Many visitors to the UK spend the majority of their visit exploring London and the south, or maybe making a short trip up to Edinburgh. But the north of England has plenty to offer visitors from historic cities, to gorgeous seaside resorts, to stunning countryside.
I’m a proud Northerner and I love to showcase the fantastic things to do in the north. I’ll admit this list is very North West and Yorkshire centric as I’ve spent considerably less time in the North East and I’ve decided against including some of the more obvious city locations in favour of smaller towns and quaint villages, but here are some of my favourite places in the north.
An enchanting seaside resort on the Yorkshire Coast, Whitby is simply one of the most magical places I’ve ever visited. The town’s skyline is dominated by the ruins of Whitby Abbey atop the famous 199 Steps, while at the bottom you’ll find winding cobbled streets with quaint, colourful cottages and the harbour. Don’t forget to get some fish and chips while you’re there!
As one of the UK’s oldest cities, York has a rich history and plenty to see and do. It may be touristy in places, but it is worth it! The Minster dominates the city and is an absolute marvel of medieval architecture (tip: if you can’t afford the full admission cost, you can stand in the entrance area for free!). Other York highlights include historic street The Shambles – be warned, it is always busy, the city walls and Clifford’s Tower. I also hear good things about the Railway Museum although I’ve never actually been. Sadly, the Viking centre Jorvik is currently closed for repairs after the damaging floods last year.
Located on the fringes of Greater Manchester, Ramsbottom is a wonderful market town with something for everyone. Hikers and nature lovers can explore the surrounding countryside or climb up to Peel Tower, foodies are well catered for with a number of well-regarded pubs and restaurants, history buffs can take a step back in time with a trip on the steam trains of the East Lancashire Railway and those who love to shop can potter around the indie shops, antiques centre or well-stocked charity shops. Oh, and there’s also a chocolate café!
Southport is the North West’s best seaside resort. I say this was a slight bias as it is my hometown, but I think it has just as much to offer as its nearby rival Blackpool and a more relaxed atmosphere. It’s home to the second-longest pier in the UK (even if the beach isn’t the best) and also features attractions including a miniature railway, parks, a lake and a funfair. Nice fact for you: Napoleon III lived in Southport before he became French Emperor and he used the town’s main shopping street, Lord Street, as inspiration for the redesign of Paris.
Another historic city but one that’s much less crowded than the streets of York, Lancaster is somewhere that doesn’t get as much love and attention as I feel it should. The city is dominated by the Castle which was for much of its life (even in recent years) used as a prison – it’s famous as being the location where the Pendle Witches were put on trial in 1612 after they were forced to walk to the city from Pendle Hill. If you’re looking for somewhere with a less morbid history, explore Williamson Park and climb up to the Ashton Memorial which offers great views of the surrounding areas.
The Peak District
The Peak District has plenty to offer visitors and it’s hard to pick out just a specific highlight! It’s the birthplace of walking and rambling as we know it now – in 1932, a mass trespass took place up Kinder Scout to protest about farmers shutting off their land to walkers. It led to walkers being given the right to travel through common land and open country and the creation of routes such as The Pennine Way. Villages such as Hope and Edale within the valley are perfect places to explore the surrounding countryside, Castleton is a bustling little place with a 12th century fort, Peveril Castle, overlooking it and the spa town of Buxton is a great place for a weekend away, It’s a lovely part of the country and is easily accessible by train (from Manchester and Sheffield) too.
Located above Manchester, the moors of Saddleworth feature rural villages, beautiful scenery and plenty of countryside to explore. You won’t be disappointed wherever you find yourself, although some of my personal favourites include the hill known as Pots and Pans above Greenfield and the ever-popular town of Uppermill.
There are so many wonderful places to visit in the Lake District, but Coniston stands out for me as it has both a lake (Coniston Water) and a hill (The Old Man of Coniston) within easy reach. It’s not as accessible as some other Lake District locations (you need to get a train then a bus from Windermere or drive), but this adds to its charm. We stayed in a lovely pub called The Black Bull Inn which has makes its own beer under the name Coniston Brewery.
It’s very easy to fall in love with Hebden Bridge. It’s a bustling and dynamic market town which is well-known for its independent shops and restaurants. Highlights include climbing up to the village of Heptonstall (pictured) which is the burial place of poet Sylvia Plath or exploring the National Trust site Hardcastle Crags.
Haworth is world famous for its links with the Bronte sisters, and it’s a wonderful place to visit whether you’re interested in literature or not. With its quaint cobbled streets, it retains much of its historic charm (although, apparently it wasn’t the nicest place to be when the three sisters resided in the town) and it’s fascinating to explore the surrounding countryside that so inspired Anne, Charlotte and Emily. Make sure you visit Top Withins, which is said to be the inspiration for the setting of Wuthering Heights.