12 best historical sites in North Yorkshire to visit according to TripAdvisor - from age-old castles to a Cold War bunker

The Yorkshire region dates back 10,000 years, so it’s no surprise that North Yorkshire is populated with ancient and historical sites.

Each of these historical venues can be explored during the day with their beautiful gardens, majestic castles and wild woodland.

As well as a relaxing stroll through one of these sites, you will also expand your knowledge of Yorkshire and the events that took place at these venues.

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Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden

Castle Howard. (Pic credit: James Hardisty)

The abbey was founded in 1132 by 13 Benedictine monks from St Mary’s in York.

They had gotten sick of the monks’ luxurious and rambunctious way of life in York, so they escaped to seek a devout and minimalist lifestyle somewhere else. This is how Fountains Abbey was born.

Studley Royal Water Garden was established in the early 18th century by John Aislabie and his son, William.

It was recognised as a site of cultural importance and was granted World Heritage Status in 1986.

John inherited the Studley Royal Estate in 1693 and as a socially and politically ambitious man, he became Chancellor of the Exchequer in 1718. His career was thwarted in 1720 due to his contribution in the South Sea Bubble financial scandal and he was shunned from Parliament.

He then travelled back to Yorkshire and committed himself to creating the revolutionary garden.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Garden has a rating of five stars on TripAdvisor with 4,016 reviews.

Skipton Castle Woods

The woods was once known as Old Park and offered many necessities crucial for survival during the castle’s early existence, including water, fuel, building materials, fishing and hunting.

The woods provided timber, building stone and water to feed and power the town’s woollen, corn and sawmills during the 18th and 19 centuries.

Skipton Castle Woods has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 302 reviews.

Castle Howard

The construction process of the castle started in 1699 and took more than 100 years to finish, spanning the lives of Charles Howard, 3rd Earl of Carlisle, Henry Howard, 4th Earl of Carlisle and Frederick Howard, 5th Earl of Carlisle.

Dramatist John Vanbrugh helped build the castle alongside Charles Howard, despite never having built anything before. John recruited Nicholas Hawksmoor to assist him in the practical side of the design and construction and as a result, the design developed between 1699 and 1702.

John passed away in 1726 and the 3rd Earl died in 1738 and the castle was incomplete and was taken over by Charles’ son-in-law Sir Thomas Robinson and the 4th Earl continued to design the castle.

The incohesive outlook of the house provoked a mixed reaction and it’s unbalanced look was obvious to many visitors.

Castle Howard’s construction was completed between 1801 and 1811.

It has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 3,603 reviews.

Mother Shipton’s Cave

In 1488, during the reign of Henry VII, father of Henry VIII, Mother Shipton was born. Her name was Ursula Sontheil and the legend is that she was born during a powerful thunderstorm in a cave on the banks of the River Nidd, Knaresborough.

Her mother, Agatha, was only 15 years old when she gave birth, although the father is not known.

She was an outcast and with no friends or family to support her, Agatha raised Ursula in the cave on her own for two years before the Abbott of Beverley felt sorry for them and a local family took Ursula in.

Ursula’s mother was taken to a nunnery far away from her, where she died a few years later and never saw her again.

Ursula, who grew up in the small village of Knaresborough, was bullied and teased by the local people due to her unusual features and spent most of her time around the cave where she studied the forest, the flowers and herbs and made remedies and potions out of them.

At the age of 24, she met and fell in love with a young carpenter from York, Tobias Shipton, and although he died a few years later, she kept his name, Shipton.

Mother Shipton’s Cave has a rating of four stars on TripAdvisor with 1,763 reviews.

Selby Abbey

34 or 35 Abbots ruled the Abbey between the years of 1069 and 1539. The monastery became very famous and over time it became one of the wealthiest in Yorkshire.

Many English Kings visited Selby and the Abbey gained nobility as a result. On May 31, 1256, the Abbey gained one of the most defining honours, the grant of the Mitre.

The new Choir was established in the early years of the 14th century, but soon after its competition in 1340, a disastrous fire broke out. Funds were obtained for the restoration of the Abbey.

Selby Abbey has a rating of five stars on TripAdvisor with 444 reviews.

Mount Grace Priory

The Priory, a Carthusian monastery, was established in 1398 by Thomas de Holland, Duke of Surry and the nephew of Richard II.

Carthusians, unlike other monks, lived introverted lives, spending most of their time on their own in individual cells.

Mount Grace was one of the last monasteries to be suppressed in Yorkshire in December 1539. The ruins of the guest house were restructured into a mansion in the 17th century.

The Priory has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 472 reviews.

York Cold War Bunker

The bunker’s official name is Number 20 Group Royal Observer Corps HQ and was in service for 30 years from 1961 to 1991.

It was designed as a nerve-centre to supervise the effects of a potential nuclear attack. It was built to accommodate 60 staff and the interior includes the original communication and monitoring equipment, as well as special decontamination rooms.

York Cold War Bunker has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 794 reviews.

Rievaulx Abbey

The Abbey was founded in 1132 and was the first Cistercian abbey in the north of England. It rapidly became one of the most powerful and spiritually renowned centres of monasticism in Britain.

The monastery was suppressed in 1538 but the abbey ruins continued to be an inspiration for Roman artists in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Rievaulx Abbey has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 1,420 reviews.

Knaresborough Viaduct

The Grade II-listed structure was built in 1851 by engineer, Thomas Grainger, for the Leeds and Thirsk railway.

The viaduct crosses the River Nidd and stands roughly 30m tall and 100m long. Work on the four-arch bridge-like structure began in 1847.

However, it collapsed a year later and was replaced, which cost £9,803 to construct.

It has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 54 reviews.

Treasurer’s House

The house was established on a Roman road in 1091 by Archbishop of York Thomas of Bayeux, when the first Treasurer for York Minster was appointed.

It was the residence of many treasurers until 1547 when the Reformation of the English Church brought the job of Treasurer to an end.

The house was restored to its current state by wealthy local industrialist, Frank Green, who bought every part of the house between 1897 and 1898. The work was predominantly completed by 1900.

Treasurer’s House has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 1,656 reviews.

Merchant Adventurers’ Hall

The Grade I-listed building was built between 1357 and 1361 and is of major national importance and a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

It was built by a fraternity of York citizens to provide charity, worship and business at the heart of York.

Merchant Adventurers’ Hall has a rating of four and a half stars on TripAdvisor with 743 reviews.

Clifford’s Tower

The tower is one of the most beloved landmarks in York and is the largest remaining part of York Castle.

It was built in the 11th century and was burned down in 1190, following the capture of 150 of York’s Jewish community.

The current 13th century stone tower was thought to have been used as a treasury and later as a prison.

Archaeological evidence proves that there was activity in this area in Roman times, but it was William the Conqueror who first established a castle in York. In a bid to suppress a rebellion against his rule, he marched north in 1068 and built a series of castles, including where Clifford’s Tower now exists.

The tower has a rating of four stars on TripAdvisor with 2,202 reviews.