Discover accessible things to do in the North York Moors
While it’s predominantly known for its dramatic scenery, centuries of heritage and super-friendly locals, the North York Moors also has tons of accessible places to visit throughout its countryside and coastline. Whether you’re in the market for traipsing through colourful heather moorland or discovering hidden sandy beaches, exploring ruined abbeys or magnificent gardens, you can navigate the North York Moors National Park with ease – by car, on foot or even by hiring an adapted bike or tramper (an electric all-terrain mobility scooter).
Uncover more about the most accessible things to do in the North York Moors with our handy guide…
Whitby, North Yorkshire
Sink your teeth into the atmospheric ruins that inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The gothic cliff-top abbey stands eerie and illuminated at night and, by day, you’ll get cracking views of the North Sea.
While the first monastery was founded here in the 7th century, today you’ll get to see the ruins of the 13th-century church of the Benedictine abbey, built after the Norman Conquest. The grounds of this gothic wonder are made up of level paths, making it easy to explore on foot or with wheels. After you’ve admired the ruins, head to the first-floor exhibition (accessible by lift) to learn about how the Abbey inspired the world’s most famous vampire.
Top tip: if the 199 steps (originally seen as a measure of the Christian determination of pilgrims) up to Whitby Abbey from the town are too much, the yellow Open Top Tour Bus will drop you outside the Abbey or you can arrive by car – there’s parking close-by.Step back in time at Whitby Abbey
Pickering, North Yorkshire
Picture the moors. Rolling heather-covered hills, pine forests and shimmering coastline, all home to glorious wildlife that make it one of the country’s finest national parks. Now picture them whilst sitting on a classic steam train with a glass of wine in hand and as you drink in uninterrupted views. This is what the North Yorkshire Moors Railway offers aboard its vintage steam or diesel locomotives.
Take a round trip from the historic market town of Pickering to the seaside fish and chip capital of the north, Whitby. You’ll pass through stations such as Goathland, which featured as Hogsmeade Station in the Harry Potter films.
The 1930s-style Pickering Station – your departure point – has six allocated disabled parking spaces and entry by ramp from the car park. The trains use ramps to assist wheelchair users and partially sighted guests onto the train, and guide and assistance dogs are welcome on board too.Get your ticket for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Thirsk, North Yorkshire
Feel as high as a hawk from atop Sutton Bank, where you can experience one of ‘the finest view in England’.
After you’ve pulled yourself away from the far-reaching scenery of the North York Moors, call in at the free National Park Centre to learn more about the area’s landscapes, nature and wildlife, and have a nose around the shop before refuelling at the café.
Afterwards, you can explore the miles of easy-access paths, either on foot, bike or by hiring a tramper (you’ll need to book ahead for these), or discover the brand-new Nature Hub where you can find out what different bird songs sound like. It also doubles up as Star Hub for stargazing – one of three official Dark Sky Discovery Sites in the North York Moors.Get outdoors in the North York Moors
Helmsley, North Yorkshire
Beneath the dramatic ruins of Helmsley Castle, you’ll find the beautiful five-acre Helmsley Walled Garden. A hidden horticultural gem that nurtures people as well as plants; the garden gives locals of all abilities and backgrounds the chance to volunteer and learn more about gardening. Wander through stunning floral displays, like the double herbaceous borders (one of the magical locations for the 2020 remake of The Secret Garden), in this level, step-free paradise.
Give yourself at least an hour and a half to discover every nook and cranny of the garden, including the apple orchards, glasshouse and the Physic Garden, where you can learn about the magical medicinal qualities of different herbs. Round off your trip by popping into the Vine House Café for delicious cakes and seasonal light lunches featuring produce from the Walled Garden.Get back to nature at Helmsley Walled Garden
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Immerse yourself in the depths of Dalby Forest's 8,000 acres and its miles of accessible trails, by foot or tramper. Or why not stop by Dalby Forest Cycle Hub to hire one of their many adapted bikes and e-bikes, which are perfect for all sorts of terrain?
As well as getting close to nature and breathing in the fresh, country air, you can also look out for the Gruffalo sculptures dotted around the forest. Alternatively, if you’re enjoying the forest by pedal power, you might prefer exploring the easy-access Ellerburn Trail. This riverside path runs through endless woodland and meadow landscapes and even has a short detour that'll take you to a bird hide and bat hibernaculum (a man-made cave where resident bats spend the winter). When you’re in need of refreshment, head to the eco-friendly visitor centre, which also houses interactive exhibition areas. Dalby Forest is also a designated Dark Sky Discovery Site meaning, if you visit after dark, you’ll have the chance to see the magical Milky Way.Plan a day out to Dalby Forest
North Yorkshire Forest
Pull on your comfy boots for a wildlife safari led by a team of wildlife experts, dedicated to providing unforgettable small group tours. Whether you’re into your wildflowers or whales, you can choose from a selection of expertly guided nature walks to suit your interests, from spotting Northern Goshawks (one of the most magical birds of prey in Europe) to traversing the moors on a wildflower discovery trail.
Or maybe you’d prefer to get up close and personal to European Honey Buzzards, Turtle Doves and Common Kingfishers on a Birding Discovery Day? These one-day tours (designed for beginners and avid birdwatchers) traverse through a mosaic of ancient woodland and commercial forest in the North York Moors National Park, keeping a close eye on the surrounding landscape for native forest and river birds.Get closer to nature
Hutton-le-Hole, North Yorkshire
Located in the pretty moorland village of Hutton-le-Hole, Ryedale Folk Museum is a six-acre open-air museum that transports you back in time to the Iron Age and then takes you on a journey through time up to the 1950s. Learn about 4,000 years of history through over 40,000 objects housed in over twenty wheelchair-accessible historic buildings. Explore an Iron-Age Roundhouse, check out the farming area to see rare-breed pigs, pop into a vintage chemist or watch traditional blacksmith, tinsmith and cobbler workshops all in one day. Accessible toilets are found in the entrance building and in the High Barn Exhibit and assistance dogs are welcome to explore the museum too.Time travel in Yorkshire
Nestled in the picture-perfect village of Goathland, The Inn on the Moor Hotel is the answer to all your cosy countryside dreams. A friendly, family-run hotel, you will be greeted with the warmest of welcomes the moment you come in. There’s step-free access from the car park to the reception, bar and dining areas, as well as an accessible ground-floor room complete with a comfy double bed, an en-suite wet room and free WiFi. Breakfast is included too, so you don’t have to go far for a tasty Full English. For more information on accessibility, check out the hotel's accessibility guide.
Pick from a choice of three accessible holiday cottages or an accessible holiday home (the latter with unbeatable views over to Whitby Abbey) on Summerfield Farm. All set in farmland close to the coast and seaside town of Whitby, these cottages are designed to meet the needs of guests with a range of mobility impairments. From ground-floor wet rooms and bedrooms to ceiling hoists and tranquil sensory gardens, owner Richard hosts unforgettable stays at his idyllic adapted holiday retreat.
North Yorkshire Moors Cottages offer a collection of four beautiful holiday cottages, located in the heart of the North York Moors. Out of the four, Sunday Cottage, is considered the most accessible, with a four-star gold rating in the converted Methodist School. With beautiful views over the Esk Valley, the property has an accessible bedroom with en-suite wet room, a height-adjusting bed and a ceiling hoist. The cottage also has a dedicated parking space with a blue badge sign.
Close to Dalby Forest and Scarborough, Wellspring Farm is home to three holiday cottages, set in eight acres of gardens and farmland. Vale Cottage, in particular, has many accessible features, including two ground-floor bedrooms, one with a luxury wet room. You’ll also have access to your own private garden as well as the beautifully landscaped shared garden, complete with its very own summerhouse.
Need to know
All eight attractions and four accommodation providers have worked with VisitEngland to develop their access for all. Key staff members have completed disability awareness training and businesses now have an online accessibility guide. Accommodation and attractions have been audited by a professional access advisor and many have received a mystery visit from guests with accessibility requirements.
While the attractions listed in this article have achieved good levels of accessibility, please be sure to make your own checks, inquiries and investigations directly with the attractions before travelling to ensure your individual accessibility requirements can be met.
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