The North York Moors National Park is a special place of open heather moorland, woodland and an amazing Jurassic-age coastline. Here’s the top 10 things to do in the North York Moors National Park.
Robin Hood’s Bay
Yorkshire’s most famous smugglers’ village is an enticing jumble of red-roofed cottages gathered around a minuscule quayside. When the tide’s out, walk to Boggle Hole and back – a perfect opportunity for beachcombing – and then settle down for a cosy drink in one of the cafés or pubs. There’s a longer walk over the cliffs to Whitby, or head off by bike along the Cinder Track – the old Scarborough to Whitby railway line that runs through the upper part of Robin Hood’s Bay.
Historic Helmsley Castle
Unlock 900 years of life at Helmsley’s historic Castle, owned by English Heritage. You can discover how the castle evolved over the centuries, from a mighty medieval fortress to a luxurious Tudor mansion, a Civil War stronghold and a romantic Victorian ruin. After the castle pop in to see the magnificent Helmsley Walled Gardens next door, which date back to 1759.
International Centre for Birds of Prey
From eagles, falcons and vultures, to owls, hawks and kites, you’ll see a variety of beautiful birds at the International Centre for Birds of Prey. See the birds flying free against the spectacular backdrop of the Duncombe parkland in three demonstrations each day, with different birds flown in each. At various times of the year you may also witness training sessions for young birds. There’s also Winter Owl Evenings and Hawk Walks.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Starting from Pickering, take a ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the world’s most popular heritage railway. Vintage steam and diesel services chug through the heart of the North York Moors, calling at rural halts and village stations en route to the seaside at Whitby.
The market town of Helmsley
Helmsley is the only market town within the North York Moors National Park and it’s full of character. Bursting at the seams with independent businesses, it offers a high street like no other. Whether you’re looking for retail therapy, arts, luxury accommodation, a cosy cafe or fine dining, you’ll find it here, and then some. It hosts regular events, including its annual Christmas Tree Festival and in 2015, an event to mark the fact it’s one of the Magna Carta towns. It’s even got an open air pool, should the sun be shining.
Cycling at Sutton Bank
The views from Sutton Bank National Park Centre are immense – the ‘finest in England’ according to local author and famous vet James Herriot. See them by bike on three interlinked trails that start and finish at family-friendly bike rental outlet Sutton Bank Bikes, which is based at the Centre (where there’s also a café, bike shop and bike wash facilities). It’s an experience to savour – riding along the dramatic escarpment with the wind in your hair and seemingly half of England at your feet.
The ruins of Rievaulx Abbey – among the most inspirational in Britain – nestle in the charming Rye valley, not far from the market town of Helmsley. The abbey grew to become fabulously wealthy before it was dissolved in the 16th century, and the soaring walls and elegant stonework reflect its golden age.
Esk Valley Walk
Explore one of the most beautiful valleys in England on a short walking holiday in the North York Moors. The 37-mile, waymarked Esk Valley Walk follows the River Esk from its source high on the heather-clad moors to the coast at Whitby. En route are ancient packhorse bridges, stone villages, stepping stones, and the steam railway village of Grosmont, with enticing country pubs every step of the way. Ready to go? Download a walking guide to the entire route from the North York Moors National Park website.
Get on the right track in one of the UK’s premier mountain-biking centres. Dalby Forest, in the southern reaches of the National Park, features over 40 miles of trails that snake through the trees and across the moorland plateau – great for families and experienced bikers alike. And with the high-ropes aerial course Go Ape, plus walking trails, moorland crags, a scenic forest lake, picnic meadows, and courtyard with café and craft workshop, Dalby is a great day out for everyone.
Home of the Howard family for three centuries, Castle Howard is England’s finest stately home, with a thousand stunning acres of gardens and grounds to explore. Tours of the house and estate show off the highlights – don’t miss a walk out to the romantic Temple of the Four Winds – and there are plenty of family-friendly events and activities throughout the year. The house lies on the edge of the North York Moors, and makes a good starting point for a tour through some of the more hideaway parts of the area, from Hovingham and its renowned farmers’ market to Ampleforth Abbey, home of award-winning artisan ciders and beer.