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The UK is a great place to go on a road trip, with so many places within easy, reachable driving distance and an incredible amount of history and culture to explore, there are road trips in the UK to suit everyone!
With the increase in people looking to travel closer to home and more people than ever planning staycations, this guide not only helps you plan a road trip in the UK, but will also help you plan the perfect Yorkshire road trip, which a lot of people often miss out between road trips in the south or to Scotland.
I was born and raised in the Midlands in Nottingham but moved to the south three years ago, once I moved back to the Midlands in 2019 with my own car, I was determined to revisit so many of the beautiful places in Yorkshire that I’d enjoyed as a child and I hope you enjoy this itinerary too.
Where is Yorkshire?
Although people say Yorkshire, there isn’t actually one county called Yorkshire. Instead, the area is so huge that it’s split into North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire and East Riding of Yorkshire.
When people say Yorkshire, they are often referring to North Yorkshire. Although the whole area stretches across the country from the North Yorkshire Moors in the east which shares a coastline with the North Sea, to the west where the Yorkshire Dales National Park almost meets the west coast.
The area is in the north of England, above the midlands, and incorporates major cities such as York, Leeds, Sheffield and Hull.
When is the best time to go on a Yorkshire road trip?
Normally I would suggest doing road trips when the weather is best, during the summer months. But the weather can be unpredictable at best in the UK, especially when you’re in areas like the Yorkshire Moors or the Yorkshire Dales.
The landscapes are beautiful regardless of the weather and if you don’t mind a bit of rain and wind then you can probably do this trip almost any time of year. Just be sure to check the local weather forecasts if you do plan to do any hikes or outdoor activities which could become dangerous in poor conditions.
I personally love Yorkshire in the autumn when the leaves are changing and the moors are turning burnt orange. Also it’s the shoulder season so it’s likely to be much quieter than if you visit these places in the height of summer!
How long should you spend on a Yorkshire road trip?
As long as you like! This guide is for 4 days as that was the ideal length of time for me to take a long weekend off work and still see the main cities and beautiful countryside that I wanted to.
However, there are endless beautiful hikes, amazing coastal walks, city sightseeing and quaint villages to see across all the Yorkshire counties and you could easily spend a week, two weeks or more getting to know the area.
I also travel very fast and will spend a day or even half a day in some places to maximise my paid time off work. So this itinerary could easily be extended out to a week or more to incorporate longer stays, more hikes, museum visits etc
4 day Yorkshire road trip itinerary
The beauty about this itinerary is that it goes roughly in a straight line, I do it east to west based on where I live, but if you’re in the west you could easily do this itinerary in reverse.
Day 1: Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby
Start your Yorkshire road trip on the east coast in the Whitby area. I have so many fond childhood memories of Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay and I was delighted to be able to go back as an adult and appreciate this quaint but also dramatic area of the English coast.
The beauty of Whitby and the surrounding area is that there are endless walks, trails and hikes to do both inland and on the coast. You might want to spend longer here if you want to do a few of these trails.
I stayed on a campsite, (which I know isn’t for everyone!) but it was right on the coast on cliffs above the sea and the view was so incredible. It was also at the top of the hill so we were able to take a short walk down to Robin Hood’s Bay. This is especially useful in peak season when parking is limited because Robin Hood’s Bay is not fully accessible by car.
If you are looking for a Robin Hood’s Bay campsite then I cannot recommend Bay Ness Farm enough.
Robin Hood’s Bay
Spend your first day walking down to Robin Hood’s Bay and enjoying the quaint village, local businesses and beach front. It’s the perfect opportunity to enjoy fish & chips or an ice cream by the sea, with plenty of local, freshly made options.
In the afternoon, hop in your car and drive over to Whitby, a short 12 minute drive from Robin Hood’s Bay.
I suggest parking your car at the Whitby Abbey car park so you can visit before the abbey closes. This car park is called Abbey Headland car park on Google Maps. You will need to pay, but I found this rate much cheaper than others around Whitby and the location is great too.
£2 for 1 hour
£3 for 2 hours
£7 for 6 hours
£9 for 24 hours
Whitby Abbey is the ruins of a monastery, which dates back to 657 AD. The monastery was destroyed during the reign of Henry VIII in 1539 when he suppressed Catholicism across the country. Those are the ruins you see there today. The gothic architecture is spectacular to see, and adds to the dramatic landscape and association with Dracula and Whitby witches.
Whitby Abbey visiting details
Adults cost £10
Children cost £6
Family ticket (2 adults, up to 3 children) costs £26
If you’re an English Heritage membership holder, entry is free
The abbey is open 10am - 5pm with last entry usually being 4pm.
With current restrictions, everyone needs to book in advance via the Whitby Abbey website this includes English Heritage members.
If you’re anything like me and love to discover local breweries, then you need to stop for a quick drink or two at Whitby Brewery.
Whitby Brewery is actually situated at the top of the hill, right opposite Whitby Abbey, so you have incredible views of the gothic ruins while you enjoy your drink. Plus it’s dog friendly too!
After your abbey and brewery visit, walk down the hill towards the Church of St. Mary, behind the church is the start of the famous 199 Steps. This is a must-do in Whitby, with access straight into the town and beautiful views of the bay from the steps.
Once you reach Church Street, take some time to explore the local shops, cafes and businesses, if you’re looking for a souvenir, this is where you’ll find it!
Things to see and do in Whitby:
Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Whitby Whale Watching or Coastal cruises
Enjoy seafood with a view of the harbour
Visit the famous Endeavour Ship sailed by Captain Cook
Whitby beach huts
If you’re looking for dinner with a harbour view, I can recommend The Moon & Sixpence with great seafood and pub food style options.
Day 2: The Yorkshire Moors and York
Make an early start on day two to see as much of the Yorkshire Moors as possible. It is only just over 1 hours’ drive from Whitby to York, we took a day to drive and walk through the moors, then stayed overnight in York. However you may prefer to stay somewhere in the moors overnight instead.
Driving through the Moors is a great way to see the landscape and beautiful scenery. But I also think including a walk is a great way to see the beautiful countryside.
Two fairly easy day walks I recommend in the Yorkshire Moors are:
Levisham Moor and Hole of Horcrum walk - this starts at Saltergate and has incredible panorama views. The walk is circular and follows a track. Total distance is 5 miles. Find out more here.
The White Horse Walk - the famous white horse landmark is cut into the hillside and can be seen for miles around. This walk is shorter at just 3 miles and is closer to the south side of the Moors which you’ll be leaving to reach York. You can find out more information about the walk here.
We spent most of our day exploring the moors then drove to York for a quick wander around the markets and dinner.
No Yorkshire road trip would be complete without visiting York, so if you’d prefer to drive straight to York or are planning to spend longer in the city, here are some of the things to see and do in York:
Wander down the Shambles - it feels like you stepped straight into Harry Potter!
Shambles historic market
York Castle and Museum
National Railway Museum York
I also love York because it’s such a picturesque city and there are so many free things to do in York to make the most of your trip!
If you’re looking for an awesome local place to eat, or if you’re looking for a brewery in York, head to Brew York Craft Brewery & Tap Room. They have a great selection of beers and the burgers were incredible too!
Day 3: The Yorkshire Dales and Leeds
I spent many holidays as a child walking in the Yorkshire Dales. For me, they are quintessentially British with rolling green hills, babbling streams and rivers, sheep dotted about and tearooms tucked in villages everywhere you go.
The drive from York to Bolton Abbey in the south of the Yorkshire Dales takes an hour. From here it’s up to you how much of the Dales you want to explore and whether you venture further north, stay overnight in a lovely Dale B&B or head down to Leeds for the night.
Things to see and do at the Yorkshire Dales in a day:
You can take a drive through the dales, enjoy the pretty villages and quaint tearooms. While there are plenty of driving routes and walks, my favourite activities to do on a day in the Yorkshire Dales are:
Ingleton Waterfall Trail
Bolton Abbey and the stepping stones
Fountains Abbey (owned by the National Trust)
Get some Wensleydale cheese from Wensleydale!
And some Swaledale honey from Swaledale!
Leeds is approximately an hours’ drive from the southern end of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. You can either head to Leeds for an early start the next day in the city, or stay overnight at some of these beautiful places in the Yorkshire Dales.
Day 4: Leeds and Manchester
Continue your Yorkshire road trip by moving on to the cities in the region.
Leeds is such an underrated city and definitely deserves more visitors and more attention. Obviously Manchester isn’t in Yorkshire (it’s in the county of Lancashire) and while squeezing these two cities into a day doesn’t do either of them justice, if you only have a short time and want to visit these two awesome northern cities then this is a great way to see them both on one trip.
Start your final day of the Yorkshire road trip in Leeds with breakfast at the Cosy Club, where you can get a full English breakfast for just £8.50!
Then take some time to wander around the city and explore some of the sights. I love exploring UK cities because there are so many beautiful buildings, architecture and sights to see which are completely free.
Free things to see and do in Leeds:
The Corn Exchange
Also taking the Leeds Water Taxi is a great and fun way to see the city from the water, especially if you have kids. The ride is only around 12 minutes and costs £1!
If you’re looking for a brewery in Leeds, check out the Northern Monk Refectory. It’s in a really cool converted factory with red brick and industrial style. A super cool spot to hang out with a great outdoor area too.
Although Manchester isn’t in Yorkshire, it’s a great addition to your road trip to experience more cities in the region. Manchester is just a one hour drive from Leeds, making it super easy to see both cities in a day.
I suggest parking your car at one of the public car parks in the Northern Quarter. The Northern Quarter in Manchester is my favourite part of the city, with lots of independent businesses, thrift shops, cute cafes and breweries. I could easily spend all day here!
In the city centre itself, check out the stunning 19th century Barton Arcade, this historic part of the city has so much amazing architecture. Don’t miss the Royal Exchange Theatre around the corner too.
If you’re a library fan or book nerd, you’re going to want to visit the beautiful John Rylands Library. It’s part of the University of Manchester but is free to visit for visitors. It’s home to rare books and manuscripts and also has several first editions for the likes of Dickens and Shakespeare.
And of course, if you’re looking for a Manchester brewery and maybe some food to finish off the day then I really recommend Seven Brothers Beerhouse in the Northern Quarter. They have an awesome range of craft beers and the decor is really cool, if you like exposed bricks and plenty of wood while you enjoy your beer, this is the place for you!
If you plan to stay the night in Manchester then there are plenty of budget and mid-range options. Or if you want to splash out for your last night, enjoy a stay at the King Street Townhouse complete with a rooftop infinity pool overlooking the spires of Manchester city.
I hope you enjoyed this Yorkshire road trip itinerary, please let me know if it’s useful!
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Flights: I use Expedia to find great flights and the best deals all over the world, they have regular sales and offers so I always check their website. I also check CheapOair to find cheap deals on round trip flights.
Car Rental: I love the customer service I've always gotten and the variety of options with Rental Cars. But for short notice rentals, I've been using Expedia for the last year, they always seem to have great one-day rates or last-minute rates from the main rental companies.
Accommodation: I prefer the flexibility of booking accommodation with Booking.com so I can cancel or change my reservation without a fee or only pay on arrival for most properties. For longer or more unique stays I prefer AirBnB because you can get the long stay discount, you can also find more unique properties and book experiences with talented locals and businesses. For my budget trips, I always stay in hostels and book through Hostelworld because they have great guarantees if anything does go wrong. If you arrive and your booking is not at the property, they refund the full deposit AND give you $50 extra credit.
Tours and organised trips Although I don’t use tours that often, I do like to book local experiences or day trips once I reach my destination. For that I use GetYourGuide because it has the biggest selection and variety of tour and experience options.
Travel Insurance: For all my longer trips and for the entire year I’ve spent in Australia, my partner and I have always used World Nomads. They cover everything I need and I can buy coverage for a year at a time, they also allow you to purchase cover when you’re already outside your home country. Plus my camera gear and equipment is covered and they also have special cover for when I’m scuba diving too.
My camera gear and equipment: I use a Canon 77D with an 18-135mm lens or a 50mm lens. And a DJI Mavic Mini Drone. For all my gear including laptops, tripods and more camera accessories read my travel photography gear guide.