Walking in the Historic Ridings of Yorkshire, 5 Great Walks

The remarkable county of Yorkshire is one of the United Kingdom’s most popular locations for walking which is not surprising given the astounding beauty of the natural landscape.

Within the boundaries of the county are three National Parks, three areas of outstanding natural beauty (AONB’s) and more including a stunning heritage coastline and a remarkable area of isolated chalk hills.

No wonder the Tour de France organisers chose this backdrop against stiff opposition for the Grand Depart in 2014. If you saw the pictures from the two stages of the race held in Yorkshire you will have seen the stunning landscape for yourself. It’s no wonder an estimated 2 million people lined the route!

There are also many popular long distance footpaths which make their way through Yorkshire. These include Alfred Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk which is the most popular walking trail of them all.

Other notable trails include the Dales Way, Cleveland Way and Wolds Way; the last two being official National Trails of the United Kingdom.

To sum up, the great outdoors of Yorkshire is brimming with opportunities for walking from the gentlest rambles to some of the most challenging mountain expeditions.  With so much outside space, it’s a challenge to limit Yorkshire’s natural highlights to just five, but here are my five top regions of the county to get you started!


1. Yorkshire Dales National Park

Yorkshire Dales

A land of hill country, moorland, meadows, and gentle valleys with opportunities for walks including easy family friendly strolls such as Ingleton Waterfalls, Malham Cove and Aysgarth Falls to more adventurous hikes like Wild Boar Fell, Buckden Pike or the ultimate one day challenge of the Three Peaks walk to Penyghent, Whernside and Ingleborough.

Natural sights familiar in the park include limestone outcrops, rich woodland and an abundance of waterfalls. More delights include field barns, drystone walls and flower-rich hay meadows, and show how the area has been shaped by people. Spectacular remains of former mine workings and other rural industries remind us of the area’s rich industrial heritage.


2. North York Moors National Park

North York Moors

Most well-known for the windswept moors, one of the largest expanses in England which are bedecked in beautiful purple heather in autumn the area of the North York Moors has so much more on offer.

While the eastern side has some of the most recognisable walking areas such as Sutton Bank, Helmsley and Osmotherley the western area has the added bonus of the fabulous Yorkshire coastline with both stunning limestone cliffs and wide expanses of golden sands on offer.

Popular paths which cross this land include the Cleveland Way National Trail, the final third of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast and the celebrated 40 mile long Lyke Wake Walk challenge in which successful participants get a coffin shaped badge in recognition of the effort they have made.


3. South Yorkshire and the Peak District National Park

peak district

This is the region the people of Sheffield, Rotherham and Barnsley go walking and so do folk from the Lancashire and the Greater Manchester area. And it is obvious as to why they head out of the cities and towns into this wonderful countryside.

There are the high moors of the Pennines for the extreme walkers, the lower table of moorland and rolling hills around Hathersage and south Sheffield which draws rock climbers to the gritstone edges of Stanage, Froggatt, Curbar and the lower valley regions which includes deep gorges to explore such as that at Padley and creative walks like the picturesque Rivelin Valley Nature Trail.


4. Nidderdale

Brimham Rocks Nidderdale

Nidderdale was designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in 1994. In addition to Nidderdale itself the area of outstanding beauty includes upper Nidderdale and the Washburn valley which is close to the south Leeds and Harrogate areas.

There are many fabulous walks to be enjoyed in and around the area including the Nidderdale Way and the western part of the Ebor Way which runs to York. Notable natural highlights include Brimham Rocks, Scar House Reservoir, Middlesmoor, How Stean Gorge, Lofthouse, the area around Pateley Bridge and Upper Washburn.

It is simply a wonderful place to visit and walking is the best way to enjoy its rich and varied countryside.


5. East Yorkshire – Yorkshire Wolds and Coast

Chalk Upldands of Yorkshire

The Yorkshire Wolds is a broad crescent of rolling chalk hills and valleys arcing from the coast at Flamborough to the Humber Bridge. The magnificent, unspoiled scenery, beautiful market towns, outstanding country houses and sweeping coastline ensure that many visitors return year after year. The scenery is wonderful and walking in the area much underrated.

I have no hesitation in recommending this region as my 5th and final choice of walking areas in Yorkshire. It is so different to the rest being remote, silent and awe-inspiring with big skies; a place that inspires creativity.

The noted artist David Hockney draws inspiration from the Wolds. The Wolds Way National Trail cuts through the heart of the chalk land and is delightful. And then there is the coastline which has drawn heritage status with soaring cliffs, sweeping sands and wildlife reserves to inspire walks.

Postscript from the author: I am lucky to live in the heart of Yorkshire and have easy access to these walking regions. I scan maps regularly to find new walks and when I do so I am never disappointed. I also enjoy returning to old favourites in these beautiful areas. I truly believe you will enjoy visiting any of these areas of Yorkshire and walking to your heart’s content.

Mike is the author of the Walking Englishman, a free walking resource to inspire you to go out walking in the countryside of Great Britain.

Photo Credits: Mike Brockhurst