Our Top Cities & Big Towns

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

A popular destination with tourists and locals alike, Harrogate sits proudly among our top 5 towns to visit in North Yorkshire. Renowned for its green space The Stray, smart little tearooms and fascinating shops spilling out onto pavements, Harrogate provides an indulgent morning shopping followed by lunch at the famous Bettys tearoom and then 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.

Sitting in the beautiful countryside near Harrogate, Harlow Carr offers one of the most beautiful things to do in Yorkshire. Meander through the attractive waterscapes, woodland and wildflower meadows. Highlights include the lush plants blooming along the many streams, and there is a paradise in the Sub-Tropicana Garden. The diverse landscapes are a delight all year round.

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

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

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Ripon North Yorkshire

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. Take a look at our Ripon Holiday Cottages today.

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