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Underrated gems of Yorkshire – guide for visiting some of the best villages, towns and cities in God’s Own County

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Yorkshire is an incredible part of England - maybe the best part. Our guides about locations in Yorkshire are among the most popular pieces on our site, with our guides about Ripon and The Yorkshire Dales being referenced and shared in a number of places online.

But one of the magical things about God's Own County is the number of small villages and towns which you've probably never even heard of. We wanted to shine a spotlight on some of these locations to give them the attention they deserve.

This guide will be updated regularly with new locations and attractions, let's get into the guide:

Middleham, North Yorkshire

Middleham is a market town in the Richmondshire district of North Yorkshire. The castle is well known and we'll obviously mention that, but there is plenty more to see and do in and around the area. If you're a fan of charming English towns with cobbled streets and Georgian/Victorian architecture, you'll love Middleham. Let's look at some of the highlights:

Middleham Castle

If you're visiting Middleham then you absolutely need to pay a visit to Middleham Castle - this ruined castle was built in the 12th century and despite being ruinous, still remains a seriously impressive and imposing building. It even has the largest castle keep in the North of England. Once the childhood home of Richard III, the castle is grand and has an important place in English history. But even if you're not interested in the history of the castle, the amazing views of Wensleydale from the viewing platform are worth the price of admission alone.

Speaking of prices, it'll cost an adult £7.80 for entry (children £4.70), book your tickets and learn more here - english-heritage.org.uk

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The Forbidden Corner

Set within a 4-acre garden in Tupgill Park, The Forbidden Corner is a labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies (and other surprises) is definitely not to be missed. Originally built as a private pleasure garden, the attraction opened to the public in 1997 due to demand and has been a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike ever since. Described as a "folly garden", The Forbidden Corner is really quite strange, but also loads of fun. We don't want to spoil too much of what you'll find, but let's just say watch your feet and keep an eye out for some impressive statues (it's hard to miss them really).

Learn more here - theforbiddencorner.co.uk

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Middleham Horses

Middleham is often referred to as the land of the racehorse, and some of the most successful trainers in North of England work and live there. If horse racing is your thing then you've got a number of options during your time in Middleham - more than 15 racecourses could be found within a short distance of the town if you want to visit those, and you'll also spot lots of stables. It is estimated that there are more than 500 horses in Middleham, which is quite amazing given that the human population is estimated to be just over 1000!

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Hillam, North Yorkshire

Hillam is a lovely little village that is well known for having 10 Grade II listed buildings. There are a few things to see and do if you visit, let's look at some of our favourites:

The Dearne Valley Line

To the west of the village you'll see part of The Dearne Valley Line, a railway line which was built in the early 19th century and is popular with railway enthusiasts. The spot to head to if you want to catch a glimpse of any trains flying along here is called Hillam Gates., a level crossing. Expect to see some trainspotters there!
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Bert's Barrow

This family-run farm in Hillam is great to visit with your family and is also excellent to hire for events. There is a really charming local feel to the farm - it stocks more than 300 products from local businesses and is also full of locals having a great time. You can pick your own pumpkins and strawberries, and it's all very reasonably priced. Coffee and cake is available but you can also grab a beer if you fancy! From a local brand of course. Learn more here - bertsbarrow.co.uk
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Hillam Square

Hillam definitely isn't a big place so you won't miss the square, but you definitely should still take the time to appreciate it. In the centre of the village you've got a lovely little square which has a red telephone box and a large tree, which looks across to The Cross Keys (the pub in Hillam). Nice for a photo opportunity or just for a sit-down, make sure you visit Hillam Square.
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Beverley, East Yorkshire

Beverley is a small town, there's no doubt about that. But trust us when we say there is plenty to see and do here, especially for those with kids and those who are interested in history. It was also recently listed as one of the best places to live in the UK by the Times.

Beverley Minster

It's hard to talk about Beverley without mentioning Beverley Minster because you won't miss it - this is one of the largest parish churches in the UK, and is generally considered to be a gothic masterpiece. The current building was finished in 1400, but despite the age remains incredibly impressive to look at and visit. The stained glass windows are beautiful and the staff who work there are always friendly. Plus, it's totally free to visit Learn more here - beverleyminster.org.uk

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Beverley Westwood

Situated at the edge of Beverley, this area of open space is an excellent place to visit for families. If you fancy a walk or just want to sit and enjoy a picnic, this Beverley Westwood is an ideal area for both. There is a nice mix of open space and wooded areas to explore, and you've also got some livestock there you can admire. The Black Mill (pictured) still stands there, a Grade II listed building with a striking appearance. This is generally considered as one of the best areas of common land in the country, and we highly recommend you visit during your time in Beverley.

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St. Mary's Church

Beverley Minster is so impressive that St. Mary's Church is often overlooked, but this is definitely worth a visit as well. This Grade I listed building attracts architecture nerds from across the country - the design of the building is the result of 400 years of almost continuous building. The real highlight of the church is the ceiling so don't forget to look up during your visit. It isn't far from Minster either so there is no reason not to visit both! Learn more here - stmarysbeverley.org

 

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The Treasure House

We recommend visiting The Treasure House in Beverley because you've got 2 things to enjoy during your visit - firstly The Treasure House itself, a museum with lots of local information. But you've also got the art gallery upstairs, as well as a viewing platform at the very top of the building which provides 360 views across Beverley and beyond. The Treasure House is only a short walk from town and if you've got an hour to spare, we highly recommend you visit. Learn more here - eastriding.gov.uk

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Knaresborough, North Yorkshire

Mother Shipton's Cave

If the picture we've included of this cave freaks you out a little bit, don't worry about it. Mother Shipton's Cave is a really interesting and enjoyable attraction that is much more than just a creepy cave. According to legend, Mother Shipton was born here, and the information within the cave explains her story. Learn more about the cave here - mothershipton.co.uk

 

The Petrifying Well

We can't mention the cave without mentioning the well - The Petrifying Well. Located right next to Mother Shipton's Cave, the well is actually considered to be the oldest tourist attraction in England, but despite how long it has been open (since 163) it still remains an excellent place to visit. There is a wishing well too which you absolutely must use.

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Knaresborough Castle

Before we get you too excited about this castle, we need to get this out of the way first - there is a bit of a climb up to the castle. But trust us when we say it is worth it, not just for a visit to the castle but also for the stunning views across the river and beyond. The castle itself was built in the 12th century and has a series of fascinating and brutal history attached to it - from being the refuge of Hugh de Moreville and his followers after they killed Thomas Becket, to being taken by Parliamentarian troops in 1644, the castle has seen quite a bit. Although ruinous now, it is still excellent to visit.  

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River Nidd Waterside Walk

If you're looking for a walk which will take you past all the best bits of Knaresborough then you should definitely follow the River Nidd walk. This stunning route has a few different directions you can go in, but we'd recommend the 4-mile circular route which takes you along the Nidd Gorge, and is also a route you can follow to reach Mother Shipton's Cave. The paths are well maintained but it can get a little muddy, so come prepared for that.

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Bebra Gardens

Most of these attractions are pretty well known, but Bebra Gardens is a bit of a hidden gem. Only a stone's throw from Knaresborough Castle, these gardens might be small but they're colourful and a welcome break from the hustle and bustle of the town. During the summer there is a paddling pool which can be used, and the views from the gardens are excellent. They're located on a sloping hill which can be quite tricky to navigate, but if you're a fan of gardens then this attraction is a must-visit.

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Malton, North Yorkshire

A must-visit for foodies, Malton is probably best known for the market that is held there every year. However, although we love the market and we have a section about it below, there is plenty more to see and do in this lovely town which doesn't involve food. Let's take a look:

Malton Food Lovers Festival

We mentioned in the introduction that Malton is often described as the food capital of Yorkshire, and this is mostly due to the wildly popular and successful food festival which is held there. Held every summer in Malton over a 3 day period (usually at the end of August), this food festival brings thousands of people to the town where they can enjoy tasty street food, artisan stalls, cooking demos and more. Unsurprisingly, it's the biggest food festival in the North and it is always a hit with locals and visitors alike. It's also free to walk around the stalls so if you're in town you might as well get stuck in! Learn more here - visitmalton.com

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Eden Camp

If you're interested in military history, particularly related to the Second World War, then a trip to Eden Camp is a great day out. This museum, located within the buildings and grounds of a former Prisoner of War camp, is a unique and genuinely fascinating place to visit. Unlike many stuffy museums, Eden Camp outlines the history of wartime Britain in a very engaging and fun way - exhibits often include recreations and Exhibits include realistic reconstructions and there are lots of hands-on experiences, such as a recreation of an air raid (with sounds!). The staff members are all dressed to fit the era and there are plenty of props you can interact with. Definitely a great day out for history enthusiasts but also for kids! Learn more and plan your visit here - edencamp.co.uk

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Scampston Hall & Walled Garden

This Grade II listed country house is actually 4 miles East of Malton, but we're including it anyway because we think it is well worth a trip. The house itself is very impressive to visit and is regarded as one of the finest regency country houses in North Yorkshire - inside you'll find an impressive collection of furniture, art and architecture. However, the real highlight of your visit will be the walled garden. Designed by Piet Oudolf, the award-winning garden is very well kept and is a joy to walk around. With a lake and a variety of rare and beautiful plantlife to admire, it is not unusual to spend a few hours here. You'll often find music festivals on here too, and there is a great cafe and shop where you can enjoy a nice coffee or take home some plants for yourself. Learn more here - scampston.co.uk

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Flamingo Land

Flamingo Land does it exactly what it says on the tin and more - yes, you'll find flamingos there (hundreds, in fact), but you'll also find a host of other interesting things to see and do. These include theme park rides, other animals, and even a luxury Resort Village where you can stay. The zoo there allows you to see lots of other animals including larger animals like hippos and tigers, as well as lemurs and owls, both of which you can get up close and personal with via the Animal Experiences and the Daytime Shows. There are plenty of great rides for kids and families, but you'll also find plenty of rides which are genuinely thrilling - for example, Velocity is the UK’s first and only motorbike launch coaster. The village resort is definitely much nicer than expected, with the lodges definitely fitting the bill of 'luxury'. We recommend a trip here especially if you've got kids with you, learn more and plan your visit here - flamingoland.co.uk

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Malton Priory (St Mary's)

This impressive building is the only Gilbertine church still in regular use anywhere in the UK. Built in the 12th century, the church is a wonderful example of Romanesque architecture and attracts visitors from across the country who come to admire the design quality. It's surprisingly large and it's quite shocking when you realise that the original building was roughly 2/3 larger than the building you see today. When you enter the church, the feature to look out for is the series of misericords - wooden carvings, many of which date back to the 15th century (considering this, the detail is incredible). This is an excellent place to visit and well worth a look, learn more here - maltonbenefice.org.uk

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Castle Howard

Often described as one of the great palaces of Europe, Castle Howard is an impressive place to visit during your time in Malton. It took more than 100 years to complete the construction of Castle Howard, and it really shows - this is a breathtaking building. You can enjoy a tour of Castle Howard which will take you around the painting and impressive furnishings, but for us the highlight is definitely exploring the estate. Set in around 1000 acres of landscaped grounds, a walk around the walled gardens and the rose beds when the sun is out is a fantastic way to spend a day. The walk from the entrance to the castle takes around 20 minutes, but there is a transport taxi for anyone who would prefer not to walk. Overall this is a great day out and we highly recommend a visit, learn more here - castlehoward.co.uk

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The Animal Art Gallery

If you like the idea of seeing the animals at Flamingo Land but you're less keen on the idea of screaming children and queues, then we'd recommend a visit to The Animal Art Gallery on Finkle Street. Here you'll find a lovely collection of very impressive art, all depicting animals. The subjects of the art range from lovely household pets to slightly wilder animals such as horses and birds (you might even see some insects). We also love the mix of artists - you've got big names like Robert E Fuller (who also has a gallery in Malton), but you've also got a good mix of lesser-known artists who have original work in the gallery. Overall, it is well worth a visit. Learn more here - theanimalartgallery.co.uk

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Wensleydale, North Yorkshire

Say the name 'Wensleydale' and you might think of delicious cheese, but the area of Wensleydale is actually one of the best areas in Yorkshire to explore. It's the dale of the River Ure on the east side of the Pennines, one of the Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, and there is plenty to see and do here. Let's look at some of our favourites:

Aysgarth Falls

There are lots of waterfalls to visit in the Yorkshire Dales, but Aysgarth Falls is definitely one of the most impressive - this triple flight of waterfalls is an SSSI set in a lovely wooded area which was formed by the by the River Ure. Visiting this waterfall is enjoyable at any time of the year, but it's especially cool after heavy rain fall when the water comes crashing down the waterfall.  The falls here are well known for being featured in the film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. The visitor centre here is actually really good and includes interesting exhibitions as well as a nice cafe. You can't go wrong with a visit to Aysgarth Falls, learn more here - yorkshiredales.org.uk

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Bolton Castle

This 14th-century castle is a Grade I listed building and a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which means it has protection against unauthorised change. The castle design is notable because it is listed as a Quadrangular castle due to the lack of keep and angle towers. The most notable history attached to the castle is that Mary, Queen of Scots was held prisoner here for 6 months after her defeat at the Battle of Langside, and you can actually still visit her bedroom at Bolton Castle. This is a great day out and we highly recommend a visit, learn more here - boltoncastle.co.uk

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Yorkshire Dales National Park

Wensleydale is one of the Yorkshire Dales in North Yorkshire, and the entire national park itself is definitely worth exploring. Home to the amazing Three Peaks and incredible countryside scenery, it is a mecca for walkers. Amazingly, more than 25% of England’s upland hay meadows and pastures are found here, plus it has the most extensive caving area in the whole of the UK. In short, this national park is truly amazing.
Visit the official website here - https://www.yorkshiredales.org.uk/
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Wensleydale Railway

If you're into trains then the Wensleydale Railway is a must-visit during your time in the area - this is an authentic Heritage Railway which runs 22 miles from Scruton to Redmire in the Yorkshire Dales. The railway was originally built in the 19th century and has been reconstructed various times since then, but despite the age of the railway it plays a really important role in the local area - it's estimated that the railway carries over 50,000 people a year and that for every £1 spent on the railway, £4 is spent at one of the towns or villages on the route. The trip to Scruton is especially impressive because it's an authentically restored stations run by volunteers dressed in period outfits - we love it! Visit their website here - wensleydale-railway.co.uk

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The Forbidden Corner

Set within a 4-acre garden in Tupgill Park, The Forbidden Corner is a labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies (and other surprises) is definitely not to be missed. Originally built as a private pleasure garden, the attraction opened to the public in 1997 due to demand and has been a firm favourite with locals and visitors alike ever since. Described as a "folly garden", The Forbidden Corner is really quite strange, but also loads of fun. We don't want to spoil too much of what you'll find, but let's just say watch your feet and keep an eye out for some impressive statues (it's hard to miss them really).

Learn more here - theforbiddencorner.co.uk

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