Explore the North York Moors National Park
Discover the magic beyond York's walls and immerse yourself in the breathtaking North York Moors National Park, where dramatic coastlines meet quaint towns.
Journey through time on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, and gaze upon a universe of stars under the International Dark Sky Reserve. Embrace history's whispers at Castle Howard and Rievaulx Abbey. Embark on thrilling bike adventures across Sutton Bank and Dalby Forest. Rejuvenate your soul at the Feversham Arms Hotel and Verbena Spa. Let York be your gateway to both city marvels and countryside dreams.
Dive in, adventure awaits!
Helmsley: A Foodie's Dream
One of the country’s most popular market towns (officially – it won the Great British High Street Award’s best market town category), Helmsley is somewhere everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Although if you go once, you’re likely to go back time and time again – a visit to this picturesque town, which has so much going on, feels like a breath of fresh air.
Helmsley is a perfect destination for those who love the great outdoors, with the bonus of having a thriving market town as a base to provide hospitality after a long day, Helmsley is ideally placed for walkers, cyclists, dog-owners, horse-riders – and even open air swimmers, with its very own lido.
Those who prefer a more leisurely pace can take a trip back in time at Helmsley Castle, admire the blooms at Helmsley’s Walled Garden, see spectacular displays at the National Centre for Birds of Prey, stroll around the Duncombe Park estate, or enjoy a performance at Helmsley Arts Centre.
There are creative activities on offer, including painting and stick making, with talented craftspeople including the town’s renowned ‘Stickman’. Treat yourself to some shopping in the town’s many independent shops and boutiques and savour a bite to eat in the welcoming cafes, delicious delis and welcoming pubs and restaurants. Rest your head at a range of quality accommodation, from spa hotels to cosy cottages.
The town boasts a range of independent butchers, bakers, fishmongers, and more. Explore these foodie gems:
- Hunters of Helmsley: Voted one of the UK's best small shops, it offers a treasure trove of gourmet delights, including home-label preserves and chocolates.
- Thomas the Baker: Home to Britain's best mince pies and other award-winning baked goods.
- Auntie Anne’s Castlegate Bakery: A bakery crafting traditional and local specialties, including Yorkshire Curd Tart and Yorkshire Parkin.
- Helmsley Brewery Co: A microbrewery creating beers inspired by the North York Moors, with tours available.
In Helmsley, you'll also find top restaurants offering the finest dining experiences and luxurious accommodations:
- The Black Swan (Oldstead): A Michelin-star restaurant and Hotel run by celebrity chef Tommy Banks.
- Star Inn (Harome): A Michelin-starred restaurant in a 14th-century thatched Inn with Rooms.
- Pheasant Hotel: A restaurant with 2 AA Rosettes.
- The Hare (Scawton): A 3 AA Rosette Restaurant with Rooms located in a characterful 12th-century inn.
- Feversham Arms Hotel: A luxurious spa hotel with 2 AA Rosettes.
Beyond its culinary delights, delve into local galleries, designer boutiques, and artisan workshops, where a treasure trove of distinctive art, furnishings, and fashion awaits you.
Pickering: The Gateway to Adventure
From the historic attractions, to the shops, museums, restaurants, pubs and cafes, there really is something for everyone in Pickering. A great base for exploring North Yorkshire, the Yorkshire Coast, Dalby Forest and the stunning North York Moors, it’s also a fantastic destination in its own right, packed with fun things to do for the whole family.
Pickering is home to the world-famous North Yorkshire Moors Railway, where you can embark on a magical steam train ride through some the UK’s most spectacular moorland scenery, including a stop at Harry Potter’s train station in Goathland.
But that’s not the only time-travelling you can experience in Pickering, as this is a town that revels in nostalgia.
Tea-rooms and shops have a gloriously vintage flavour, including the North’s largest antique centre, and a bakery still serving its original Yorkshire recipes from 1865. You can step into the reconstructed Victorian pubs, shops and parlours of the Beck Isle Museum; wander the battlements of Pickering Castle; or marvel at one of Europe’s most important medieval treasures: the stunning wall-art of St Peter and St Paul’s Church.
Time doesn’t stand still in Pickering, though: this is a thriving market town with over 100 independent stores. It’s the place where the locals stock up on all the essentials, and their favourite treats too in shops like Feast Deli, the Organic Supermarket, Taylors, or Birdgate Chocolatiers, all showcasing local produce.
It's the perfect place to prepare for outdoor exploration and immerse yourself in tradition. Here are some of the top foodie tips you must experience in Pickering:
- Birdgate Chocolatiers: A haven for chocolate lovers, where you can savor exquisite and unusual creations, including unique chocolate cakes and luxury ice-cream.
- Taylors of Pickering: A family-run grocer famous for its artisan in-store fish smokery, where you can indulge in hot smoked salmon and other delicious seafood.
- The Black Swan: This famous travelers' inn, with a 300-year history, serves some of the region's best pub meals and features a microbrewery, Breworks, which offers artisan beers inspired by the railways of the world.
- Bothams: A renowned family-run craft bakery and tea-room since 1865, serving authentic Yorkshire recipes, including parkin, ginger, and plum breads.
Pickering is a paradise for cyclists, with both on and off-road trails. For road cycling enthusiasts, it's the starting point for a network of classic rides. Explore local cyclist hubs like Big Bear Bikes, Dalby Cycle Hub, and Dalby Bike Barn for insider tips and equipment.
And for all your adventure needs, visit Trailblazer Outdoors, where the staff personally test outdoor gear to offer the best advice. Don't forget to pay a visit to the Black Swan, a place with a rich history welcoming touring cyclists.
Whitby: A Taste of Tradition
Whitby is one of the few places left in Britain where you can experience the seafarer’s way of life, from sea to shore, as it’s been for centuries - but it’s no time-worn relic.
As you explore this tiny fishing community on the edge of the North Sea, you’ll discover that local people are building on tradition in their own unique and sustainable way to create an extraordinary harbour life that’s thriving today. In Whitby, you won’t just find award-winning fish restaurants, you’ll also be able to enjoy Britain’s best boat-builders, maritime musicians, and sea-artists. It even has a world-famous sea-adventuring superhero!
But don’t just dip your toe in the water: with its history of seafaring, this is also a place that dares and inspires you to get out on the seas, experiencing your own personal maritime adventure up close and personal. If you thought Whitby’s shores were amazing, just wait til you explore its seas…
Meet the country’s finest chefs, including Paul Gildroy of the world-famous Magpie Café, or David Cross at the award-winning Estbek House in Sandsend; or enjoy award-winning fish & chips in the Quayside, Trenchers, Papas or Mister Chips, which have been in the same family for generations, and have all recently been voted Britain’s best fish restaurants.
You can also taste 150-year-old family recipes at Fortune’s Kippers smokehouse (and for dessert, don’t miss Botham’s Bakers, baking cakes and biscuits from their Victorian family’s recipe-books for over 150 years).
Also noteworthy on food & drink:
Whitby Gin, producing award-winning gins with signature ‘beach to batch’ botanicals including locally-foraged sea kelp, moorland heather and honey, they also offer behind-the-scenes tours of their micro-distillery, in the shadow of Whitby Abbey.
Whitby Brewery, whose outstanding beers include locally-inspired Smugglers Gold, Goth Festival favourite Black Death (and for the winter, Santa’s Tackle), in demand across the country. You can meet the brewers during 45-minute behind-the-scenes tours, before a private sampling in their bar, from their cliff-top location overlooking Whitby Abbey.
Explore award-winning Captain Cook Museum (open Oct & Feb half-terms only) and Whitby Museum (open all year), or Whitby RNLI museum (open all year), housed in what was once the oldest and most decorated lifeboat station in the country. You’ll explore thrilling reconstructions of life at sea, gets hands-on with sea-crafts and sea-artistry, wander through awe-inspiring and eccentric collections, and even hear the voices of sailors from the past.
Rievaulx Abbey: A Tranquil Retreat
“Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity, and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world...” You don’t need to climb a Himalayan mountain to find true peace - these words were written by one of the greatest spiritual writers of the Middles Ages, Saint Aelred, about his own retreat in the North York Moors, Rievaulx Abbey. 900 years later they still hold true.
Once one of Europe’s greatest medieval monasteries, the abbey ruins seem a million miles away from the real world in their wooded valley, and English Heritage open the doors specially during Twixmas for any souls needing a spiritual retreat (open all year, 5 days/week).
Dalby Forest: Nature's Adventure Playground
It’s not just one of Britain’s best outdoor centres: with its Gruffalo and Superworm trails, Go Ape treetop park, play areas and miles of 8500 acres of traffic-free walking and cycling trails, Dalby Forest is a giant adventure playground perfect for everyone in the family during winter.
Or for the ultimate ‘space out’, how about starry trips to the edge of the galaxy? With its Dark Sky Discovery Centre, Dalby Forest is one of the best places in Britain for stargazing once autumn’s darker nights arrive. In fact, the entire area’s recently been awarded coveted international ‘Dark Sky’ status, and on clear nights you can see the Milky Way, a rare – and colourful - phenomenon in the UK. It’s a must-see visit during the region’s annual Dark Skies Festival (February), a celestial celebration with a huge range of events, both fun and seriously scientific.
You can also take a Dark Skies Meander, explore a forest wellbeing trail; or relax into forest bathing and yoga.
Sutton Bank Visitor Centre: Breathtaking Views and Outdoor Fun
With the ‘finest views in England’ (according to the local author of James Herriot), Sutton Bank National Park Centre is one of the best places in Yorkshire for a walk, bike ride, or to explore the wonders of the natural world.
It’s the flagship cycling hub for the North York Moors National Park, loved for its awesome ‘top of the world’ family-friendly rides, pump track, purpose-built traffic-free trails, and as a gateway to mile upon mile of bridleways and tranquil country lanes spanning the North York Moors. It has also a quality bike shop, with a full cyclist support service including bike and eBike hire.
Walkers are spoilt for choice too. There are well-signed walking routes around Sutton Bank itself – including the breathtaking stroll along the escarpment edge to the viewpoint at Kilburn White Horse, (a wheelchair and pushchair friendly trail). Or walkers can step onto a vast network of paths across the North York Moors itself, connecting to famous long-distance routes like the Cleveland Way National Trail.
This is also one of the best places to come to enjoy the natural world: with international Dark Skies status, it's a great spot to marvel at the starriest skies, by taking a turn on the centre’s rotating stargazing hub – there’s even a virtual tour of the universe if the skies are cloudy. Some of Britain’s rarest wildlife have also found a home around Sutton Bank, and nature-lovers of all ages can explore it a little more within the interactive Nature Lab or bird sound station.
If that wasn’t enough, children can let off steam in the adventure playground – which include treehouses, a ‘castle’ and a mud kitchen – and there’s hands-on activities to investigate the great outdoors during the school holidays.