Yorkshire has an almost endless list of weird and quirky attractions – an inevitable consequence of being a weird and quirky place. The UK's largest county has a long and unique history that has given it distinctive place names, remarkable buildings and even an iconic dialect.

    We’ve picked out a selection of the most bizarre sights around Yorkshire, ranging from natural (and supernatural) phenomena to manmade curios. If you’re looking for something to see beyond the typical city sites, look no further.

    1

    Mother Shipton’s Cave

    Featuring the oldest tourist attraction in England

    Mother Shipton's Cave is said to have been the home of an old soothsayer who was making prophecies in the late 1400s and early 1500s. Born Ursula Southeil, she reportedly predicted the Great Fire of London in 1666, over 100 years after her death. Her weirdly decorated cave in Knaresborough, where she was said to have been born, remains a popular spot for visitors.

    There’s also a petrifying well next to the cave. The water here is so rich in sulphate and carbonate that objects dipped into it will come out with a stony crust. This is the oldest tourist attraction to charge an entry fee in England, having first opened in 1630.

    Location: Prophecy House, Harrogate Rd, High Bridge, Knaresborough HG5 8DD, UK

    Open: Daily from 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1423 864600

    Map

    photo by chris 論 (CC BY 3.0) modified

    2

    Brimham Rocks

    How are they balanced like that?!

    Brimham Rocks is an assortment of bizarre formations, many of which seem to be defying the laws of physics. In some cases, you have multi-ton boulders seemingly balancing on a single point. Others seem to have familiar shapes, looking like dogs, camels, turtles, bears and more, some of them towering up to over 100 ft in height.

    Once thought to have been carved by druids, the rock formations on Brimham Moor near Harrogate are now known to have come about naturally. These stone sculptures were mostly formed during the last ice age, with all of the rain and wind in the last 12,000-ish years also contributing. The craggy cliffs in the area make great climbing rocks, with over 200 routes now recorded.

    Location: Brimham Rocks Rd, Summerbridge, Harrogate HG3 4DW, UK

    Open: Daily from 8 am to 9 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1423 780688

    Map
    3

    Kilburn White Horse

    An iconic hill figure that’s visible for many miles around

    The Kilburn White Horse is a giant hill figure cut into the North York Moors, on the southern slope of Sutton Bank. At 318 ft long and 220 ft high, covering a total area of 1.6 acres, it’s the largest hill figure in England and is visible from north Leeds on a clear day – that’s 28 miles away.

    The shape of the horse was created in 1857 by a local schoolmaster and his students. They removed the topsoil to expose the underlying sandstone, then added white limestone chips to give it its distinctive colour and vibrance. There’s now a car park nearby, with a footpath offering scenic views.

    Location: Low Town Bank Rd, Kilburn, Thirsk YO61 4AN, UK

    Map
    4

    The Forbidden Corner

    You never know what you’ll find

    The Forbidden Corner is a fun and bizarre little garden in the grounds of Tupgill Park Estate, in the heart of Yorkshire Dales. It spans 4 acres and contains a network of tunnels, chambers, follies and statues, all of which are especially fun for the young and young-at-heart.

    There’s no fixed route for exploring The Forbidden Corner. Indeed, some of the paths lead nowhere at all. Instead, it’s a place you just have to explore with the understanding that you’ll never know what to expect around the next corner. It could be a giant tree-person statue, a surprisingly narrow tunnel or a massive shaggy dog peaking over a stone wall. If you’d rather leave the kids to explore on their own, you can go and have a brew at the Corner Café.

    Location: Tupgill Park Estate, Coverham, Middleham, Leyburn DL8 4TJ, UK

    Open: 1 April–4 November: Monday–Saturday from noon to 6 pm, Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm. 5 November–25 December: Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)1969 640638

    Map

    photo by Forbidden Corner (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    5

    Black Cat Trail

    Can you find them all?

    There’s a total of 23 cute little cat statues dotted around York, some dating back to 1920 and all hidden in plain sight. Since most are above street level, where busy shoppers rarely look, even some people who have lived in York their entire lives don’t realise they’re there. Despite being known as ‘the black cats’, a few are other colours.

    You can get a map of where the cats are from The Cat Gallery on Low Petergate. Following the trail it suggests takes you from the gallery in a circuit around some of York’s star attractions. The route goes via the Yorkshire Museum, Coney Street, Low Ousegate (home of the original 2 cats, one of which is scaling a vertical wall), King’s Staith, Clifford’s Tower, The Shambles, Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma-Gate, King’s Square and York Minster. Pro-tip for spotting them: look high.

    Location: 45 Low Petergate, York YO1 7HT, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1904 631611

    Map

    photo by Ian Taylor (CC BY-SA 2.0) modified

    6

    Norber Erratics

    Erratic by name, erratic by nature

    The Norber Erratics are an excellent example of a bizarre geological phenomenon. As a result of glacial movements and erosion, you have large, ancient sandstone and slate boulders precariously balanced on tiny limestone plinths.

    There are over 100 erratics on the slopes of Ingleborough Hill in the Yorkshire Dales. Curiously, they’re naturally sorted by stone, with the slate boulders found higher up the slope than the sandstone ones. There are several walking routes up to and around the Norber Erratics, and it helps to be quite fit as you need to park quite far and the hill is moderately steep. However, the view from the top is excellent.

    Map
    7

    Last of the Summer Wine Exhibition

    Take a look around Compo’s house

    • History

    The Last of the Summer Wine Exhibition is dedicated to the world’s longest-running TV sitcom, which first aired in 1973 and ran for 295 episodes until 2010. It was set and filmed in the beautiful old West Yorkshire town of Holmfirth, with the building housing the exhibition being the home of Compo – one of the show’s most iconic characters.

    The Exhibition itself contains a treasure trove of props from Last of the Summer Wine, though you might need to have watched the show to understand their relevance. You can watch a selection of clips and outtakes as part of the tour and there’s memorabilia on sale in the gift shop.

    Location: 30a Huddersfield Rd, Holmfirth HD9 2JS, UK

    Open: Monday and Wednesday–Friday from 10.30 am to 2 pm, Saturday–Sunday from 10.30 am to 3.30 pm

    Phone: +44 (0)7807 342331

    Map

    photo by Harry Wood (CC BY-SA 2.5) modified

    8

    York Cold War Bunker

    Learn about Yorkshire’s preparations for a nuclear attack

    The York Cold War Bunker is a Cold War museum inside an old nuclear bunker in the Holgate area of York. It was one of about 30 such bunkers built across the UK to monitor radioactive fallout in the event that the country got nuked.

    Given the fact that it was only ever intended to be manned by 60 people, there’s obviously a limited amount of space inside York Cold War Bunker. That being the case, you can only look around as part of a guided tour, with a maximum of 20 people per tour. It takes about an hour to see everything, from the introductory film to the decontamination room and the English Heritage gift shop.

    Location: Monument Cl, Holgate, York YO24 4HT, UK

    Phone: +44 (0)1904 797935

    Map

    photo by Mike Peel (CC BY-SA 4.0) modified

    9

    Tan Hill Inn

    The highest pub in Britain

    The Tan Hill Inn sits isolated amid beautiful scenery in a lofty part of the Yorkshire Dales. At 1,732 ft above sea level, it claims the title of the highest pub in Britain and, despite being right in the middle of nowhere, it's far from unusual to find the car park packed and the bar bustling with people.

    The 400-year-old inn was built to serve a mining community that has long since disappeared. It became famous in 2010 after a snowstorm gave New Years Eve partygoers an unplanned 3-day lock-in. The clientele is now a mix of road trippers looking for a meal and hikers on the Pennine Way looking to warm their weary feet by the roaring log fire.

    Location: Long Causeway, Richmond DL11 6ED, UK

    Map

    photo by Dave Dunford (CC BY-SA 2.5) modified

    10

    Ghost walks in York

    Explore the most haunted city in the world

    York is said to be among the most haunted cities in Europe, if not the world, and you can learn more about the spooks and spirits around the city on a ghost walk. There are some ghosts that date back as far as Roman times, including that of a slovenly legionnaire haunting Treasurer’s House near York Minster. Some of the more modern ghosts can be found in Bootham Bar. As you might expect of a York ghost, he’s found in a pub and is described as a friendly, handsome guy.

    There are loads of ghost tours available around the city, each following slightly different routes to tell different stories. There’s even one that goes around the city on a bus, though most of them explore the city’s narrow streets and back alleys on foot.

    photo by The Roaming Picture Taker (CC BY 2.0) modified

    11

    Cottingley Beck

    Can you find the Cottingley Fairies?

    Cottingley Beck provided the backdrop for a series of photographs taken by a couple of local schoolgirls in the late 1910s. These photos caused quite a stir at the time as they acted as proof to the children’s stories that they would see fairies when they went to play by the beck. A lot of people fell for the hoax, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

    Suffice it to say, you won’t actually find any fairies in Cottingley Beck. However, the fun story of this early case of trick photography adds a little something to this already beautiful spot, with its charming waterfalls and twisted tree roots. If you want to check out the actual photos and a couple of the cameras used to create them, head to the National Media Museum in Bradford.

    Map
    Ben Reeves | Compulsive Traveller

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