From cathedrals to coastlines: the ultimate weekend in North Yorkshire

With its acres of rolling hills, picture-perfect market towns and miles-upon-miles of unspoiled coastline, it’s little surprise that Yorkshire has long held the moniker ‘God’s Own Country’. The birthplace of the Brontës, Marks & Spencer and of course, Yorkshire puddings, not only is this glorious part of the world England’s biggest county, but it’s also one of the most beautiful. Split into four distinct sub-counties, you could easily spend weeks hopping from city to country and back again without even scratching the surface, but if you’re looking for a neatly packaged weekend away, North Yorkshire is a great place to start. Here’s how to spend 48 hours getting to know this incredible corner of the United Kingdom.

Day 1

Morning: Castles and cobblestones in Skipton

Known as the ‘gateway to the Dales’, the age-old market town of Skipton is the ideal starting point for a visit to North Yorkshire. Boasting acres of pretty parkland and the region’s trademark stone-walled buildings, the town holds plenty of old-world treasures, but the highlight is its grand Medieval castle, dating back over 900 years and still sitting pretty on the edge of the township. Head to the Terrace for panoramic views of the nearby woodland before strolling to locally-lauded and multi-award winning chippie Bizzie Lizzie’s for a top-notch fish and chip lunch. If you fancy walking off your meal, historic Bolton Abbey national park is just a short drive away, with plenty of trails for every ability, from simple strolls to all-day hikes. Be sure to get a picture on the famous stepping stones, with the majestic Abbey as your impressive backdrop.

Afternoon: Dracula and Gothic architecture in Whitby

As British seaside towns go, Whitby is truly in a league of its own. Yes sticks of rock are a dime-a-dozen and for every ice-cream shop there are two fish and chip take-aways, but there’s also an air of mystery and intrigue to this coastal beauty spot that keeps visitors coming back for more. Sitting high on a clifftop, the Gothic Whitby Abbey, which dates back to AD 657 and served as the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, is undoubtedly the town’s biggest draw. There are plenty of nods to the novel’s two-fanged protagonist everywhere you look but among these you’ll find a host of less spooky attractions, from the Captain Cook museum, to the famous Whalebone Arch and the 199 steps leading up to the Abbey. Reach the top and you’ll be rewarded with views for miles around. Cradling all of this, is a stunning stretch of coastline that’s just begging to be strolled along, Flake 99 in hand.

Evening: Food glorious food in Malton

The tiny market town of Malton is having a bit of a resurgence of late. Once a little-known haven for farming and agriculture, this popular visitor spot is now a foodie destination in its own right, with a string of awards to prove it. Holding the title of Yorkshire’s Food Capital, Malton’s monthly food market is a real highlight and part of the reason for the town’s astronomical rise in popularity, as is its prized gastronomy tour and cookery school. Wander the storied streets and you’ll find everything from gin distilleries to artisanal ice-cream parlours, and macaron purveyors to craft coffee stores. They’ve even embraced the plant-based trend with a vegan restaurant that serves up creative regional produce and has become one of the area’s biggest hitters. For dinner, you’ll be spoilt for choice but a good bet is The New Malton, an upscale gastro pub with an ever-changing menu of locally-sourced dishes – from Lentil and Coriander Kiev to Honey Roast Ham and Baked Lobster with Miso Herb Butter, paired to perfection with local ales and a selection of fine wines.

Day 2

Morning: Vikings, Railways and Harry Potter in York

Nestled on the banks of the River Ouse, York is not only North Yorkshire’s largest city, but it’s also the region’s most impressive cultural hub, boasting some of the best museums outside of London. Swot up on Scandi ancestry at the Jorvik Viking Museum, learn about steam trains at the National Railway Museum and visit the underground chambers of York Minster for a one-of-a-kind lesson in the city’s Roman history. When you’ve had your fill of culture, stroll along the banks of the river on one of the many waterside walks or take a trip to The Shambles, a world-famous street, said to be the inspiration for J.K Rowling’s fictional Diagon Alley, where a winding, cobbled pathway props up an impressive network of Elizabethan buildings. Here, you can peruse a selection of jewellery stores, chocolatiers and confectioners or stock up on some Harry Potter souvenirs. Continue your shopping spree by seeking out one-of-a-kind treasures at the city’s line-up of vintage stores, including the York Antiques Centre before hitching a ride on the York wheel for impressive views across the city.

Afternoon: Cream tea at Betty’s

A visit to Yorkshire wouldn’t be complete without a trip to Betty’s tea rooms. This local institution has a handful of outposts across the county, but the Harrogate branch is the original, and still the best. Having held a prime position on the high street for over 100 years, it’s not unusual to see a queue snaking around the block when afternoon tea time rolls around, and for good reason. The elegant dining room with its sparkling silverware and starched white tablecloths is a sight to behold, and service with a smile makes the whole experience a treat from start to finish. Don’t leave without trying a traditional Fat Rascal – a fruity rock cake – washed down with a cup of Yorkshire’s finest brew of course. Cap off your afternoon with a relaxing visit to the city’s Turkish Baths where you can soak your cares away as you admire intricate Italian mosaics and Islamic arches decorated in an elegant Moorish design.

Evening: Sunsets on the Moors

The Dales are as synonymous with Yorkshire as flat caps, white roses and a good strong cup of tea. But more than that, they’re a proud part of the county’s heritage, and their untapped beauty has served as inspiration for many a novel over the ages – from Wuthering Heights to The Secret Garden. With thousands of square miles of dense heather-sprinkled moorland, rugged hills and cavernous valleys, it can be hard to know where to start. For the best sunsets, you can’t beat Blakey Ridge on a clear day. There are several walking routes you can take, but the drive is truly unbeatable as the roads are quiet, and the scenery nothing short of spectacular. Get your camera at the ready as you pass ironstone mines, fields of flora and the odd sheep, before arriving at your vantage point just in time for the main event. Afterwards, finish your visit in true Yorkshire style with a pint of stout and a homemade steak and mushroom pie at local’s favourite The Lion Inn, and start planning your return visit.