When to Go
To see the heather at its most vibrant, visit in summer (but despite the season, be prepared for some chilly days). It's also the best time to see the coast, as colorful regattas and arts festivals are underway. York Minster makes a splendidly atmospheric focal point for the prestigious York Early Music Festival in early July. Spring and fall bring their own rewards: far fewer crowds and crisp, clear days, although there's an increased risk of rain and fog. The harsh winter is tricky: while the moors and dales are beautiful covered in snow and the coast sparkles on a clear, bright day, storms and blizzards can set in quickly, making the moorland roads impassable and villages at risk of being cut off entirely. In winter, stick to York and the main towns.
Early Music Festival. Devoted to compositions written before the 18th century, the Early Music Festival is held each July in York. There's also a Christmas program in early December. St. Margaret's Church, Walmgate, York, York, YO1 9TL. 01904/658338; www.ncem.co.uk.
Harrogate Festival. Throughout July, the town of Harrogate is filled with performances of ballet, contemporary dance, music, comedy, and street theater, plus film screenings and lectures by leading authors. 32 Cheltenham Parade, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG1 1DB. 01423/562303; www.harrogateinternationalfestivals.com.
Viking Festival. Held every February in York, this weeklong commemoration of the conquest of England by the Great Viking Army in 866 (only the British would hold a festival celebrating a losing battle) has more than 60 events, including a longship regatta and workshops for kids ranging from Viking-era crafts to fighting skills like archery and swordplay, as well as historical lectures. It ends with the Jorvik Viking Centre combat reenactment, where the invading Norsemen confront the Anglo-Saxon defenders. Jorvik Viking Centre, Coppergate, York, York, YO1 9WT. 01904/615505; www.jorvikvikingfestival.co.uk.