I promised a bucket list for North Yorkshire and here it is.
Back in February, whilst writing my 25 Things To Do In West Yorkshire Before You’re Five guide, I found that there were quite a few things we regularly do with Bee that fall just over the county border. I realised that we actually spend quite a bit of time in North Yorkshire, it is only 20 minutes drive away after all. North Yorkshire is also home to some of my favourite countryside and holds very many happy holiday memories for me.
Bee has done far less of the things on this list. Many are favourite haunts of Dan and I, pre-Bee. But, this combination of our favourite places and recommendations from local mamas make up a list that I can’t wait to complete with Bee. We’ve got a good 3 years 4 months yet so I think we’re on track.
∀ = free
Hunt for fossils in Staithes ∀
The higgledy-piggledy houses of this fishing port on the coast of North Yorkshire, may best be recognised by eagle-eyed viewers of CBeebies’ Old Jack’s Boat. A picturesque spot for a day of fossil hunting beneath the cliffs. Staithes and Port Mulgrave (2 miles south) are though to be the best places on the northern coast to find ammonites, and if you’re really lucky you might unearth a dinosaur.
Catch the train to the National Railway Museum, York ∀
What better way to travel to the National Railway Museum than by train. The station is right next door, just a short walk around the corner or over the footbridge. Discover 300 years of rail history, ride the miniature train, explore real-life locomotives and carriages, and let off some steam in the Little Play Station for under-5s.
Walk through snowdrops at Studley Royal
Most well-known for its Cistercian monastery Fountains Abbey, Studley Royal Park is also one of the best places to see snowdrops in North Yorkshire. Take an early spring walk through a white carpet of flowers, planted over 100 years ago. There are plenty of other things to do and see too; the abbey, the water garden, Swanley Grange, and a brand new adventure play area. Adults £13.60, under-5s go free.
Pick your own fruit at Balloon Tree Farm, Gate Helmsley
There’s nothing quite like eating fruit straight from the bush, or tucking into a pie made with the fruits of your labour. Seeing the source of the food we eat and playing an active part in its harvest, is inspiration for even the most fussy of eaters. And at Balloon Tree Farm there’s also a farm shop and cafe for the grown-ups, animals to meet and feed, and a children’s play area with a two-storey wendy house, mini digger and real tractor.
Crunch through autumn leaves at RHS Harlow Carr
Not just for admiring the summertime blooms, RHS Harlow Carr has something to see all year round. Sixty-eight acres of woodland and wildflower meadows, with curated gardens, a kitchen plot, and hedgehog street. The play areas are dotted through the woodland – slide through a monsters mouth, ride a spider or take off in an alien spaceship. An autumn visit is the perfect opportunity to scour the ground for natural treasures. £11 adults, under 5s go free.
Explore life under the ocean at Scarborough Sea Life Sanctuary
Bee could watch fish swimming around an aquarium for hours. There’s something magical about peeking into another world, especially when you can see it from underwater. The Sea Life Sanctuary is home to all manner of ocean creatures for little ones to discover and marvel at. From comical penguins, majestic turtles and fantastical sea horses, to eerie jellyfish, magnificent rays and a giant octopus. And if you’re braver than me, you can encounter some sharks. Joint entry for a parent and 3-5 year old is £14 (under 3s go free).
Sleep in a tent at Masons Campsite, Appletreewick
The first time you sleep in a tent is quite an adventure. Maybe a little scary, definitely exciting – the darkness, a sleeping bag, torches, and nighttime sounds. Camping usually involves the pleasurable side-effects of campfires, toasted marshmallows and hot chocolate too. Masons campsite in the Yorkshire Dales adds a touch of luxury, and is sure to entice the less willing grown-up with its on site coffee and bread shed and glamping options. Regularly featured in the top 100 campsites in the UK, Masons is possibly regarded as one of the best in North Yorkshire. A tent pitch for 2 adults and 1 child is £24 a night.
Float up the canal in a barge, Skipton
Beneath the shadow of Skipton Castle, right through the centre of the historic market town, runs the Leeds Liverpool canal. Catch one of the many barges carrying tourists, and embark on a peaceful cruise through the local countryside of the Yorkshire Dales. One hour trips from £8 for adults and £4.50 for children.
Riddle your way around Kettlewell Scarecrow Festival
For nine days in August every year, the residents of idyllic Yorkshire Dales village Kettlewell, display scarecrows in their gardens, open spaces and hidden corners. Visitors can follow the trail, spotting the many scarecrows, and solving the riddles to win daily prizes. Food is served in the village hall and in several cafes, and there are three pubs for the grown-ups. Proceeds from the festival go to the church, village hall and school. Trail sheets are £1 each, and event parking just £3 a car.
Climb the steps up to Whitby Abbey ∀
Whitby can boast many attractions, from boat rides and Dracula tours, to fabulous fish and chips, and of course the Abbey. But my clearest memories of Whitby, as a child, were the steps up the Abbey. People still debate how many there are, it depends whether you count the first and last. Whatever you do don’t lose count. It’s a long way back down to start again!
Escape the maze at Stockeld Park
Set in the grounds of a beautiful Georgian mansion, Stocked Adventure Park opens its doors every school holiday. With an array of indoor and outdoor play areas, ride-on activities and playgrounds dotted throughout the enchanted wood there’s plenty to keep little ones busy. Particularly special, is the largest evergreen maze in Yorkshire, illuminated with twinkling lights throughout the Christmas season. With over 2 miles of paths within the 8 foot high labyrinth, you could be in there a while. Entry is £12.50 per person (under 2s go free).
Ride in a Train on the Settle-Carlisle line/North York Moor
There are two great train lines in North Yorkshire for the budding train enthusiast. The Settle-Carlise line, which crosses through the Yorkshire Dales and North Pennines, and includes the impressive Ribbleshead viaduct. Or the North York Moors Railway, 24 miles from Pickering to Whitby, through historical stations, behind heritage steam locomotives. Both travel through beautiful countryside and feature great stops along the way.
Build a sandcastle on North Bay Beach, Scarborough ∀
Growing up in Leicester, I always felt so far away from the ocean. The seaside held (and still does) such wonder and excitement for me. The North Yorkshire coast is an easy drive away, and has perfect beaches for those first few sandy steps and cold paddles. And there’s no place better than Britain’s first seaside resort, Scarborough.
Walk across the limestone pavement at Malham Cove ∀
A large limestone formation made by a waterfall 12,000 years ago. Malham Cove is a popular walking spot, and the challenging climb to the top is impressive. There you will find the breathtakingly unusual limestone pavement. One for nearly 5 year olds, as the climb is strenuous and the pavement needs to be walked across with care.
Cross the stepping-stones at Bolton Abbey
The Bolton Abbey Estate is 30,000 acres of stunning countryside, with over 80 miles of footpaths to walk and explore. It easily warrants several visits, to explore all it has to offer – Strid Wood, the Valley of Desolation, Barden Tower, the annual Welly Walk, and at its heart, the iconic Priory Church and ruins. Follow in the footsteps of the 12th century Priory lay workers and take the stepping-stones across the River Wharfe. It’s probably best to time it when the river is low, and there’s a grown-up’s hand to hold. Entry to the estate is £10 per car (high season).
Catch a crab on Bridlington Harbour ∀
Fishing for crabs with my brother was one of my favourite seaside things to do as a child. We’d spend hours on the harbour wall, quietly dangling our lines into the water below. All you need is a weighted crabbing line, some bait and a harbour. Bridlington’s historic harbour, England’s largest shellfish port would be a perfect place to start.
Take something to swap to Studfold Nature Trail
Studfold’s Explore, Discover and Learn Trail has been designed specifically for primary and pre-school children. Follow the 1.5 mile adventure trail, solve the clues and discover the secret boxes, all set in the stunning Nidderdale countryside. There are fun activities and play areas along the way – a 20 foot hedgehog, storytelling chair and fairy rings. A pop up cafe provides hot drinks and lunch, or take a family picnic, which will magically be transported to the picnic area for you. Just remember to take a little something to swap in the treasure box. Adults £6, children £5 and under 3s go free.
Watch gliders from Sutton Bank ∀
On the south-west edge of the North York Moors is Sutton Bank, a glacier made ridge offering spectacular views of the vale of York. It’s height and position mean it has been used for ridge soaring since the 1930s, and is home to the Yorkshire Gliding Club. As well as walking the paths and taking in the views, the Sutton Bank National Park Centre has a brand new adventure playground, an exhibition about the formation of the ridge, and a tea room.
A picturesque medieval market town, Knaresborough boasts a castle and viaduct, as well as England’s oldest tourist attraction, Mother Shipton’s cave, and the petrifying wall. The River Nidd runs through the centre, and down by the waterside there are several cafes, and rowing boats to hire. Adults £6 (under 5s go free) for 1 hour hire.
Poke about in a rock pool on Filey Beach ∀
Smaller and a little less busy, Filey is nestled between Scarborough and Bridlington on the North Yorkshire coast, and boasts a glorious stretch of beach. To the north, beneath the imposing cliffs of Filey Brigg, are numerous rock pools to explore. Folklore says the rocks of the Brigg are the bones of a drowned dragon – so who knows what you’ll find.
Eat an ice cream sundae at Billy Bob’s Ice Cream Parlour
Set on Calm Slate Farm, where Yorkshire Dales ice cream is churned with fresh milk and cream from cows solely from the Dales, Billy Bob’s has become somewhat of local institution. An American diner and ice cream parlour, you can come for breakfast, lunch, dinner or simply a sundae. It’s outdoor play area and undercover play barns (for diners only) provide endless fun and ice-cream burning activity, split into under- and over-7 areas. We don’t need much of an excuse to visit Billy Bob’s, it’s one of our favourite treats. It’s advisable to book a table as it can get extremely busy.
Look for birds on Bempton Cliffs
Every year 250,000 seabirds flock to the cliffs around Flamborough and Bempton, to mate, nest and raise their young. Between April and August is the best time to see them, and if you’re lucky you’ll catch sight of puffins. You can learn all about the birds in the visitor centre, and there’s a perfect spot for a picnic overlooking the reserve. Adults £4, under 5s go free.
Play in the Adventure Garden at Newby Hall
A great family day out with plenty to do, Newby Hall is set amongst extensive gardens and woodland. A 1.5 mile miniature railway runs along the river next to the thoughtfully designed Adventure Garden. With swing boats, rope bridges, a fort, an arial slide, pirate ship, pedal boats and tarantella water play area, it caters for children of all ages. Newly Hall is also home to one of the finest collections of dollhouses and teddy bears. Adults £11.50, children £9 (under 4s go free).
Get lost in the Forbidden Corner
A four acre garden in the Yorkshire Dales, originally built as a private folly but due to demand it was subsequently opened to the public. Marvel at extraordinary statues and structures, wander down paths that lead nowhere, and puzzle your way through labyrinths and cryptic gates. The Forbidden Corner is one of the quirkiest days out, and will delight children and adults alike. Adults £12, children £10 (under 4s go free).
Play Pooh sticks at Falling Foss Tea Garden ∀
My favourite place in all of North Yorkshire. A quiet, secluded escape from the world – although I’m beginning to think that its secret location may have been blown. The enchanting tea garden is nestled amongst ancient woodland at the top of Falling Foss waterfall. The tea garden serves the most delicious cream teas, and there’s a beck to paddle in, a fairy playground, and a picturesque bridge, perfect for playing pooh sticks from.
There are many other things in North Yorkshire to do, that I just couldn’t fit into my list. I can’t wait to tick all of these off with Bee. For days out inspiration just over the border, have a look at my 25 Things To Do in West Yorkshire Before You’re Five post.
What would you include in your list of things to do in North Yorkshire?