There are loads of free things to do in Yorkshire, so whether you’re feeling the pinch or saving your pennies, you can still explore God’s Own Country…
It’s no secret that there are loads of free things to do in Leeds, but why stop there? Yorkshire has plenty of attractions that you can visit without putting your hand in your pocket. From museums and galleries to natural wonders and stunning architecture, make the most of Yorkshire’s famed thriftiness with these 50 ideas for your next day out…
1. National Science & Media Museum
Showing off the history of film, television and photography, Bradford’s National Science & Media Museum is awash with amazing free things to do. There are seven floors of galleries to explore at the Yorkshire museum, showcasing their incredible collection of photography, film and television, as well as welcoming touring exhibitions. They also have the UK’s first IMAX cinema, but you’ll have to pay for that.
National Science & Media Museum, Little Horton Lane, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD1 1NQ.
2. St Ives Estate
There are over 550 acres of stunning Yorkshire country park to explore at St. Ives Estate in Bingley. From the woodlands to the open moor, the wildflower meadow to the winding paths that take you through it all – you’ll find plenty of things to keep you entertained for free. If you’re bringing the little ones, there’s an adventure playground and the Coppice Pond will offer you the chance to feed the ducks, as well as doing a spot of fishing.
St Ives Estate, Harden, Bingley, West Yorkshire, BD16 1BW.
3. Harrogate Valley Gardens
Got green fingers? Then it’s time to visit Harrogate Valley Gardens. It’s one of our favourite free things to do in Yorkshire – and we’re sure it will be one of yours too. The gardens are grade II listed, which shows their national importance, and across the 17 acres, you’ll find stunning buildings like the Sun Pavilion and Colonnades alongside vibrant plants and flowerbeds that will surely brighten up your day.
Harrogate Valley Gardens, Royal Parade, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 2SZ.
4. Ripon Cathedral
Ripon Cathedral is one of the most impressive you’ll find in Yorkshire, and best of all it’s free to visit. From its West Front, built in the 1220s, to the East Front constructed during the 16th century, it’s a mismatch of Anglo-Saxon and Gothic styles which make it one of the more unique attractions of its kind. You can explore within, taking in the stunning stained glass windows and impressive architecture – look out for free concerts or attend one of the regular services too.
Ripon Cathedral, Liberty Court House, Minster Road, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 1QS.
5. Hackfall Wood
Hackfall Wood is one of a kind – it looks like it’s been there for millennia, but it is, in fact, a man-made landscape. Just outside of Masham, the gardens were designed by the Aislabies in the 18th century, and offer a stunning slice of nature, with a very impressive fountain at its centre. It’s now been recognised as a Grade I listed garden, protecting it for future generations, and stands as one of the free things to do in the Yorkshire outdoors.
Hackfall Wood, North Yorkshire, HG4 4DY.
6. National Railway Museum
Whether you’re a nut for old school trains or just like delving into the country’s rich history, take a trip out to the National Railway Museum in York. It’s got plenty of free things to do since it’s home to the UK’s national rail collection, with attractions including over 300 locomotives from the Duchess of Hamilton to the Caerphilly Castle, as well as numerous artefacts and posters that show off the importance of the railway in the UK.
National Railway Museum, Leeman Road, York, North Yorkshire, YO26 4XJ.
7. Yorkshire Wolds
As you’d expect, exploring the rolling countryside is one of the best things you can do in Yorkshire, and while you may be more familiar with its more famous neighbours, the Yorkshire Wolds is right up there on our list. It’s a winding stretch of hills that run for 79 miles from Hessle to Flamborough Head, via picturesque spots like Market Weighton and Fridaythorpe. It’s perfect for long or short strolls that will see you uncover the region’s natural beauty and charming little villages.
The Yorkshire Wolds start off in Hessle, North Yorkshire.
8. Painted Illusion Trail
Staithes is one of Yorkshire’s best-kept secrets, on the East Coast in between Whitby and Saltburn. A picturesque throwback of narrow streets and ginnels, it’s absolutely stunning, and if you need any more reason to go then one of its best attractions is the pretty darn cool Painted Illusion Trail that’s been created around the village by artist Paul Czainski.
Painted Illusion Trail, Staithes, North Yorkshire, TS13.
9. The Hepworth
As galleries go, you’ll find few that look as impressive as The Hepworth in Wakefield and if you can’t take our word for it, it was named Museum of the Year for 2017. Its stunning design is courtesy of the renowned David Chipperfield who masterminded the largest purpose-built gallery outside of London. Across 1,600 square metres of gallery space, you’ll find the compelling work of contemporary artists from across the world, alongside rare pieces by its namesake, Barbara Hepworth.
The Hepworth, Gallery Walk, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 5AW.
10. Malham Cove
One of the most stunning natural attractions in the whole of Yorkshire, Malham Cove is an absolute must-visit. Formed by a waterfall at the end of the last Ice Age around 12,000 years ago, it has a unique limestone pavement on top, while the huge face is regularly used by climbers. For the first time in centuries it briefly became the biggest single drop waterfall in the UK in 2015, but visit on a sunny day and you’ll see it at its age-old best.
Malham Cove, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 4DA.
11. Salt’s Mill
Salt’s Mill was once the largest industrial building in the world and the town of Saltaire, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was built around the mill for the workers. Since closing in 1986, the mill has been transformed into one of the coolest places to visit in Yorkshire, with the 1853 Gallery taking centre stage, home to the work of David Hockney. You’ll also find a number of restaurants, cafes and shops selling everything from antiques to bicycles, although you’ll have to put your hand in your pocket to enjoy them.
Salt’s Mill, Victoria Road, Shipley, Saltaire, West Yorkshire, BD18 3LA.
12. Brimham Rocks
You can enjoy many of Yorkshire’s natural attractions for free, but few are as impressive as Brimham Rocks up on the Yorkshire Moors. They’re a range of balancing rock formations that have been slowly created over centuries as the millstone grit rock was eroded by water, glaciation and wind. They have amazing names, from the Sphinx to the Dancing Bear – see if you can spot which one is which?
Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 4DW.
13. Locke Park
Just a mile from Barnsley Town Centre, Locke Park is a beautiful slice of Yorkshire, just waiting to be explored. The 47-acre park boasts a historic tower and fountain, both of which were added in 1875, helping it to be named a park of special historic interest by English Heritage. There are loads of free things to do here, from pretty gardens and extensive woodland to a children’s play area.
Locke Park, Barnsley, South Yorkshire, S70 6NQ.
14. The Piece Hall
The Piece Hall in Halifax is an old site that has become one of the Yorkshire’s best new attractions. The beautiful Georgian complex reopened in 2017 after a lengthy renovation to a building that was once the hub of sales activity for wooden handloom weavers. The transformation has turned it into a museum, complete with shops, cafes and an amazing courtyard which you won’t struggle to enjoy.
The Piece Hall, Blackledge, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX1 1RE.
15. National Coal Mining Museum
The National Coal Mining Museum used to be the real-life Caphouse Colliery, making this a true one-off Yorkshire attraction and it’s absolutely free. There are still plenty of remnants of its past to be discovered, from underground tunnels to pit head baths, pit ponies and paddy trains, as well as an intriguing museum that details the history of coal mining in Yorkshire to browse around.
National Coal Mining Museum, Caphouse Colliery, New Road, Overton, West Yorkshire, WF4 4RH.
16. Hull and East Riding Museum
If you fancy digging into Yorkshire’s long history, the Hull and East Riding Museum is a good place to start. While the region itself had a brief stint away from Yorkshire, as part of Humberside, it started life as part of God’s Own Country and has been welcomed back with open arms. The museum covers 235 million years of the area’s past, showing off woolly mammoths, a Hasholme boat and an Iron Age sword as well as more modern pieces.
Hull and East Riding Museum, 36 High Street, Hull East Riding of Yorkshire, HU1 1NE.
17. North York Moors National Park
The fine Yorkshire countryside comes into its own once again, as we come to the North York Moors – they’re absolutely brimming with free things to do – there’s an array of walks, hikes and drives for you to take on. The huge national park covers 554 square miles, with 23 hills to summit, huge stretches of gorgeous moorland to roam and plenty of trails, like the Cleveland Way and The White Rose Way, which are perfect for cycling or horse riding too.
North York Moors National Park, North Yorkshire, YO62 5BP.
18. Shibden Park
The beautifully restored grounds around the hall of the same name, Shibden Park is the perfect place in Yorkshire to get away from it all. Unlike the house, the park is free to visit and there are plenty of things to discover such as the Wilderness Garden, which features cascades and pools, and the Paisley Shawl, a garden designed by leading landscape architect Joshua Major in 1850 featuring Victorian bedding designs.
Shibden Park, Lister’s Road, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX3 6XG.
19. Millennium Gallery
It’s one of the most popular things to do in Sheffield and it’s absolutely free to visit. The Millennium Gallery is home to a slice of Yorkshire’s history, as this is where you’ll find Sheffield’s rare Metalwork Collection. It features an impressive selection of 13,000 pieces, although only 800 of them are on display at any one time. This sits alongside the Ruskin Collection, created by John Ruskin to give inspiration to Sheffield’s workers over 130 years ago – it’s still doing the same today.
Millennium Gallery, Arundel Gate, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 2PP.
20. The Brontë Way
The Brontës are an intrinsic part of Yorkshire, with their classic novels indebted to the wild scenery of the county, and the Brontë Way trail is a great way to explore the lives and works of these famed sisters. It takes in the likes of Thursden Valley, the Brontë Parsonage, Wycoller Hall, Top Withins, Spen Valley and Oakwell Hall. This is one of those Yorkshire attractions that bookworms will absolutely love.
The Brontë Way, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, WF14 9NT.
21. Bishops’ House
Visiting Sheffield’s finest surviving example of a timber-framed house is definitely one of the best free things to do in Yorkshire. The fifteenth century Bishops’ House is open to the public every Saturday and Sunday, allowing you to see what it would have been like to live there when it was first built, as well its connection to the wider history of the city.
Bishops’ House, Norton Leeds Lane, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S8 9BE.
22. Bolton Abbey
We love a good abbey in Yorkshire, and few are better than the stunning Bolton Abbey. Set in the heart of the scenic Wharfedale countryside across 33,000 acres, the ruined abbey is a beauty, but that’s not all that’s on offer. There’s the ancient Strid Wood, with its many trails and activities, as well as a marine fossil quarry, a host of farms and four Grade I listed buildings.
Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 6EX.
23. Aysgarth Falls
Across nearly one mile of the River Ure, the Aysgarth Falls offer the perfect day out in the heart of the Yorkshire countryside. They’re a series of three flight waterfalls which tumble spectacularly over the limestone steps underneath. Surrounded by stunning woodland, they have inspired the minds of the likes of Turner and Wordsworth over the years – and if it’s good enough for them, it surely has to be one of the best free things to do in Yorkshire.
Aysgarth Falls, Aysgarth, Leyburn, North Yorkshire, DL8 3TH.
24. Roberts Park
Having been awarded the prestigious Green Flag award recognising it as one of the best green spaces in the UK, it will come as no surprise that Roberts Park is a great day out. Not only is it a lovely spot for a stroll or a picnic, when weather permits, but it’s also home to a very popular skate park, playground and bandstand which hosts concerts during the summer. With the River Aire running right through it, it’s part of the Saltaire World Heritage Site, and you can expect to see statues of historically important local figures as you wander around.
Roberts Park, High Coach Road, Baildon, West Yorkshire, BD17.
25. Janet’s Foss
It may only be small but Janet’s Foss is a delightful little day out, and one of those Yorkshire attractions that not everyone knows about. On the outskirts of Malham, it carries Gordale Beck over a limestone outcrop into a small pool of water. It’s a stunning slice of Yorkshire scenery and was once used for sheep dipping, but unfortunately, that doesn’t happen anymore.
Janet’s Foss, Gordale Lane, Malham, North Yorkshire, BD23 4DA.
26. Yorkshire Three Peaks
The best way to discover the Pennines and Yorkshire Dales is by taking on the Three Peaks challenge, but only if you’re brave enough. It takes in three of the highest mountains in Yorkshire, starting at Pen-y-ghent at 2,277 feet, then Ingleborough at 2,372 feet and finishing with Whernside at 2,145 feet. If you can do it in under 12 hours, you can even join the exclusive Three Peaks of Yorkshire Club, but with such natural beauty on the route, why not take your time?
Pen-y-ghent Cafe, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire, BD24 0HE.
27. Cliffe Castle
Once the home of Victorian millionaire and local industrialist Henry Isaac Butterfield, Cliffe Castle was built in the 1880s and stands as a reminder of days gone by. The carefully preserved and renovated Victorian rooms are all blessed with stunning furnishings, paintings and trinkets from the past. There are also special galleries for natural history, archaeology and social history, alongside an impressive display of Morris and Co. stained glass.
Cliffe Castle, Spring Gardens Lane, Keighley, West Yorkshire, BD20 6LH.
28. Sheffield Winter Gardens
The largest urban glasshouse in the whole of Europe, The Sheffield Winter Gardens are certainly one of the finest attractions in Yorkshire. Even better, it’s free. You’ll find it right in the middle of the city centre and it’s home to more than 2,500 plants, from eucalyptus trees to Norfolk Island pines, with some coming from as far away as Madagascar, China and Central America.
Sheffield Winter Gardens, 90 Surrey Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 2LH.
29. Cusworth Hall, Museum and Park
One of Doncaster’s finest attractions, Cusworth Hall is a great shout if you’re looking for free things to do in Yorkshire. A Grade I listed building, it’s set amidst acres of stunning parkland with lakes, plantations and stunning views. The hall itself is worth a visit, first for its stunning architecture, and secondly for its amazing museum which tells a fascinating story of how the people of Doncaster have lived from the 18th to the 21st century.
Cusworth Hall, Museum and Park, Cusworth Lane, Doncaster, South Yorkshire, DN5, 7TU.
30. Cayton Bay
Yorkshire is home to a large chunk of the British coastline, which means, believe it or not, that there are a number of beaches to make the most of. Cayton Bay, just outside of Scarborough, is the perfect spot for a coastal getaway. It’s a quiet little beach, and with a large sweep of sand backed by cliffs, it could be your own private escape.
Cayton Bay, Scarborough, North Yorkshire, YO11 3NJ.
31. Jervaulx Abbey
Taking up residence at the very edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, Jervaulx Abbey is a dramatic addition to the natural beauty nearby. You’ll find plenty of free things to do here, whether you’re exploring the ruins of the abbey itself or venturing into the 126 acres of stunning scenery that surround it.
Jerveaulx Abbey, Ripon, North Yorkshire, HG4 4PH.
32. Nosterfield Nature Reserve
Recognised as one of Yorkshire’s finest nature reserves, Nosterfield is packed full of free things to see and do. Based just west of Masham, it’s home to a slew of amazing waders and waterfowl, often attracting birdwatchers from all over, while there are also plenty of dragonflies, butterflies and insects to spot from their viewing area. That’s alongside the 1.5 kilometres of footpaths that are just waiting to be explored.
Nosterfield Nature Reserve, Moor Lane, Bedale, North Yorkshire, DL8 2QZ.
33. Hardcastle Crags
You’ll find Hardcastle Crags in the picturesque setting of Hebden Bridge, featuring 400 acres of unspoiled woodland, with streams, waterfalls, millstone grit stacks and over 15 miles of footpaths. You can spend all day bumbling around the stunning natural scenery before heading to Gibson Mill, which sits at its centre, featuring a cafe and gallery.
Hardcastle Crags, near Hebden Bridge, West Yorkshire, HX7 7AA.
34. Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Taking over 500 acres of Bretton Hall’s grounds, Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the UK’s first permanent sculpture park, winning Museum of the Year in 2014. The open-air gallery blends the works of great Yorkshire artists Barbara Hepworth and Henry Moore, with an ever-changing exhibition programme featuring the best British talent. They also have an indoor art space, so there’s still plenty to see on rainy days.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF4 4LG.
35. Cartwright Hall
Just outside Bradford city centre, Cartwright Hall in Lister Park, Manningham is an art lover’s dream. It is home to four permanent galleries which show off the best of Bradford’s art collection. It features a range of 19th and 20th century British artists as well as contemporary prints and South Asian art and crafts. Keep an eye out for their ever-changing line-up of touring exhibitions too.
Cartwright Hall, Lister Park, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD9 4NS.
36. Spurn Point
Spurn Point is a nature reserve and heritage coast, that’s home to all kinds of birds including bar-tailed godwits, black redstarts and whitethroats, while the grasslands provide a summer home to butterflies, dragonflies and moths. In the warmer months you can see black Hebridean sheep and wild roe deer grazing on the sand spit, which is also a base for a lighthouse and RNLI lifeboat station – but be careful on high tides, when Spurn Point turns into Yorkshire’s only island.
Spurn Point, Sputn Head, Withernsea, East Riding of Yorkshire, HU12 0UG.
37. Hull Maritime Museum
Hull is renowned for its seafaring heritage and Hull Maritime Museum is dedicated to showing it off. It’s a remarkable walk through Hull’s history, all the way back to the Bronze Age, although the main focus is on the city’s industrial past from the 19th century and into the modern era. There are special exhibitions on Arctic whaling, North Sea fishing and the city’s trading you have to see.
Hull Maritime Museum, Little Queen Street, Hull, East Riding of Yorkshire, HU1 3DX.
38. The Graves Gallery
The Graves Gallery in Sheffield is an absolute gem if you’re looking for a free cultural day out in Yorkshire. It is home to Sheffield’s visual art collection showing off a huge range of great artists, including the likes of Cezanne, Burne-Jones, Turner, Riley and Hirst. You’ll get your fill of classic pieces, finding new favourites along the way, while they also offer a number of free events, from lunchtime talks to workshops.
The Graves Art Gallery, Leader House, Surrey Street, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S1 2LH.
39. Loup Scar
A remarkable example of Yorkshire’s natural beauty just outside of Burnsall, Loup Scar offers plenty of free things to do. It’s perfect for taking in the scenery, but don’t be surprised if you see folk in the water or on the rocks – it’s a popular spot for climbing and wild swimming, with a plunge pool and another shallow pool further downstream.
Loup Scar, Burnsall, North Yorkshire, BD23 6DM.
40. Otley Chevin
Not only is Otley one of Yorkshire’s finest little market towns, just north of Leeds, but it also has plenty of attractions to keep folk coming back – like Chevin Forest Park. It centres around the ridge from which it takes its name while offering plenty of tracks and trails for folk to climb, run or cycle through – all for free.
Chevin Forest Park, Otley, West Yorkshire, LS21 3DD.
41. Bolling Hall
Bolling Hall is one of the oldest buildings in Yorkshire, dating back to the 14th century, and a day out here will take you on a journey through the centuries, showing you how the people who occupied it lived. Expect to discover a few grisly surprises along the way, like Oliver Cromwell’s death mask.
Bolling Hall, Bolling Hall Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD4 7LP.
42. Huddersfield Art Gallery
He may be famous for depicting the towns and cities of Lancashire, but Yorkshire is home to a fair few pieces of L.S. Lowry’s inimitable catalogue, with Huddersfield Art Gallery having its own collection. It’s one of the town’s best attractions, especially since it’s free, and with plenty more exhibitions from local, national and international artists at the gallery too, you won’t be disappointed.
Huddersfield Art Gallery, Princess Street, Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, HD1 2SU.
43. Farndale Daffodil Walk
Farndale is one of Yorkshire’s best-kept secrets. This secluded valley is perfect for taking in the scenery, from the Low Mill hamlet to High Mill and Bitchagreen. However, it’s the flowers that make this one of the best free things to do in Yorkshire, as every spring, the Farndale Daffodil Walk takes folk on a three and a half mile journey through the valley, which becomes covered in daffodils making for quite the spectacle.
Farndale, York, North Yorkshire, YO62 7UY.
44. Bradford Industrial Museum
Up until 1970, Moorside Mills was still a working hub for textile manufacturing, but since then it’s become one of the key Yorkshire attractions that document the region’s industrial history – Bradford Industrial Museum. Across four floors it shows off everything from the machinery and processes of manufacturing to printing equipment and vintage transport, all of which tie in to tell important stories of Yorkshire’s past.
Bradford Industrial Museum, Moorside Mills, Moorside Road, Bradford, West Yorkshire, BD2 3HP.
45. The Cow and Calf
Ilkley Moor is known to be a popular Yorkshire landmark, and a visit to the unique collection of rocks has to be one of the best free things you can do. There’s an outcrop and a boulder that are said to look like a cow and its calf resting in the fields, hence the name. Oh, and if hiking up there takes it out of you, maybe you can stretch to a pint at the pub of the same name across the road.
The Cow and Calf, Hangingstone Road, Ilkley, West Yorkshire, LS29 8BT.
46. Shepherd Wheel Workshop
Sheffield is famous for a number things, but its most famous nickname is the Steel City. The Shepherd Wheel Workshop, run by Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust, is an active insight into the metalworking past of Yorkshire. One of the main attractions is the earliest complete example of knife grinding, dating back to the 1500s and you can still get a glimpse of just how it’s done today – although, it’s now only open on weekends.
Shepherd Wheel Workshop, Whiteley Woods, Hangingwater Road, Sheffield, South Yorkshire, S11 2YE.
47. Dean Clough Gallery
Set in a huge former industrial building, Halifax’s Dean Clough Gallery is all about showing off the work of talented Northern artists, both past and present. Their Permanent Collection is a fine insight into their ethos. It features over 300 pieces of art, from paintings to drawings and photography, representing a glimpse of the working practices of artists in Northern England since the mid-1980s. And that sits alongside 9 different exhibition spaces, each filled with an ever-changing array of art.
Dean Clough Gallery, Halifax, West Yorkshire, HX3 5AX.
48. Ribblehead Viaduct
One of the great feats of Victorian engineering, the sight of Ribblehead Viaduct towering across the Yorkshire Dales is something you really have to experience for yourself. Built in 1870, hundreds lost their lives making it, such was the size of the project. Not only is the viaduct itself an impressive bit of history, but the land underneath which holds remnants of where workers set up camp has been dedicated a Scheduled Ancient Monument – it’s not every day you get to see one of them for free.
Ribblehead Viaduct, Ribblehead, North Yorkshire, LA6 3AS.
49. Sutton Bank
At the heart of the North York Moors near Thirsk, Sutton Bank was described as the ‘finest view in England’ by Yorkshire icon James Herriot, so why not check it out for yourself? The top looks out over the Vale of Mowbray and the Vale of York with luscious Yorkshire scenery all around. It’s a perfect day out whether you’re walking one of their five trails, or taking on one of their three cycling routes.
Sutton Bank National Park Centre, Sutton Bank, Thirsk, North Yorkshire, YO7 2EH.
50. Yorkshire Dales
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is a prime reason why the county is considered a spot of such natural beauty, and you can spend the day rambling around it. From pretty market towns like Settle, Skipton and Ilkley to huge valleys with trails and unique attractions like Thirsk Furniture Trail, Nidderdale Museum and Fountains Abbey, the Dales are a must visit.
Yorkshire Dales National Park, Colvend, Grassington, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 5LB.Feature image copyright Tom Arber.