There are so many beautiful towns in North Yorkshire. If you want to experience England’s purest scenery then you need to plan a trip to North Yorkshire.
Fusing every single natural feature that we know and love the United Kingdom for, Yorkshire is also where’ll find the nation’s prettiest villages.
Read on for the most beautiful towns in North Yorkshire you simply must see for yourself.
Why visit North Yorkshire?
Yorkshire is in fact divided into four counties: North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, and the East Riding. The country’s largest county, North Yorkshire, encapsulates the wild landscapes that come to mind when we think about rural England.
Over to the west, you’ve got the rolling hills, fairytale waterfalls, and mysterious woodlands of the Yorkshire Dales. Venture to the right and you’ll meet the rugged moorlands, coastal bluffs, and fishing villages of the North York Moors.
Both of these national parks are abundant with sights that will make your spine tingle. Another thing that unites both halves of the county is the presence of handsome towns and villages in North Yorkshire. There’s no better place to unwind over a craft beer or tuck into a traditional Sunday Roast!
Best time of year to visit North Yorkshire
Spring sees villages and towns in North Yorkshire shrug off the end of winter and the arrival of seasonal blooms and baby lambs. This is an excellent time to snap up an early-bird bed and breakfast and explore without your woollens!
Summer brings the warmest temperatures to the region with longer hours of daylight. You’ll experience highs of 18-20°C between July and August: ideal for basking in beer gardens and hitting the walking trails. Note that seaside towns in North Yorkshire are particularly busy during this peak season.
Autumn is considered by many as the optimum time of year to visit the towns in North Yorkshire. Days are pleasant enough for pottering around the village streets and hiking. However, you will need to prepare for cool mornings and evenings.
Winter brings crisp weather during the day and nights that may plummet below freezing. Daylight hours are limited with sunset being as early as 4 pm during December. On the plus side, you might be fortunate to snatch a glimpse of snowfall in the surrounding valleys and hills. And – Yorkshire pubs and inns always offer a snug sanctuary from the cold!
Most Beautiful Towns in North Yorkshire to Visit
Here are 15 gorgeous North Yorkshire coastal towns and peaceful villages to inspire your next visit up north.
Presided over by the gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey, what the port of Whitby lacks in size it makes up for in atmosphere.
This seaside town hugs the coast of the North York Moors and is dissected by the River Esk. Old Town occupies the right bank while a long sandy beach and the commercial centre sit to the left. As you approach the city from the road, you are treated to an incredible panorama of both sides.
A staircase of 199 steps leads you up to the cliffs where you’ll find the moody abbey, said to have been the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Whitby was the home of the maritime explorer Captain Cook.
You can visit his former home which is now the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. Picking up a bag of scampi and chips is another highlight of visiting one of the much-loved North Yorkshire seaside towns.
With all the joys of a North Yorkshire market town and the rush of a modern-day metropolis: everyone loves York!
This walled city has a mind-boggling history that stretches back to the Romans and Vikings.
A stroll around the remaining walls provides wondrous views of the York Minster. Furthermore, York is packed with attractions that include museums, art galleries, stately homes, and a hilltop fortress. Shoppers will adore the medieval alleyway “The Shambles” where timber frames spill over the street below.
York is best visited during spring when the daffodils are in bloom and boat cruises on the River Ouse resume.
Grassington is one of the prettiest villages in North Yorkshire’s western national park, the National Dales. It occupies a spot on the banks of the River Wharfe which makes riverside strolls high on the agenda. During the summer months, you might want to pack your swimsuit and join the villagers in a wild swimming session.
Main Street is lined with traditional stone-built residences, tea rooms, and friendly pubs. Try to catch the Grassington Farmers Market that occurs every fourth Sunday of the month. This gives you the opportunity to pick up Yorkshire-grown veggies, locally made cheeses, and homespun trinkets while gorging on street eats.
Ripon is one of the finest destinations for experiencing the typical sights of North Yorkshire cities. As a cathedral city, the streets revolve around the mighty house of worship that has stood since 672 AD and originally was used as a monastery.
Aside from Ripon Cathedral, you can spend your time in town roaming Market Place, craning your neck at the Ripon Obelisk, and checking out the floral installations and tree sculptures of the Spa Gardens.
Ripon is an attractive city for history buffs as well as photographers. The Workhouse Museum sheds light on the hardship of working-class life during the Victorian era. On the other hand, the Prison and Police Museum delves into the grim history of crime and punishment in industrial Yorkshire. Gloomy yet fascinating in equal measure!
5. Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay is an old fishing village (and smuggler’s lair) with unbridled charm. If you visit only one of the North Yorkshire coastal towns, this is the most visually impressive.
Access to the village centre and beachfront requires a steep walk down the picturesque New Road. This street is lined with just the right amount of guest houses, tea rooms, and fish and chip shops.
Coincide your visit with low tide and you can explore the innumerable rock pools that are exposed by the retreating water. This is a firm favourite for adults as much as kids!
If the tide is high, follow the clifftop footpath for delicious views of the ocean. This leads you south to Boggle Hole and Ravenscar but you can turn back whenever you need if you’re on a schedule.
Malton is a sophisticated civil parish with quaint bungalows, pastel-hued cottages, and splendid churches. Besides its beauty, the real motivation for visiting Malton is that it’s touted as the Food Capital of Yorkshire!
Malton Market takes place every month and erupts into a celebration of fruits, veggies, meats, artisanal bread, and sweet treats galore. Meanwhile, the biannual Malton Food Lovers Festival is considered the food equivalent of Glastonbury.
If you visit Malton outside of one of these food bonanzas, don’t panic. This small market town is stacked with gourmet restaurants and traditional tea shops. There are swathes of cooking classes, food tours, and even a “gin school” to fill your time. Malton is one of the top North Yorkshire towns to visit if you’re a foodie.
If you’re seeking beauty and wellness in equal measure, Harrogate should be top of your list of North Yorkshire cities. This fashionable spa resort is fed by thermal waters known for their healing properties. The marvellously appointed Turkish Baths recreate the environment of Istanbul’s bathhouses and invite you to fully unplug.
Beyond the baths and spa parlours, Harrogate consists of grand Victorian townhouses and leafy parks. The Valley Gardens and the RHS Garden Harlow Carr are havens for flower lovers. Betty’s is the premier destination for a cup of tea and a toasted teacake but the whole town is loaded with posh tea rooms and upscale bistros.
Although Harrogate is a fabulous destination in its own right, it’s a great place to revitalise after tackling the best walks in the Yorkshire Dales.
Helmsley is the sole North Yorkshire market town located within the limits of the North York Moors National Park. That might sound like a reason alone to visit but the town is brimming with attractions to pepper the deal!
Sited on the banks of the River Rye, the town features the remains of the 12th-century Helmsley Castle, a walled garden, an arts centre, a brewery, and a generous selection of restaurants. A characterful high street is lined with independent boutiques.
Visit on Fridays to catch the weekly market day and stock the cupboards at your holiday rental.
Malham is overshadowed by a remarkable limestone amphitheatre that sits to the north of the village. Although walking to the top of Malham Cove is one of the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales, the village itself shouldn’t be missed.
This teeny-tiny village straddles Malham Beck, crossable via a little stone bridge. It consists of only a handful of guest houses, pubs, cafes, and amenities. Surrounded by views of the hills crisscrossed by limestone walls, Malham is an idyllic place to rest your feet between hiking.
Swing by the car park at the Malham National Park Centre at night. As a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site it’s one of the best places in the Dales to see the stars!
Located on the cusp of the Yorkshire Dales, Richmond is a convenient base to start your exploration of the national park. However, this historic market town is also one of the most beautiful towns in North Yorkshire.
Summit the hilltop Richmond Castle for stellar views of the Dales and dedicate some time for a wander around the town’s green spaces.
One of the coolest things about Richmond is the waterfalls located on the curve of the River Swale. Expect to want to take a dip here during the summertime! The Station is another place to add to your agenda. Formerly a Victorian railway station, this heritage building was refurbished as a community hub for culture, events, dining, and cinema.
11. Pateley Bridge
Akin to its neighbouring Grassington, Pateley Bridge is a quintessential village in the scenic Yorkshire Dales.
Its high street juxtaposes modern comforts with the old-worldly charms of a bucolic village. Note the retro Oldest Sweet Shop in the World that has traded in this spot since 1827! You’ll also find a historic butcher’s counter and a cluster of antique shops. Even if you’re not fussed to shop, walking around Pateley Bridge feels like stepping into a postcard.
Pateley Bridge is one of the best North Yorkshire towns to visit on the way to the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Staithes is another traditional coastal village that captivates all visitors. Similar to Whitby, Staithes is located on a pretty waterway, the Staithes Beck, that feeds into the North Sea. It features a sheltered harbour, plunging cliffs, and colourful cottages.
Staithes is a warren of cobblestone passageways and skinny ginnels; Dog Loup claims to be the narrowest street in England. This village is a thriving hub for arts and crafts; you can happily lose a few hours mooching around the little boutiques and galleries around the harbour.
As with Whitby, the village stakes a claim on Captain Cook. The explorer worked in Staithes as an apprentice before he took to the high seas.
The North Yorkshire seaside towns of Staithes, Robin Hood’s Bay, and Whitby are close enough to visit in tandem.
Knaresborough wows with its astonishing views from every angle. A huge viaduct flies over the River Nidd while a crumbling 14th-century castle set within a hilltop garden looms above the town centre.
During the summer months, you can rent a boat and explore the waterway from a different perspective. Meanwhile, a scoop of ice cream and a jaunt along the waterside trail is always a joy regardless of the time of year.
Knaresborough is one of the most family-friendly towns in North Yorkshire. It’s where you’ll find, supposedly, the UK’s oldest tourist attraction. Mother Shipton’s Cave is the dwelling place of the healer and witch who earned a reputation for her fortune-telling abilities. The woodland surrounding the cave is great fun to explore – especially the “Petrifying Well” which turns objects into stone.
Hutton-le-Hole is one of the prettiest villages in North Yorkshire and is a top choice for a tranquil retreat with few distractions.
Main Street is limited to a scant offering of amenities and places to eat and sleep. The Ryedale Folk Museum is well worth a visit if you want to understand how rural residents have forged a living throughout the ages.
Hutton Beck winds its way through the village green before meeting the magically named Fairy Call Beck. This stream leads you through the surrounding pastures where you can find your new favourite picnic spot.
Last but not least, Settle is the final pick of the most beautiful towns in North Yorkshire.
The market town is the boarding point for the famous Settle-Carlisle Railway which connects the Yorkshire Dales with the Lake District. Settle town is overflowing with industrial-age relics and listed buildings such as the historic water tower. The Folly is the perfect place for a cuppa while music concerts at Victoria Hall shouldn’t be missed during an overnight stay.
Cocooned by rolling hills and patches of moorland, Settle is a fantastic base for exploring the nearby caves, waterfalls, and glens.