Five of the prettiest market towns and villages in Yorkshire

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

5 min read

Yorkshire, the UK’s largest county, spans a whopping 2.9 million acres. Home to Norman castles, medieval abbeys and two national parks - the Yorkshire Dales and the North York Moors - it’s an adventurous type of place calling out to walkers, cyclists and wildlife enthusiasts. It can also lay claim to some of the prettiest market towns and villages across the country. All with their own unique charm and atmosphere, they are buzzy little places where independent shops, artisan food producers and culture thrive. We’ve rounded up five of our favourites for you to discover Yorkshire tea and home baked cakes, tiny cinemas, open air swimming pools and excellent markets.

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Hebden Bridge 

Forget that gritty drama, Happy Valley, played out in Hebden Bridge, and come to soak up the laid-back feel and plethora of independent shops. The town has nice cafés, pubs, micro-brewers and tea rooms, a renowned music venue, the Trades Club, and even its own cinema, the Hebden Bridge Picture House. Wander among the handsome stone terraces and Victorian villas, stroll along the canal before settling in a cosy cafe for tea and cake. A magnet for artists, hippies and outdoor lovers, it has a bohemian spirit and was once voted the fourth funkiest town in the world!

Stay at Hey Farm Barn, an exceptional barn renovation for couples, with charming Marsden a stroll downhill and the glorious National Trust estate of Hardcastle Crags nearby.

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Once one of the largest ports in the North East, today Staithes is a sweet higgledy-piggledy fishing village plucked straight from the pages of a storybook. Tucked on a sandy cove between towering cliffs, it has a lovely jumble of pretty cottages and townhouses running down to the big, wide sea, where whale and wildlife watching boat trips are immensely popular. Only a short scramble from the dramatic North York Moors, this is a super little place to pitch up for a crab sarnie or fish and chips and a tea after a windswept stomp. 

Stay at River Lodge at Egton Estate, a romantic log cabin on the Egton Estate with a river running through it, wildlife in abundance and just a short hop from bustling Whitby.

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Widely regarded as Yorkshire’s food capital, Malton has a proud farm-to-fork ethos, and the town is a food lover’s dream destination. The second Saturday of every month sees the handsome Georgian town square erupt into life with stalls brimming with local award-winning produce, live music and a feel-good vibe. The town is also home to butchers, bakers, greengrocers and fishmongers as well as a clutch of cafés and restaurants. Pop in for coffee or gelato, try your hand at gin making at the Rare Bird Distillery, potter around interesting shops selling curios and collectables.

Stay at Garden Cottage at Ganthorpe Hall, the sweetest stone cottage for two in a peaceful hamlet; come for long walks and lazy evenings, country houses and a thriving foodie scene. 

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A handsome Yorkshire spa town, imagine a miniature Harrogate and you’ve pretty much hit the nail on the head. Come for smartly painted Victorian townhouses lining leafy promenades, a lido with a committed following of hardy year-round outdoor swimmers, an annual literary festival, and charming riverside gardens and walks. Studded with a host of independent cafés and restaurants plus a Betty’s Tea Rooms, you won’t go hungry in Ilkley. Not far from the Dales, you can finish off a blowy stomp with a cup of Yorkshire’s finest. 

Stay at Lodge Cottages, two perfect cottages for couples: one is chocolate-box-heaven, the other fresh and modern, both are sweetly romantic and there’s a pub next door.

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The sweetest honey-hued town with barely a colourful hanging basket out of place. They win prizes here. Visit the romantic ruins of 12th-century Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey. Fill up on cake and pastries, chutneys and cheeses, at the many tea shops and bakers, delis and grocers. Friday mornings is market day, held at Market Place, it’s been in existence for 600 years! Today it sells a variety of clothes and gifts, flowers and food. Check out Helmsley Brewing Company for artisan beer and perhaps work off all the good food and drink with a plunge in the Helmsley Open Air Swimming Pool. It’s heated and they host midnight swims on the solstice. 

Stay at St Aidan’s, a stylish, peaceful, ecclesiastical retreat in a North Yorkshire hamlet, with the Moors on the doorstep and York 30 miles.

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Carmen McCormack

Guest Expert

Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.

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