North Yorkshire is the largest county in England and one of the most beautiful. Much of the region is made up of the stunning sweeps of the Yorkshire Dales, the brooding North Yorth Moors, and the bracing coast. The cities and towns of North Yorkshire have rich historical roots. First and foremost is the 'city of churches' York. An innovative university town with its fair share of arts and cultural events, York is nevertheless a wonderful labyrinth of medieval alleyways with a history of 2000 years.

Smaller towns include Thirsk, which is generally known by its fictional persona of 'Darrowby', the setting of veterinarian James Herriott's stories about rural life; Ripon, which has maintained some unique local customs like Morris Dancing, the Wilfrid Procession and the Ripon Hornblower; Whitby, which is still in thrall to Count Dracula, the fictional vampire created by Bram Stoker in the 19th century. The town is regularly inundated with Goths, who come to experience the romantic and spooky charm of the ruined abbey and the windswept cliffs; Scarborough, the largest of Yorkshire's seaside resorts. The town is divided by a romantic castle ruin atop a promontory, which separates the old fashioned arcades of the south from the newer developments of the north; and Harrowgate and Knarlesborough, the epitomes of 'twee', Harrowgate and Knarlesborough were Victorian spa towns catering to the rich. Still affluent today, they offer some beautiful cultivated gardens and entertaining tea rooms.  

York MinsterY
ork (pop.180,000) is sometimes called the ‘City of Churches’ and certainly the magnificent York Minster holds the imagination of many a traveller to this ancient city.

York dates back to the Romans who founded the city in 71 A.D as Eboracum, more than likely deriving that name from a local tribe. But it is not really the Romans that draw in many visitors; rather, it is the city’s Viking past as well as its miraculously preserved medieval heritage. It’s a great city to wander with many snickleways, small alleyways and paths between and through buildings, that conjure up all the mystery of the Middle Ages. However, for all its museums, York itself is not a museum piece: it is a vibrant city which has fared well despite being bypassed by the Industrial Revolution. It is a transport hub between the north and south of England and has a fine university, besides its annual art and cultural festivals. In its charming valley setting at the confluence of the rivers Ouse and Floss, York presents something of a genteel character which is reflected in its people and is tempered, or rather, enlivened by the university and the annual influx of tourists.

The old city is situated near the confluence of the rivers Floss and Ouse and, although it is small, the centre can confuse with its labyrinth of medieval alleyways. Leeds Bradford Airport is quite close and there are bus (Adults £5) and train links between the Leeds and York city centres which take under an hour. The East Coast rail line  offers many services from London to York and can take as little as 1hr 45min, but remember that in the UK it always pays to book train tickets in advance. There are also plenty of links from the north to York via train. The train station is situated just outside the city walls on the east side and there are local bus links outside the main entrance on Station Road. Finally, good cheap deals can be found on the National Express coaches, which link York with many cities throughout the UK. The National Express stop is situated at The Crescent, not far from the train station.  

York Minster stained glass  ESP Michael WilsonYork Minster [+44 1904 557201, Adults £8]  The largest cathedral north of the Alps was first built in 627 for Edwin, King of Northumbria but underwent successive reconstructions until it found its present form in around 1100. It is the site of exhibitions, concerts, and workshops, as well as a full diary of religious services. Admire the many exquisite stained glass windows, climb the Tower, visit the beautiful Charterhouse, and descend underneath the Minster to see the Undercroft, where remains of earlier buildings were found.

City Walls ([admission free] Extending a little over 7 kilometres, the old city walls pass through Micklegate Bar, Cliffords Tower, Walmgate Bar, Monk Bar, and Bootham Bar, with interesting views of the city along the way. ‘Bar’ by the way means ‘gate’ and Micklegate Bar, for example, is actually the main gate of the city, through which royalty traditionally enter.

Shambles [admission free] Once known as the Great Flesh Shambles because of its high number of butchers’ shops, The Shambles today is an historic and boutique shopping street. It has distinctive late medieval architecture with overhanging timber upper storeys, the roofs of which almost touch in places. Alongside the cafesand kitschy souvenir shops is a shrine to Saint Margaret Clitherow, who was killed under Henry VIII’s persecution of Catholics. Nearby streets are similar and may be less crowded.

Jorvik Viking Centre [Coppergate, +44 1904 543400, Adult £8.95] Built on the site of a fascinating archaeological excavation that revealed the 1000 year old Viking city of Jorvik, the Jorvik Viking Centre is dedicated to bringing that city to life. The centre replicates every detail of Viking life, even down to the smells and sounds but the ‘time travelling’ ride through the village is relatively short.

York Castle Museum
[+44 1904 687687, adult £8) One of Britain’s most important museums of everyday life, York Castle Museum possesses fine collections of military history, costume and textiles, and social history. The Castle Museum building was a prison and it once held the famous highwayman Dirk Turpin before his execution in 1739.

Castle Howard
[+44 1653 648333, house & grounds adults £12.50, grounds only £8.50] The now iconic backdrop of the 80s TV series Brideshead Revisited, Castle Howard is a stately home par excellence. Its gorgeously decorated rooms are filled with art from all over Europe while its grounds are a monumental mix of lakes, temples, and manicured gardens. At around 24 km outside York, it is out of the way for those without a car but tours can be found from York and there is also a coach service and the option of train and taxi.

The Ashberry B&B [103 The Mount, +44 1904 647339, £35-45) Unbeatable prices and clean, no nonsense design, The Ashberry is only a 10-15 min walk away from town. Does what it says on the tin.

The Groves [15 St Peters Grove, +44 1904 559777, £49-75] Outside the old centre but only a 10 minute walk away, this simple B&B is a good choice for those on a budget.

Fourposter Lodge
[68/70 Heslington Rd, +44 1904 651170,  , without ensuite £60-80, w/ ensuite £60-90]  Have your heart set on a fourposter bed? This is the place. Very quaint décor but a friendly place just 10 mins walk from the heart of York.

The Bentley Guest House ([25 Grosvenor Terrace, +44 1904 644313, £70-80]  An absolute gem run by a friendly local couple who make the place comfy and welcoming - they even provide a free small decanter of sherry in their rooms. It has a decent location too. The only downside might be the slightly inconvenient check in/check out times.

Hotel 53 [53 Piccadilly, +44 1904 559000, £71-90] For those who prefer modern minimalism this is a well located find.

Hedley House [3 Bootham Terrace, +44 1904 637404, from £80] In a quiet, residential street and wholly unexpected behind its Victorian terrace façade, Hedley House is sleek but homelike and comfortable. The food and the location are excellent.

Guy Fawkes Inn [25 High Petergate, +44 1904 623716, £79-120] Across the road from the York Minster and the site of the city’s most infamous son’s birth, you really can’t get any better than this for sheer character. Also has an atmospheric, candlelit pub/restaurant – in fact, to check in, just go to the bar. 

Galtres Lodge Guesthouse [54 Low Petergate, +44 1904 622478, without ensuite £80-5, w/ensuite £95-115) Modern but comfy with a good brasserie downstairs (check-in at the bar). The parking lot is little far away, but Galtres Lodge is right in the middle of things - halfway between the Minster and the Shambles.

Lady Anne Middletons Hotel [Skeldergate, +44 1904 611570, £98-125) Quirky, quaint, and based around six restored historic buildings. Good location.

Churchill Hotel
[65 Bootham, +44 1904 644456, £110-300] Solidly sophisticated, the modern design of this hotel seems to blend beautifully with the Georgian architecture of the building. Excellent service and convenient, central location, but some rooms are quite small.

The Judges Lodgings
[9 Lendel, +44 1904 638733, £185-295] Breathtakingly luxurious: big comfy beds and Jacuzzi baths in most rooms. The attached cellar bar has good food and specialises in stocking a variety of local beers. Superb location. Well worth the expense if you’re looking for something special.


hirsk (pop.4,700), or ‘Darrowby’ as it is known to readers around the world of James Herriot’s stories, is a market town with a distinctive 15th century church and links to Lords Cricket Ground.

Thirsk is situated on and divided by the river Cod Beck. The train station on Station Road is situated a little over 2 km outside town to the west past the racecourse. There are bus stops outside the station to enable visitors to get into town.  

Step back in time to the 1940s at the World of James Herriot Museum [23 Kirkgate, +44 1845 524234, Adults £6] the house where the author and vet lived and worked. The museum commemorates not only the man but also the history of veterinary science.

The site of Thirsk Museum [14-16 Kirkgate, +44 1845 527707, Adults £2] was actually the birthplace of Thomas Lord, founder of London’s Lord’s Cricket Ground. Although a general museum for the town, it does focus more upon modern social history: visitors can learn about a 19th century kitchen, 1930s and 40s agricultural equipment, or see an Edwardian sitting room.

Admire the lattice stonework of the exterior of St Mary’s Church [Cemetery Road, +44 1845 524904, free entry] and the history within.

The Gallery B&B [18 Kirkgate, +44 1845 523767, £65-70] The rooms at the Gallery are simply furnished but the breakfast is hearty. Good value for money and close to the museums.

The Golden Fleece [Market Place, +44 1845 523108, £95] Well located on the market square, the Golden Fleece is certainly a treasure. It has comfortable rooms with old fashioned furnishings and a great bar and restaurant. It was one of Thirsk’s earliest coaching inns and may date back to the Tudor period.  


River Nidd in KnarlesboroughHarrogate (pop.85,100) exudes bourgeois charm: its twee tea rooms, Victorian spas, and endless cultivated gardens give it an air of old school ‘Englishness’. However, it’s also making a name for itself these days as a conference venue, which has led to the development of modern boutique hotels and restaurants.  

Harrogate and Knaresborough (pop. 71,600) lie adjacent to each other in the Nidd Valley with the river of the same name between them. Harrogate train station is in centre of town at Station Parade and the main bus station is there too. Knaresborough’s train station is near the river at Station Road and local buses can generally be found a short walk away in the High Street.

The ornate Turkish Baths and Health Spa [Parliament St, +44 1423 556746, Use of facilities £13-19, guided tour £3] are a reminder of Victorian opulence and date back to 1897 but they also offer modern beauty and health treatments.

Taste the water from the strongest sulphur well in Europe at the Royal Pump Room Museum [Crown Place, +44 1423 556188, Adults £2.95] and learn about the history of Harrogate as a spa town. There are also Egyptian artefacts and exhibitions on Victorian life.  

Besides its spas, Harrogate is a city of gardens: the Valley Gardens [+44 845 3006091, free entry] contain the brilliant Art Deco Sun Pavilion while the colourful and innovative Harlow Carr Botanical Gardens [Crag Lane, +44 1423 565418, Adults £7] showcase the Royal Horticultural Society’s latest endeavours and the Stray, the public parkland to the south, provides plentiful space for picnics and kite-flying.

The ruined fortress of Knaresborough Castle [Castle Yard, Knaresborough, Adults £2.90] looks over the River Nidd in the nearby town of Knaresborough. Dating to around 1100 and rebuilt considerably in the 14th century, the castle was frequented by kings and dukes and sheltered Hugh de Moreville and his followers after they had murdered Thomas a Beckett at Canterbury.  

Finally, take a visit to Mother Shipton’s Cave [Prophecy Lodge, High Bridge, +44 1423 864600, Adults £6] where a mysterious prophetess was born in 1488. She apparently predicted many events such as the Great Fire of London in 1666. Nearby the cave is the remarkable Petrifying Well with its sheet of rock that looks like water turned to stone.

Knabbs Ash B&B
[Skipton Road, Felliscliffe, +44 1423 771040, £35-37.50 per person] Situated in the countryside outside Harrogate, Knabbs Ash has chic rooms and a friendly atmosphere: there’s even a football playing dog to entertain you!

The Mitre Inn
[4 Station Rd, Knaresborough, +44 1423 868948, £75] Right in the heart of town and just outside the train station, the Mitre is a lively gastropub. Rooms are well furnished.  

Alexa House
[26 Ripon Road, +44 1423 501988, £90] Beautifully furnished but with the relaxed atmosphere of home, Alexa House is superbly located for exploring the town. 

Baytree House B&B [98 Franklin Road, +44 1423 564493, £90] Baytree is good value for money with hearty breakfasts, simply and elegantly decorated rooms, and welcoming hosts.

Studley Hotel and Orchid Restaurant
[28 Swan Road, +44 1423 560425, £104] The rooms are stylish and modern in this well-located hotel. Its restaurant features excellent Asian cuisine.

Gallon House
[47 Kirkgate, Knaresborough, +44 1423 862102, £120-30] Gallon House overlooks Nidd Gorge but the views inside the place are beautiful too. The food is fantastic. 

Rudding Park Hotel
[Follifoot, Harrogate, +44 1423 871350, £144] A spot of luxury for the golfers in the world, Rudding Park also has well-furnished rooms and provides delicious food. 



Ripon CathedralThe cathedral city of Ripon (pop.15,900) with its markets, its abbey ruins, and its lovely scenery is a superb ambassador for the charms of Yorkshire. Its dedication to its traditions such as the Wilfrid Procession, the Ripon Hornblower, and, inevitably, Morris Dancing make it an interesting spot for tourists.

Located at the confluence of the Laver and Skell, tributaries of the River Ure, Ripon sprawls out north and south from the river bank. Ripon’s train station is no longer in use but its main bus station is at Moss Arcade, in the town centre on the north side of the river and not far from Ripon Cathedral.

Destroyed in AD 948 by the king as a warning to the Archbishop of York, the splendour of Ripon Cathedral [Minster Road, +44 1765 603462, free entry] was restored only to be destroyed a second time by William the Conqueror. Its next reconstruction took place over many centuries, giving it its magnificent many-windowed front. 

The 12th century ruins of Fountains Abbey [+44 1765 608888, Adults £8.50] are set in the ornate Studley Royal Gardens. The abbey was founded by disgruntled Benedictine monks after a dispute at their former monastery in York. Its austere rules led to it joining the Cistercian Order. The gardens were created to complement the abbey by the Aislabie family. They are classically beautiful with simple temples and sculptures set amongst manicured lawns and man made water features.

Box Tree Cottages [Coltsgate Hill, +44 1765 698006, £65] Box Tree is comfortable and good value for money but the room furnishings are a bit hit and miss. It is in a good central location.

Sharow Cross House [Dishforth Road, Sharow, +44 1765 609866, £80-90] The rooms are nicely furnished and there are lots of little touches to make guests feel welcome.

The Old Deanery [Minster Road, +44 1765 600003, £120] If you feel like treating yourself, try The Old Deanery, an elegant hotel set in a piece of Ripon’s history. Possibly haunted…but the food is mouth-watering enough to make you forget any ghosts.


Scarborough CastleScarborough (pop.50,000) is the largest of Yorkshire’s seaside resort towns. Human settlement here may date back to the Stone Age but the town really took off in the Middle Ages with the famous Scarborough Fair, a 45 day long hymn to trade that attracted merchants from as far afield as Europe. In the 17th century, the discovery of the town’s medicinal spa waters led to Scarborough becoming a fashionable retreat and Britain’s first such holiday spot.

A promontory atop which sits the 11th century Scarborough Castle divides North Bay with its shopping and nightclubs from the older South Bay, the site of sandcastles, cafes, and arcades. Regular rains service Scarborough from Hull, Leeds, and York, terminating at Scarborough Railway station, Westborough, where there are also a number of stops for local buses. National Express also offer coach services to Scarborough from London, Leeds, and Hull, stopping outside the Train Station. In addition, there are a variety of local buses for travel from Whitby, Pickering and Helmsey. Visit help for help planning your trip.  

2,500 years of history fill the site of Scarborough Castle (Castle Rd, +44 1723 372451, Adults £4.50) but the castle itself dates back to 1136. With sweeping views of the bays, the castle has also seen many wars and sieges, which have left it badly damaged.

The Church of St Mary (Castle Rd, +44 1723 500541, free entry) dates back to 1150 but, aside from its long history, it is best known as the resting place of Anne Bronte.  

Sea Life Centre and Marine Sanctuary (Scalby Mills, +44 1723 373414, Adults £14.50) is part of a world wide chain of centres where visitors can see marine life up close. The Scarborough location has a nice Seal Rescue Centre.

Dinosaurs, geology, and natural history are the order of the day at the Rotunda Museum (Vernon Rd, +44 1723 353665, Adults £4.50), Britain’s second oldest purpose built museum. Check out the Bronze Age (and bronze-hued) Gristhorpe Man.


The Earlsmere [5 Belvedere Rd, South Cliff, +44 1723 361340, £65-75] Well situated within Scarborough’s Victorian district of South Cliff, The Earlsmere exudes quiet luxury. Friendly and attentive owners plus well sized rooms.

The Helaina [14 Blenheim Terrace, +44 1723 375191, from £27-47 per person] Beautiful modern furnishings and great views. There is even a small apartment, which might suit young families or those who like a bit more space and privacy.

Phoenix Court [8-9 Rutland Terrace/Queens Parade, +44 1723 501150, £27-38 per person] Closer to North Bay and tantalizingly close to the castle, Phoenix Court has simple décor and a friendly and welcoming atmosphere.

The Castle by the Sea
(Mulgrave Place, +44 1723 365166, £40-45 per person) You’ve got to admire these guys for capitalising upon nearby Scarborough Castle in everything from advising visitors to follow the signs for “The Castle” to find their hotel and in the building design – it looks like a whitewashed castle. 

The Windmill B&B (Mill St, +44 1723 372735, £85) Enjoy the quirkiness of staying in a refurbished windmill complete with a toy museum. Worth it for the experience.

Wrea Head Country House Hotel
[Barmoor Lane, Scalby, +44 1723 378211,£98-160] A little out of town but a well furnished and comfy place to spend a few nights with a Michelin recommended restaurant.

Beiderbecke’s Hotel and Brasserie
[1-3 The Crescent, +44 1723 365766, £115] A good location and great food are this hotel’s strengths and indeed, in some rooms it can be noisy as the bar is a popular place.

Crown Spa Hotel [Esplanade, +44 1723 357400, £63-155]Time travel into Scarborough’s fashionable past and stay at the original grand seaside hotel but don’t expect Victorian furnishings: most rooms are simple and modern. Fantastic views.


Whitby AbbeyWhitby (pop.13,600) is a pretty little fishing town though no one can deny its forlorn abbey, dramatic cliffs, and Goth visitors do not lend it a gloomy romanticism. After the Norman Conquest the village came to be known as Whitby, meaning the ‘white settlement’, possibly because of the bleached houses.  In around the 1600s, Whitby became a useful port and shipbuilding town, and it continues as a port today. However, by far the biggest drawcard is the mystique of the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker, part of which is set here. 

Whitby straddles the River Esk and climbs its banks, with the famous Abbey on the east side (East Cliff) connected by swing bridge to the more modern side of town to the west (West Cliff). The older village below the Abbey may be visited by climbing down the 199 steps or via a longer road. Getting around Whitby in general can be a challenge: the terrain is very steep in places. Car parking is a particular issue and it is a good idea to call ahead to your hotel for details.  From Leeds or York you can take the Coastliner to Whitby, a service which runs up to 7 times a day and stops at Station Square in West Cliff, just outside the train station. If coming to Whitby by train, there are two options – a regular National Rail service direct from Middlesbrough or alternatively, from Pickering a steam train across the North Moors to Grosmont where a change of trains brings visitors into Whitby.  

Ruined St Hilda’s Abbey (+44 1947 603568, Adults £5.80) looms over Whitby. It was built in 657, destroyed by Vikings, rebuilt after Norman Conquest and then went on to inspire Bram Stoker to write Dracula. It can be reached by a steep path of 199 steps (Caedmon’s Trodd). There is also a longer way there by road.

At around 900 years old, St. Mary’s Church is a venerable and fortress-like place of worship that is still in use today. It can be accessed by the 199 step path or the Donkey Path – both steep trails.

Embrace kitsch and enjoy The Dracula Experience (9 Marine Parade, +44 1947 601923, Adults £2.50) which recreates Bram Stokers spine-chilling tale with creepy mannequins and cheesy actors.

Captain Cook MuseumThe Captain Cook Memorial Museum
(Grape Lane, +44 1947 601900, Adults £4.50) is a neat little place to visit for those interested in the man who first charted New Zealand and the east coast of Australia. Whitby also has a replica of the Endeavour, in which visitors can tour the Harbour.

The Whitby Museum and Art Gallery (Pannett Park, +44 (0) 1947 602908, Adults £3) possesses a diverse collection from fossils through ships in bottles and Captain Cook related artefacts to the largest collection of jet objects in the world.

Buy a ticket to the bi-annual Whitby Goth Weekend and don’t forget your black lipstick. Live music and markets as well as a host of other unofficial events. 

Get out of Whitby and head south to Robin Hood’s Bay, a romantic old fishing village that was once the haunt of smugglers. Walk along the seaside and search for fossils.

Shepherd’s Purse
[95 Church St, +44 1947 820228, £55-70].  A chic gem in the heart of the old town, not far from the Abbey, the Shepherd’s Purse has been charming guests with its whole-food emporium, boutique, and lovingly decorated hotel rooms since 1973. 

Assam House [80 Stakesby Rd, +44 1947 600765, £25-30 per person].  Excellent location in a quiet area about 5 minutes walk from the centre. Assam House’s guest rooms are all on the first floor so there’s no trudging up staircases with heavy bags! The breakfast period is a bit tight though – 8:30-9am.

The Queensland B&B [2 Crescent Avenue, +44 1947 604262, £34 person].  Simple comfort and convenient location. Many of the bathrooms have massage showers, which are perfect after a long day hiking up and down Whitby’s steep slopes.

The Arches Guesthouse (8 Havelock Place, +44 1947 601880, £35 per person) Excellent location near the heart of Whitby, comfy rooms, and a great breakfast – what more could you need?

The Leeway [1 Havelock Place, +44 1947 602604, £36 per person].  Lovingly furnished modern rooms in the centre of town. The owners are friendly and welcoming, offering refreshments as soon as you arrive. 

Bats and Broomsticks
[Westgrove, 11 Prospect Hill, +44 1947 605659, £65-70].  One for the Goths with bats, cats, and cobwebs, and lots of black drapery. Refresh your knowledge of the Dracula story with the novel on the night table.

Dillons of Whitby [14 Chubb Hill Road, +44 1947 600290, £70-90].  Sumptuous is not usually a word you

Saxonville Hotel
(Ladysmith Avenue, +44 1947 602631, £132) Good solid comfort and friendly service mark out this somewhat old fashioned hotel, which is well located and just a short walk from the centre of town.  

The Marine Hotel [13 Marine Parade, +44 1947 605022, £140-50]. Beautiful. Themed – but not overly so – rooms provide a surprisingly modern retreat in Whitby and the restaurant serves up great local seafood. There are pretty views across the River Esk but this is in the bar and restaurant district, so it can be noisy of a night over the weekend. One final thing: the bathrooms were designed to be open, so there are no doors.

The Moon and Sixpence
  [Marine Parade, +44 1947 604416, £140-50]. Sister establishment to The Marine Hotel and every bit as gorgeous.  Also looks across the River Esk to St. Hilda’s Abbey.
associate with the humble B&B, but this place can be described in no other way. Think dark wood, exquisite lighting, and Egyptian cotton with modern luxuries such as iPod docks, wifi, and flatscreen TVs. Brilliant breakfasts.