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48-hours   ›   Short breaks › Travel Inspiration  ›  Yorkshire and The Humber

Yorkshire Dales family holidays - a weekend in and around Skipton

There’s nowhere quite like the Yorkshire Dales for a jam-packed few days of family fun in the UK – fuelled by fresh air and Yorkshire ice-cream. Yorkshire Dales family holiday adventures are my specialty. This mum of two spends all her spare time exploring the Dales with my kids in tow and I never get any complaints from either of my boys (well not much!). Whatever the weather, there’s loads of fun to be had, and happy kids means happy parents, right?

The ideal base for this short break, which is perfect for younger primary school-age children and pre-schoolers is around the market town of Skipton – the ‘Gateway to the Dales’. Here you have tons of attractions and amenities close by, access to the great outdoors and plenty of rainy day options should the good old British weather play up.

February 15, 2023

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Yorkshire Dales family holidays - where to start

Once you arrive in the market town of Skipton on your Yorkshire Dales family holidays adventure head to one of the many cafes in the town centre for food. The Cake ‘Ole in Craven Court is a quirky café suitable for kids (including space for prams) which offer a wide range of food for lunch, snacks, crazy drinks and unbelievable cake flavours. Once they are high on sugar head out for a walk around the town.

Head up into the grounds of Skipton Castle and the surrounding woodland – there are various walking routes including a pram friendly route and there’s plenty to explore. Make some time to see Skipton Castle – the best preserved medieval castle around at 900 years old. Explore all the little rooms, take the secret staircases and hunt the dragon. An hour should be ample in here.

Next stroll down the the canal and jump on a mini barge ride. Barge Leo is available for 25 minute trips which is just enough for little ones to take in the novelty of the boat, gander at the birds on the water and spot the landmarks.

Wander a bit further down the canal path towards Aireville Park with its huge playground, plenty of open space, foot golf course, sports courts, skate park and a pump track. Always a hit.

Yorkshire Dales family holidays - evening entertainment

After you have checked in to your accommodation (I’ve suggested some accommodation options further down this article) – depending on energy levels – head back out to eat at one of the many family-friendly restaurants in Skipton. Oakleys pizzeria, Calico Jack’s pirate-themed tex max or Wildwoods Italian are all great options.

There is also a traditional cinema in town (Skipton Plaza) and a bowling alley (Matrix) if you want to include an activity before or after you’ve eaten.

Yorkshire Dales family holidays - Bolton Abbey wanderers

Wake up nice and early, pack a picnic and head to Bolton Abbey for todays Yorkshire Dales family holidays adventure. You might also want to throw in a blanket, a cricket set, and buckets & spades if it’s a scorcher of a day – Bolton Abbey is the perfect place to enjoy the river and its sandy banks, and miles of well kept grass throughout the summer. Every child who was born and raised in Yorkshire has fond memories of long summer days at Bolton Abbey.

The Bolton Abbey Estate with the river Wharfe running through the heart of it is a stunning estate spanning miles and miles of private land, woods, a whopping eighty miles of footpaths and the medieval priory ruins. There are plenty of walking trails, all of which are great for kids of all ages, and some suitable for prams, thanks to the well trodden paths.

From May to November children (and adults) can embark on the Welly Walk at Bolton Abbey – an obstacle-based walk which is 2 miles long with lots of places to stop along the way. The obstacles are great for keeping little ones interested.

During the school holidays there are shorter themed walks through Strid Wood, including the Easter Bunny trail, the Pumpkin Trail and Christmas trail. At the Cavendish Riverside Cafe there is also a pirate ship in a huge sand pit – always a winner throughout the Summer.

The best beach is by the Priory church ruins, and it’s here where you will also find the famous stepping stones, which go across the river Wharfe. Be careful, the river runs fast at this point – if you’re not convinced it’s a great idea to cross the stones, then take the footbridge and instead watch others attempt (and fail) to get across the stones!

You really could spend a full day at Bolton Abbey on your Yorkshire Dales family holidays adventure so take a look at the HANDY LINKS section at the bottom of this article to work out which route would suit your family best. It’s a great day out, whatever the weather. After all there’s no such things as bad weather in Yorkshire, just bad clothing.

Yorkshire Dales family holidays - fun on the farm

After a picnic lunch and a paddle head up to Hesketh Farm on your Yorkshire Dales family holidays adventure – just up the hill from Bolton Abbey.

This family-owned and run working farm is brilliant for kids of all ages. Educational and fun, there is loads to keep the kids entertained. Plenty of animals, some of which you can pet, go karts, play areas, tractor rides, a hay bale maze, sand pits, puzzles plus hourly animal sessions – you’ll need a good couple of hours just to explore. Hesketh Farm is well worth a visit.

For tea, you can’t go wrong with a trip to Billy Bobs Ice-cream Parlour – a five-minute drive from Hesketh Farm. It gets busy so it’s worth booking in advance – indoor tables only. Outdoor tables are first-come-first-served.

This is an all-American diner decked out in authentic American memorabilia, décor and the pièce de résistance? A full size yellow old school American school bus in the centre of the restaurant in which you can eat!

Outside there are play barns and epic wooden playgrounds (additional charge for play barns) so you’ll want to ensure you schedule enough time in to stay at least an extra hour on top of time to eat.

The American-diner style food a winner every time – pancake stacks, burgers, chilli dogs, butter milk chicken and all you’d expect from a proper American diner. Don’t over order – you must save room for ice cream. Choose from dozens of flavours with all sorts of crazy toppings.

Yorkshire Dales family holidays - sundowners

If you’ve managed to fit Bolton Abbey, Hesketh Farm and Billy Bobs Diner into one day on your Yorkshire Dales family holidays adventure then it’s highly likely that as soon as the little ones get in the car they’ll be snoring by the time you’ve switched on the engine. So on your journey back to wherever you choose to stay, you have the option to witness one of Yorkshire’s epic sunsets (weather permitting).

There are a few great vantage points. If the kids are snoring, head to the lay-by at the top of Carleton and Elslack Moor and watch the sun go down from the comfort of your car. An ideal opportunity for a cheeky glass of your favourite tipple!

Yorkshire Dales family holidays - going underground

On day two of your Yorkshire Dales family holidays adventure take the scenic drive across Wharfedale, through the picture-perfect Yorkshire village of Grassington and onto Stump Cross Caverns. This incredible show cave is hundreds of years old and is in pristine condition. This is a great day out come rain or shine with loads to entertain the kids.

There are a number of events throughout the year at Stump Cross Caverns so make sure you check out their website and plan your Yorkshire Dales family holidays adventure accordingly, Plus there’s even a 40 seat cinema. Everyone will love adventuring deep underground with your very own hard hat and UV torch marvelling at the stalagmites, stalactites and many rock formations, all whilst learning about the prehistoric world.

There are a number of short idyllic walks to do in this area too, including Linton Falls with its dramatic cascade, stepping stones and serene mill like pond. Another option is Burnsall Bridge to Hebden with its undulating river side path, bouncy suspension bridge and perfect swim spots. Never leave for the day without a towel!

You cannot leave the Yorkshire Dales without a Sunday roast with homemade fluffy Yorkshire puddings and lashings of gravy. I recommend the Gamekeepers Inn at Threshfield or the Devonshire Arms at Cracoe.

Where to stay - camping and glamping at Catgill campsite at Bolton Abbey

I can’t recommend Catgill campsite enough (pictured below). It ticks every box if you camp or glamp.

If you are the tent-owning, marshmallow-toasting, sleeping-under-the-stars family then you won’t go wrong camping in one of Catgill’s two relatively small camping fields. This boutique campsite has all the ingredients for the perfect camping trip – neighbouring cows, breathtaking views, plenty of families playing ball games and the option to hire fire pits.

If you prefer something a little less basic, Catgill’s cosy and kitted out bell tents or beautifully crafted and compact wooden pods complete with small kitchen, beds sleeping up to four, firepits, pizza ovens and the most incredible views stretching out over the campsite, over Bolton Abbey and beyond are for you. A night or two in a pod at Catgill will be the most memorable experience for everyone for all the right reasons and the staff are absolutely lovely.

If you do choose to camp, there is a communal kitchen with fridges etc, and a coffee hut that serves drinks and pastries in the morning.

Where to stay - lovely lodge-style accommodation near Skipton

Need more space? In Threshfield, at Long Ashes Park which is a 20 minute drive from Skipton, there are lodges available as well as a converted barn. The lodges have 2 bedrooms, are on a site with leisure facilities, a pub that serves cracking food (try their afternoon tea) and located in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales National Park. The lodges are clean, spacious and stylishly decorated.

10 minutes from town at Gargrave, a few miles from Skipton, you can check into a lodge at Milton Park. These high quality bespoke luxury lodges are cosy, spacious with all the mod cons. These small complex is ideal for those wanting an escape and the peace & quiet that comes with being in the countryside. Situated on the banks of the river Aire, the lodges are in walking distance of the local village of Gargrave, which has all the facilities you will need including takeaways, pubs, a park and a Co-op.

Where to stay - a hotel recommendation

If you want the comforts of a hotel room then the three star Rendezvous hotel that sits right on the Leeds Liverpool canal on the outskirts of Skipton has 10 well-priced family rooms available. Well appointed spacious rooms are within walking distance of Skipton town centre and the hotel boasts a restaurant and a leisure centre. Because of its location right on the side of the canal, this hotel is the perfect location for active families – if you love to stick your bikes on the bike rack, and set off somewhere where you can explore on two wheels, then Rendezvous is the perfect place to stay.

Where to stay - a luxurious cottage stay near Skipton

For a more luxurious break then reserve one of the beautiful appointed, bespoke cottages on the Broughton Estate in Skipton. There are 6 cottages available which are ideally appointed for families and vary in size – sleeping from from 4 to 11 people. Broughton Sanctuary is a 10 minute drive from Skipton. A luxurious sanctuary set in stunning surroundings with walking trails, a pub, a wild swimming lake, mountain biking tracks and even a Landrover driving experience on site. The grounds are ideal for families to explore and the cottages are the perfect setting with everything you will need whilst you are away. A proper home from home. I’m not sure you will want to leave!


This jam packed 48 hours in the Yorkshire Dales is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what the Yorkshire Dales has to offer. A Yorkshire Dales family holiday should be top of everyone’s list this year. There are so many more places to explore, iconic sights to see, activities to do, places to eat…

Check out my handy links list for additional blogs covering some of these areas.

Follow our adventures on instagram – @girlaboutyorkshire.

Have fun!

Read more of my blogs and articles

February 15, 2023


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