Walk the wilds of North Yorkshire holiday cottages

Walk the wilds of North Yorkshire

Ed 29 August 2018

Top five walks near Harrogate

The first thing to note about North Yorkshire is its vastness. The largest of Yorkshire’s four counties, the northern quarter is also the most beautiful if you are enthralled by swathes of unspoilt countryside, the openness of the North Yorkshire Dales National Park, and the beloved Nidderdale AONB.

Huge open spaces are punctuated with craggy land forms which draw in extreme sports enthusiasts and nature lovers from all over the globe. Generally untouched by the Industrial Revolution, the ruins of mines, mills and factories are not easy to find unlike in the other three counties that make up the rest of Yorkshire. 

Top attractions in North Yorkshire include York Minster, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, York's National Railway Museum, and Jorvik Viking Centre - all within 20 miles of Harrogate. Other highlights can be found on the trail; the scenery makes it worth the effort and you will be in no doubt as to why locals refer to North Yorkshire as ‘God’s own country.’ Outdoor sporting activities range from the genteel to the extreme. You can go caving, trekking, long distance cycling, driving and bird spotting throughout the North Yorkshire region, using Harrogate as a base.  

This is our guide to the top five walks within 20 miles of Harrogate for you to enjoy on your trip. Some walks are easy to moderate whilst others are more challenging. All walks are dog-friendly because they are along public footpaths or across common land with the exception of Seven Bridges valley walk which is privately managed by the National Trust.

The Stray – Harrogate

Up to 2 miles - easy to moderate

Harrogate is home to The Stray, which is 200 acres of unspoiled grassland and wide open, green space. Covering a large area around Harrogate old town, this fabulous area is great for walking. Take in the pleasant surroundings as you walk among amateur football teams, runners, kite flyers and those who just enjoy a good picnic at any time of year. The central location means you are never more than a stone’s throw away from Harrogate’s excellent selection of cafes, bars and restaurants.

The Seven Bridges valley walk, Fountains Abbey

4 miles – easy

This walk is found about 10 miles north of Harrogate at the National Trust-managed Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water. It partially follows the course of the Skell River through a steep-sided valley and across five arched bridges. One of the last beauty spots you encounter on the walk after trekking through a deer park and past a stunning ornamental lake are the ruins of the sublime Fountains Abbey.  There are facilities at the monastery that include a visitor centre, parking and a restaurant / café.

Swinsty and Fewton Reservoirs

8 miles - moderate to challenging


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Fewston and Swinsty Reservoirs are just a short drive from Harrogate. Deep in the gorgeous Washburn Valley, you can visit this beauty spot any time of the year and the views are simply spectacular. Circumnavigating the two reservoirs amounts to an 8-mile walk. The entire length is paved and reasonably level with few ascents. Take a picnic and watch the Canadian geese from the woodland sheltered shoreline. There is plenty of parking and also a café at the Washburn Heritage Centre where you can pick up a map and might hear some up-to-date local knowledge pertaining to the trails.

Valley Gardens and The Pinewoods

2.75 miles – easy to moderate

Another circular walk that originates close to the centre of Harrogate. The course is reasonably level but prone to getting boggy in small sections after the rain. You can pick up the path from the car park at Crag Lane in Harlow Carr.

The trail runs its relatively straight course through the edge of The Pinewoods: a picturesque woodland area of 96 acres that enjoys stunning views across Nidderdale.  The Valley Gardens are open 24 hours a day, all year round, making for a relaxing and captivating place to play and explore.  There are great facilities for outdoor sporting activities such as tennis, pitch & putt golf, crazy golf, a boating lake, a paddling pool and a children's play area. This is dog-friendly and a superb choice for all the family, as it’s a good ramble to take at any pace.

The Harrogate Ringway

20 miles - challenging to strenuous

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This circular trail around Harrogate is a picturesque challenge that tests visitors due to its length and occasional ascents. Views take in becks, rivers, viaducts, woodland and pretty country trials. The path originates on the Otley Road near Harlow Carr Gardens.  Follow the well-signposted route, and you encounter the beautiful River Nidd, the striking Knaresborough Viaduct and the magical Oak Beck.

The recursive loop brings you back to the origin point where you can reward yourself with a well-earned pot of tea from Bettys.  If you feel 20 miles may be a bit too much, the walk can be divided into a few smaller stretches: perfect if you don’t have 10 hours to spare!

We have some exceptional cottages, townhouses and apartments throughout the Harrogate area. Many have storage space or boot rooms for outdoor apparel, so why not visit our collection of holiday homes and get inspired?

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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