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The best family walks in and near York: The ultimate guide

Dalby Forest

If you’re looking for a lovely walk in York or the surrounding Yorkshire countryside with your children, look no further. There’s a lot to love about going on a family walk: it’s great exercise, gets everyone off their screens and gives you a great chance to chat and connect. There are lots of great walks in York and beyond: from York city centre to the North York Moors, the Yorkshire Dales to the Yorkshire Coast. Here’s a selection of family walks to choose from, just don’t forget the snacks.

The Best Family Walks in York

Whether you’re lucky enough to live in York or you’re just on a family break, a walk is a great way to see the city and get some exercise at the same time. Here are some places for a stroll within York, and read on further for some brilliant walks just a short drive away.

Walk around York’s City Walls

Walk York City Walls with Children

Why not take a walk around York’s city walls? There’s almost 3.5km of medieval wall to choose from, all with fantastic views, and it’s totally free. If little feet aren’t up to a big hike, just choose a small section. It’s easy to hop off once you’ve had enough, and there are plenty of cafes, restaurants and tearooms for refreshments.

Good to know – This is a brilliant way to get a different perspective on the city, but it’s better suited to older children. It can get crowded during peak visitor months, so perhaps try an early morning stroll for a more relaxing experience. There are some sections that don’t have railings, so it’s best for children who can be trusted to walk safely or can be carried in a carrier. It is not suitable for pushchairs or wheelchairs. The walls are particularly beautiful in spring when the daffodils are in bloom.

More info – Visit the York City Walls website for more details

The Little Vikings I Spy Trail

Little Vikings I Spy Trail Map York

I spy with my little eye a clock, a cat and a flag! The Little Vikings I Spy Trail is a new free walking trail for families around York. With the help of our own three children, we’ve put together a lovely circular route with twenty-two weird and wonderful things to spot along the way. Starting and ending

on Museum Street, the I Spy Trail will have you strolling down snickleways, gaping at the city’s medieval gates and ambling down the Shambles, ticking off iconic and eccentric landmarks along the way. The Little Vikings I Spy Trail is available all year round – all you have to do is collect (or download) the map and get your shoes and coats on! The map should be all that you need – follow the route and see how many things you can tick off. Show us what you’ve found by using the hashtag #ispyyork.

Pick up a map from the Visit York Information Centre on Parliament Street, or CLICK HERE to download it and print it out.

The York Cat Trail

York Cat Trail

The best way to discover York is on foot: wind your way down the snickleways, canter down the cobbles and enjoy the street entertainment. One of the best ways to make a walk with kids even more fun is by following a trail, and the York Lucky Cat Trail is one of the best. It’s free too! Statues of cats have been placed on buildings in York for around two centuries, although statues since removed or rotted are thought to date from medieval times. The original cat statues were placed on buildings to frighten away rats and mice which can carry plague and illness. They were also thought to ward off wandering evil spirits and generally to bestow good luck and good health on citizens who needed feline friends to ensure a good night’s sleep in old and temptingly chewy timber-framed buildings!

Pick up a trail map from the York Lucky Cats shop on the Shambles or download it from their website

A riverside walk to Rowntree Park

Rowntree Park

If you’ve finished exploring York city centre and your kids need to let off some steam, why not walk along the Ouse to Rowntree Park? It’s a lovely route that’s under a mile each way, and you’ll spot boats, squirrels and trees along the way. From the city centre, head to Skeldergate Bridge and follow the river path until you reach the Millennium Bridge. Cross the bridge and you’ll see Rowntree Park on your right, with two play areas, tennis courts, skate park, late and cafe. There are lots of lovely cafes and shops on nearby Bishopthorpe Road. Check the park’s opening hours before you set off and don’t attempt if the Ouse is flooded!

A flat walk around York Knavesmire

Knavesmire Wood

The vast expanse of York Knavesmire is much loved for anyone in York in the mood for a walk, whether they’ve got a child, friend or dog in tow. The flat, tarmac path means that it’s popular with kids on bikes, scooters and rollerskates, too. Stick to the loop and you can’t possibly get lost, or if you’re feeling adventurous, why not dip into Knavesmire Woods? Build a den and see if you can find the rope swing. There’s plenty of free parking nearby and access is free. Avoid on race days. York Knavesmire, YO23 1EX.

York Solar System Walking and Cycling Trail

Solar System route York

The York Solar System route is arguably the best cycling route in York, and one that many families enjoy. It’s not just for cyclists though: it’s popular with walkers and runners as well (share with care!). The route is a scale model of the solar system, with all the planets there to spot along the 6.4 miles. The route runs from the Knavesmire/York racecourse to Riccall, and is almost entirely traffic-free. Read here about the time we hired a cargo bike to cycle the York to Selby route.

More info – Discover more about the York to Selby route here

The Best Family Walks Within an Hour of York

Fantastic walking and cycling trails at Dalby Forest

Dalby Forest Things to do for free York

There are so many ways to enjoy and explore the beauty of Dalby Forest, with twelve walking trails to choose from. Take a look at the selection of Dalby Forest walking trails here. There’s something for all abilities, with a changing programme of family-friendly trails. Admission to Dalby Forest is free, just pay to park.

Good to know – Prefer two-wheeled travel? There are plenty of cycling trails for all abilities too. Take your own bikes or hire them there. Pack a picnic or grab something to eat and drink at the cafe. There’s a great adventure playground, too.

Visitor details – Dalby Forest Visitor Centre, Dalby Forest, North Yorkshire, YO18 7LT – Open daily except Christmas Day and Boxing Day – Free admission, just pay to park.

More info – Visit the Dalby Forest website for more details

Family walks among the ruins at Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal

Walks at Fountains Abbey

Fountains Abbey is one of the largest monasteries in the country and a Unesco World Heritage Site. Visit and you’ll see why: it’s a stunning place, with awe-inspiring ruins full of stories to tell and oodles of green open space. We like to park at Studley Royal to enjoy the water gardens and try to spot a deer or two before walking up to the Abbey and cafe.

Good to know – There’s a good adventure play area near the visitors centre. We like to visit on our way back to the car rather than at the start of the day, otherwise it’s a challenge to get the children out! There’s space galore for a picnic but the cafe serves quality food and drink too. National Trust members visit free. Take a look at the suggested Fountains Abbey walks here.

Visitor details – Fountains Abbey, Fountains, Ripon HG4 3DY; admission price applies (National Trust members free)

More info – Visit the Fountains Abbey website for more walks.

Short walks in the glorious Yorkshire Dales

Aysgarth Falls

This is a great new collection of walks in the Yorkshire Dales, with some very short walks that will suit little legs, as well as more challenging walks and walks that are easy access for buggies and wheelchairs. See the whole collection of Yorkshire Dales walks here.

Family walks in Castle Howard and the Howardian Hills

Castle Howard walk

The Howardian Hills are home to some beautiful places to walk – it is an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty after all – and you can find a selection of trails on the Howardian Hills website. It includes walks from Terrington and Slingsby, as well as two of our favourite places: Castle Howard and Nunnington Hall.

Family walks with stunning views at Sutton Bank

Sutton Bank Visitor Centre

The views from Sutton Bank are some of the finest in Yorkshire (in fact, according to James Herriot, they’re the finest in England). What better reason to get your car into a low gear and climb the bank up to Sutton Bank National Park Centre? As well as a selection of walking trails, including a family-friendly one that takes in the White Horse at Kilburn, there are cycling options too. Take your own bikes or hire them from Sutton Bank Bikes. The Visitor Centre has a cafe, loos, a natural play area, picnic tables, a shop and helpful staff who will point you in the right direction. Just pay to park.

Visitor details – Sutton Bank National Park Centre,
Sutton Bank, Thirsk YO7 2EH; 01845 597426

More info – Find out more about family walks at Sutton Bank and find the Visitor Centre’s current opening times on the North York Moors website.

Spot some birds on a walk around RSPB Fairburn Ings

Fairburn Ings review

Around half an hour south of York, the Fairburn Ings RPSB Nature Reserve is a lovely place for a walk with children, and popular with local families (and serious birdwatchers, too). Flat paths and a choice of trails mean that there’s something for families with children of all ages. Not only will you get some fresh air and a decent stretch of the legs, but you could also spot some amazing wildlife too. Kingfishers, herons and bitterness all call Fairburn Ings home, so why not take your binoculars?

Good to know – Admission is free, just pay to park (£4). There is a small visitor centre with a shop and drinks/snacks (including tea/coffee/hot chocolate). Loos and baby-changing.

Visitor details – RSPB Fairburn Ings, RSPB Fairburn Ings Visitor Centre, Newton Ln, Castleford WF10 2BH

More info – Visit the RSPB Fairburn Ings website

Family walks in Nidderdale

Brimham Rocks

Harrogate, Pateley Bridge and the surrounding area is full of choice for family walks. If you haven’t visited Brimham Rocks, you really should! Reservoir walks are a good option – flat and unchallenging for little legs. 

More info – There are lots of longer options on the Nidderdale website too – take a look at the various trails and find one to suit your family.

A family walk from Beningbrough Hall, Gallery & Gardens

(c) National Trust Images, John-Millar

As well as the obvious strolls around the gardens of Beningbrough itself, there’s a lovely 3.5 mile circular walk around the river Ouse that starts from the Beningbrough car park too. It can be a bit uneven, so for little ones maybe take a baby carrier rather than a buggy. Keep your eyes peeled for wildlife – top marks to anyone who spots a kingfisher! Find all the details of the walk here

Visitor details – Beningbrough Hall, Beningbrough, York YO30 1DD. Free parking.

More info – Visit the Beningbrough Hall website for more details

Walks from Castle Howard

Castle Howard fountain

Castle Howard is a stunning place for a family walk at any time of year. There’s a 5 mile walk that starts outside the Castle Howard courtyard and takes in some of the sights of the area. Do a short section or walk the lot and reward yourselves with something to eat at Castle Howard afterwards. Alternatively, if you’re paying for admission to Castle Howard there are lots of lovely walks around the gardens – we really enjoy exploring Ray Wood on our way to Skelf Island, the adventure playground.

Visitor details – Castle Howard, York YO60 7DA – Walk available daily; opening times at Castle Howard vary – Free parking at Castle Howard; admission price applies to house and gardens.

More info – Visit the North York Moors website for more details of the Castle Howard walk

A walk around Hagg Wood

Hagg Wood

Hagg Wood is an ancient wood just outside Dunnington, and is somewhere we’d wholeheartedly recommend for a trip with kids. York isn’t short of beautiful places to visit, but Hagg Wood is pretty remarkable. The height and variety of the trees had our kids open-mouthed when we first visited. They loved looking for bluebells and seeing all the wild flowers, too. They clambered over tree trunks, jumped over roots and collected as many sticks and feathers as I could fit in my pocket.

Good to know – Parking is free. There aren’t any loos, so go before you set off unless you want to co-ordinate wild wees!

Visitor information – Hagg Wood, Dunnington, York (park legally in the village and walk to avoid local debates over parking)

More info – Visit the Forestry Commission website to find out more about Hagg Wood.

Inspirational walks around Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the setting for one of the most stunning days out in the Yorkshire countryside. Set in 500 rolling acres, it’s one of the most exciting and inspiring collections of sculptures that appeals to all ages and it’s the perfect place for a walk. Children love to run around, touch and climb on the exhibits, not inhibited by ‘DO NOT TOUCH’ signs or the hushed tones of an indoor gallery. This is one of our top days out from York. For the price of a parking ticket you’ll get a day of inspiration, exercise and fresh air.

Good to know – If your kids aren’t keen on being out in the rain, a dry day is the best time to visit as so much of your visit is outdoors. Need to buy a birthday gift or card? The YSP shop is full of lovely things. YSP is proudly breastfeeding friendly.

Visitor details – Yorkshire Sculpture Park, West Bretton, Wakefield WF4 4LG.

More info – Visit the Yorkshire Sculpture Park website

Family walking trails at Bolton Abbey

Bolton Abbey review stepping stones and welly walk

Bolton Abbey is a stunning place to walk, and there are various routes from the car parks. Children love the stepping stones and throwing stones into the river. Keep an eye out for the fabulous welly walk during the spring/summer months. Reward yourselves at the end with a treat from the tearoom or a picnic by the river. It would be hard to find a more picturesque place to rest and it’s all free, just pay to park (£10 per car).

Visitor details – Bolton Abbey, Skipton, North Yorkshire
BD23 6EX.

More info – Visit the Bolton Abbey website for more details

An easy circular walk around Askham Bog

Askham Bog York

For woodlands, meadows and flocks of birds just outside the city, head out to Askham Bog. On the site of an ancient lake, it’s the perfect place for spotting birds and other water and woodland creatures. Budding David Attenboroughs could bring their binoculars. This is a good option for a buggy-friendly walk out of town, thanks to the boarded path. It’s an easy circular stroll of about a mile with plenty of benches if you need a rest.

Good to know – Other than a basic (free) car park, there are no facilities here so don’t expect a tearoom or toilets.

Visitor information – Askham Bog, just off the A1036, York YO23 2UB. Free parking

More info – Visit the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website

Walks in nature at Moorlands Nature Reserve

Moorlands Nature Reserve

Just along from Haxby and Wigginton is Moorlands Nature Reserve. It’s a pretty, well-maintained area of Edwardian woodland looked after by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust. Embark on the short circular walk and see what you can spot, from wood carvings to snowdrops, birdlife to a big purpose-built treehouse. There’s lots of space to explore and plenty of opportunities for hide-and-seek. It’s a good distance for short legs, but you may want to leave the buggy behind for younger ones (unless the weather has been good and it’s dry) – a baby carrier would be better. The path is wide but not boarded (unlike Askham Bog).

Good to know – With no loos, cafe or car park, you need to go prepared with empty bladders and snacks/flask. Be prepared to park on the road (free).

Visitor information – Moorlands Nature Reserve, Moor Lane, York YO32 2RE.

More info – Visit the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust website for more details on Moorlands Nature Reserve

A walk and a paddle at Falling Foss near Whitby

Falling Foss

Falling Foss is a really special place to visit, just outside Whitby. Lots of families visit to have a paddle in the water, but you can also have a lovely woodland walk. There’s a circular two-mile walk that takes in the woods, waterfall and ever-popular Falling Foss Tea Garden.

Good to know – Falling Foss is very popular and parking is limited, so we always try to arrive early.

Visitor information – Find details of the Falling Foss walks here

More info – Read our five reasons to visit Falling Foss here

A circular walk in Malton

Family walk Malton Yorkshire

This 3 mile circular walk, starting from Malton, takes in the river Derwent and St Mary’s Priory. Malton is a great base for a walk, with plenty of places to eat and drink.

More info – Follow this route on the AllTrails website or download the app so you can follow it on your phone easily.

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