We chose to stay in a cottage on the North Yorkshire Moors for our Easter holidays this year. It’s a place that’s close to our hearts. Mr P grew up on the Yorkshire coast, where the moors meet the sea, at Robin Hood’s Bay. His parents moved down south 6 years ago, so the last time we visited this part of the world properly was when the 7yo was only 18 months old, and the 5yo was a speck in my tummy! It was about time that we showed them the glories of the Yorkshire moors and the stunning coastline…and discovered some great kid-friendly activities in North Yorkshire.
On arrival we found out that our dog-friendly self-catering cottage we’d booked in Rosedale Abbey wouldn’t allow us to leave the dog in the house unattended, so we had to be creative with our outings, and adapt some of our original plans – such as a day out visiting York’s museums. The National Railway Museum in particular is one of our favourite kid-friendly activities in North Yorkshire.
The weather was kind for a couple of days until the fog descended, and then it was bitterly cold, and all those views that the area is quite rightly famous for disappeared from view. But it didn’t rain much, and that makes a real difference when you’ve kids to entertain, and a dog who can’t really go to indoor attractions.
So, bearing all of that in mind, here are our top ten dog-friendly and kid-friendly activities in North Yorkshire:
- Explore the narrow steep streets and glorious beach of Robin Hood’s Bay. This is the village where the moors almost tumble into the sea. From the car park at the top, and the Victoria Hotel (and pub) you are treated with a stunning view across to the cliff at Ravenscar – well that is if it isn’t covered in a sea fret, or fog, as it was on our visits this year! The little village is built on a steep hill, a stream rushing alongside the road before it disappears into a tunnel. Cottages and pubs are tucked into nooks and crannies, crammed together. A few shops line the road down to the slipway to tempt the visitors…but the real draw is the beach. At low tide the sand stretches for miles, and the grey rocky scars, covered with slippery seaweed, reach out like fingers into the sea. It’s a good beach for fossil-hunting too. Without trying particularly hard we found three good examples, including a rather lovely ammonite which the 7yo proudly took to school on our return. It’s a steep climb on the way up. The dog, with his four-wheel drive, definitely had the advantage.
At low tide the sand stretches for miles, and the grey rocky scars, covered with slippery seaweed, reach out like fingers into the sea.
- Visit Whitby harbour and take a boat ride out to sea. We chose to go on an old lifeboat converted into a pirate ship (of course!). The dog was welcome, and luckily for us the sun almost came out and the sea was as calm as a mill pond. We even saw a couple of harbour porpoises – an unexpected treat! Whitby has loads to offer, from its famous atmospheric abbey on the clifftop, to narrow winding streets full of tempting shops, and its own broad beach. We took the kids and dog down to the beach for a big of exercise and entertained ourselves making some pebble art. Then, of course, there’s fish and chips – take out or eat it in you are spoilt for choice.
- Take the steam train from Pickering to Whitby. The NYMR (North Yorkshire Moors Railway) run steam train’s route has recently been extended all the way to Whitby. If you are staying in one of the villages inland this is a perfect form of transport to take to the seaside resort. It’s also a great way to while away a rainy morning! Dogs welcome too.
- Abbey-bagging. You can’t come to this part of the world without taking in one of the atmospheric ruined abbeys. Whitby’s abbey famously sits on a cliff top above the town. Rievaulx’s abbey can be visited in its own right or viewed from Rievaulx Terrace above. We chose to go to Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Garden as we were meeting friends who live in North Leeds, and that location made most sense. It’s also been on my ‘must-visit’ list for ages, having already bagged Whitby and Rievaulx! Fountains Abbey and Rievaulx Terrace are both run by the National Trust where as Whitby and Rievaulx Abbeys are both English Heritage. All are dog-friendly sites.
- Dalby Forest is a great place to get the family out on their bikes. It’s run by the Forestry Commission who are well known for creating accessible forests for visitors. They’re also known for creating challenging biking trails. We chose a simple family trail rather than one of the longer ones as it was really rather cold, and we knew that the kids fingers wouldn’t last long. The dog ran alongside as we followed the trail along a stream and past some fields. Once in the forest the trail passed a bike skills course. Suffice it to say the kids are far more skilled than me! We had hoped to bike along the old railway line that you can join above Rosedale Abbey, but the prospect of biking along the moors in freezing fog wasn’t that appealing!
- While away an afternoon in Darnholme. Here, where a ford crosses a road, there are stepping stones for the kids to play around, a shallow river for paddling, a train line on which the steam train chugs along every so often, a hill to climb, a secret waterfall to find… Check out this blog that I wrote for Little Trekkers about our sunny afternoon in this perfect place. Mr P brought us here, following memories of his favourite kid-friendly activities in North Yorkshire.
- The Red Lion pub at Blakey Ridge is a great start and end point for a classic moorland walk. It’s a wonderfully cosy pub and on nice sunny days affords fantastic views over the moors. We went there on a ridiculously foggy day, nearly missing our turning into the car park! But we warmed ourselves up inside with the roaring fire, pies and stews for lunch. It’s dog-friendly inside too.
- Sutton Bank’s view over the Vale of Mowbray and the Vale of York has famously been described as being the “finest in England”. Unfortunately we were there on a foggy day and could barely see a few yards in front of us. The kids were togged up with new bike gloves to ward off the unseasonable cold and we set out on a walk and bike ride round the family ‘Cliff’ 3 mile circular route, with the dog happily racing around too. Like Dalby Forest there are lots of different routes to try out, and a café to refuel after all that exercise. Sorry, no pic – too foggy and cold to get the phone out!
- Mother Shipton’s Cave & Wishing Well in Knaresborough was the perfect outing when visiting friends in Harrogate to entertain not only our boys, but their 3yo too. As we were there over Easter they had a Peter Rabbit trail to follow complete with actors playing the parts. The highlight for our boys was the chance to hold a kestrel and an owl from a falconer who had set up a small area to meet the birds. There’s also a playground and easy walking access to the pretty town of Knaresborough. Dogs on leads are welcome here.
- Not dog-friendly, but we couldn’t go to the area without visiting the relatively new Alpamare Water Park in Scarborough. The big slides were too big for the younger boy, and our eldest doesn’t love them, but the wave pool and fantastic water play area were more than enough to entertain them for hours. And we absolutely loved sitting in the warm infinity pool, steam rising off it, and we peered out through the mist to Scarborough’s North Bay. Almost Mediterranean. (Luckily for us the weather wasn’t hot so we were safely able to leave the dog in the car for our relatively short visit.)
We stayed in a self-catering cottage in Rosedale Abbey on this trip, but we’ve also stayed at Little Seed Field, a glorious glamping site near Ripon. It’s one of our favourite family-friendly UK camping or glamping sites – find out more here.
North Yorkshire is one of our favourite spots in the UK to staycation. Other favourites include the Peak District, Cornwall and the Welsh coast. Take a look at our 5 top locations for a great family staycation in the UK.