it the perfect base for a few days checking out those incredible surroundings by foot.
Hawes is a magical market town at the northern tip of the Yorkshire Dales National Park – and the drive to get there is just as special. Instead of heading North around Harrogate, go west through Ilkley and Otley, then on to Skipton where you’ll begin a wonderful scenic route along Grassington Road (B6265), with landmark after landmark to look out for on either side of you.
First you’ll pass the picturesque village of Hetton, before making your way past Grassington, where you can spot Linton Falls, Grimwith Reservoir and Grass Wood Nature Reserve. Head onwards past Kilnsey Park and Buckden, before cutting off onto a great country road, Stubbing Lane, which will take you right into Hawes. Here, you can pay a visit to attractions like Aysgill Force, Wensleydale Creamery and Hardraw Force, before making your way back – it’s a 2-hour drive without stops, so you can easily do it in a day.
How about a trip to the seaside? The end is always worth it at Whitby, but the route to get there can be a special one, with amazing countryside views and stunning coastal roads. Start off by taking the A64 to get to the other side of York, before heading to the pretty village of Stamford Bridge. From there you can follow a quiet but scenic track all the way up to Malton, and then go on to Pickering at the edge of the North York Moors.
When it comes to the Moors, there’s no better way to see it by car than on the A169. The 20-mile route takes you right through the heart of it, and it’s widely regarded as one of the UK’s best drives. Dalby Forest provides amazing scenery on your right, and then the beautiful nature of the Moors is revealed as you pass the Hole of Horcrum and into the village of Sleights. You’re probably ready for an ice cream or fish and chips at the waterfront by this point, but don’t go straight for the hotel in the centre of town just yet, take the coastal road just a bit further north for quiet sandy stretches that will take your breath away.
This is a mammoth drive that takes you right around the top of the Yorkshire Dales National Park up to Nateby before coming back on the other side. Start by heading up the A61 to Ripon before coming off on the A6108 – this beautiful country route heads past Masham, Jervaulx Abbey and Leyburn before reaching Downholme.
Here you’ll find a stunning yet quiet route across the Dales on the B6270, which is perfect for drivers who like a challenge – we’re talking steep climbs, challenging bends, long straights and big dips. You’ll come to Nateby, a pretty village across the border in Cumbria. It’s the perfect place to stay the night, but if you fancy a proper treat in the car, take the B6259 and B6255 to the south – it will take you past the awesome sight of Ribblehead Viaduct as you weave your way through the countryside. You can then make your way back to Leeds along the B6479 past Settle, Skipton and Ilkley before heading south from Otley.
Beautiful scenery, natural wonders and amazing roads await on this journey through the Yorkshire Dales National Park to Settle. Leave Leeds via Otley Road, heading past the Chevin and onto Ilkley Road, passing through the stunning Ilkley Moor, past Skipton and turning off at Eshton where you’ll head into the park itself, which provides some incredible snapshots of God’s Own Country.
This is where the real magic begins as you tackle the winding country roads, heading up towards Malham and onto the Cove Road where you’ll see Malham Cove on your right. Next up, Henside Road offers brilliant views as you weave your way through the area, before reaching Goat Lane, a stunning 7-mile stretch of road with Pen-y-Ghent on your right and Fountains Fell on your left. From there, head down the valley through Stainforth and into Settle, a lovely market town well worthy of a day or two of your time.
Castle Howard and Kirkham Priory
This drive takes you right through the Howardian Hills towards Kirkham Priory, an old Augustinian abbey ruin, but that’s not the only highlight of the trip, because you’ll take on some of the best roads in Yorkshire. Follow the A58 to Wetherby, before latching onto the serene York Road (not the Leeds one) to reach the A19 – you’ll stay on this all the way to Husthwaite, a picture-perfect village where the fun really begins.
The views here are something else, and you can take it all in on the winding country lanes through this Area of Outstanding Beauty. You’ll make your way past more scenic villages like Oulston and Yearsley before reaching Hovingham where you’ll join Slingsby Bank. This is an incredible road which overlooks Castle Howard on your left hand side – you might want to make a pitstop because it’s a stunning stately home. Once you’ve had a walk around the house and gardens, briefly join the A64 to reach Kirkham Priory where you can rest up after an incredible drive.
Another must-try route through the North York Moors will see you leave Leeds on the A1M, coming off at Thirsk and heading east on the A170, where you’ll be enveloped in the captivating wild countryside of the Moors as you go. First off, you’ll drive through the top of the Howardian Hills, passing through Helmsley and Kirkbymoorside, with rolling hills and vast open spaces on either side.
You’ll reach Hutton-le-Hole, where the road doesn’t have a name or number, but take the main route north of the village and you’ll go right into the heart of the North York Moors. It’s a bit of a throwback, where it’s easy to imagine that this is what it was like travelling the country before motorways. It has views and scenery that will take your breath away, particularly as you pass the ruins of Rosedale Abbey and the Wintergill Plantation before you get to Goathland. Your destination might sound familiar because it’s where much of Heartbeat was filmed, so you might recognise the shops on the green – it’s a postcard-perfect village worth taking a break in.
The road from Holmfirth to Woodhead Reservoir is really special, so you should head right down the M62 to get to it quicker. Come off at Huddersfield and join the A616 and A6024 to reach the start of this scenic route across Holme Moss which is at the very top of the Yorkshire part of the Peak District National Park.
From here, you need only get onto Woodhead Road and past Holmbridge and Holme to enjoy the incredible countryside. It’s an amazing run with challenging hairpin bends and steep downhill runs that will put the wind in your hair – if you’ve got a soft top anyway. It’s also popular with cyclists and roaming sheep, so don’t go too wild. The final destination is almost as good as the drive – Woodhead Reservoir, a stunning man-made lake which makes for a great spot for a walk.
Yorkshire’s blessed with such amazing countryside that it can be easy to forget that it’s also got a huge coastline, just waiting to be explored. You’ll have a bit of a drive to get there, so take the quick route along the M62 through Hull and then on to the A1033 to the southern edge of the Humber Estuary by Spurn Point, an amazing peninsula and nature reserve that disappears when the tide comes in.
From the south, head north on the B1242. For much of the start, you’ll be winding your way through the plains that line the route, leading you up towards Withernsea, Garton and Aldbrough – three picturesque coastal towns. The road then runs parallel with the beautiful North Sea at Mappleton, Hornsea and Skipsea, where you’ll find sandy beaches all the way to Bridlington. An ever-popular seaside resort, it’s the perfect end to a scenic waterfront drive.
You get the best of both worlds on this great Yorkshire drive – culture and scenery. You’ll kick things off by making your way to the other side of Bradford along the A647 and B6144 to reach the Bronte Parsonage Museum where you can learn about the historic literary family. When you’re done, take the A6033 south past Oxenhope for a scenic drive – on a bright sunny day, you can see for miles around as you weave your way along the top of the Pennines.
This road will bring you out to Hebden Bridge, a popular market town where you can take a break with a walk around the shops and pubs. Back on the road, head along the A646, past Mytholmroyd (birthplace of Ted Hughes) and right onto B6138 through the breathtaking Cragg Vale. This is a stunning road – it runs alongside The Pennine Way with views over Soyland Moor, so soak it all in before you head back to the A58 and on to Leeds.Cover image copyright Peter Moore licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.