Five Places to Visit in North Yorkshire whilst Studying in York


Megan Stoker recommends five stunning locations to visit in North Yorkshire.

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Image by Flickr, jcw1967

By Megan Stoker

Stretching from the valley of Arkengarthdale to the Wolds, North Yorkshire is a county worthy of admiration. Outside some of the major cities such as Manchester, Leeds and York,  it possesses nuggets of what I can only describe as the epitome of pastoral beauty. With villages, hamlets and small rural towns nestled into the crevices of its rolling countryside, it is as if they have been taken out of a classic novel.
The toils of everyday life as a student in York can at times mean that our appreciation for our surroundings slip into the ordinary, and become dull to the eye. However, it is important to take time to recharge and explore the beautiful surroundings that are within our reach whilst studying in York. Being able to escape desks, lecture halls and libraries and separate ourselves from this world can do wonders for our mental health. So here are just five places out of many within North Yorkshire to visit either with friends, family or just a solo adventure.

Brimham Rocks:
Brimham Rocks is a great place to visit because of its fascinating rock formations. Of varying sizes, they are a perfect place to go for a walk in the fresh, open countryside. Many are very easy to climb and aren’t too far off the ground, however, others not so much. Therefore, it’s best to keep your wits about you and take care. The site has plenty of parking facilities, toilets, a beverage kiosk and an abundance of open space. I can just imagine a perfect summer’s day, sunbathing on the gently sun-warmed rocks! From the car park, there is a short winding walk that passes through sparse areas of woodland before coming out into the larger, open expanse that contains the larger, more architectural, rocks. It is a place of diverse terrain in such a close proximity, from the thick woodland to rock structures to moorland and meadows, it truly is a place of panoramic beauty and well worth a visit from York.

Skipton is a quaint town set in the rolling hills on the very cusp of the Yorkshire Dales. With a smattering of independent shops, restaurants, a castle with a charming little canal and the river Aire that runs through the town; it’s a great place with a variety of things to do. Skipton Castle is a post-Conquest castle and is immensely well preserved. According to the Skipton Castle website, it was initially a simple structure built by Robert de Romille to defend against the frequent Scottish raids. Hence it’s position atop a hill that then slopes downwards to Skipton mainstreet. Moreso, the castle is also surrounded by a woodland walk, where you can see impressive views of the castle from below.  To enter you have to pre-book tickets online in advance so make sure to do this well ahead of your visit!
From the town, there is the opportunity to join walking trails onto Malham cove, Malham Tarn and even Gorsdale Scar. From Skipton to Gorsdale Scar it is an 11.9 mile walk taking around four hours, making Skipton a great stopping place for the eager rambler looking for food, rest and a break just off the Pennine way. However, even if you aren’t an avid walker, just spending the day loitering and exploring the town of Skipton is equally as worth it!

Keld is a place that is greatly out of the way, so it is definitely for the more adventurous! Even getting there by car causes one to sweat a little along the thin, winding roads across the moors from Tan Hill Pub (the highest pub in England). And to prove the extreme nature of the weather at that altitude, it was only recently in December where patrons of the pub, alongside an Oasis tribute band, were stranded due to the sheer depth of snow that fell around them. However,  there are numerous routes to Keld, so it’s good to plan your trip and take note of the weather beforehand.
Keld itself is home to some of the most stunning views I’ve witnessed in the North of England. Alongside a variation of powerful waterfalls and landscapes, it is set into a deep valley that opens up the further you walk and looks out into the wider expansiveness of the Dales. It’s a place where you definitely need your walking boots and good preparation if you fancy a longer trek to discover it all.
From Keld waterfall to Kisdon Force, there is lots to see. When I visited Keld, it was a wonderfully hot day, making it the perfect time to explore the area with not so brief intermissions of wading knee deep into the rivers and sunbathing on the rocks. It’s a place I’d genuinely love to return to again with friends.
I would definitely recommend being cautious about how far you walk whilst there on a hot day, especially if accompanied with dogs, small children, and elderly relatives - if visiting with family members. This is because large swathes of the walk aren’t covered by the canopy of trees and at times the rocky and steep ground can be difficult to traverse. However, even if you only cover a small area, Keld is definitely worth a visit.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Gardens:
Fountains Abbey is a great visit. Most recently, it has been featured in the second season of the hit Netflix series, The Witcher (2019-present), which completely took me by surprise whilst I was watching the show! With Studley Royal’s beautifully manicured gardens, lakes and various iterations of fountains, there are plenty of photo opportunities! It truly is an otherworldly experience with the ruined abbey, exposed foundations, and small winding stream. And I personally think having a picnic here would be such a lovely trip on a warm, summer’s day.
Whilst you need to pay to enter the grounds from the car park and visitors centre above, Fountains Abbey has numerous attractions which well make up for the cost. It truly takes you away from the banalities of the everyday. You can definitely see why it was featured on a show such as The Witcher.

Robin Hood’s Bay:
If you love watching the day go by on a beach or playing netball in the sand, Robin Hood’s Bay is definitely the place for you. Roughly 5.6 miles south of Whitby, it is much calmer with a few independent shops (a traditional seaside Whitby jet shop, of course) and a smattering of eateries. It is one of the most characteristic, cutesy and quintessentially ‘Yorkshire’ places you can visit whilst studying at York. The beach is sandy rather than rocky like a lot of beaches around the UK and is a singular long stretch encased by picturesque cliffsides. And handily, if the wind is blowing the correct way, the cliffs shield you from its force. However, these cliff edges are immensely unstable so it is best to keep as far away from these as possible.
Robin Hood’s Bay is known for its small twisting, cobbled steps and steep paths that eventually lead to the boating docks and the beach. And, I’m pretty sure that if you often delve into travel Instagram, you have most likely seen dozens of reels, posts and short videos exploring this destination. Furthermore, if these videos have left you feeling inspired and you fancy staying for a couple of days, there are plenty of B&B’s available to book in advance.
Robin Hood’s bay is a place with quite an interesting history, in the 16th Century it was a popular smuggler’s cove, used to escape the high import taxes. Whilst I’m not sure on the correct origin of the name Robin Hood’s Bay, as it is quite a distance away from the famous Sherwood Forest, the name is particularly suited for this small town given its prior activities!

Whilst some of these beautiful places surrounding us here at York can be quite difficult to get to, especially if you don’t have a car, there are some societies here at the university that provide opportunities to explore further into the countryside. Groups such as the Travel Society or, if you enjoy rambling and a rewarding lunch at a nearby pub, the Outdoor Society, do provide transport to many of North Yorkshire’s hidden gems, including many of the ones I've mentioned. So, if you get the chance, I would definitely recommend visiting them all! They're perfect day trips for a quick getaway beyond the City Walls.