North Yorkshire's Prettiest Towns and Villages

by Sue Talbot

Renowned for dramatic landscapes made up of countryside, coastline and undulating hills, North Yorkshire is a melting pot of historical sites and untamed natural beauty. From the windswept beaches that hug the shoreline to the moody moorland of Wuthering Heights, the beautiful scenery complements the prettiest towns and villages in North Yorkshire.

Robin Hood’s Bay

One of the most charming villages in North Yorkshire is Robin Hood’s Bay. Entwined with the rugged coastline, this historic fishing village is a maze of narrow, snaking streets where you can catch glimpses of the sea between quaint cottages.

Red brick and white-washed houses cluster above the water at Robin Hood's Bay,
The Bay Hotel sits in Robin Hood's Bay by the descent to the water.

The pretty bay provides a stunning backdrop for exploring the village, with the sandy beach and rocky cliffs boasting panoramic views that stretch out towards the horizon. As you wander through the village, make sure to admire its historic architecture and soak up the maritime history that permeates every corner.


Just a few miles up the coast from Robin Hood’s Bay is the village of Staithes. Known for its timeless beauty and artistic heritage, Staithes is a haven for artists and photographers seeking inspiration in its cobbled streets and sea views. Traditional red-roofed cottages cascade down the cliffs towards the harbour, where fishing boats bob gently in the water.

Staithes, one of North Yorkshire's prettiest villages, is a cluster of white houses with red roofs at the back of a deeply-sided cove on the coast. Boats float in the bay out front, and in the background is another headland jutting into the sea.

Explore the local galleries and workshops, pop into the illustrious Cod and Lobster pub for a pint or enjoy a spot of people watching from one of the cafes.


Between Staithes and Robin Hood’s Bay, the town of Whitby is another gem on North Yorkshire’s coastline. Famous for its crumbling Gothic abbey perched on the cliffs overlooking the town, Whitby is a place of stark contrasts. The buzzing harbour is a hive of activity, with fishing boats unloading their catch and pleasure cruisers ferrying visitors along the coast. The narrow streets are lined with traditional fisherman’s cottages and the beach offers uninterrupted views of the North Sea.

A view over Whitby's red roofs, with the harbour in the middle and further rows of houses marching up the hillside on the far side.

Whitby is also known for its connections to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, with the town’s dark and brooding atmosphere evoking the spirit of the legendary vampire tale.


In the heart of the Yorkshire Dales nestles the idyllic village of Grassington, a picture-perfect example of rural English charm. Surrounded by patchwork fields and rolling hills, Grassington is a gateway for walkers and nature lovers exploring the Yorkshire countryside.

The front of the Rustic Rabbit tea room in Grassington. It's a stone end-of-terrace building with woodwork painted in pale pink.
A view of The Devonshire pub in Grassington as viewed by Gosia on the Three Dales Way, made of honey-yellow stone with black accents and several picnic benches outside.

The village itself is a cluster of stone-built cottages and quaint shops, with a bustling market square at its heart. Wander along the winding lanes, sample some of the local pub grub or mooch around the shops of this timeless village.


The spa town of Harrogate is a place of elegance and refinement. Home to graceful architecture, manicured gardens and healing waters, Harrogate has long been a popular destination for the wellbeing crowd. The town’s historic Turkish baths offer a taste of luxury and indulgence, while the famous Betty’s Tea Rooms lets you indulge in delicious pastries and sweet treats.

Unwind as you stroll among the town’s parks and gardens and the elegant Victorian architecture or linger with afternoon tea in one of the pavement cafes.

 Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms by Neil Turner. An imposing three-storey stone building forms the block corner, with intricately carved bay windows and Betty's Cafe and Tea Rooms below. The cafe has full-length windows with black gloss frames, its name etched out in gold.
Royal Baths by Tony Hisgett. The Royal Baths in Harrogate as viewed outside, looking across at the grand stone entryway with the domed roof behind.

Left: Betty's Cafe Tea Rooms by Neil Turner. Right: Royal Baths by Tony Hisgett. Both shared resized under a Creative Commons licence.


Just a stone’s throw from Harrogate is the town of Knaresborough, teetering on a dramatic limestone cliff above the River Nidd.

With its medieval castle ruins, charming riverside walks and historic market square, Knaresborough is a place of timeless beauty and hidden delights. Colourful houses cling to the cliffside, peering over the river below, while the river provides a peaceful setting for boating and picnicking.

People boat on the river beneath the Knaresborough Viaduct on a sunny day.

It’s well worth the climb up to the 14th-castle for astonishing views of the town and its famous viaduct. Alternatively, head to Mother Shipton’s Cave, a legendary site with a petrifying well, and learn about the prophetess who predicted the world’s end.

Sue Talbot

Adventure Travel Blogger

Sue Talbot is an adventure travel blogger and iPhone photographer who’s often found hiking up the Lakeland fells or swimming in fairy pools. Her outdoor adventures and photographs can be found on her blog, Lifehop, and also her Lake District Lovers Facebook page.

Read more blogs by Sue Talbot

Originally published 08/07/24

Top posts