The best free things to do in Yorkshire this week-long May holiday

Castleton in the North York Moors National ParkCastleton in the North York Moors National Park
Castleton in the North York Moors National Park
Natural wonders, parks, gardens art galleries and architectural gems – Yorkshire is chock full of free things to do.

With the week-long school holiday coming up, we look at how thrifty county folk can spend family time together without shelling out a fortune.

From museums and galleries to natural landmarks, stately homes and abbey ruins, we’ve rounded perfect ideas for your next day out.

North York Moors National Park

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A person walks his dog along the beach in Filey, East Yorkshire.A person walks his dog along the beach in Filey, East Yorkshire.
A person walks his dog along the beach in Filey, East Yorkshire.

They are full to the brim with free things to do – you can enjoy walks, hikes and drives. Covering 554 square miles with 23 hills to summit, you can weave your way across moorland, join trails like the Cleveland Way and the White Rose Way or take on the cycle and horse riding tracks

What was once the working Caphouse Colliery. You can discover remnants of its past, from the underground tunnels to the pit head baths, paddy trains and pit pony tracks, before wandering around the fact-filled museum that tells you about the history of coal mining in Yorkshire. You can even go on a guided underground tour for a £5 deposit, which you can get back at the end.

Shibden Park, Halifax

The grounds of Shibden Park around the hall of the same name, unlike the house, are free to visit.

There are loads attractions to discover, from the tranquility of the Wilderness Garden’s cascades and pools, to the Victorian bedding designs of the Paisley Shawl. You can even enjoy a riverside ramble along the Mere and visit their dry stone walling exhibit.

Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds

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Explore thousands of incredible objects, from ancient times to the present day. From Japanese samurai to iconic movie props, from Henry VIII’s armour to an Indian war elephant.

Watch history come to life with free, daily live shows and combat demonstrations.

Filey beach

A five-mile-wide expanse of golden sand, Filey is home to one of the best beaches in the UK, It was named Beach of the Year by the Sunday Times in 2018.

There’s a lovely promenade, home to a Sculpture Trail as well colourful beach huts. It reaches Bempton in the south and Filey Brigg in the north, where you can go rockpooling and join the Cleveland Way.

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The beaches in Cayton Bay, Scarborough and Bridlington – the promenade also has a heritage trail – are also worth visiting. Take your own sandwiches and drinks – but stash away some tuppenies for the slots.

Sandal Castle, near Wakefield

Sandal Castle was built in the 12th century just off the River Calder. In its prime, the motte-and-bailey fortification served as the administrative centre of Wakefield Manor and during the Civil War, it became one of the last castles in Yorkshire to hold out for the King.

But its resistance was its downfall and the castle was condemned by parliament to be demolished.

Nosterfield Nature Reserve, near Masham

It’s regarded as one of the finest natural sanctuaries in God’s Own County, based just west of Masham. You can spot waders and waterfowl, dragonflies, butterflies and insects – just make your way around the mile-long paths around the site.

Valley Gardens, Harrogate

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If you love the sight of beautiful flowers and lovely landscaped green spaces, Harrogate Valley Gardens is one of the best free things to do in Yorkshire. Covering 17 acres, you can explore the vibrant plants and flowerbeds, before turning your attention to the architecture.

From May to September, the Gardens are home to bandstand concerts and outdoor games for all ages.

If you tire of the gardens, then take your picnic and ball games to The Stray.

Aysgarth Falls, Leyburn

Aysgarth Falls has been a tourist destination for more than 200 years. Follow the signposted routes up to the falls.

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On your way back to the start, keep an eye out for birds and deer in the nearby Freeholders Wood Nature Reserve. You’ll soon see why the area has been a muse for artists like Turner and Wordsworth.

Dean Clough Gallery, Halifax

The worlds of industry and culture collide a the 22-acre mixed-use mill complex, consisting of 16 grade II-listed Victorian mills, complete with one of the best free art galleries in Yorkshire. The permanent collection features more than 300 works of art.