The North York Moors is brimming with amazing things to do with children, and lots of them are free. Enjoy a day packed with adventures without spending a penny: explore family-friendly walking trails, see majestic waterfalls and ancient ruins, keep an eye out for wildlife and visit villages that are straight out of the storybooks. Here are some of the very best things to do in the North York Moors with kids for free.
1. Discover Dalby Forest – Dalby Forest is one of Yorkshire’s most stunning spots. Home to over 8,500 acres of breathtaking views, endless family-friendly walking, running and cycling trails and Gruffalo adventures, Dalby has something for everyone. Admission to the fantastic Visitor Centre is free, just pay to park. There’s a fantastic adventure playground, streams to paddle in, regular family activities and outdoor games, cafe, Visitor Centre and much more. Dalby Forest Dr, Low Dalby, Pickering YO18 7LT – Visit the website
2. Get on your bike at Sutton Bank – Strap your wheels to the car and head out on your bikes from the Sutton Bank National Park Centre. Tackle one of the cycling trails (there’s a family-friendly 3-mile circular off-road trail that’s best for beginners) or practice your skills on the all-weather cycling tracks. Sutton Bank, Thirsk YO7 2EH – Visit the website
3. Go rockpooling at Runswick Bay – As simple pleasures go, a morning’s rockpooling is hard to beat and Runswick Bay is just the place. From barnacles to limpets, urchins to anemones, it’s a seafront safari!
4. Climb the 199 steps at Whitby – A famous landmark and a good workout, climb the 199 steps up from the town to Whitby Abbey and you’ll be rewarded with epic views across the pretty seaside town of Whitby and out to sea. Whitby is a beautiful place to visit, quirky and unlike anywhere else in Yorkshire. Stroll along the beach, explore the cobbled streets and treat yourselves to a chippy tea.
5. Hop on your broomstick to Goathland Station – Young wizards will adore Goathland Station, which starred in the first Harry Potter film as Hogsmeade Station. The charming village of Goathland is a short walk from the station, with shops to visits and a pub or two if you fancy a relaxing drink. Why not do the ‘rail trail’ from Goathland to Grosmont? It’s a 3.5 mile walk between the stations, and you can catch a vintage engine back. Goathland, Whitby YO22 5NF
6. Visit the highest waterfall in the North York Moors at Mallyan Spout – Everyone loves a waterfall, and Goathland’s Mallyan Spout just happens to be the highest in the whole of the North York Moors. It’s a lovely 4km circular walk suitable for families with older children. Best visited when the weather’s good, why not combine it with a trip to Goathland Station? Goathland, Whitby YO22 5AW
7. See the White Horse at Kilburn – Fancy a trip to Sutton Bank but not in the mood for a bike ride? It’s the perfect place to kick off a walk around the White Horse at Kilburn. End your trip with a play in Sutton Bank’s play area and mud kitchen (free admission). Inside, there are hands-on, free activities for kids and a lovely cafe too. Sutton Bank, Thirsk YO7 2EH – Visit the website
8. See the seal colony at Ravenscar – The Yorkshire coast is a wonderful place to spot wildlife, and the seal colony at Ravenscar is one of the most popular sights. Grey and common seals call Ravenscar home, and you can see them clearly from the foot of the cliff. If you decide to visit, visit the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust’s website for advice on how to seal-watch safely.
9. Discover the Dark Skies Festival – The Dark Skies Festival is a wonderful family-friendly event that takes place across the North York Moors in February and October each year. Enjoy one of the many free family-friendly activities and create lasting memories while sharing the awe-inspiring beauty of the universe. Keep an eye on the website for the latest programme – Visit the Dark Skies website
10. Visit the pretty village of Robin Hood’s Bay – Channel your inner smuggler with a visit to Robin Hood’s Bay, one of the most beautiful spots on the Yorkshire Coast. Wander through the cobbled alleys, browse the independent shops and see if you can find any fossils.
11. Clamber the climbing cave at Danby Lodge – In the heart of the Moors, Danby Lodge National Park Centre is a good place to start your adventures. It’s free to enter, with an outdoor adventure play area, labyrinth, mud kitchen and even a little climbing cave! There are free, interactive activities inside the centre too. Look out for children’s activities during the holidays. Danby Lodge National Park Centre, Lodge Lane, Danby, Whitby, YO21 2NB – Visit the website
12. Do the Farndale daffodil walk – In the springtime, witness a spectacular display of daffodils along the riverbanks of Farndale. It’s a gentle, flat 3-mile walk for all ages and abilities, and a classic Yorkshire sight. Low Mill Car Park, Daleside Road, Farndale, Kirkbymoorside, North Yorkshire YO62 7UY
13. Look for giants at The Hole of Horcum – As sights in the North York Moors go, it doesn’t get more spectacular than the incredible amphitheatre of The Hole of Horcum. According to legend, it was created when Wade the Giant scooped up a handful of earth to throw at his wife during an argument! At 400m deep and half a mile wide, it’s worth a trip just to look at. If you’re with older children and feeling more energetic, why not do the five-mile walk over Levisham Moor?
14. See stunning Staithes – Experience the quaintness of Staithes, a traditional Yorkshire fishing village that straight out of the movies. Explore the cobbled streets and head down to the beach for rockpooling and fossil hunting.
15. Step back in time at Pickering – Known as the Gateway to the Moors, the vibrant market town of Pickering is well worth a visit. The jewel in the crown is the 1930s themed Pickering Station, home to the wonderful North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Walk along the platform, see the steam trains and do one of the activity sheets that you can download for free from the North Yorkshire Moors website.
16. Catch some waves at Whitby or Staithes – Who needs the Gold Coast when we’ve got the Yorkshire Coast? Grab your surfboards or bodyboards and head to one of Yorkshire’s many amazing beaches to catch some waves (or just paddle – we’re not judging). Scarborough and Cayton Bay might be the obvious choices, but Whitby and Staithes are less busy and just as beautiful.
16. Go for a family walk – The North York Moors is spectacular walking country, with heather moorland, clifftop views, waterfalls and woodland to explore. Find a selection of excellent walks for all ages and abilities on the North York Moors website.