A Family Holiday in North Yorkshire

Updated: Aug 16

Last weekend we packed our boot for a week in East Yorkshire. Probably the first English trip we haven’t had to rely on our wellies and raincoats, as the forecast and weather was HOT! We really love day trips and exploring so were looking forward to exploring a part of the country none of us had been to before {does my 24hrs in York University student halls age 18 count??} I genuinely get really excited about starting a new trip and making new memories.

We were looking forward to staying at Beech Farm Cottages, a luxury holiday cottage “cluster” on the southern edge of the East York Moors. Set in Pickering, a small quiet village, you’re in the perfect location to explore all the area has to offer. We particularly liked being close to the East Yorkshire beaches.

Beech Farm is owned and run by Graham and Kirsty who escaped London three years ago. There is an indoor pool, sauna, playground, BBQs and farm animals on site. The kids were utterly in their element and occupied, which meant we were happy too. Graham and Kirsty had made plenty of adjustments to make the facilities COVID safe {we were given a daily time slot as a family to have sole use of the pool; the morning and evening animal feeding which they welcome guests to join in with was done on a roster; and we were allocated a table for the week in the walled garden eating area} and it all ran seamlessly.

Our cottage itself was spotless and luxurious {Soak & Sleep bedding, local artisan hand wash and critically for us, a dishwasher!} We stayed in Bracken Brow cottage, which does in fact sleep up to 6, and they have a number of different sized cottages available.

It may come as no surprise that we spent much of our time exploring the East Yorkshire coast. As a family we love nothing more than spending the day on the beach and we were very fortunate with the weather.

We loved Whitby. The harbour town itself is charming, full of history, tourists crabbing and quaint cobbled lanes. We took a little 20-minute boat ride around the harbour {£3 per person over the age of two - cash only but cash machine opposite}. We all loved the novelty of this and I think it’s rather nice to see a town from the water. The captain of the boat had been a North Sea trawler fisherman for 50 years so had some interesting stories and info to share. There is no shortage of fish and chip places in Whitby, and we had a great lunch {rounded off by a classic knickerbockerglory}, at Hadleys. We enjoyed a potter around the cobbled streets the other side of the bridge and sought out Fortune's Kippers, the oldest family smokehouse for kippers, before walking up all 199 stairs to Whitby Abbey. You have to book to wander around the Abbey itself but you get amazing views of the town from the top of the climb and can freely walk about at the top.

We then walked over to Whitby West Cliff Beach, the expansive sandy beach with colourful beach huts, round the bay. We found it family friendly, attractive and totally charming.

Next up was Scarborough. It has historically been a top UK seaside town, and you can see why. We went to South Bay. It has the ubiquitous donkey rides, striped deck chairs and ferris wheel, and is backed by cafes, fish and chips and ice cream shops, arcades and seaside gift shops. Whilst not upmarket and with a whiff of bygone eras, the simple pleasures of eating a crab sandwich and ice cream for under £5 and building sandcastles on the beach will always, I hope, remain.

Another favourite beach of ours, but again with a very different character was Robin Hood Bay. It’s a quirky and picturesque fishing village which you access down an incredibly steep but beautiful walk amongst twisting and turning cobbled streets {you can literally imagine the fisherman, sailors and smugglers of old here}. There are a good range of cafes and pubs, the majority of which were doing take away when we were there. The beach itself is a family friendly sandy beach with rock pools for exploring. It’s a bit more rocky/ seaweedy than the other expansive sandy beaches we visited but the kids loved hopping from rock to rock and finding crabs and other sea life things in the pools.

Stepping away from the beaches, we spent a morning exploring Dalby Forest, located on the southern slopes of the North York Moors and very close to where we were staying. I’m not sure what I was imagining but it’s size and scale blew me away and we kept saying “I can’t believe this is in England” as we walked around. I would recommend heading to the Visitors Centre car park on arrival and picking up a map and some tips on the sort of trail you wish to do {It is free to explore the forest but car parking for the day costs £9... unless you can borrow a membership card from your cottage owners...} As well as tons of hiking and bike trails of varying distances and difficulty, there is a Gruffalo Trail as well as several designated play areas and a playground for children. We did the 3 mile Ellerburn Red Trail from the Visitors Centre which was flat, largely shaded and buggy friendly. Even though we only did a modest walk, it was beautiful and reminded me how much I enjoy hiking and definitely made me keen to do more.

The edge of the North York Moors is spoilt for choice when it comes to chocolate box villages. Whilst acknowledging their tourist appeal, we particularly loved the market towns of Thornton-le-Dale and foodie Helmsley. The chocolate shop in the former and the castle in the latter are well worth visiting {tickets for the castle currently need to be prebooked online but is fascinating and the kids loved running around the castle ruins}.

We don’t tend to visit too many cities for very long with the kids {my favourite thing to do in cities is eat in smart restaurants, drink and shop, none of which feature highly in a two- and four-year olds’ repertoire of fun}, but we did visit briefly both Harrogate and York.

I have always wanted to go to Betty’s Tea Room so we booked a table for afternoon tea {they have a special children’s menu} and indulged ourselves one afternoon. It was relaxed yet lovely and traditional and I totally loved it and you can pick up their iconic products in their shop next door.

The historic centre of York, while touristy, was lovely to walk around with a nice selection of upmarket shops to browse if that’s your jam. The stunning Yorkshire Soap Company was a surprising treasure trove as was its sister shop The Imaginarium, next door. Described as “a unique emporium of curiosities, unusual gifts and outstating art”, it is certainly worth poking your head into. We really did only have a potter before visiting the National Railway Museum. It’s free to visit but like most places at the moment, you do need to prebook your tickets. Several of the halls aren’t currently open but the large Great Hall is, and it features a ton of historical locomotives and trains. I’m not going to lie, the boys of our family found it quite fascinating but once I’d seen one or two old train carriages, I’d sort of seen enough. But still, a nice free hour or two for the transport mad amongst you {oh and the gift shop was pretty decent!}

As you can see, we did quite a lot in a week, but we never felt rushed. Nowhere was much more than an hour drive away, we had little agenda and moved at a pace that suited us. One last tip – we broke the drive up both on the way there and back {we were driving from South West London} with a stop approximately half way at a National Trust property. We are members so it was free to visit. You just need to remember to book a slot in advance as you can’t just turn up at the moment. We use it as a much nicer alternative to a service station stop for lunch, loo and a run around for the kids. It makes the journey feel much more manageable.

The whole week had such a nice vibe. We would love to go back and explore more. Have you been? Let me know your favourite spots too!

N xx

18 Elmshaw Road, Putney, London, SW15 5EL
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