Since June 2017 I’ve lived in Leeds which is situated in the area of West Yorkshire (one of four smaller parts within the county of Yorkshire) and this has provided me with lots of weekends and time to explore what this part of God’s Own Country has to offer! Yorkshire is often underrated compared to other parts of the UK and within that West Yorkshire is often overlooked for North Yorkshire which is lucky enough to have the Dales, the North York Moors and a good chunk of the beautiful Yorkshire Coast!
Check out these 15 places to visit in West Yorkshire to add to your list either as part of a holiday to Yorkshire or as a day trip if you live near by!
1. Harewood House
Harewood House is less than a half an hour drive from Leeds and a wonderful example of a Palladian Country House. Not only can you explore the interior of the house and step back in time but there are extensive grounds to explore and stretch the legs walking all the way to the other side of the lake, passing through the Himalayan Garden en route. If you don’t fancy the walk, The Capability boat can take you to the other side (for an additional cost). There is also a Bird Garden and a playground for children to enjoy.
Harewood was built for Edwin Lascelles in the 1700s and today is often seen on screen as a popular period drama filming location. You may already recognise Harewood House from the Downton Abbey Movie. Victoria or Death Comes to Pemberley. Plus the popular soap Emmerdale is filmed on a purpose built set in the grouns after relocating from the village of Esholt!
2. Yorkshire Sculpture Park
If you want to combine modern art with a good walk in the countryside then the Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the perfect place! When the park opened in 1977 it was the first out door sculpture park in the UK and has been featuring fascinating art ever since. From Barbara Hepworth to Damian Hirst and Ai Weiwei there are hundreds of sculptures on display throughout the 500 acres of land the park occupies. Of course there’s a cafe to enjoy a refreshment and reflect on the art you’ve seen as well!
The picturesque village of Haworth is one of my favourite day trips in West Yorkshire! It’s main street features heavily on my Instagram feed as it feels like a step back in time with its oldy worldy cobble stones and shop fronts. Plus, the street is so steep that as it dips down, the view across to the moors rises up to meet the sky! The village is best known for being the home place of the Brontë sisters and you can still visit the Parsonage which was the family home. Park next to the Parsonage and after a visit to discover the family history, walk out to Top Withens which is alleged to be the inspiration for Wuthering Heights.
You might also recognise Haworth from films such as the heart wrenching The Railway Children, cult classic Rita, Bob & Sue Too or teenage rom-com Wild Child.
4. Nostell Priory
Yorkshire is unfortunately in short supply of National Trust properties but for anyone that loves one then Nostell should be on your list! There’s a historic house to explore, parklands to ramble across and of course a teashop to finish off 😉 Nostell Priory & Parkland was built on the site of a medieval priory back in 1773 for the Winn family. Walk up to the Obelisk Lodge and wonder at how this funny building was actually still inhabited until the 1950s!
5. Hebden Bridge
The Calder Valley runs through the charming market town of Hebden Bridge which is an arts & crafts, independent boutiques and music hub! The fact that it’s previously been named ‘the greatest town in Europe’ should be a good enough reason to tell you it’s worth a visit. But if that’s not then it’s a great place to discover local artists through music at The Trades Club or in the delightful shops dotted around the town. After exploring for gifts, pick up a coffee from one of the many coffee shops in town and take a wander along the Rochdale Canal, past the old mill buildings.
6. Keighley & Worth Valley Railway
The Keighley & Worth Valley Railway (KWVR) is a favoured day out for a ride along the 5 mile route by steam train between Keighley and Oxenhope. The stations along the KWVR remain stuck in time and offer charming stops along the line. So much so that they are often used in film & TV because of their ‘period’ appearance and so this includes Swallows & Amazons (2016), All Creatures Great and Small (2020), Peaky Blinders and most famously The Railway Children! During the festive period KWVR turns into the Elf Express 🛷
7. Saltaire & Salts Mill
When Titus Salt built Salts Mill he also built a model village alongside it to house his workers called Saltaire – combining his name with the name of the river (Aire) that runs alongside. Today the mill has been converted into an arts space. The mill houses a David Hockney exhibition (he grew up in nearby Bradford) as well as antique shops, cafes and an AMAZING bookshop that I always spend ages in! Explore the streets of Saltaire and see which spots you recognise from films such as The English Game, An Inspector Calls and the TV series The ABC Murders or head along the canal and take a canal boat ride!
The village of Heptonstall perches high on a hill above Hebden Bridge. Cobble stones run steeply up the main street and along winding back passages that the village dwellers can just about squeeze their cars along. Heptonstall’s history is linked to the cloth trade and mills along the Calder Valley as it was a weaver’s community. Today the community is as tight knit as ever and despite its village status Heptonstall has three churches although one does lie in ruin amongst the commonwealth war graves. Heptonstall is a popular spot as the author Sylvia Plath lies buried in the new graveyard here.
9. The Piece Hall
The Piece Hall is the jewel of Halifax and full of wonderful independent shops to find gifts from board games to clothes and from books to candles. Stepping into the courtyard of The Piece Hall seems like stepping into a Venice square in Venice not West Yorkshire! The Piece Hall is a grade I listed building that was built in 1779 as a place where local textile traders would come and trade ‘pieces’ of cloth. There are also cafes and restaurants to enjoy some coffee & cake or brunch when you take a break from exploring the shops!
10. Ilkley Moor
Up above the market town of Ilkley is the achingly rugged area known as Ilkley Moor (which you may have heard of from a Wallace House 1952 folk song). This is a popular place for walkers, especially on a weekend where most start at the Cow & Calf rocks and return for a pint and / or lunch in the pub of the same name. Alternatively, after a long walk on the moors head down to Ilkley itself where the famous Yorkshire tea room Betty’s has a cafe.
In Summer the moor is covered in purple heather and it’s a great place to watch sunset over the Wharfedale Valley!
11. Gibson Mill & Hardcastle Crags
On the outskirts of Hebden Bridge you’ll find the National Trust Midge Hole car park. From here you can walk up through woodlands along the burbling Hebden Beck. This will take you to the historic 19th century Gibson Mill (a great spot for a photo opportunity as the mill is reflected in the pool at the back) where you can pick up refreshments in the NT cafe which is self-sufficient through its own renewable energy generated by the mill and beck.
Continue on through Hardcastle Crags for more walking trails including up to the crags themselves which will give you splendid views up and down the valley!
12. Kirkstall Abbey
Kirkstall Abbey is probably the most magnificent abbey ruin in West Yorkshire and it’s right in the city of Leeds. The abbey was founded over 800 years ago and along with many other abbeys across the country it was disestablished during the Dissolution of the Monasteries under King Henry VIII. It’s a favourite place for Leeds local as there is an expanse of grounds to picnic in during the Summer months and to have a short walk before exploring the gaping ruins of the Abbey.
Otley is on the border with North Yorkshire (some houses in the town actually cross over!) and is a lively market town that’s popular with residents of Leeds. The town sits in the shadow of The Chevin, a rocky outcrop that overlooks Wharfedale and a great place for a weekend walk. In Otley itself, you’ll find the home of Thomas Chippendale as well as spots that you’ll recognise from the series Emmerdale & Heartbeat. If you don’t fancy a walk on The Chevin there are alternative walks along the river Wharfe to enjoy followed by a stroll through the little cobbled streets in town and to find a coffee and cake to finish with”
Nestled in the Holme Valley, a few miles south of Huddersfield is the delightful small town of Holmfirth. The streets of the town centre are well recognised from the classic sit com Last of the Summer Wine which followed the lives of three elderly men and their antics trying to remain youthful and was centred in Holmfirth. Can you spot the chippy the boys used to frequent?! Holmfirth is also home to one of the most northern vineyards in England and is therefore on my list to return to in nicer weather 😉
15. Marsden Moor
Down in the south west corner of West Yorkshire (and not a far drive from Holmfirth) is the wonderful Marsden Moor Estate. This vast and rugged expanse of moorland is managed by the National Trust and provides a playground for walks, rock climbing and picnicking amongst incredible scenery! There are plenty of routes to choose from and car parks to set off from. If you park in the village of Marsden then you may want to investigate the intriguing Standedge Tunnel along the canal which is the largest canal tunnel in Britain and was restored to take boat trips along it!
If you’re exploring West Yorkshire then make sure to check out these wonderful Instagram spots in the area: