Not only is Leeds a thriving cosmopolitan city, but it’s also the gateway to Yorkshire, so you’re perfectly placed to explore the region by train, bus or car.
Leeds is worthy of a visit in its own right, with loads to see and do within the city’s limits, but it’s also a great base for exploring Yorkshire. You can choose from a huge list of must-visit attractions, with natural wonders like Malham Cove, unique art spaces like Yorkshire Sculpture Park and historic buildings like Bolton Castle. So whether you’re on the train, the bus or hiring a car, make the most of everything Yorkshire has to offer.
Believe it or not, you don’t need a car to explore Yorkshire – there are plenty of train services that will take you across the region.
You can travel from Leeds to York in less than half an hour. It’s a beautiful city, filled with character – expect cobbled streets lined with traditional shops and more than a few attractions. You can visit the stunning York Minster, take a walk along the city walls or delve into the long history of Clifford’s Tower. If you’ve got kids in tow, be sure to visit York Dungeons to discover the gory history of the city or Jorvik Viking Centre, where you can experience the sights, sounds and smells of days gone by.
Nestled on the southern edge of the Yorkshire Dales, Ilkley is a beautiful spa town with loads to offer visitors – and you can be there in just 30 minutes on the train. It’s the ideal choice if you want to see the Yorkshire countryside. You can explore the Wharfe Valley with a multitude of walks at your disposal, or visit The Cow & Calf, an impressive natural rock formation that attracts thousands of visitors every year. Back in the town itself, you’ll find yourself with a surprising selection of cafes, bars, restaurants and shops to choose from – try Betty’s Tea Room. Ilkley is also home to range of incredible events, including the Literature Festival in October, the Beer Festival in February and the Summer Festival in August.
Another spa town that’s well worth a day trip, Harrogate is just half an hour from Leeds by train. Here you’ll find the famous Turkish Baths & Health Spa, which opened in 1897 and are still in use today. Designed to heat, cool and cleanse the body, they’ll see you moving from the steam room and through their heated chambers, before you plunge into a pool of cold water and retire to the relaxation room. Alongside the baths, you’ll find a wonderful selection of antique stores, independent cafes and green spaces like Valley Gardens, as well as some fabulous events – time your visit right and you could attend Harrogate Flower Show or the Great Yorkshire Show.
A designated World Heritage Site, Saltaire is a quaint little village that’s just 20 minutes from Leeds by train. It’s named after Sir Titus Salt, who built Salts Mill back in 1853, along with the surrounding village which housed his workers. While Salts Mill is no longer used for its original purpose, it is still the centre piece of the village in its new iteration as an art space, and you’ll find a huge collection of David Hockney’s work inside, as well as a small selection of shops and restaurants.
A 45 minute train ride will bring you to the bustling market town of Skipton. It’s great for exploring, with a host of traditional pubs and shops for you to discover, but the main attraction has to be the castle. Built by Robert de Romille in 1090, it’s over 900 years old and is now recognised as one of the most complete medieval castles in Britain. While you’re here, take a scenic trip down the canal – you can jump on one of the many cruise boats or hire one out to drive yourself.
Yes, Leeds is landlocked, but the joys of the Yorkshire seaside are just an hour and a half away in Scarborough. Here you’ll find long stretches of sandy beaches, with more than a few adventure activities for you to try if you’re looking for an active day out. Alternatively, explore the maze of streets on the seafront, which will see you playing on 2p machines, picking up postcards and tucking into traditional fish and chips.
If you want to venture out into the Yorkshire countryside, why not take a trip to Bentham? The hour and a half train ride offers picturesque views, as you pass through Skipton, Giggleswick and Clapham on the way to your final destination. Bentham is the perfect base for exploring – it has three heritage trails for you to follow, ranging from two to nine miles, and there are loads of attractions nearby, including the creatively named Big Stone, which is exactly what it sounds like. Ingleton, with its famous caves and waterfall is just three miles away.
A bustling market town, Settle is just over an hour away from Leeds by train and will see you travelling through a beautiful stretch of countryside on your way. It’s wedged between the Yorkshire Dales National Park and the Bowland Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, so you’ll soon understand why Yorkshire is fondly known as God’s Own Country. For an easy trail that’s suitable for everyone, even those with pushchairs, try the Settle Riverside Walk which will take you past old cotton and snuff mills as you wander down the River Ribble – or head out into the countryside for a more challenging fell walk.
You can be in Hebden Bridge in under an hour on the train, leaving you with plenty of time to explore this picturesque market town. It strikes the perfect balance of breathtaking Yorkshire countryside and beautiful architecture, with a host of independent shops, cafes and restaurants to explore. Hebden Bridge became the first ever ‘Walkers are Welcome’ town 10 years ago, so you can expect a friendly welcome as well as a choice of scenic walks – follow the route of the 2014 Tour de France, wander along the Hardcastle Crags or take the 7 mile trek to The Bronte Parsonage.
The train from Leeds to Knaresborough will bring you to your destination in just under an hour, and you’ll find plenty to keep you busy while you’re here. This charming market town is perched on the cliffs above the River Nidd, offering views along the riverside and the impressive railway viaduct that crosses the Nidd Gorge. Explore the maze of medieval streets and stone staircases, passing street art, independent boutiques and tasty eateries along the way, or head straight to Knaresborough’s main attraction – the Castle and Museum.
As well as the train, you can reach many of Yorkshire’s out of the way destinations by bus.
The bus to Otley takes 45 minutes and will take you to either the town centre or Otley Chevin Forest Park. The former will see you spoilt for choice, with a medley of small independent boutiques alongside traditional pubs and cafes, while the latter promises a host of adventures, be it a long leisurely walk, a spot of bouldering or simply a trip to the Surprise View, where breathtaking scenery spread out below you. End your explorations with a pint and bite to eat at The Royalty, a proper Yorkshire pub with stunning views of the countryside.
A city that feels more like a village, Ripon offers visitors a fabulous day out. It’s just over an hour away by bus, and will see you passing through Harrogate and Ripley – why not stop at Ripley Castle on the way? The cathedral is the highlight of any visit to Ripon. It’s a stunning Grade I listed building, that was first built in the late 1100s, but the original gothic design has been embellished over the years. You can also visit a host of museums, with the Workhouse, Prison & Police and Courthouse to choose from – and if you time it right, you can have a day at the races too.
A two hour bus ride will bring you to Pateley Bridge, one of the most scenic Yorkshire towns you’ll come across. It’s nestled in the heart of Nidderdale, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, offering a multitude of outdoor activities, alongside traditional tearooms and quaint shops. Needless to say, you won’t be able to take on the 53-mile Nidderdale Way in a day, but you can walk along a stretch of the route, taking in the stunning Yorkshire Dales scenery along the way. Alternatively, stop at the Nidderdale Museum to learn a little about the area’s past.
A lovely market town on the edge of the River Wharfe, Wetherby is just an hour from Leeds on the bus and offers a fantastic day out. It’s a charming little town, great for exploring, and the surrounding countryside is just as good. Why not make the most of the The Wetherby Railway Path? The stretch of railway between Spofforth and Thorp Arch has been converted into a walking and cycling path, which takes in Spofforth Castle, Wetherby Town Centre, The Shambles and Wetherby Racecourse, as well as a wealth of local countryside.
Of course, if you want to get to those hard to reach places, you’ll need to drive, but don’t worry, you can always hire a car.
North York Moors
The North York Moors is one of the highlights of Yorkshire’s countryside, the jewel in its crown you might say. Depending on where you’re going, you can be there in an hour, and you’ll be able to choose from a multitude of adventures and attractions. You’ll find plenty of walking and rambling routes, as well as charming villages, natural wonders and man-made marvels. Visit Helmsley, where you’ll find a castle and tearooms or head to White Mare Crag to see a towering wall of limestone, carved out by glaciers during the ice age. Castle Howard and Rievaulx Abbey are well worth a visit too.
Another of Yorkshire’s main attractions, the Dales boasts some of the most impressive limestone scenery in the UK, with caves, crags, valleys and dales – don’t miss Malham Cove, the stunning limestone pavement where Harry Potter was filmed, or Brimham Rocks, a collection of weird and wonderful rock formations. You’ll find beautiful landmarks here, like Bolton Abbey, Fountains Abbey and Bolton Castle, alongside a host of charming villages and towns. Be sure to visit Ingleton, it’s home to the longest cave in England, in the form of White Scar Cave, as well as a series of beautiful waterfalls. If you’re feeling really adventurous, why not climb the Three Peaks?
It may not be as famous as the Moors or the Dales, but the Yorkshire Wolds is just as worthy of your time. You can be in the picturesque villages of Sledmere, Thixendale and Bishop Burton in just over an hour, but it’s the countryside that really makes the Wolds stand out. It runs from Filey in the north down to Hessle in the south, with rolling hills and beautiful wide open spaces between. The Yorkshire Wolds Way, which runs from top to bottom, is a 79 mile national trail that will take more than a day, but you can also choose from a host of shorter walks suitable for people of all ages and abilities.
The hour and a half drive to Holmfirth will see you driving through beautiful countryside as you head right to the edge of the Peak District, but it’s the final destination that will really impress. Don’t be surprised if it feels familiar, it was the setting of popular TV show Last of the Summer Wine, and the quaint little village has changed very little since the show ended. There’s plenty of walking to be done in the surrounding countryside, but don’t miss the delights of the town itself, which include a fantastic market as well as a host of shops and gastro pubs.
An hour and a half outside of Leeds, Haworth is a real find. It’s a pretty town, surrounded by countryside, but that’s not even the best bit, because it’s also the birthplace of the Bronte Sisters. You can visit their old home, Haworth Parsonage, which is now a museum filled with stories from their past, as well as seeing some of the sites that inspired their work. Take a leisurely stroll to Top Withens, stopping at the Bronte Falls and the Bronte Bridge along the way – it’s a great way to put yourself in the shoes of the famous sisters.
Fancy a day at the seaside? Jump in the car and you can be in the scenic coastal town of Whitby in less than two hours. You’ll find all the traditional seaside activities here, so walk out onto the twin piers or indulge in proper fish and chips at The Magpie Cafe before heading down on the beach. You’ll also find plenty of history here. You can learn all about the world’s most famous vampire at The Dracula Experience or uncover the epic voyages of Captain Cook at the Memorial Museum – and don’t forget to climb the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey.
Wakefield is less than half an hour away from Leeds and it has a host of attractions for you to check out. You’ll find not one, but two of the Yorkshire Sculpture Triangle’s galleries here. The first is The Hepworth, a massive 1,600 square metre art space, filled with the work of Henry Moore, Harold Gilman and Ben Nicholson, to name but a few. And if you think that’s good, you should see The Yorkshire Sculpture Park – it combines stunning outdoor spaces with a host of modern art installations to create a one-of-a-kind gallery.
Holmfirth Food Festival image copyright Andy Leader. Pateley Bridge image copyright ARG_flickr, licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use. Bentham image copyright Lucidtech, licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use. Wetherby, Settle & Knaresborough images copyright Tim Green, licensed for commercial use under Creative Commons. Cover, Ripon, York, Skipton, Ilkley, Harrogate, Saltaire & Hebden Bridge images copyright Peppermint Creative. Otley image copyright Contakt Photography.