A trip to the Yorkshire Dales with kids is a perfect family day trip from York.
The edge of the Yorkshire Dales is an easy, one hour drive from the York city centre and the rolling hills and valleys of the Dales offer diverse, family friendly attractions to suit all ages and budgets.
This is the Best in York Guide pick of the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales with kids.
Things to do in the Yorkshire Dales with kids
The Forbidden Corner
One of the best things to do in the Yorkshire Dales with kids is The Forbidden Corner in Coverdale. We have visited several times with our kids and love it!
The Forbidden Corner is a quirky and unique Yorkshire attraction.
To list all the elements of The Forbidden Corner would spoil the many surprises you will encounter on your visit; the park itself encourages visitors not to reveal its secrets to other visitors.
The 4 acre park is packed with unusual curiosities and follies that lurk alongside the pathways and around every corner, including the car park and toilets!
Families receive a basic map when entering The Forbidden Corner but what you will actually see depends on how hard you are willing to search for it.
For example, the map will show an alluring secret underground chamber but will not show you how to get to it!
Be prepared to dodge water spouting statues, explore dark tunnels and crawl on your hands and knees through narrow passageways. Once you find a secret chamber or room, you may have to find the hidden exit to get out!
The Forbidden Corner is great fun for all the family and is perfect for day out with kids from York.
There is a large car park with toilets on site, plus a woodland picnic area.
Cost – A family of four ticket costs £46
Duration – 2-3 hours
Drive time from York – 1 hour
Newby Hall near Ripon, on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales, is a stately home with attractive child friendly gardens.
The privately owned estate has worked hard to attract families and helpfully offers separate entrance tickets to the historic house and to the gardens. This enables families to choose which attraction to visit depending on their child’s age and level of interest.
The pushchair friendly, extensive landscaped gardens of Newby Hall provide lots of space for kids to run around.
Kids will enjoy exploring the winding paths and beautiful flower beds of The Water Garden, The Rose Garden and The White Garden. Our kids like the Tropical Garden.
The gardens are also home to a ‘Bear House’, a charming, child friendly exhibition about teddy bears.
Newby Hall boasts a large adventure playground with its own lake. The excellent and thoughtfully designed adventure playground has climbing frames, pedalo boats, boat swings, an aerial slide and a sand pit. Entry to the playground is included in your gardens ticket.
Pack a change of clothes – or a swimsuit – for running in and out of the dancing water fountains. They are impossible to resist on a sunny day!
There is also a miniature steam railway which operates a scenic 1.4 kilometre loop around the gardens alongside the River Ure.
Newby Hall is perfect for a multi generational day trip from York as it offers something for everyone.
Cost – Family of four ticket £48, additional £2.80 for the miniature railway for anyone over 2 years old.
Duration – whole day, minimum half a day
Drive time from York – 35 minutes
Bolton Abbey is a fantastic, value for money, family day out in the Yorkshire Dales.
It is a popular destination all year round and is part of a private estate owned by the Duke and Duchess of Devonshire.
The estate can get very busy on a summer weekend but the park is so big it is easy to find a quiet, isolated spot.
Families can explore the atmospheric ruins of the Priory Church and Augustinian Abbey near the entrance to the park.
To access the rest of the park, you must cross a short stretch of river.
Choose between a wooden bridge or brave Bolton Abbey’s famous stepping stones.
The 60 stepping stones are laid across the river and kids will love stepping or hopping from one stone to another. Most adults find them hard to resist too!
I have never seen anyone fall into the river but consider packing a change of clothes for your kids, just in case.
On the other side of the river, families can enjoy various pushchair friendly paths in Strid Wood.
Strid Wood is particularly lovely in Spring when the ground is blanketed with bluebells and aromatic wild garlic.
Challenge your kids to find Strid Wood’s famous ‘money tree.’
Bolton Abbey is pushchair and picnic friendly and there are toilets and a cafe on site.
Cost – Entrance is free but there is a £10 charge for parking.
Duration – half – whole day
Drive time from York – 50 minutes
Bolton Abbey can be combined with a trip on the nearby Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway.
Embsay and Bolton Abbey Steam Railway
Bolton Abbey train station is just 1.5 miles from the entrance to the Bolton Abbey estate.
From the tiny train station, families can catch a steam train to the nearby station of Embsay where you can either get off to explore or wait for the train to turn round and return to Bolton Abbey.
Alternatively, park you car at Embsay and use the steam train to visit Bolton Abbey.
A direct, return journey takes around 1 hour (with a 15 minute wait at either station).
Cost – A family of four ticket costs £30 but if you just want to look at the steam trains, you can buy a platform ticket for £1 per person.
Ripley Castle near Harrogate is a child friendly estate which offers regular castle tours especially for children. The children’s tours are a child friendly length of 45 minutes but there are also adult tours available.
The extensive grounds of the estate include a deer park, a small children’s play area and a pretty walled kitchen garden so are ideal for a good run around. The gardens are pushchair friendly.
In addition, it is possible to pre-book activities for your family such as archery, kayaking or a high ropes course; all of which take place within the castle grounds.
Any visit to Ripley Castle must include a trip to the Ripley Ice Cream shop, located in the charming Ripley Village just outside the entrance to Ripley Castle.
Ripley Ice Cream is THE best ice cream in Yorkshire and people drive to Ripley just for the ice cream!
Public parking is available in Ripley village car park and there are toilets and a cafe on site.
Cost – check the Ripley Castle website for current opening hours and prices.
Duration – half a day
Drive time from York – 40 minutes
Beautiful Aysgarth Falls are a favourite of Yorkshire folk (me included) and is one of the closest waterfalls in the Yorkshire Dales to the city of York.
Aysgarth Falls consists of three separate waterfalls that plunge over wide limestone steps during a one mile stretch of the River Ure.
The three falls of Upper Force, Middle Force and Lower Force can be viewed from a pushchair friendly path that winds in and out of woodland alongside the river.
You can walk to the edge of Upper Force and you can also access the rocky riverbank at Lower Force. Access is down a narrow rocky path descending from the main footpath.
The riverside access is not fenced and the wet rocks are slippery so keep children close.
We have visited Aysgarth Falls many times and whilst the falls are beautiful at any time of year, they are spectacular after heavy rain.
There are toilets and an information desk in the car park.
Cost – Aysgarth Waterfalls are free to view and walk but there is a modest hourly fee for the car park.
Duration – 2 hours
Drive time from York – 75 minutes
If your kids love waterfalls, there are several other waterfalls to visit in the Yorkshire Dales. We love England’s highest single drop waterfall, Hardraw Force which is a 1 hour 20 minute drive from York.
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden
Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden near Richmond (or Fountains Abbey for short) is an ideal stop when visiting the Yorkshire Dales with kids.
There is so much to see and do here and it has one of the best adventure playgrounds in the Yorkshire Dales.
The National Trust owned estate is divided into two sections with a pleasant grass ‘corridor’ linking the two sections of the park.
The impressive 12th century Benedictine ruins of Fountains Abbey are the largest monastic ruins in England and kids will love exploring the atmospheric ruins to find hidden steps and alcoves.
You can also visit the oldest building in the Fountain Abbey estate, the 12th century Fountains Mill.
Stroll the grassy corridor alongside the river to access the beautiful landscaped grounds of Studley Royal Water Garden.
These gorgeous 19th century grounds have been awarded World Heritage Status.
Visit the ornamental lakes and summer houses, view the sculptures, statues and ponds and challenge your kids to find the garden’s quirky follies.
The pushchair and picnic friendly park has several woodland paths to explore as well as a deer park.
The adventure playground is found at the main entrance to Fountain’s Abbey – though you may want to save the playground for the end of your trip.
If you visit the playground at the beginning of your day out in Fountains Abbey, you may not be able to entice the kids out of the playground!
Cost – A family ticket is £42, free entry for National Trust members.
Duration – half to full day
Drive time from York – 40 minutes
The fairy trail at Studfold Adventure Trail
Younger children will love the magical fairy trails at Studfold Adventure Park.
Children can bring their own sparkly wings to wear for the duration of the trail but Studfold kindly lends wings to any forgetful fairies.
Let the children have a good run around searching for fairy doors and hidden fairy houses along Studfold’s attractive woodland paths or enjoy a story from the Giant’s Storytelling Chair.
Test your family’s team building skills in the den building area or explore the wildflower meadow and bird hides.
There is a fun playground with go karts and small ride on tractors, toilets and parking on site.
Studfold Adventure Park offers families the option of dropping their picnic at the entrance to the woodland trails and will then deliver it to you when you reach the picnic area. A thoughtful, family friendly initiative!
Make sure you download the excellent (and free) activity trails in advance of your visit.
Cost – £22 for a family of four.
Duration – half day
Drive time from York – approximately one hour
Skipton Castle is one of the most complete and best preserved medieval castles in England.
Families use a self guided trail to explore the historic castle allowing you to visit at your own pace.
The information provided about each part of the castle helps to bring the unfurnished castle to life.
Kids will love exploring the banqueting hall, watchtower, bedchambers and especially the gloomy dungeons.
The castle also offers a great view over the market town of Skipton.
There is ample car parking and toilets on site.
Cost – Family ticket £28.50
Duration – 2 hours
Drive time from York – one hour
Depending on the adventurous nature of your kids – or the nerves of mum and dad! – make a family trip to Brimham Rocks.
The National Trust managed Brimham Rocks is an elevated plateau full of rocky towers and enormous rock formations with alcoves and tiny caves for exploring.
The rocks were created by a river over 100 million years ago, hence the bizarre, pitted formations.
See if you can find The Dancing Bear or The Gorilla in the intriguing rock shapes and challenge the kids to crawl through The Smartie Tube.
There is a picnic area with fantastic views of the Yorkshire Dales, a cafe, toilets and an information centre on site.
Please adhere to the safety notices!
Cost – Free entry, £6 for parking (4 hours)
Duration – 2 hours
Drive time from York – 45 minutes
The Yorkshire Dales is best explored on foot and if you are visiting the Yorkshire Dales with kids, there are walks to suit all ages and pushchairs.
The stunning Malham Cove is a short walk from Malham village. The cove is a natural amphitheater whose curved stone cliff is 230 feet high. there was once a waterfall plunging over the top of Malham Cove that was higher than Niagara Falls!
An easy walk to do with kids starts from Malham village and follows a pushchair friendly path to the base of towering Malham Cove. The short walk takes approximately 30 minutes.
Steep stone steps at the base of Malham Cove lead to the top of the cove. If you choose to climb to the top of Malham Cove with your kids you must keep them close.
The flat limestone top of Malham Cove (called the pavement) is uneven with knee deep crevices. Plus, the sheer drop over the cove is not fenced.
But the view of the Yorkshire Dales from the top of Malham Cove is breathtaking.
Plus, Harry Potter fans will recognise the pavement of Malham Cove as Harry and Hermione’s camp site in ‘The Deathly Hallows’ movie.
An additional child friendly walk in this area, is from Malham village to pretty Janet’s Foss Waterfall.
The initial section of signposted path is on stone flags but the path becomes uneven once you enter the woodland.
A return trip from Malham village to Janet’s Foss takes around 2 hours.
If little legs are up for an extra challenge, extend this walk a little further to visit nearby Gordale Scar.
Gordale Scar is a rugged, imposing gorge whose size can only be fully appreciated by walking into it.
Gordale Scar is 1/4 mile further walking from Janet’s Foss but is well worth the extra effort.
Cost – free
Duration – 1 hour to half a day
Drive time from York – 1 ¼ hours
Stump Cross Caverns
The limestone landscape of the Yorkshire Dales is riddled with caves.
The Dales are home to England’s largest cavern (in Gaping Gill) and England’s deepest cave (part of The Three Counties system).
Kids will love donning a hard hat and descending into the dark depths to explore the one mile long Stump Cross Caverns near Pateley Bridge.
Stump Cross Caverns is estimated to be 500,000 years old and was discovered by miners in 1860.
After fitting your hard hat, 65 steep steps descend into the cave where you can see amazing stalactites and stalagmites which, unusually, are a range of colours.
Kids who love dinosaurs and fossils will enjoy the fossil trail (both reindeer and wolverine fossils were discovered here).
There is car parking, toilets and a cafe on site.
Cost – Adults £7.50, children £4.95
Duration – 1 – 2 hours
Drive time from York – 45 minutes
The charming Dales town of Ingleton is one of my favourite places to visit in the Yorkshire Dales with our kids.
It is a considerable drive for a day trip from York but there are several attractions in or near Ingleton to make the trip worth the effort.
The Ingleton Waterfalls walk is a gorgeous, 4 ½ mile signposted hike encompassing six pretty waterfalls of varying sizes.
The path is not challenging but there are a lot of steps so it is not a suitable route for pushchairs.
Walking kids need to wear good gripping footwear for the occasional wet rock.
There is car parking, toilets and a cafe at the entrance to the privately owned land, plus there is a handy refreshment hut for a rejuvenating ice cream half way round the trail.
Cost – £7 for adults and £3 for children
Duration – 3-4 hours with kids
White Scar Cave
White Scar Cave is the longest showcave in England and is explored using a mix of metal walkways and earthen paths.
Kids will enjoy the thrill of the underground waterfall and searching for curiously named formations such as The Devil’s Tongue and The Witches Fingers.
Most of the cave is head height or higher but you will need to stoop in places. Plus, there is one standing up section that you need to squeeze through. Kids love it!
There are 97 steps in White Scar Cave so it is not suitable for pushchairs or backpack carriers.
There is a car park, toilets and a cafe on site.
Don’t forget to pack a jumper as the cave is a constant temperature of 8 degrees Celsius.
Cost – £29.50 for a family ticket.
Duration – 80 minutes
Ingleton Open Air Heated Pool
A rarity in North Yorkshire, Ingleton’s heated, open air pool is a delight on a summer’s day or after a long hike in the Yorkshire Dales!
The pool is nearly 100 years old but remains one of Britain’s best lidos.
Cost – Family ticket £16
Go for a walk!
There are lots of family friendly hikes to enjoy in the Ingleton area.
Alternatively, some low level walks can be found around the Ribblehead Viaduct, a 15 minute drive north of Ingleton.
The Viaduct was built in the 1870’s and is an impressive sight rising from the moorland. The viaduct has 24 stone arches, is 32 metres high and 400 metres long.
Check the Settle to Carlisle railway timetable to time your visit to see a train cross the viaduct.
There are so many things to do in the Yorkshire Dales with kids that you may want to plan more than one day trip from York!