Lovely National Trust walks in Yorkshire

Christopher Wilson-Elmes Profile Image

Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

With its massive swathes of beautiful countryside and profusion of historic buildings, it’s no surprise to find plenty of great walks from National Trust places in Yorkshire. You can take on massive point-to-point hikes or amble around manicured grounds, getting an ample dose of natural beauty and culture. It’s a match made in heaven. In God’s own country, in fact. Here are a few of our favourites:

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Fountains abbey, Studley – 4.5 miles

This winding trail leads you through the eight centuries history of the abbey, from its founding in 1132 to bold addition of a contemporary visitor centre in the 1980s, via The Water Garden, designed by John Aislabie at the end of a chequered career which ranged from high political office to spending some time in the Tower of London. It’s not a circular and there are ample opportunities to cut corners and shorten the route if you don’t feel like walking the whole thing, although the longest optional spur, The Valley of the Seven Bridges, is well worth the detour.    

Brimham Rocks – Short ,1.3 miles or long, 6.3 miles

At Brimham Rocks, a few miles outside the town of Harrogate, layered slabs sit weathered into squat towers and bizarre shapes. Old stories of mystic activity have led to names like Druid’s Rock and Druid’s Writing Desk for some of the rocks. Where other picked up the names Gorilla, Dancing Bear and Mushroom Rock, we can only speculate. The shorter walk simply weaves through the formations, although recommended detours include stepping off the trail to search for Cannon Rock (a tube that’s formed straight through one of the stacks) and the steps near Brimham House, which lead to a stunning viewpoint with Nidderdale laid out beneath you. The longer route starts and ends at the rocks themselves, but carries you down into Nidderdale and through classic Yorkshire countryside, crossing becks and leaping stiles all the way. 

Riddlesden – 2.5 miles

East Riddlesden Hall isn’t the largest or the grandest of the properties in the National Trust collection, but there’s something endearing, almost homely about its craggy, chimneyed skyline. It’s one of the many houses that stand as testimony to the rise and fall of Yorkshire farming, before the industrial revolution brought a new wave of impressive manors. The walk is an easy ramble along the Leeds-Liverpool canal. It’s supposedly circular, but your chances of making it all the way round are severely lessened by the fact that you pass the The Marquis of Granby (the pub, not the personage) just before you close the loop.   

Yockenthwaite to Cray 6 miles 

We couldn’t very well go walking in Yorkshire and NOT set foot in the Dales. This 6-mile circular might not have a historic building at the end of it, but it does put you right at the heart of the national park. It’s a simple route, defined more by the landscape and natural beauty than any man-made landmarks, with birds, butterflies and bats the things to keep an eye out for. Yellow wagtails and kingfishers call the area home, while the sharp-eyed can spot Daubenton’s bats skimming across the waters of the River Wharfe at dusk. If the full route, which takes in the village of Buckden, seems too much, then take the shortcut from Cray and give yourself some more time at The George, which sits overlooking the river above a lovely old stone bridge.   

Standedge circuit walk 10 miles 

We’ve saved the longest and steepest for last, heading down to the edge of the Peak District to pick up a section of the Pennine Way that packs in plenty of local charm. It climbs up through Marsden Moor, passes two reservoirs and then rewards you for pushing through its ups and downs with a flat home straight along the Huddersfield narrow canal. With the open moors and the area’s notorious weather, this is definitely a walk to go kitted up for, with good waterproofs and boots as well as a decent supply of snacks. It’s well worth the effort though and, thanks to the relative proximity to Manchester (Marsden is half an hour on the train), easy enough to work into a weekend away in the city.  

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

Chris is our in-house copywriter, with a flair for turning rough notes and travel tales into enticing articles. Raised in a tiny Wiltshire village, he was desperate to travel and has backpacked all over the world. Closer to home, he finds himself happiest in the most remote and rural places he can find, preferably with a host of animals to speak to, some waves to be smashed about in and the promise of a good pint somewhere in his future.
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