Beautiful countryside, lively cities, and friendly people, it's really no wonder that Yorkshire is known as 'God's Own County'. But with so much beauty everywhere, and in the biggest county in England, it can often be hard to know what to do and where to go. Hopefully by narrowing it down to just a third of the county (North Yorkshire), we should be able to help decide your activities, myriad though they could be.
The National Parks
North Yorkshire has two out of the United Kingdom's fifteen national parks, the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors. Surprisingly, for places that are really not too far away from each other, they boast of two incredibly different kinds of beauty. The Dales, on the one hand, are a bucolic collection of rolling green hills, scattered with fields surrounded by limestone walls, hemming in fluffy sheep and piebald cows. The Moors on the other hand, is a far more dramatic and wind-swept area, where one can really hurtle around shouting "Cathy" or "Heathcliff" into the wind (they are, after all, where 'Wuthering Heights' is set).
North Yorkshire is filled with gorgeous little towns. The historic Knaresborough is well worth a visit, with an incredible ruined castle perched atop a hill overlooking the River Nidd, and a collection of pretty houses that line the almost sheer sides that rise dramatically up from the waters. Knaresborough also boasts a rather picturesque rail viaduct, which can be seen from its best advantage either on the River Nidd in a boat, or from the lookout point near the castle.
Another favourite of visitors to North Yorkshire is undoubtedly the Georgian-era spa town of Harrogate. With many semi-natural attractions to recommend it, the 200-acres of Stray, the Valley Gardens and RHS Harlow Carr, one of the crowning jewels of Harrogate is Bettys Tea Rooms. A Harrogatian institution, this refined tea shop offers a wide variety of cream cakes and teas. It is, after all, the place responsible for Yorkshire Tea, which is packaged in a factory in nearby Starbeck.
Surprisingly, there is more than one city in North Yorkshire. York is, of course, one of them. With a history spanning over 2,000 years, York is a historians dream. The city once served as the capital of the Viking kingdom of Jorvik, and even before that it was an important Roman stronghold, where the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great was proclaimed Caesar. Here, find York Minster, a breathtaking example of Gothic architecture presided over by the Archbishop of York, as well as many museums dedicated to Vikings and Romans.
A second city in North Yorkshire is actually Ripon. With a population smaller than the nearby town of Harrogate, Ripon is a city in its broadest sense, in that it has a cathedral, and therefore is a city. It is beloved, however, because it too is well over 1,000 years old. It has a lovely market, however, and nearby you can find the atmospheric ruins of Fountain's Abbey, making the city and its surroundings a definite place to see.
Oh, we do like to be beside the seaside in Yorkshire. More specifically, Whitby and Scarborough, the two most famous seaside towns that Yorkshire has to offer. Whitby rose to prominence due to the introduction of trains in the Industrial Age, when the middle classes began to have more of England opened up to them. The tiny winding streets are lined with colourful houses, and the bay itself is a staple day out for all Yorkshire children, thanks to its delightful sand and a sea that does remain perpetually cold no matter what the weather is like. Whitby is most famous for its Abbey, which towers over the town in a way so iconic, it inspired Bram Stocker's novel 'Dracula'.
Similar to Whitby, but with an atmosphere that makes it so very different, is Scarborough. Its beachfront is one of the most recognisable fronts in England, and it contains a lively aura that tiny Whitby just doesn't. With numerous arcades, guesthouses, and an enormous beach, it is another place that is beloved in the hearts of Yorkshire folk, who remember devouring delicious fish and chips as they stroll down the promenade.
Finally, and with great joy, we come to the trains of Yorkshire. We at Rail Discoveries believe that the best way to see a place is by rail, and this is certainly the case in Yorkshire. Taking you through the Dales is the amazing Embsay & Bolton Abbey Steam Railway. This line runs between the tiny parish of Bolton Abbey (where you can also find some utterly stunning ruins that sit on the banks of the River Wharfe) and the tiny village of Embsay, just a stone's throw away from historic Skipton, and showcases some of North Yorkshire's most stereotypically beautiful countryside.
Most famous is the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, which runs between Pickering and Whitby. Again, the scenery along the line is unmatched, showcasing the wild beauty of the moors, soaked in purple in the summer and eerily desolate in the winter. As you come up to Whitby in the train, you can see the looming spectre of Whitby Abbey, a truly awe inspiring sight from an incredible vantage point.