With the summer holidays looming, you may be heading to exotic shores. But if not, stave off the boredom by exploring England. We continue our series of guides to some of the most popular British counties for families with our pick of 10 things to do in Yorkshire with kids.
It seems like Yorkshire is having a bit of a moment. Once synonymous with flat caps and ale, and glibly sidelined as ‘Up North’, this vast county – from the dales to the moors, the coastline to the cities – has become the go-to destination for the staycation crowd. You’ll find plenty of savvy families heading up the A1 on a Friday afternoon, off to boutique hotels in pretty market towns, or renting some country escapism under low-skies in wide open landscapes. So if you’ve already got the memo and are thinking of dodging Devon for something a little wilder, head to Yorkshire. You won’t regret it.
10 things to do in Yorkshire with kids
PRIORY: Mount Grace Priory is a former Carthusian Monastery (just off the A19 near Northallerton). Play hide and seek or picnic in the haunting ruins, explore the recreated monk’s cell and herb garden, and have a look around the Arts & Crafts Manor House. Keep an eye out for the colony of stoats that Mount Grace is known for.
BOAT RIDE: For something truly unusual, head to Knaresborough and take a boat trip on the river. Only 4 miles from Harrogate, you can hire little boats near the viaduct and see the patchwork town, the castle and the house built into the rock from a unique perspective as you head up river. Mind you check dates of the Bed Race (June) if you go in summer, this quintessentially English event would definitely ruin a quiet boat trip, but does make a brilliant spectacle.
EXPLORE: If your children are young enough to make-believe but not easily spooked, don’t forgo a couple of hours at The Forbidden Corner at Tupgill Park in the Yorkshire Dales. The hidden grotto was originally built as a private folly, but opened to the public by local demand and has now become a curious landmark. A labyrinth of tunnels lead to tiny doorways which open into chambers, statues hide around corners and there are four acres to tear around. Hide and seek in the fish temple and wander through the herb gardens. The whole experience is strange and magical.
TAKE A TRAM RIDE: You have to trip over a few garish stalls, and scout past the arcades of Marine Drive to reach the foot of The Central Tramway in Scarborough, but this recently renovated, hugely nostalgic tram ride up the steep cliff will thrill the kids. Have an ice cream at the bottom or tea at the Parlour Tea Room at the top.
CLIMB: One for daredevils (aged 6+), Arial Extreme in Bedale, North Yorkshire is the place for kids (and willing parents) to get high up in the forest canopy on a suspended adventure course 13m off the ground. Between climbing nets and tight ropes, ladders and zip wires, this should satisfy adrenalin junkies – and perhaps wear them out before a long journey home. Book ahead.
HUNT: The Rotunda in Scarborough is one for dinosaur fans big and small and ideal for a rainy day. With plenty of local Jurassic era finds from this stretch of coast, kids can discover fossils, take a walking tour in the bay to find dinosaurs tracks and meet a Bronze Age skeleton. Not only is this a brilliant hands-on place to learn about geology, but a morning here will fire imaginations and give context to the Jurassic coastline. Just take a bucket for beach finds.
PICNIC SPOT: With curiously balanced and weird-shaped millstone grit rocks, Brimham Rocks (below) is a fantastic place to while away a sunny day while the kids climb and run riot. There’s a trail to follow and a café open in summer. Look out for the Dancing Bear and balance on the Rocking Stones. Pack a picnic and then romp over the heather moors. (Or if you don’t fancy the NT entrance fee at Brigham, make like in-the-know locals and head to the Cow and Calf rock formations on nearby Ilkley Moor).
BEACH TIME: While Yorkshire isn’t short of gorgeous beaches, Filey is arguably the best for families. From flying a kite and building sandcastles to birdwatching by the Filey Brigg, you may even see seals chilling out along the swathe of golden sand. Wander up to Coble Landing, a slipway with a jumble of boats and kiosks, and grab a cup of tea and a bacon buttie while you watch the boats bob. Old-fashioned fun.
STEAM TRAIN RIDE: Any child with an interest in locomotion should be granted a morning on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Catch the steam train from Pickering to Whitby and stop at Goathland – children will instantly recognise it as Hogsmead Railway Station from the Harry Potter films. The journey up through the eerie moors is epic and you can reward yourselves with fish and chips on Whitby Pier when you arrive.
GHOST WALK: If the kids are old enough to delay bedtime, have an early tea and then head on a spooky family walking tour with The Original Ghost Walk of York. Hear about the nobleman looking for his missing head and the roman legions roaming through basements from brilliant and theatrical tour guides as you wander through the streets of this beautiful city. Tours at 8pm daily.
Making a weekend of it?
Mr Fox Eats at: Betty’s Tea Rooms in York may be world famous but dodge the queue and head to the smaller, quainter, prettier Little Betty’s. Order a pot of Yorkshire tea and a Fat Rascal (scone) and grab a window seat. Visit ‘incredible, edible Todmorden’, a market town in West Yorkshire where the community grow herbs, edible flowers and vegetables around the town in raised beds. You can’t beat fish and chips on the seaside at Filey, Scarborough or Whitby. If your children know how to behave (or you have grandparents in tow to take them for an evening), Yorkshire has a clutch of fantastic fine-dining options, reviewed here by Country Life.
Mr Fox Stays at: Twenty minutes from York in Helmsley, The Feversham Arms is an updated victorian hideaway with cosy rooms and the wild moors on the doorstep. For escapism in the dales (with no sacrifice on style) book a Natural Retreats lodge. If self-catering is not on the agenda, check-in to Yorebridge House in Wensleydale: this former schoolhouse is rural, intimate and serves a mean breakfast. Rumour has it that Jollydays, near York, is a lovely glamping site offering tree-climbing, den-making and family adventure.
With thanks to Sarah Milne-Day and Emma Ashforth. Images (Knaresborough, Brimham & features image all © Andrew Hawkes)