England,  U.K Destinations

Things to do in the Yorkshire Dales

There are lots of fun and diverse things to do in the Yorkshire Dales to suit every member of a family, not matter what your budget or interests may be.

I have been all over the world but the Yorkshire Dales remains one of my favourite places to visit in the U.K with kids. 

 

Things to do in the Yorkshire Dales with kids

 

 

Explore an ancient castle

There are lots of castles to choose from in the historic Yorkshire Dales! 

Choose between the expansive ruins of Middleham Castle, Richmond Castle or explore the privately owned grounds of Bolton Castle.  

The best castles to visit with kids are Skipton Castle and Ripley Castle.

 

Skipton Castle

Skipton Castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.

Although the dog friendly castle rooms are unfurnished, kids will love exploring the banqueting hall, watchtower, bedchambers and especially the gloomy dungeons.

A self guided trail with information on each room enhances your visit and allows families to explore at their own pace. Plus, the castle has a great view over the town of Skipton. 

Family tickets are available for £28.50 and Skipton Castle is approximately a 2 hour visit. 

There is parking and toilets on site.

 

Ripley Castle

I would highly recommend a visit to the lovely Ripley Castle near Harrogate. 

Ripley Castle is more a stately home than a traditional castle but the owners have worked hard to make the estate a family friendly attraction. 

Ripley Castle runs engaging tours of the castle especially for children at a child friendly length of 45 minutes. 

The extensive grounds (which include a deer park, a small children’s play area and walled kitchen garden) are gorgeous and ideal for a good runaround. 

Don’t leave Ripley Castle without visiting the Ripley Ice Cream shop in the small village outside the entrance to the estate.

Ripley Ice Cream is THE best ice cream in Yorkshire.  

Parking is available as you enter Ripley Village and there are toilets on site. You should plan to spend half a day at Ripley Castle and village.

Ripley Castle can be combined with a trip to nearby Harrogate or family friendly York. 

 

Soak up a Yorkshire waterfall

You could spend a whole day just touring waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales!

 

Ingleton Waterfalls

The charming Dales town of Ingleton offers a 4 ½ mile long walk around the privately managed Ingleton Waterfalls. 

This beautiful walk takes around 3-4 hours to complete and encompasses six pretty waterfalls of varying sizes on the route. Good gripping footwear is needed for the occasional wet rock.

The path is not challenging but there are a lot of steps so it is not a suitable route for pushchairs.

Ingleton waterfalls tickets cost £7 for adults and £3 for children.

There is car parking, toilets and a cafe at the entrance plus there is a handy refreshment hut half way round the trail.

 

Hardraw Force

Take a drive to England’s largest single drop waterfall, Hardraw Force. 

This privately owned, 100 foot high waterfall, is beautifully situated in a woodland with gorgeous views of the Yorkshire Dales.

A pushchair friendly, short path leads to the base of Hardraw Force.

There is also an unfenced, elevated circular path with great views of the Dales and of Hardraw Force.

Due to the uneven woodland path, several steps and a few narrow sections on the walk, the elevated path is not pushchair friendly.

It is, however, an easy walk to do with kids and takes around 1 hour to complete. 

Our kids enjoyed the leafy,woodland paths and crossing the wooden bridge near the top of the thundering falls.

Hardraw Force has a small car park and toilets on site and is located at the back of a friendly village pub. 

A family of four ticket costs £8.

 

Aysgarth Falls

The budget friendly Aysgarth Falls are a a favourite of native Yorkshire folk!

These historic waterfalls are free to enter though there is an hourly fee for the car park.

Aysgarth Falls consists of three separate waterfalls plunging over wide limestone steps over a one mile stretch of river. 

The falls are unimaginatively titled Upper Force, Middle Force and Lower Force and you can view all three waterfalls on a pushchair friendly path that runs in and out of woodland alongside the River Ure. 

We have visited Aysgarth Falls several times and whilst the falls are beautiful at any time of year, they are spectacular after heavy rain.

There are toilets and an information desk in the car park. 

 

Visit an historical abbey.

 

Yorkshire is home to several abbey ruins but the best ruins to visit in the Yorkshire Dales with kids are Bolton Abbey and Fountains Abbey.

 

Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey is a popular destination for families because there are no entrance fees to the privately owned estate; you only have to pay for parking (£10).

As you can easily spend a whole day here, it is a great value for money day out in the Yorkshire Dales. 

We have been visiting Bolton Abbey since before we had children and we continue to visit each year as a family of five.

Bolton Abbey is owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire and is a busy location year round. 

But don’t let the summer crowds put you off visiting – the estate is huge and it is not hard to find a quiet, isolated spot.

Explore the ruins of the Priory Church and Augustinian Abbey and brave Bolton Abbey’s famous stepping stones to access the pushchair friendly paths of Strid Wood.  

The stepping stones are a line of 60 stones laid across the river creating access from one side of the park to another (though there is a bridge to use if you wish)!

I have never seen anyone fall into the river but consider packing a change of clothes for kids, just in case.

Plus, on hot summers day the river is a popular place for families to enjoy a paddle.

Strid wood is particularly lovely in Spring when the ground is blanketed with bluebells and aromatic wild garlic. Challenge your kids to find Strid Wood’s famous ‘money tree.’ 

 

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden near Richmond is another great day out for families in the Yorkshire Dales. The park is simply called Fountains Abbey by Yorkshire residents. 

The National Trust park comprises two sections;  the extensive monastic ruins of Fountains Abbey and the beautiful Studley Royal Gardens. A long grass ‘corridor’ links the two sections of the park.

The 12th century Benedictine ruins of Fountains Abbey are the largest monastic ruins in England.

Kids will love exploring the atmospheric ruins to find hidden steps and alcoves. 

You can also visit the oldest building in the Fountain Abbey estate, the 12th century Fountains Mill.

The 19th century landscaped grounds of Studley Royal Water Garden are gorgeous and have been awarded World Heritage Status. 

Visit the ornamental lakes and summer houses, view the sculptures, statues and ponds and try to find all of the gardens quirky follies. 

In addition, the park has several woodland paths to explore as well as a deer park.

There is an excellent adventure playground on site (near the Fountains Abbey entrance) which is one of the best outdoor adventure playgrounds in Yorkshire.

But I would advise visiting the playground at the end of your visit; if you visit at the beginning of your trip to Fountains Abbey you will never entice the kids out of the playground! 

A trip to Fountains Abbey costs £42 for a family but you could easily spend one whole day here and still not see everything there is to see.

Entrance is free to National Trust members.

 

Go for a walk!

Families cannot visit the Yorkshire Dales without going for a walk and, in my opinion, the Yorkshire Dales is best explored on foot.

One of the Yorkshire Dales National Park Visitors Centres at Aysgarth, Malham, Reeth, Hawes or Grassington can provide you with information on family friendly trails and hikes in their area. 

My favourite area to walk in the Yorkshire Dales is around Malham Cove and Gordale Scar where all of the walks are free to access.

 

Walks around Malham Cove

Malham Cove is a 230 foot high curved stone cliff a short walk away from charming Malham village.

There was once a waterfall plunging over the top of Malham Cove that was higher than Niagara Falls! 

Visitors must park in Malham village car park, where you will find toilets, a couple of pubs and a tea shop. 

There are several walks around Malham of differing duration and difficulty that you can do with kids. 

 

An easy walk with kids

Stroll the pushchair friendly path to the base of Malham Cove. From Malham Village to the base of Malham Cove will take around 30 minutes.

When you arrive at the base of Malham Cove you have the option to climb the rough stone steps at the side of the cliff which lead to the top of Malham Cove and a fantastic view of the Yorkshire Dales.

However, the flat limestone top (or pavement) of Malham Cove is very uneven and contains countless crevices, some of which are deep to little legs.

Plus, the sheer drop of the cove is unfenced – so keep children very close!

Harry Potter fans will recognise the top of Malham Cove from the Harry Potter movie ‘The Deathly Hallows.’

 

A moderate walk with kids

Walk from Malham village – in the opposite direction to Malham Cove – to pretty Janet’s Foss waterfall.

The first part of this signposted path is on stone flags but once you enter the woodland, the path becomes uneven and rocky.

However, the path is an easy gradient and this is a manageable walk with children. 

A return trip to Janet’s Foss will take around 2 hours from Malham Cove.

Extend this walk by visiting nearby Gordale Scar

Imposing Gordale Scar is a rugged gorge whose size can only be appreciated by walking into it.

It is only 1/4 mile further than Janet’s Foss and is well worth the extra effort. 

 

A challenging walk with kids

Families with older children can complete the longer, more challenging circular route from Malham village which includes Janet’s Foss, Gordale Scar and a cross country walk to the top of Malham Cove and back to Malham village.

This is a technically easy walk but a long one taking approximately 4-5 hours to complete. 

On the route, you have the added option of side trip to gorgeous Malham Tarn.

 

The landscape around Malham is gorgeous but Malham Cove is a very popular destination for walkers and Sunday strollers. Avoid summer weekends if possible!

 

Explore Yorkshire…underground!

The limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales is riddled with caves.

England’s deepest cave is found in Yorkshire, part of England’s longest cave system – the 59 mile long Three Counties system.

The Yorkshire Dales is also home to England’s largest cavern found in the Gaping Gill cave. 

Families can choose to join an adventurous, private caving trip or explore one of the region’s excellent showcaves. 

Kids will love donning a hard hat and descending into the depths of Yorkshire to explore White Scar Cave, Stump Cross Caverns or Ingleborough Cave.

 

White Scar Cave

White Scar Cave is the longest showcave in England.

There is an underground waterfall to see as well as curiously named formations such as The Witches Fingers and The Devils Tongue.

Families can explore the cave on a mix of metal walkways and earth paths.

Most of the cave is head height or greater but you will need to bend in places and there is one squeeze!

For this reason, and for the 97 steps in the cave, White Scar Cave is not suitable for pushchairs or backpack carriers.

The cave is a naturally cool temperature of 8 degrees Celsius so don’t forget to pack a jumper, even on a summers day.

Entry is by an 80 minute tour which costs £29.50 for a family ticket.

There is car parking, toilets and a cafe on site.

 

Alternatively, adventurous families can join a private caving trip organised by several Yorkshire based companies.

The Yorkshire Dales National Park website contains a list of accredited companies who offer caving trips.

Private and family trips are usually a half day experience with around 1.5- 2 hours spent underground.

Families can expect to pay between £30 – £50 per person and all equipment is provided – though don’t wear your best clothes under the boiler suit provided!

Some companies have an age limit of 8 years old for caving.

 

As my husband and I met through caving,  we have never needed to try any of these companies with our kids.

Whilst I am unable to personally recommend a caving company, I can definitely recommend caving in the Yorkshire Dales!

 

Visit a historical house – with a twist

Many kids may groan at the prospect of visiting a stately home; our children have many times!

But Yorkshire has several fantastic stately homes to visit with kids such as the famous Castle Howard near York or Harwood House near Leeds. 

Our favourite stately home to visit in the Yorkshire Dales with kids is the excellent Newby Hall near Ripon.

 

Newby Hall

Newby Hall has gone to great effort to attract families to its extensive estate.

It helpfully offers separate tickets for the historic house and for the gardens so you can choose which to visit depending on your child’s age and level of interest. 

The gorgeous gardens of Newby Hall provide plenty of space for a run around with winding paths and beautiful flower beds to explore. Choose between The White Garden, The Water Garden, The Tropical Garden and many more.

My favourite section of the garden to visit is the aromatic Rose Garden which is most spectacular in June and July. 

There is an excellent adventure playground on site complete with a lake. The playground has climbing frames, pedalo boats, boat swings, an aerial slide and a sand pit.

On sunny days, kids will love charging in and out of the dancing water fountains. A change of clothes is essential – or pack a swimsuit!

Younger kids will enjoy a 1.4 kilometre ride on Newby Hall’s miniature steam railway which operates a scenic loop around the gardens alongside the River Ure.

There is an additional fee for the railway of £2.80 for anyone over 2 years old. 

In addition, there is a ‘Bear House’ in the gardens; a charming, child friendly exhibition about teddy bears. 

There are lots of varied attractions at Newby Hall and families will easily spend a whole day here making the £48 family entrance fee good value for money.

 

Visit the fairy folk at Studfold Adventure Trail

Younger children will love the magical fairy trails at Studfold Adventure Park.

Exercise little legs by searching for fairy doors and hidden fairy houses along Studfold’s attractive woodland paths.

Children can borrow (or bring their own) sparkly wings to wear for the duration of the trail.

Explore the wildflower meadow, ancient woodland and bird hides or test your family’s team building skills in the den building area.

Catch a story from the Giant’s Storytelling Chair or jump in the empty seat to tell your own! 

There is a fun playground with go karts and small ride on tractors.

What I like about Studfold Adventure Park is that they have created thoughtful extras for visiting families.

There are downloadable activity trails on their website and a mystery gift swap box for kids.

They will even allow you to drop off your own picnic at the start of the trail which will then be delivered to you at the picnic area. You won’t need to carry half your house with you whilst you explore the park! 

A family of four ticket to Studfold Adventure Trail costs £22. 

 

And for something completely different, get lost at The Forbidden Corner…

The Forbidden Corner in Coverdale is a unique Yorkshire attraction – and I would say a unique English attraction! 

I also think it is one of the best attractions for families in the Yorkshire Dales – our kids love it.

This quirky 4 acre park is packed with follies and curiosities which lurk along every path and around every corner (including the car park and toilets)! 

To list all the attractions and follies of The Forbidden Corner would spoil the many surprises you will encounter on your visit; the park itself encourages visitors not to spoil the surprises for other visitors. 

You will receive a basic map on entry – what you actually end up seeing depends on how hard you search for it.

Be prepared to dodge water spouting statues, crawl through narrow passageways, explore dark tunnels and find secret chambers with hidden exits. It is great fun.

Families will spend around half a day exploring the Forbidden Corner. 

There is a large car park and woodland picnic area on site.  A family ticket costs £46.

 

There are so many great things to do in the Yorkshire Dales for families that it is impossible to list them all here!

 

Have you visited the Yorkshire Dales with kids? What were your favourite things to do?

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