York is one of England’s most historic and iconic cities to visit.
This charming, walled city can trace its history far back to the days of the Vikings and to the Romans before that, and the cobbled streets are awash with ramshackle rows of houses and elegant buildings that are perfect for a day’s walking.
York is found nestled away in the north of England, between the Yorkshire Dales and the Yorkshire Moors, an area of outstanding natural beauty that’s equally brimming with history, and full of quaint Yorkshire villages and spectacular scenery.
York makes for the perfect location from which to explore the rest of the region, from the nearby national parks to the seaside towns on the Yorkshire coast.
The cities of Leeds and Durham are never too far away, while even the famous landscapes of the Lake District are within easy reach.
There are some wonderful day trips from York, and here are our favourites.
1. Bolton Abbey
Bolton Abbey is one of Yorkshire’s most beautiful, crumbling and scenic abbeys.
Found in the Yorkshire Dales, the ruins of this old medieval church make for a wonderful day out from York.
Surrounded by rolling, green hills and wide landscapes, the picturesque setting adds to the ramshackle walls and brickwork that is a shadow of its former glory, but that somehow still looks spectacular.
Bolton Abbey was once a magnificent, rich English church, dating back to the 12th century.
When Henry VIII began reforming the Church of England however, he closed most of these abbeys, including Bolton Abbey, and while the lands were taken over, the churches and buildings themselves were simply left to fall into disrepair.
The village itself is just as rustic and rural as the abbey, and you can spend the day walking the ruins, exploring the streets and hiking in the countryside, for a true immersion in the beauty of Yorkshire.
Recommended tour: Haworth, Bolton Abbey & Steam Trains Day Trip from York
2. The Yorkshire Dales National Park
York is the gateway to the Yorkshire Dales National Park, and you can easily find yourself returning day after day to walk through the verdant countryside and to uncover more of the hidden secrets of this beautiful part of England.
The national park covers a huge area of land to the northeast of York and includes many small villages and towns that are about as quintessentially English in look and character as you could find anywhere in the country.
There are many opportunities in the Yorkshire Dales to strap on the hiking boots, grab a map and simply walk the many, many trails.
There are long-distance walks that cover vast distances of the park, including the famous Pennine Way and even the much longer Coast to Coast Walk which passes through the area.
There are castles, abbeys and ruins too, all just a day trip away from York.
Recommended tour: Best of the Yorkshire Dales Full-Day Tour from York
Hawes is a beautiful town that’s found within the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
This old market town is home to winding streets and beautiful scenery but is perhaps most well known as the home of the Wensleydale Creamery, which produces the fabled Wensleydale Cheese, infamous for being featured as the favourite cheese of tv characters Wallace and Gromit.
Cheese has long been produced in the Wensleydale area and can trace its origins back to French monks who settled here in the medieval days.
Today you can still find the best Wensyldale for sale here, and if you visit the local chip shop, you can even try the local delicacy of deep-fried cheese, if you dare.
On the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park, the countryside village of Haworth can be found.
This is another of the many wonderful rural communities, enveloped by rolling hills and beautiful pastures, but Haworth attracts visitors, not only because of this but because of its association with the Bronte Sisters.
The famous English authors and poets wrote such classics as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and the Bronte Family home was situated in Haworth itself, meaning that across the village, there is a considerable embellishment of the family’s history.
You can visit the Bronte Parsonage Museum, the former home of the sisters, to learn more about their lives and their writing.
5. Kilburn White Horse
North of York you can visit the strange sight of an enormous white horse that was carved into the side of a hill.
Found in the North York Moors National Park, close to the small village of Kilburn, the figure of the white horse is a surprising one to see when it appears in front of you.
The figure was carved from the rock of the hill in 1857 by locals from the nearby villages, and even today, it is certainly a stand-out feature of the landscape, and well worth the drive from York just to see.
Included in: North York Moors and Whitby Day Trip from York
6. North Yorkshire Moors Railway
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs from Whitby on the coast through much of the beautiful countryside of North Yorkshire.
This was once a busy and important rail route through the north of England, but it closed in the mid 20th century.
It was reopened as a heritage rail line, and now exclusively runs restored steam engines along its tracks for the delight of the thousands of visitors who ride it each year and contribute to it being one of the busiest steam engine train lines in the world.
Ride in a historic rail carriage from the old station at Pickering, right through to the lovely seaside town of Whitby, for a fantastic day out from York.
Recommended tour: Steam Trains, Whitby & the Moors from York
Once you are in Whitby, there is much to see at this coastal destination too.
This is one of the most prominent tourist destinations along the beautiful Yorkshire coastline, and it’s most revered for the delicious fish and chips that can be found at the many restaurants here.
More than this though, Whitby was where Captain Cook, one of Yorkshire’s most famous naval characters, learnt the trade that then saw him circumnavigate the globe and chart the east coast of Australia, amongst his many other exploits.
You can explore the extensive local history, and in summer you can even swim at the beaches, although it might still be too cold for most visitors.
Bishopthorpe is a village that’s found just a few miles away from the centre of York and makes for an easy day trip from the city.
The village is the site of Bishopthorpe Palace, a grand estate and country home that is the home of the Archbishop of York.
The mansion dates back hundreds of years, and over the centuries has been remodelled into the extravagant home you can see today.
9. Castle Howard
Equally close to York city centre is Castle Howard, an incredibly lavish and architecturally distinct country home that dates back to the late 17th century.
It’s not a castle in the medieval imagining of the word, and there are no walls or fortifications to see, but it is one of the most opulent buildings in Yorkshire, with grand designs on the outside and hundreds of intricately decorated rooms inside.
Available tour: Castle Howard Tour
10. Ilkley Moor
Ilkley Moor is one of the most beautiful areas in Yorkshire, and it’s found just a short drive away from York on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales National Park.
This is a place of green landscapes and unusual rock formations, that will capture anyone’s imagination.
For locals, Ilkley Moor is important as this is supposedly the site that inspired the lyrics of Yorkshire’s unofficial local anthem.
11. The Lake District
Few places in England can match the majesty and beauty of the Lake District.
Visitors have been travelling to this outstanding area of natural beauty to immerse themselves in the glorious landscapes since the Victorian era, and little has changed today.
The area is vast, but start in the town of Kendall and then head to Lake Windemere to get a taste of just what it is that draws people into the Lake District.
Available tour: From York: Lake District Day Tour
Saltaire is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s found on the outskirts of the city of Bradford, just to the west of York.
Saltaire was established during the industrial revolution in the mid-19th century, and today the well preserved Victorian-era buildings and streets have led to its protection under UNESCO. Travelling to Saltaire very much feels as if you are stepping back in time a hundred years or more.
The city of Sheffield grew to prominence as a centre of steelworks in the region, but in recent decades it has shaken off this industrial outlook to become a centre of culture in Yorkshire.
It’s a vibrant city, with a busy university and some of the best shopping centres in the north of England.
Historic Durham is found an hour and a half’s drive away from York on the River Wear.
With many beautiful buildings and a history to rival York too, it makes for a great day trip.
Explore the marvellous colleges of the university and the many cathedrals and traditional places of pilgrimage that have long been associated with the city.
Leeds can be sprawling and intimidating, and grey and drab from first looks over the skyline, but this old industrial centre has much waiting under the surface.
It’s a big, modern city and there is much to explore, from galleries and exhibitions to an infamously rowdy nightlife.
Being only twenty miles away from York, it makes for an excellent city break.