There’s never been a better time to stretch your legs and reconnect with nature. 

York and the surrounding area are blessed with a great number of beloved gardens and green spaces. At times like these, remaining active is a great way to maintain both physical and mental health, and the outdoors can be enjoyed while remaining a safe and sensible distance from other people. 

Located centrally along the banks of the River Ouse are the Museum Gardens. Take in the stunning ruins of St Mary’s Abbey and spend a moment or two watching the many squirrels who make the gardens their home. Nearby you’ll find delightful Dean’s Park, where you can appreciate the magnificence of York Minster as it looms over you. Further down river is Rowntree Park, created in memory of the Rowntree’s employees who lost their lives in the First World War, and a favourite haunt of York’s aquatic bird population.

Castle Howard

Beyond York, the grounds of Castle Howard in the Howardian Hills AONB are open to those who pre-book. This grand estate is a haven of peace and tranquillity, with extensive woodland walks, temples, lakes, fountains and follies, as well as the Skelf Island adventure playground. Next door you’ll find the Yorkshire Arboretum, a glorious 120-acre site with a collection of more than 6,000 trees from around the world. Again, pre-booking is required.  

South of the city you’ll find Stillingfleet Lodge and Gardens, which is a real sanctuary with its wildlife pond, wildflower meadow and rill garden. Once all this has inspired you, there’s a choice of 600 plants for you purchase from their nursery and turn your own fingers green.   

The North York Moors

If you want to enjoy truly wide-open spaces, you need look no further than the stunning North York Moors National Park. There are tremendous options if you’d like to take a hike, be it enjoying a stretch of the Cleveland Way, walking among the trees in Dalby Forest, or enjoying the best views in England at Sutton Bank. Private guided tours of Yorkshire’s wild and wonderful scenery are offered by both Mountain Goat Day Tours and BOBH, departing from the city centre and taking you straight into the country.  

A little south of the Moors is Wolds Way Lavender, surrounded by mature woodland, on the northern edge of the picturesque Yorkshire Wolds. The family run 12-acre site is currently planted with over six acres of lavender ranging from rich hues of purple to the purest white. 

If you long for some sea air, head to Yorkshire’s rugged coast. You’ll find bracing walks and history, accompanied by the sounds of the powerful North Sea, at English Heritage’s Whitby Abbey and Scarborough Castle, both open to those who pre-book.  

Some nearby green spaces of the National Trust are open to pre-booking visitors including Fountain’s Abbey and Studley Royal Water Gardens, home to the largest monastic ruins in the country, and 18th-century gardens which are a world heritage site.  Closer to York are the gardens of Beningbrough Hall, with new planting schemes designed by the award-winning Andy Sturgeon, and surrounded by parkland where riverside walks of the Ouse can be enjoyed.  

If you are planning to enjoy York’s and Yorkshire’s green spaces, please keep a respectful distance from other people. To help maintain the beauty of these beautiful places, dispose of your rubbish properly, or take it home with you.