21 of the best day trips from York, England

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Yorkshire is one of the most stunning and varied counties in England and what better way to explore it than with a series of day trips to different locations.

I lived in Yorkshire for 20 years and have some fond memories of all of these places – this might mean some aren’t in your standard list posts but hopefully this means you’ll get some great ideas!

Basing yourself in York is a great way to explore more of the North of England and Yorkshire and after exploring the City of York you might want to go further afield. These day trips from York have something for everyone from nature to history and sometimes a bit of everything!

You might also like: 13 unique places to stay in Yorkshire

Day trips from York to the coast

These coastal towns and attractions can be visited individually or as part of a tour round the coast on your day trip.

Whitby with Abbey overlooking the town

Whitby

One of my favourite coastal towns in this area is the beautiful Whitby. It’s a large coastal town which is dominated by the ruined Whitby Abbey high above it. It’s attracted all sorts of people to it in recent times from bikers to goths to families. I love it for the cobbled streets, quirky shops and the history of the place.

You could easily spend the day in Whitby exploring all there is to offer. It combines well with a trip to Staithes or Robin Hood’s Bay too as they are just next to it.

Whitby is around 1 hour, 15 mins from York by car. I recommend parking in the Park and Ride and getting the bus in for a stress free trip.

If history is your thing then here are some more ruined abbeys in Yorkshire

Robin Hood’s Bay

If you’re looking for a slightly smaller coastal village feel then Robin Hood’s Bay might well suit. It’s a small fishing village and famous for being the end point on the Coast to Coast long distance walk. You may see some people dipping their feet in the sea at the end of their long walk!

It actually has no connection to Robin Hood (of the Sherwood Forest variety) or at least no concrete connection has been found and it’s thought the name might have come about through local legends and stories.

Robin Hood’s Bay is just south of Whitby. The biggest car park is Station Car park but it can get very busy so leave time to find a car parking spot.

Staithes on the North Yorkshire Coast – about 90 mins from York

Staithes

Often cited as one of the prettiest North Yorkshire coastal villages, Staithes is definitely worth look if you’re in the area and exploring the coast as a day out from York.

Staithes has connections with Captain Cook who lived and worked there for a time. You can learn about this in the Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre in the village.

While a small place to go there’s a lot of history here and it’s worth adding it in with some other stops in the area if you can. It’s around 90 minutes away by car from York.

Flamborough Head

This one is for bird watchers and people who love bracing walks along the coastline. Flamborough Head is a really important for nesting seabirds who make their home in the towering cliffs.

It attracts birdwatchers looking to catch a glimpse of puffins and is one of only a few places you can see them without needing a boat trip. You can see them from around mid May to mid July.

Flamborough Head is best reached by car from York and it’s around a 1 hour and 20 mins drive. It could be easily combined with a trip to Scarborough or perhaps The Deep

Scarborough

A traditional seaside resort town, Scarborough has a lot to offer and you can easily spend a day or even more here.

There’s a long beach, a promenade to walk along, a 12th century ruined caste and a cliff side funicular lift to name just a few things the town has to offer. Don’t forget fish and chips by the sea and all the seaside attractions that are a traditional site in this part of England.

Scarborough is just over an hour from York by car and can also be reached by train which only takes 50 mins.

Towns and cities to visit from York

There are some stunning and interesting towns and cities that are very close to York and make a great day trip.

Harrogate

Harrogate enjoyed it’s heyday in the Victorian period where it flourished as a spa town and attracted wealthy people looking to improve their health.

Today it’s a beautiful place that has some stunning architecture, wide open green spaces and great shops. The Royal Pump Room Museum will recount some of the history of the town if that takes your fancy and you can even still enjoy spa treatments at the Turkish Baths too.

Harrogate is 50 mins by car and can be reached by train in just 35 mins so a perfect day out by public transport from York.

Leeds

Leeds is a large city, much bigger than York so if you’re looking for more liveliness this might be a place to head to.

It’s a great shopping area, has some amazing museums (highly recommend The Royal Armouries if anyone is interested in weaponry and history and the Thackray Museum of Medicine) and has large sporting & music venues too.

It’s easy to get to from York being just 30 mins or so by train. Car is also possible but you’ll have parking issues to contend with – its about a 50 minute drive.

Helmsley

A small town in the North Yorkshire Moors offering walks, history and classic, quaint English charm. It’s a beautiful place to explore and well worth taking the time to stop here.

Just outside the town you’ll see the remains of Helmsley Castle which is over 900 years old. It has changed in its use over the years from a fortress to a Tudor mansion and then eventually descending into the ruin it is now.

Best reached by car, Helmsley is about 50 mins from York. A good place to combine on a trip is Rievaulx Abbey which is about 3 miles away.

Saltaire

Saltaire is a UNESCO world heritage site and is what’s known as a ‘model village’. Now this is not a small miniature village you might see as a tourist attractions. A model village relates to the fact that it was built as a community for the workers by businesses. You’ll find a few of these in the UK from the industrial revolution onwards. (Another famous one is Bournville in Birmingham which housed Cadbury chocolate factory workers)

Saltaire’s history is in woollen mills and the owner of the mills created the housing for the workers and they were a vast improvement on the bad housing of nearby towns.

It’s a really interesting place to look round and there mill now houses a gallery and some shopping and dining. It’s free to enter and look round.

Saltaire is about 1 hour 15 mins from York by car.

Attractions near York

More attractions near York that make for a great day trip from the city.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway – A Steam Train journey

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs from Pickering to Whitby and makes a great day out for fans of steam trains, history and even filming locations.

Ever wondered where the Harry Potter scenes with the Hogwarts Express were filmed? It’s at one of the stations on this route – Goathland.

You could spend a day exploring and having a trip on the train or pick a stop and wait for the steam trains to go by and just watch them and then explore the local area.

You could get a bus from York to Pickering and pick up the train there or it’s about 45 mins in the car. If you wanted to go to Goathland that’s just over an hours drive.

Eden camp

Regular readers of this blog will know that I love my WW2 attractions and this one is no different. I blame having a history obsessed son! Eden camp is more than a museum as it’s based in one of own prisoner of war camps that the British used during World war 2.

The exhibitions have been set up inside the huts that were used in the past and you can learn about a great deal of what went on in the war, not just related to this sites history but general things too such as the Home front and about Nazi Germany. It’s suitable and set up for children but obviously use your discretion!

Eden camp is can be reached by car or by bus from York. It’s around 20 miles away near Malton.

Yorkshire Air Museum

This one is just a little bit outside of the city of York so if you want to do something different but don’t want to travel far it might suit.

The Yorkshire Air Museum was home to a Bomber Command in WW2 and now houses many different airplanes from different eras and you can learn about so much. We visited a few years ago now as a birthday trip for my son and he loved it.

You can get there by bus in around 25 mins from the centre of York or it’s a 20 minute drive.

Castle Howard

A beautiful Stately home very close to York is Castle Howard. Don’t be fooled by the name – it’s not a castle!

You can take a look around the house and explore the grounds. There’s manicured formal gardens with fountains and regularity to it and then there’s more wild areas too. A large lake is in the grounds and it’s just a wonderful open space to explore (outdoors is dog friendly too!)

It’s really close to York so makes a perfect day trip from there. Only 30 mins by car and you’re able to get there by bus too in just over an hour.

The Deep

Situated in Hull is this huge aquarium which houses all sorts of sea life from sharks to penguins and jellyfish. It’s quite an impressive place to go and enjoyable for all ages. We went here lots when our kids were a little younger and it was always a firm favourite.

The Deep is located in the city of Hull so you could combine a trip here to look around the centre. It’s improved a lot in recent years but still relatively off the beaten path when it comes to visitors.

It’s around 1 hour 15 mins from York to Hull and there’s parking by the Deep for visitors.

Mother Shipton’s Cave

A quirky attraction near York that my daughter went to once and really enjoyed is Mother Shipton’s Cave. I’ve wanted to go there ever since she told me about it – hopefully soon!

The story of the cave is that a woman was born there and she could foretell many of the great happenings of the future. She was born in the 1500s and prophesied the Great Fire of London as well as the Spanish Armada defeat. She made a living telling the future.

You can visit the cave and also the Petrifying Well where items turn to stone – there’s a lot of items hung up that have been petrified!

It’s only around 40 mins from York and can be combined with a trip to Harrogate or Knaresborough.

Rievaulx Abbey

Located just 3 miles from Helmsley, and even walkable from there on a nice day, is the ruined Rievaulx Abbey.

I’ve a soft spot for abbeys and love the architecture of the skeletons that are left. This one is a gorgeous example and there are some audio tours and information boards to learn about what life was like in this abbey as well as a small museum.

Its about a 50 minute drive from York to here and can be combined with the market town of Helmsley for a great day out.

Fountains Abbey near Ripon

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens

Another abbey and this is one of the largest in England. Not only have you the gorgeous and well preserved ruins to marvel at but you’ve the stunning Water Gardens that were built in in the 1700s. The whole area is a UNESCO world heritage site and it’s clear to see why.

You can spend a whole day around here – take a picnic and enjoy the stunning countryside. It could also be easily combined with a trip to Harrogate.

It’s around an hours drive from York.

Countryside day trips from York

Want to get out and about in nature on your day out? Here are some trips that are easily reachable from York.

Yorkshire Dales

The Yorkshire Dales are a huge are to the North West of York and you could easily spend a day exploring some of the areas closest to York on a day out.

From rolling hills, stunning rock formations and fantastic walks this is quintessential English countryside.

North York Moors

Another national park near York is the North York Moors. Different to the Yorkshire Dales but no less beautiful. It’s situated to the North of York.

With moorland, open countryside, small villages and excellent walking opportunities it’s a great place to clear your head and enjoy nature. The North York Moors Railway runs through the area so that’s worth checking out too.

Yorkshire sculpture park

Near Wakefield is a really interesting place for walks, picnics and just enjoying the world going by, all with the added input of art and sculptures to make it interesting.

There are over 100 installations around the large site and you can easily spend half or a full day here. You can find a cafe to have your lunch too. It’s well recommended for art lovers or just families who want something slightly different to let off steam!

It’s around 1 hour away from York and best reached by car – it’s just off the M1. Admission is free although the car park is charged.

Wharram Percy

Finally I’m going to end with a small but quirky site in the depths of the Yorkshire countryside. Wharram Percy is an abandoned medieval village and a really interesting place to spend an hour or two. It could make a great stop off on the way to the coast or one of the other options on this list or could be a day out in it’s own right to explore the Yorkshire Wolds.

You can wander around the ruins of an old church and see the bumps in the ground from the remains of old buildings. It was abandoned in the 1500s and was never used again.

Its around about an hours drive from York.

I hope you enjoyed this insight into some of the best day trips from York in England – I’d love to hear if you do any of these or if you have any others I should have included. Leave me a comment!

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Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for 10 of those. She loves to explore the UK and Europe and has a particular penchant for historical sites.

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