North York Moors Flickr:Harry WillisThe wild and moody moors of Yorkshire’s north cover a stunning variety of landscapes: there are of course the vast moorlands, covered by a dazzling purple blanket of heather in summer, but there are also woodlands and rivers ranging from bubbling brooks to the swift waters of deep gorges.

Helmsley and Pickering on the southern edges of the moor are typically regarded as the gateway towns for the region, but Whitby on the coast has excellent links inland as well. The main roads are mostly confined to the eastern edges of the park, close to the coast. There are buses covering most of the park, visit here for details.


Helmsley CastleH
elmsley (pop. 1,620)  is one of the traditional gateways to the North York Moors. An old market town, it has a number of attractive sights in and around the town, most notably its 12th century castle and Rievaulx Abbey, not far out into the moorland. 

Helmsley curls around the north bank of the River Rye. Local buses can be found at the Market Place and along the A170 or Bridge Street and Linkfoot Lane as it is called when it cuts through the centre of town forming a right angle. Visit here for details about local buses. 

Helmsley Castle [14 Castlegate, +44 1439 770442, Adults £4.70] first graced the site as a wooden structure in 1120 but it now dominates the skyline of the town with its craggy ruins. It was blown up by the Roundheads during the Civil War and some of the debris can still be seen in the impressive ditch below.

Having spent much of the 20th century as a school,  Duncombe Park [+44 1439 772625, house and gardens adults £8.25] has been reclaimed as a stately home and restored to reflect the opulence of its 300 year history. The surrounding gardens have mock-classical temples while the parklands, part of which is a nature reserve, may be explored via walking trails.

With excellent views of the castle,  Helmsley Walled Garden [Cleveland Way, Helmsley, +44 1439 771427, Adults £4] is an historic mix of flowers, fruits, and vegetables. 

UK YORKSHIRE Rievaulx AbbeyRievaulx Abbey [+44 1439 798228, Adults £5.30] was the first Cistercian abbey in the north when it was founded in 1132 with missionary zeal. Its majestic arches are framed against the wooded valley, inviting contemplation with its ‘marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world’ as the third abbot, the famously wise, St Aelred wrote. English Heritage now runs the site and there is an interactive museum which teaches, among other things, that those medieval monks were shrewd businessmen.

High above on an escarpment, Rievaulx Terrace and Temples [+44 1439 798340, Adults £5.25] offer splendid views of the abbey but it must be remembered that they are a separate site and do not offer access to it. The beautiful manmade landscape of the terrace holds two Palladian temples - 18th century follies built by the Duncombe family. 150

At the western edges of the moors is Sutton Bank or Roulston Scar, a steep escarpment where, nearby, you can see the Kilburn White Horse created in 1857. Take a stroll around the Sutton Bank Visitors Centre [Sutton Bank, Thirsk, +44 1845 597426, free entry] or just admire the sweeping views.

No.54 Bondgate
[54 Bondgate, Helmsley, +44 1439 771533,  , £45 per person] A charming little place with the emphasis on little – bedrooms are a bit small. However, the rooms are set around a lovely courtyard and the atmosphere is friendly.

Laskill Country House [Nr Hawnby, Helmsley, +44 1439 798265, £45 per person] Laskill is set amidst the rolling countryside of the moors. It’s not exactly a convenient location but it is a beautiful one. The rooms are well furnished and the food is good – an all round nice place to get away from it all. 

The Black Swan [Market Place, Helmsley, +44 1439 770466, £125-225] The Black Swan is a historic inn that manages to combine tradition and modern comfort. Good food and good location but perhaps a tad over-priced.

Feversham Hotel
[1 High Street, Helmsley, +44 1439 770766, £155-75] Luxurious, individually decorated rooms and wondrous breakfasts that include the options of waffles or toasted bacon sandwich as well as the traditional Yorkshire. There’s also a very nice spa associated with the hotel but you’ll have to pay to use it. 


Pickering steam trainP
ickering (pop. 6,850) is an ancient town that, according to legend, was founded in 270BC by King Peredurus. However, it wasn’t until William the Conqueror built a castle here that the town began to really grow. Today, the castle and the steam engines on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway draw in many tourists.

Pickering is bordered on the north, east, and west by the North York Moors. The train station for the NYMR is at Park Street to the north of the town. There are local buses servicing the town: visit here for details. The area around the Market Place has a number of bus stops.

After the ruthless Harrying of the North, William the Conqueror had  Pickering Castle
 [Castlegate, +44 1751 474989, £3.70] built to help control the rebellious region. A motte and bailey castle, it was to be frequented by many kings, who would gradually replace the original wooden structure with stone. There is an exhibition on the castle’s history in the chapel.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR) [+44 1751 472508,  Pickering-Grosmont Day Rover Adults £16, Pickering-Whitby Day Rover Adults £21] was first opened in 1836 as a trade link between Whitby and the rest of the country. These days the privately owned stream train offers a journey into the past, recalling an era when travel was an elegant, leisurely affair.

The Old Manse [19 Middleton Road, Pickering, +44 1751 476484, £79] Edwardian styling at its best marks out the Old Manse as does as its delicious breakfasts.

17 Burgate [17 Burate, Pickering +44 1751 473463, £89-110] This cheerful Georgian town house is beautifully furnished and has a lot of character. Well located and good value for money, it is a strong contender against many more expensive hotels. 

White Swan Inn [Market Place, Pickering, +44 1751 472288, £150-260] There are a variety of rooms to choose from here, ranging from classic vintage style to modern sophistication. The staff are friendly and the restaurant is wonderful, serving well-cooked Yorkshire favourites. They own the Italian restaurant next door too.


Cook County Walk beguiling countryside is very popular with ramblers (see our section on the Cleveland Way) but it also has a place in history as the stomping ground of a certain Captain James Cook, the great seafarer and explorer. Combine scenery and history with the Cook Country Walk, a 113 km circular trail which takes in Marton, Great Ayton, Saltburn, Staithes, Whitby, and the North York Moors.