Rich in history and tradition, Yorkshire is a hotspot for travellers looking to explore more of the UK than simply the sights of London. The northern English country is packed with charm, which is especially evident in its villages and towns.
As the biggest county in the UK, and one which is so beautiful that it is often referred to as “God’s own country,” it is probably no surprise that Yorkshire is full of pretty and charming villages and towns, many of which have been around for centuries. Travel through the region and you can delve deeper into the county’s past, from its time under the rule of the Romans, the Angles, and the Vikings, right through to the 19th century, when it was one of the most important parts of the UK for industry.
These days Yorkshire is a hub of creativity thanks to cities such as Leeds and Sheffield championing music, fashion, and the arts, while smaller towns allow you to take things at a slower pace, from leisurely canal walks to afternoons spent in a traditional pub with a pint of Yorkshire ale. And to give you the best of both worlds, the great outdoors is never far away. The rugged coastline and three National Parks, the North York Moors, most of the Yorkshire Dales, and part of the Peak District, all make a stunning backdrop to many of Yorkshire’s quaint villages and market towns, and give you the chance to explore the great outdoors as well as village life. Here are ten of the most charming.
Located on the River Wharfe and surrounded by countryside, the pretty market town of Grassington makes a great base for walking and exploring the nearby Wharfedale and Nidderdale. It is known for its cosy coffee shops and independent boutiques, many of which can be found in the quaint cobbled square. The Grassington Festival takes place every June, entertaining locals and visitors with musicians, poetry classes, street theatre and more, while the Grassington Dickensian Festival and Christmas Market takes place in the first two weeks of December and sees the town decked out in a festive Victorian style.
Famous as the home of Wensleydale cheese, one of Hawes’ main attractions is the Wensleydale Creamery, built back in 1897 and now open to visitors interested in finding out more about the history and making of one of Britain’s most popular cheeses. With its picturesque setting, Hawes is also a destination point for walkers; one of the main sights to see if you’re out and about is Hardraw Force, the highest single drop waterfall in England which was used as a location in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
World-famous thanks to the Brontë sisters, tourists and literary fans flock to Haworth in their droves, but this small village still hasn’t lost any of its charm. The sisters’ former home is now the Brontë Parsonage Museum and a must-see during any trip to Haworth. Other sites include the old railway station, where you can hop on a steam train for a journey through Brontë country, former mansion Cliffe Castle Museum, The Black Bull pub, which is one of the the oldest in Haworth and was a regular haunt of Branwell Brontë, and of course the surrounding Yorkshire Moors, which inspired Emily’s famed novel “Wuthering Heights”.
Named “the greatest town in Europe” and voted the “fourth funkiest town in the world,” Hebden Bridge is known for its creative and artsy vibe. It boasts its own independent 1920s cinema, plenty of cool cafes and bars, and has pretty lively music scene thanks to the Trades Club, which has seen the likes of The Fall and Patti Smith play. Poetry fans also make a pilgrimage to the small market town; it was famously featured in Ted Hughes’ poem The Stubbing Wharf, and his wife Sylvia Plath is buried nearby in Heptonstall.
This pretty little village lies in the Yorkshire Dales National Park, meaning it is surrounded by rolling hills and beautiful countryside. The main attraction is Ryedale Folk Museum which takes you through history of the area with 20 reconstructed buildings, including a Tudor mansion, a Victorian thatched cottage, and a 1950s village shop and chemist. If you’re interested in arts and crafts then head to Hutton-le-Hole Craft Workshops, where you can see artisans at work hand-making ceramics, prints, chocolates and more. Walkers might also enjoy the picturesque ramble over to the nearby village of Lastingham.
Robin Hood’s Bay
If you want to enjoy some time by the sea, head to the quaint fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. Located not far from Whitby, this small town manages to pack in a lot of activities for both adults and children alike. Enjoy the sandy beach, explore rock pools, experience the great outdoors by bicycle or on a coastal walk, or simply wander through the narrow, cobbled streets admiring the red-roofed fisherman’s cottages and stopping at a historic inn for lunch.
The Victorian model village Saltaire was built back in 1851 by textile mill owner Titus Salt as a home for his many workers. Named after its founder and the River Aire, which runs through the village, Saltaire is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, protecting its famous architecture. Former textile mill Salts Mill is one of the most impressive buildings to see, and is now home to a selection of independent shops and restaurants, as well as an art gallery boasting one of the largest collections of work from famed Bradford artist David Hockney.
Another option for those visiting the coast, Sandsend is a small fishing village which attracts visitors with its sandy beach. From here you can enjoy a view of the historic Whitby Abbey, and even walk to Whitby if you’re feeling energetic. Alternatively, try your hand at surfing or paddle boarding with the nearby Whitby Surf School. Sandsend is also a popular spot with archaeologists and palaeontologists who head to the beach in search of fossils. If you’re enjoying a family day out, then there are also plenty of rock pools for kids who want to go looking for crabs, shrimp and small fish.
Historic Skipton is located right on the doorstep of the Yorkshire Dales, offering you both the attractions of a bustling town and easy access to the great outdoors. The 11th century castle is one of the must-see places to visit, while Shakespeare fans should head to the Craven Museum and Gallery to see one of only four of the playwright’s First Folios on permanent display. You can also meander down Skipton’s pretty cobbled streets or get out on the water and take a boat trip on the Leeds-Liverpool canal.
This cute picture-perfect village has won awards for being one of the prettiest in Britain. In fact, it’s so pretty that the Grade II listed Beck Isle Cottage, located just by the beck, has even been featured on calendars and chocolate boxes. In the centre of the historic village you can find also find the old market cross and stocks. Thanks to its location on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, nearby Dalby Forest also offers plenty of activities for those who like to get outdoors including walking and cycling routes. There are also plenty of local walks around the village, including one which will take you to the nearby hamlet of Ellerburn and its ancient Saxon church.