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Discover our favourite large towns and cities to visit whilst in North Yorkshire. And whilst we love our many local market towns, sometimes we look forward to a few more bright lights. Steeped in history, culture, characterful places to eat, boutique shops, and more, there’s plenty to explore...

1. York

York is within an hour’s drive of any of our luxury holiday cottages in North Yorkshire and is a bustling city filled with exciting and unmissable experiences in our top 5 towns to visit in North Yorkshire. Soak up the history of the city along the quaint cobbled streets along The Shambles, filled with a rich and varied heritage and the impressive architecture of the Gothic cathedral York Minster which was built over 250 years.

Shop till you drop at one of the many unique independent York shops before dining at any of the foodie destinations from fine dining to street food, and of course the world-famous traditional tea rooms with an award-winning afternoon tea at  Bettys. The new kid on the block from the Michelin-starred chef Tommy Banks is hugely successful Roots. Save some room for dessert at York’s Chocolate Story where chocolatiers created the world’s finest chocolate and learn the art of the chocolatier, how to make it, taste it and even create your own before seeing how the experts do it.

Hop on an open-top bus and explore over 30 of the finest attractions that this thriving city has to offer with access to world-class museums, galleries, and experiences. One of the main attractions that can’t go amiss is Clifford’s Tower, standing proud at the highest point in York and really is a sight to behold.

The National Railway Museum is one to be explored for engineers of all ages, or for something a little more daring and interactive head to the Jorvik Viking Centre, the gruesome York Dungeons, or the even more frightening Ghost Walk.

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2. Harrogate

Set in the heart of Yorkshire, Harrogate is a popular destination with tourists and locals alike and sits proudly on our top 5 towns to visit in North Yorkshire. The town offers historic houses, castles, and abbeys alongside some of Yorkshire’s finest countryside as well as picturesque parks and gardens to discover. Renowned for its smart little tearooms and fascinating shops spilling out onto pavements, Harrogate provides a relaxing escape in Yorkshire where you can indulge in an antiques hunt in the morning followed by lunch at the famous Bettys tearoom and then a visit for some pure relaxation at the luxurious Turkish baths. Treat yourself to an evening champagne picnic in the floral Valley Gardens, Spring is a great time to visit as flowers come into bloom and the Harrogate Flower Show brightens up the town.

Lovers of local delicacies and fresh international produce shouldn’t miss the BBC Good Food Show in April or the Great Yorkshire Show which happens every July, featuring food stalls, livestock and agriculture from around the region.

Families can visit Log Heights at Ripley Castle for an adventure day with a difference. From jumping into the sky to catch a trapeze to problem-solving closer to the ground, this is a family day out with a difference! Newby Hall is one of England’s finest houses and is fun for all ages with 25 acres of award-winning gardens to enjoy as well as a children’s adventure garden with a fort and water play features; a miniature railway to ride, a woodland discovery walk, and a contemporary sculpture park.

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3. Ripon

Ripon balances a rich cultural heritage with its exciting contemporary living with its imposing 7th-century cathedral dominating the city’s skyline, along with its bustling market square, there is something on offer for all ages.

The market square is very much the heart and soul of Ripon, proudly retaining its tradition of the hornblower who can be found ‘setting the watch’ every evening around 9 pm.  The streets are lined with medieval and Georgian buildings filled with a diverse range of stores from independent boutiques to High Street chains offering high-end fashion and traditional gifts.

The Cathedral provides a sanctuary on a rainy day for all of the family and is a beautiful focal point as you stroll the city’s streets and relax in one of many award-winning cafés.

The perfect family-friendly day out is not far at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden, a stunning World Heritage Site run by the National Trust and one of the largest and best-preserved monastery ruins in England. Whether you’re looking to soak up the history and atmosphere or to explore the miles of award-winning scenic gardens and tranquil moon ponds or discover deer in the deer park, Fountains Abbey will always have a special place in your memory.

For an action-packed family day out, it’s got to be Lightwater Valley Theme Park. There are over 40 exciting attractions for thrill-seekers of all ages, with rides for Jaw Droppers, Whipper Snappers and Nippers alike.

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More Nearby Cities

Durham

Durham is a city well known for its University, cathedral and 11th-century castle, and the whole of the centre of Durham is a conservation area, with over 569 listed buildings. Located on the banks of the river, the city offers plenty of independent shops and places to eat, cathedral tours, great Rugby, and a regatta.

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Leeds

Yorkshire's capital offers all that you would expect from a leading UK city. There is amazing shopping, sightseeing, culture, sport and nightlife. An hour's drive, we do enjoy a trip to Harvey Nichols and the Victoria Quarter, or a day at the cricket ground.

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Newcastle

Whey Aye, you’re always welcome in Newcastle. An hour's drive, the city is full of characterful people and places. The venues offer world-class live music and shows, whilst the coastline around is iconic. There is plenty of choice for foodies, Fenwicks for the shoppers, and part of Hadrian's wall runs through Newcastle.

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