North York Moors
North York Moors
The heather-topped hills, deep valleys and rugged coastline of the North York Moors set the scene for some of Northern England’s loveliest landscapes.
Outdoor adventures abound in the wild and beautiful North York Moors. Home to one of Northern England’s finest national parks, the area is famous for vast expanses of pink and purple heather, stunning hiking and cycling trails, castles, abbeys and pretty villages. Situated in the county of Yorkshire, 40-minutes’ drive north of York, the park includes a long stretch of coastline dotted with quaint fishing villages, sandy coves and sheer cliffs.
The great outdoors
One of the best times to visit the moors is from July to September, when they explode with colour as the heather plants bloom. This is also the ideal season to explore the park’s celebrated long-distance trails, the Cleveland Way and Lyke Wake Walk, over windswept hills, through steep-sided valleys and woodland. Allow plenty of time to stop in atmospheric country pubs and seek out ancient barrows, forts and Roman remains along the way. Or alternatively, head to Dalby Forest for exhilarating mountain biking and treetop rope courses. For a breathtaking cliff walk, head to Sutton Bank and look out for the White Horse of Kilburn, a giant figure cut into the grass in 1857.
Take the train
If that sounds like too much effort, jump aboard a restored steam train on the legendary North Yorkshire Moors Railway and enjoy the panoramic views from original wood-panelled carriages. The railway runs between Pickering and the coastal town of Whitby, stopping at a station featured in the Harry Potter films. From Whitby, train lovers can then change to the Esk Valley Railway to pass through gently rolling hills towards the city of Middlesbrough.
Alternatively, stay by the sea to explore the clifftop walks, sandy beaches and Jurassic-era fossil sites of the region’s coastline. Whitby itself is a lively harbour town, famous for its seafood, cliff-lift and ruined abbey, which featured in Bram Stoker’s classic book Dracula. Little Robin Hood’s Bay is an impossibly picturesque fishing village where you can hear tales of smugglers, hunt for dinosaur footprints and catch crabs in rock pools.
History, culture and cuisine
Many visitors start their trip to the North York Moors in the handsome market town of Helmsley, home to 18th century walled gardens and a medieval castle, plus excellent hotels and a Michelin-starred restaurant. Hungry bellies will also delight in the town’s traditional tearooms, delicatessens, artisan bakeries and local brewery.
From Helmsley, it’s a short walk to the majestic remains of Rievaulx Abbey, dating back nearly 900 years. Once one of England’s richest and most powerful religious houses, it was gutted by Henry VIII five centuries ago, but its lofty arches still proudly stand up to the elements.
You’ll find another very different monastic retreat just south of the national park. Ampleforth Abbey has sheltered an order of Benedictine monks since 1802. Take a tour of their vast orchards and cider mill, and the monks will also give you a cheeky glass of their cider and brandy to send you home with a warm glow.