NORTH YORK MOORS NATIONAL PARK
Further east in God’s Own Country is the county’s other national park, the North York Moors. Characterized by upland fields of purple heather and lavender in the moorlands and valleys that produce a riot of colour in the springtime. Not to mention one of the other great features is the splendid coastline with countless coastal walking opportunities too. Of a smaller area than the Dales but another fantastic place to connect with nature.
For steam engine enthusiasts, a trip of the North York Moors railway is a pilgrimage. A nostalgic journey back in time on the oldest preserved steam rail route in the UK.
Staying in the main county city of York is the right place to stay for a wealth of history and easy access to the other great towns of the Moors. Read on for suggestions of some of the best places to visit whilst staying here.
STAY IN – YORK
What is there that hasn’t been said about the historic Roman capital of England? Most famous for its Viking connections, York is a real time travel city. Walk along the ancient city walls to get the best views and climb the steps to Clifford’s Tower (the former York Castle) to see where Viking kept prospective invaders out.
The famous street of The Shambles has to be York’s most photographed street. A sheltered old world of traditional shops in Tudor style buildings. Possibly the jewel of York has to be the giant York Minster Cathedral. Entrance is £10 but getting a chance to see the Gothic style and stained glass windows is worth every penny. That and the views from the top of Europe’s largest Gothic cathedral as well.
York is a perennially popular family destination thanks to the Jorvik Viking Museum and its hand-on displays and re-enactments of Viking life. The National Railway Museum as well is another fascinating must-see, the largest of its kind in the UK.
Many a ghostly legend has been known to haunt York and the York Ghost Tours are always a popular night-time excursion especially at Halloween! York’s heritage is certainly very closely maintained and the street names hint at this. Stonegate, Deangate and other winding streets that end in –gate mark previous entry points. How far back the street of Whip’ma’Whop’ma’Gate dates or what such a peculiar sounding name means is open to debate.
Another great way to see the best of York is a cruise on the Ouse.
NORTH YORK MOORS RAILWAY
There is something very nostalgic about steam locomotives. Something which harks back to the early days of rail travel when it was considered a revolution in industry. The sound of the steam horn as the train pulls in to the station. As a child there was something special about riding on a steam train. The old style carriages and wheels supported by rods have enchanted generations of children well into adulthood.
Despite great advancements in the post-war railways pushing out the old time locomotives, there are still some historic routes in the world preserved for the steam. The 18-mile stretch of the North York Moors Railway from Pickering to Whitby is one of the most famous in the UK.
One of the most notable stops is Goathland. This is one of the most vintage looking stations you will ever see. All the more recognisable to Harry Potter devotees as the Hogwarts Express. Taking a trip on this route is a very grand experience.
Pickering itself is another pleasant typical town of North Yorkshire worth visiting, especially for the Monday market.
The historic fishing port of Whitby also has a rather macabre backstory. It is whilst visiting this town that celebrated Irish novelist Bram Stoker got the inspiration to write Dracula. Viewing the remains of Whitby’s old Abbey, especially at night, must have influenced the creation of a literary legend. The final week of October is possibly the most spectacular time to visit Whitby. The Illuminated Abbey show takes place at dusk as all sorts of bright colourful displays project on to the abbey.
Also of note this particular time of year is the Whitby Goth Festival. Thanks in no small part to the Dracula connections, Whitby has become something of a choice location for the largest such gathering of devotees to the Goth subculture, aside from Camden Town.
Aside from all the spooky stuff, one of Whitby’s greatest contributions is undoubtedly its fish. The Magpie Café has earned rave reviews for some of the crispiest and golden cod and haddock you will ever feast on. All the more when accompanied by views of the harbour and the Abbey. The best fish and chips in the world ever?
Obviously with such acclaim and popularity come very likely queues, so be prepared especially on weekends.
A few miles south of Whitby is the picturesque fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. This being a starting point for a lot of the most celebrated walking trails along the coast.
HELMSLEY AND RIEVAULX ABBEY
On the southern edge of the North York Moors National Park lies the pleasant market town of Helmsley. One of the main settlements around the moors, Helmsley is another place with shops that sell locally sourced foods.
The remains of Rievaulx Abbey are located close by. Possibly the largest of the old abbeys when in operation, the grounds of Rievaulx have been in the immaculate care of English Heritage. Its valley location blends in very well with the few cottages and farmhouses around it. A road so quiet that after the abbey is closed for visitors for the day, you can almost hear a pin drop. You can easily reach the small hamlet of Rievaulx can be reached by foot from Helmsley. Follow the trail from the car park and stick to the path.
THIRSK AND MALTON
James Herriot, author of All Creatures Great and Small and its follow-ups recounting his time working as a vet in the Dales and the Moors, remains one of Yorkshire’s most revered names. Originally from County Durham, Herriot made the small market town of Thirsk his home. Here his life and connections to the town are celebrated in a museum.
Nearby is Malton, which is regarded as the food hub of Yorkshire. In a community where farming is its heart and soul, the region is very rich in food and dairy production. On the second Saturday of the month is the major food festival and market that attracts visitors from far and wide.
The town of Malton is also on the edge of the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Most famous sight here is Castle Howard, a grand manor house most famous for its use in the acclaimed 1981 TV adaptation of Brideshead Revisited. A very popular location for weddings and other special occasions too.