The best things to do in Yorkshire in summer
There’s no better time to plan an escape to Yorkshire than summer. The days are long, the green hills and dales shimmer in the sun like emeralds and there are festivals galore. This is the season when locals spend lazy afternoons in beer gardens, when bucket-and-spade sellers do a roaring trade at the seaside, and when hikers and bikers can enjoy long-distance trails with the sun on their backs (hopefully).
Summer temperatures in Yorkshire are typically several degrees lower than in the south of England, with little to no humidity, which means it rarely gets too hot for walks or sun lounging. The region is a popular summer destination for holidaying Brits; beware that during the school holidays (late July to end of August) the county's cottages and campsites can get booked out months in advance or require minimum stays of two to seven nights.
June: art, follies and picnics
The Yorkshire Sculpture Park is Britain’s finest open-air gallery, with trails that lead to more than 80 outdoor sculptures and make visitors feel like treasure hunters. There’s more than 200 hectares to roam, so the ideal time to come with a picnic is during the warmer months. June usually brings a wave of new exhibitions, and visitors in summer 2019 will get to experience its just-opened £3.6m visitor centre, too. If you like your art a little more low-brow and offbeat, seek out the grotesques and gothic follies at Forbidden Corner, a Victorian-style walled garden that feels like it's channelling David Bowie’s Labyrinth movie.
Glorious cliff-backed swathes of sand at Whitby and Scarborough are relatively crowd-free in June. The latter is an old-fashioned beach resort that's popular with families for its annual Naval Warfare re-enactment with large model ships on the boating lake in Edwardian Peasholm Park. It typically takes place Thursdays and Saturdays from the last Saturday of June until the end of August. Nearby, don’t miss the dramatic 6-mile coastal walk along the cliffs between Whitby and the gorgeous old smugglers’ village of Robin Hood’s Bay.
July: music, beer gardens and glamping
The Leeds Festival on the August bank holiday weekend is the climax of Yorkshire’s summer music scene, but proceedings kick off in July with Tramlinesin Sheffield, and the more family-friendly Deer Shed near Thirsk in North Yorkshire. At the latter, an eclectic musical line-up goes hand in hand with cinema, comedy, science events and workshops. This month also sees Luna Cinema kicking off its summer outdoor screenings at Yorkshire heritage landmarks such as York Minster, Bolton Abbey, Castle Howard and Harewood House.
Yorkshire’s beer gardens and terraces can also take on festival vibes when the weather hots up, drinkers spilling into village squares. Some favourites include the Boar’s Head in Ripley village, which backs onto a castle and craft gin distillery; the courtyard with weekend food trucks at Magic Rock brewery in Huddersfield; and the front lawn of Lister Arms, beloved by Malham Cove walkers. Wine lovers can get among the vines on outdoor tours at Sheveling Estate, one of the UK’s most northerly wineries.
Early July is the sweet spot for glamping trips, while the weather is warm enough for camp fire evenings but school-holiday bookings aren’t yet in full swing. Yorkshire is spoilt for choice: wooded Camp Kátur is a hive of activities, while Swaledale Yurts is perfect for cyclists and has its own waterfall. The Craven Arms pub near Bolton Abbey has charming shepherd huts within stumbling distance of its beer garden overlooking Wharfedale.
July’s biggest calendar event is the Great Yorkshire Show, held annually in Harrogate. This is your chance to see local farmers living their best lives; expect animal beauty pageants, tractor rides and showjumping, fuelled by Black Sheep beer stalls.
August: festival magic
Yorkshire’s peak summer month for travel heralds traffic on single-track roads in the dales and moors, and family events at country estates. Hidden Horizons runs an excellent calendar of rock-pooling, fossil-hunting and dinosaur walks along the North Yorkshire Coast to coincide with the school holidays. August also ushers in a quiet period for the region’s cities, though Leeds keeps its pulse racing with Leeds Beer Week, its annual Pride celebrations, and animated bank holiday West Indian Carnival, which vies with London’s Notting Hill Carnival as the longest running in Britain.
In mid-August, a dot on the map called Kettlewell welcomes a flood of visitors to the Yorkshire Dales for its annual week-long scarecrow festival. Past stuffed luminaries have included Elvis, the minions and Willy Wonka – it’s fair to say your average scarecrow is passé to the inhabitants of this isolated village. There’s usually around 100 scarecrows and two trails to view them – one for kids and one for adults – as well as walks along the River Wharfe and refreshments in the village hall.
August is also the month that Castle Howard’s gardens moonlight as a classic music auditorium for the Proms, a picnic-style evening of orchestra, fireworks and fizz. Many fans camp in the grounds at Castle Howard's Lakeside Holiday Park, throw down a blanket for the night and hope it doesn’t rain. The chances are usually about 50/50, but in a Yorkshire summer that’s a risk you need to be prepared to take.