Beyond the City Walls: Ten Places to visit whilst in York


Katy Leverett (she/her) recommends ten places to visit in and around York

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Image by Dhuha Usman

By Katy Leverett

No one can deny that York is a beautiful city, packed full of places to visit and new experiences to try. However, as with any place, it is important to explore what there is beyond. As someone who grew up in a rural part of the south, I hadn’t been anywhere north of Manchester and the opportunity to explore beyond the historic walls of York was as important as my decision to study in the north.

Within this article are ten places to visit in the north-east. They are easily accessible (mostly by public transport), affordable, and are great places to visit and bond with new friends during your first year. Though remember, you’re studying at York for at least three years, so you don’t have to try and fit all ten places into your first term!

A York student sight-seeing classic. Knaresborough is a small town a 20-minute train ride from York Railway Station. At just over £5 for a return ticket, it is a must-visit! The iconic via-duct, towering an impressive 24 metres high, sits above the River Nidd. It can be viewed from the castle ruins, just off from the town centre, or from below along the riverside, which boasts a range of eateries. Moreover, in the warmer months, you can hire rowing boats on the river, which is great fun with friends. Beyond the via-duct, there are beautiful countryside walks, taking you to local hotspots, like Mother Shipton’s Cave and the cave of the hermit, Saint Robert. A perfect place to visit all year round, the town centre boasts some affordable and aesthetic cafes, perfect for warming up after a November walk along the river.

Only a half-hour train ride from York, Leeds is a vibrant, bustling city. Whether you need to do some serious shopping, or fancy taking some history at the REME museum, there is definitely something for everyone. There are also plenty of theatres in the city, so if you’re a keen theatre-goer, Leeds is definitely the place to be!

Just a few stops after Knaresborough on the train, Harrogate is a slightly larger Yorkshire town. Known for its spa water, Harrogate boasts a pretty town centre, as well as various places to explore, including the Royal Pump Room and the Valley Gardens. The town also has a plethora of tea rooms and cafes to enjoy. For more information on what to do in Harrogate, check out the travel section of our website!

Scarborough is a coastal town an affordable 45-minute train ride from York. Perfect to visit on a sunny day, or for a classic British seaside experience (albeit a cold one), Scarborough is the epitome of a Victorian seaside resort. The beachfront is lined with arcades, with the aroma of fish and chips wafting from further along the road,- it’s definitely worth a try! Whilst you’re there, enjoy the beaches and, if you’re feeling brave, have a paddle. Whilst you may not be able to feel your legs, it’s hilarious watching your friends get caught out by a high wave! There are also some stunning coastal walks around Scarborough, if you wish to be in the countryside.

A tad further afield, Durham is about an hour’s train ride from York. Durham is a historic city, with plenty to do and see for anyone interested in the medieval period. From Durham Castle to the Botanic Gardens to the Living Museum of the North, Durham has a variety of attractions to interest everyone. Durham is a perfect trip for a fun weekend day out to have a break from campus.

Castle Howard:
Owned by the Howard family, Castle Howard is a stunning country house in Malton, just a 20-minute drive, or 45-minute bus ride, outside of York city centre. Known more recently for featuring as the location for the famous picnic scene in Bridgerton, the house is open to visitors all year round. It is perfect for exploring the county’s history, as well as a picnic or walk around the grounds. In the winter months, Castle Howard decorates the interior to a theme. Previous years included The Chronicles of Narnia and Into the Woods. This year, the theme will be “Christmas in Neverland”. Having been to see the past two years of display, I can definitely recommend the trip - it’s a great festive activity to bond with flatmates.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden:
Fountains Abbey is a National Trust site in Ripon. Easily accessible by car, but also by bus, the Abbey ruins are considered among the best preserved Cistercian monasteries in England. A perfect place for a countryside walk, the Studley Royal Park is home to over 300 red deer, according to the National Trust. A must-visit for those seeking a rural day out to escape the bustle of urban life.

A short distance from Filey, Flamborough Head is a stunning coastal location along the North Yorkshire coast. Home to the oldest complete lighthouse in the UK, the cliffs area nature reserve for numerous coast birds, including puffins. Sometimes it is even possible to spot seals playing in the water below the cliffs! The beach is most easily accessed by car, and is a great coastal spot to visit all year round. For more information on Yorkshire’s best beaches, check out this Nouse article here.

Brimham Rocks:
Brimham Rocks is a National Trust site situated between Harrogate and Ripon. The area is a Site of Specific Scientific Interest which hosts an incredible range of naturally occurring craggy, towering rock formations. They’re a great place to walk around and explore with friends all year round. There is also a visitor centre with a small second-hand bookshop and kiosk cafe. Whilst Brimham Rocks is most easily accessed by car, if you get the chance to go, take it! Moreover, the University’s Outdoor Society often hosts their walks around the area.

Malham Cove:
Last but not least is Malham Cove. Situated in the Yorkshire Dales, Malham Cove is a lime-stone curved rock formation just outside the village of Malham. With great walks all around, the Cove is great to visit if you want to escape the bustle of the city and see some of what North Yorkshire has to offer. A trip is even more worthwhile for any Harry Potter fans, as Malham Cove was used in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part One, as one of the locations Harry, Ron and Hermione pitch their tent whilst on the run. Whilst Malham Cove too is most easily accessed by car, it is well worth a visit if you get the chance!

I could include far more places for you to visit whilst studying in York, but it is important that you find places for yourself, too! As I have learned, there is so much to see and explore in the north, so take the chance while you can.