The North York Moors National Park is a uniquely special Yorkshire region. Around one third of it is stunning heather moorland with open access now for all. See it purple in summer with the flowering heather. It's not all stunning moorland however - there's woodland here too particularly the forests to the south east of the Park at Dalby and around Cropton and to the south west of the Park at Boltby near Thirsk. The North York Moors National Park pushes all the way to the coast, with the Cleveland Way National Trail winding round the edge of the Park and along the coast from Saltburn south to Filey. Spectacular coastal walking awaits here!
Alongside superb opportunities for walking, cycling and horse riding within the North York Moors, a host of stunning villages offer up a superb choice of B&Bs, country pubs, specialist shops, historic buildings and museums. Particular North York Moors hotspots include Osmotherley, Cropton, Hutton le Hole (home to the Ryedale Folk Museum). Thornton le Dale, Goathland (the idyllic village used in the TV series Heartbeat), Kirkbymoorside, Appleton le Moors and Hambleton. One of the best, and most relaxing ways, to see the North York Moors is via the North Yorkshire Moors Railway which you can pick up in Pickering. The railway cuts across the Moors up to the Esk Valley, with stunning views all the way, to Grosmont then north east to Whitby. Ancient abbeys and castles are in the area too, such as Rievaulx Abbey, once the north's richest Cistercian stronghold.
The main visitor centre for the North York Moors National Park is to the north of the park at Danby. It's had a complete refit recently and now offers a host of attractions, particularly for children, alongside serving as an information point. Admission to the North York Moors National Park centres are free, and all are particularly good for families with plenty of on-site activities for children and gentler walking and cycling trails.
Attractions at The Moors National Park Centre Danby include an indoor climbing wall, an outdoor play area, a new exhibition space with gallery, a gift shop and tearooms plus extensive walks, trails, events and outdoor activities within the area around the centre. Located on the edge of the River Esk, the centre sits on a good spot. You're guaranteed a good introduction to the North York Moors National Park here, with spectacular view across to Danby Dale, Great Fryup Dale and Westerdale.
The Moors National Park Centre shop is somewhat of an arts and crafts centre too, with local textiles, pottery and crafts all for sale.
The Moors National Park Centre, Lodge Lane, Danby, Whitby, North Yorkshire YO21 2NB. Tel. 01439 772737. For up-to-date opening times visit the North York Moors National Park official website guide.
Located to the south of the Park, Sutton Bank National Park Centre sits mid-way between popular North Yorkshire locations Thirsk (James Herriot territory) and Helmsley with its stunning castle ruins and easy access onto the Cleveland Way.
Sutton Bank is particularly acclaimed for the spectacular views from the centre - another superb introduction to the North York Moors. On-site are walking and cycling trails, park information maps and leaflets, a wildlife watch area, a 'Window on the Park' exhibition, a National Park video and shop with books and local crafts. The Moorbus park and ride service stops at Sutton Bank. For details see the public transport section on the North York Moors National Park official website guide.
Sutton Bank National Park Centre, Sutton Bank, Thirsk, North Yorkshire YO7 2EH. Tel. 01845 597426. Find up-to-date opening times on the official North York Moors National Park website.
The ruins of two spectacular abbeys are within the North York Moors National Park, both supervised by English Heritage. Rievaulx Abbey sits just to the north west of Helmsley whilst Byland sits to the south west on the edge of the Howardian Hills.
Founded in 1132 by St Bernard of Clairvaux who initially brought just 12 monks with him, the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, once one of England's richest monasteries, is one of the most impressive in the UK. The celebrated Medieval spiritual writer Saint Aelred lived here. In its day prior to Henry VIII's dissolution, Rievaulx was a powerhouse business as well as religious centre. Rievaulx was the first of the northern Cistercian monasteries. Find out more via the extensive on-site museum and there's plenty on at Rievaulx for children including local trails (checkout the Meandering Monks trail for kids) and numerous events running through the year including medieval style archery.
Within easy reach of Rievaulx Abbey, Byland Abbey was another of the great northern Cistercian abbeys and like Rievaulx its ruins are impressive. Much of the 13th century west side has survived, but the style is different to Rievaulx. Byland Abbey was one of the first abbeys to be built in a gothic style. Similarities between Byland's windows and York Minster are obvious. The charming Byland Abbey Inn, once a medieval farmhouse, is within the grounds. Checkout the Inn's webguide right for details.
See also the 14th century ruins of Carthusian Mount Grace Priory, Staddle Bridge, Northallerton, North Yorkshire DL6 3JG. Tel. 01609 883494. (details via the National Trust webguide link).
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway takes you on one of the most spectacular historic rail trips in the UK. Nostalgic diesel and steam engines weave right through the heart of the North York Moors starting at pretty market town Pickering with stops at Lewisham and a request stop at Newton Dale Halt on the edge of the scenic Cropton Forest area. The journey then moves on up to Goathland made famous as Aidensfield in the Yorkshire tv series Heartbeat. Next stop is Grosmont, a delightful 1950s rail junction and site for a display of historic locomotives, engine sheds and station cafe. The line then detours north east onto Yorkshire coastal hotspot Whitby.
The full journey time without stops from Pickering to Whitby takes just over one and a half hours. Each stop holds its own delights, and with a choice of single, return and rover tickets available you can plan your own day. Hop on and off Pickering to Grosmont Day Rover tickets or Pickering to Whitby Day Rover tickets are popular options, with special rates available for families.
Both Whitby and Pickering at the start and end of the journey are particularly crammed with attractions. Pickering boasts a historic castle, fine specialist shops, the celebrated Beck Isle Museum and a fine choice of country pubs and restaurants. Whitby is one of the Yorkshire coasts most popular destinations with a choice of museums exploring the town's maritime links and special relationship with Captain Cook alongside fun Dracula themed attractions, historic Whitby Abbey and the best of Yorkshire specialist shops, pubs, tearooms and restaurants, not to mention great beaches and coastal walking.
Checkout the North Yorkshire Moors Railway's webguide right for details on events, including the LNER Steam Festival. North Yorkshire Moors Railway Customer Services tel. 01751 472508. Talking timetable tel. 01751 473535. The complete timetable and ticket prices are listed on the website.
The Cleveland Way was the second of the national trails to open in the UK in 1969, the Pennine Way being the first a few years earlier in 1965. The magnificent Cleveland Way is a 109 mile/176km trail winding up from its starting point at Helmsley to the Sutton Bank Centre in a horseshoe shape around the edge of the North York Moors National Park.
The Cleveland Way takes in much of the diverse landscapes around the North York Moors including the Boltby Forest, the Hambleton and Cleveland Hills, the Dales to the north up to Saltburn and down the spectacular Yorkshire Coast beyond Scarborough as far as Filey. Heather moorland, forest, dales and stunning coastline are all included in the diverse landscape around the Cleveland Way.
Some of Yorkshire's most dramatic castles and abbeys are easily accessed along the trail including Helmsley Castle, Rievalux Abbey, Byland Abbey, Whitby Abbey and Scarborough Castle. Popular idyllic accommodation bases include Helmsley, the starting point, crammed with bookshops, specialist shops, country pubs, fine restaurants and B&Bs. Osmotherley, SwainbyGreat Ayton, Saltburn, Boulby, Staithes, Whitby, Scarborough and Filey are other popular accommodation bases along the trail.
The Cleveland Way National Trail webguide (link right) contains a detailed map of the trail highlighting main points of interest, historical sights and visitor activity centres. Cleveland Way Project, c/o North York Moors National Park, The Old Vicarage, Bondgate, Helmsley York, N. Yorks. YO62 5BP. Tel. 01439 770657.
Arden Hall image contributed by Paul Buckingham. Railway near Thomason Foss image contributed by Andy Beecroft. Standing Stone image contributed by Martin Norman. All images are copyrighted but licensed for further reuse under the Creative Commons License.