From breathtaking countryside to characterful seaside towns, get exploring this summer…
Leeds may be one of the North’s most vibrant places, with something to suit everyone, but sometimes you want to escape the city and explore - and that’s where it excels. The Peaks, Dales and even the Lakes are all within a two-hour drive, and major motorways in all directions mean that nothing is too far away. From breathtaking countryside to characterful seaside towns, here are some of the best places to take a day trip…
MALHAM COVE - 1h 20 mins from Leeds, A65
Stunning views, a massive waterfall and the magnificent site of resident ospreys circling above are the three main things that greet you as you embark on the short climb up to the top of Malham Cove. Once up, the distinctive limestone columns that you walk across are somewhat reminiscent of the Giant’s Causeway, and younger visitors will recognise the setting from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. As a bonus, Gordale Scar and Janet’s Foss are both a short picturesque walk away.
WHITBY - 1h 40 mins from Leeds, A64/A169
Robin Hood’s Bay, Filey and Scarborough also deserve mentions, but Whitby is the seaside location that has my heart. The cobbled streets and the iconic Abbey create an atmosphere unlike any other, and I can’t help but relive the pages of Dracula at every turn. Of course there’s a beach and a short pier walk to grab the attention, as well as several nautically themed museums for boat nerds. And the seafood… oh, the seafood.
ILKLEY - 40 mins from Leeds, A660 or A65 / direct trains from Leeds station
Other than getting lost on Ilkley Moor (without a hat) and the resulting view from Cow and Calf rocks, Ilkley is full of fun. Visit the lido on a sunny day and you’ll be greeted by an incredible landscape panorama to accompany your swim. There’s a great monthly market, several pubs, restaurants and cafes (including The Box Tree, which held a Michelin Star for several years, and Betty’s tearoom) and it’s also the start of the Dalesway to Bowness if you fancy a casual 150km trek.
HAWORTH - 50 mins from Leeds, B6144 from Bradford / train to Keighley then B2 bus
The home of the Brontës, Haworth got a lot of airtime during the 2014 Tour de France as the world’s top cyclists powered their way up the steep cobbled main street of the village. Ice cream, pubs and craft shops adorn the famous street, while the Brontë Parsonage Museum attracts visitors from across the globe. Brontë Waterfalls are an easy 30-minute stroll away, but there are also views from nearby Penistone Hill or Top Withens, the ruined farmhouse that was supposedly the inspiration for the Earnshaw home in Wuthering Heights.
KNARESBOROUGH - 35 minutes from Leeds, A61 / direct trains from Leeds station
Knaresborough is undoubtedly most famous for the view of the viaduct from the castle, but it isn’t just a quick snap for Instagram then home. Start at the weekly market, explore the castle grounds, then descend the steps to the riverside, where you can take a rowboat out to the viaduct and back before treating yourself to an ice cream. And for kids and immature adults like me, the walk to Mother Shipton’s Cave is great fun.
BOLTON ABBEY - 50 minutes from Leeds, A660/A65) / train to Ilkley then 74A bus
A stunning twelfth century ruin situated in a valley on the River Wharfe, Bolton Abbey has endless rooms, nooks and crannies to explore, as well as plenty of history to absorb. In the summer, the river’s edge is crammed full of sunbathers and paddlers, as is the grounds’ café, but the further you walk the more tolerable the crowds become - and, if you make it all the way up to Simon’s Seat, you’re greeted with incredible views. The highlight, however, has to be poking around in the forest before the peak to find the hidden waterfall in the Valley of Desolation.
HEBDEN BRIDGE - 50 mins from Leeds, M62/A629, direct trains from Leeds station
If you manage to tear yourself away from Vocation brewery’s tap room for long enough, Hebden is full of independent shops and cafes as well as The Heptonstall Museum. During the summer months, the tourists flock to Hardcastle Crags for a paddle, an afternoon tea and a walk up the steep hill for some incredible views of the valley.
AYSGARTH FALLS & HARDRAW FORCE - 1h 25 mins from Leeds, A1(M)/A684
A triple-flight stretch of waterfalls is the focal point of Aysgarth Falls, which you may remember from Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves if you’re my age. It’s also a pleasant stroll to Bolton Castle (not the one from Game of Thrones) and its beautiful gardens. But perhaps even more impressive is Hardraw Force near Hawes, the highest single drop waterfall in the country. Find the secret entrance from Simonstone and you won’t have to pay to get in either.
YORK - 40 mins from Leeds, A64 / direct trains from Leeds station
From countryside walks to urban day trips, York has to be one of England’s most picturesque cities. The city walls, The Minster, the Railway Museum, the Yorvik Viking Museum and all the delights of The Shambles are unmissable of course. But it’s also home to one of the best pubs you’ll ever visit, House of the Trembling Madness, and two of the best restaurants too: Skosh and Tommy Banks’ Roots.