While Leeds offers lots to see and do, you’ll be missing out if you don’t explore the surrounding region. It’s set in one of the most scenic parts of the UK, and the area has many historic landmarks, natural attractions, and some great roads to take advantage of your hire car in Leeds. You’ll have the freedom to set your itinerary. To help you, here are some suggestions for memorable day trips from Leeds that are within easy reach.
1. Yorkshire Dales National Park
- Distance from Leeds: 23.5 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: Around 50 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the B6451 north, then the A59
- Great for: Nature enthusiasts / Families
The Yorkshire Dales National Park is one of the most popular natural attractions in the UK. This is a rugged area with plenty of attractions, like Aysgarth Falls. It’s a short trip by car, leaving you plenty of time to explore.
If you’re a hiker you can take on the Yorkshire Three Peaks challenge – a 24-mile trek to the tops of the Pen-y-Ghent, Ingleborough, and Whernside. Or go for a leisurely walk in the dales, like Wensleydale or Wharfedale.
SIXT’s top tip: If you’re a Harry Potter fan, visit Malham Cove in Malhamdale and see how much of it you recognise. This part of the Yorkshire Dales was one of the filming locations of the movie series.
2. York Brewery
- Distance from Leeds: 29.5 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: About 40 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A61 out of Leeds onto the A64 to York
- Great for: Craft beer aficionados / Adults
Ale lovers won’t want to miss the chance to visit the famed York Brewery. Leeds itself is often called the craft beer capital of the UK, and this is one of the area’s most famous breweries. It offers guided tours and a small restaurant where you can have a pint and a meal.
Two of the most popular brews are the Yorkshire Terrier and Guzzler, much loved by locals. The brewery also has the distinction of being founded in the same building where the inventor of the Hansom cab was born.
SIXT’s top tip: Spend the evening in York and visit the York Brewery Pubs. The Three-Legged Mare is an award-winning pub near York Minster, and The Last Drop Inn is on King’s Square.
- Distance from Leeds: 20 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: About 45 minutes
- Suggested route: Drive via the A647 and then the B6144
- Great for: Literature buffs
This pretty little town is world-renowned as the home of the Bronte Sisters. You’ll find many historical and commemorative sites, like the Bronte Parsonage and Museum. It’s tucked away behind St. Michael and All Angels church, where the sisters are buried.
You can explore the bleak and windswept moorland surrounding the town that inspired novels like Wuthering Heights. In the Bronte house, you’ll find the actual writing desks where the sisters worked.
SIXT’s top tip: Stop for afternoon tea at 10 at the Coffee House at the end of Main Street. The cake selection is particularly good.
4. Fountains Abbey
- Distance from Leeds: 26 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: About 50 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A61 directly north
- Great for: History buffs / Families
Fountains Abbey and the Studley Royal Water Gardens make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site to the north of Leeds. These Georgian formal water gardens contain the ruins of the biggest Cistercian monastery in the UK and a deer park dating back to Medieval times.
You can go to the Porter’s Lodge to view a historical exhibition on the abbey’s history and guided tours are available. Or follow the garden trails around the water garden.
SIXT’s top tip: A few miles north is the town of Ripon, one of the tiniest villages in England. It still has a town horn-blower and is best known for its beautiful cathedral.
5. Harewood House
- Distance from Leeds: 9 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: About 20 minutes
- Suggested route: Take Harrogate Road/A61
- Great for: Architecture and art lovers
Harewood House, just to the north of Leeds, is one of Britain’s finest stately homes. It’s celebrated for its staterooms and its art collection. The kitchen and servants quarters are also historically significant, dating to the 18th-century and Grade I listed.
The was the location of the Emmerdale soap opera and featured in Downton Abbey. You can explore its bird garden, take a chain-link ferry on its lake or relax next to the waterfall in the Himalayan garden.
SIXT’s top tip: If you have limited mobility needs, let the staff know in advance and they will happily shuttle you around the gardens, taking you to wherever you want to go.
6. Bolton Abbey
- Distance from Leeds: 23 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: Around 45 minutes
- Suggested route: Drive via the A660 and A65
- Great for: Families
Bolton Abbey is one of North Yorkshire’s major historical landmarks, set in 30,000 acres of grounds. Admire the architecture of the Priory Church and the 12th-century Augustinian Priory, then stroll through the woods to have a picnic.
Take the popular walk over the 60 Stepping Stones to Simon’s Seat, and wander down to the waterfall. There’s also a turreted bridge known as the Aqueduct and Barden Tower, a ruined hunting lodge.
SIXT’s top tip: Check what kids’ events are on before you visit – Bolton Abbey has a full calendar, from Welly Walks to Pumpkin Trails.
- Distance from Leeds: 27.5 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: Roughly 40 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the M1 and then the A64
- Great for: All tourists
York is one of England’s most charming cities with much to see. Highlights include the famous gothic cathedral, York Minster, with its 15th-century Rose Window.
You can also explore the city’s ancient history at the Jorvik Viking Centre or visit the National Railway Museum, with its exhibitions and vintage trains. There’s also the York Castle Museum. If you’re with your family, head to the York Maze, with its slides, birds, and reptiles.
SIXT’s top tip: Visit Shambles, one of the best-preserved Medieval streets on earth and believed to be the inspiration for Diagon Street of Harry Potter fame.
8. Flamborough Heads
- Distance from Leeds: 72 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: Around 1 hour 40 minutes
- Suggested route: Take the A61, then the A1 and A64
- Great for: Wildlife lovers
A day trip to Flamborough Heads and Bempton Cliffs is a very popular outing. Breathe in fresh coastal air while walking along the rugged Yorkshire cliffs overlooking the North Sea.
Seabird colonies are the main drawcard here. In various seasons you can see gatherings of gannets and distinctive puffins. Bempton Cliffs is a seabird reserve that you can walk to from the Heads. The educational centre is worth visiting.
SIXT’s top tip: You’ll be very close to the seaside town of Scarborough, where you can enjoy its sandy beaches and see its 3,000-year-old castle.
9. Yorkshire Sculpture Park
- Distance from Leeds: 20 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: About 25 minutes
- Suggested route: Travel along the M1
- Great for: Families
Wander through an open-air sculpture museum with over 100 world-class pieces permanently displayed across 500 acres. There are also six indoor sculpture galleries, and you can catch a glimpse of wildlife, like deer.
There is a full calendar of various exhibitions by a wide range of artists. The park also hosts ad hoc exhibitions by renowned sculptors such as Damien Hirst. Check the calendar before you visit to see what’s on.
SIXT’s top tip: The park holds regular experiential education events, offering programmes like Art & Wellbeing and Family Learning.
- Distance from Leeds: 15.5 miles
- Travel time from Leeds: About 30 minutes
- Suggested route: Travel north on the A61
- Great for: A pampered holiday
Harrogate is known for its spas. You can take a day trip and spend it in one of the town’s Turkish baths, massage facilities, or steam rooms. Afterward, relax in one of the cafés on Cold Bath Road, or take afternoon tea at the famous Betty’s Café Tea Rooms.
For historical and cultural experiences, head to the Royal Pump Room Museum or the Royal Hall. Theatre-lovers can book a show at the Harrogate Theatre. Valley Gardens with its art deco Sun Pavilion is another popular spot.
SIXT’s top tip: Take a short detour to the Nidderdale Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and visit the uniquely-shaped Brimham Rocks.