North York Moors Attractions & Activities
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. The park features stunning woodland 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!
Superb opportunities for walking, cycling and horse riding are within the North York Moors, alongside a host of stunning villages with character 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 starting at market town Pickering on the southern edge of the National Park With Ancient abbeys and castles also feature in the National Park such as Rievaulx Abbey, once the north’s richest Cistercian stronghold.
National Park Visitor Centres
The Moors National Park Centre at Danby in the north is the main visitor centre for the North York Moors National Park. A fun family day out with a range of attractions and activities on-site, The Moors Centre has an indoor climbing wall, a gallery with constantly changing displays, an on-site shop and information centre with maps, guides and gifts. An outdoor play area, ample parking and picnic grounds are also on-site and a choice of walks (including gentle trails ideal for families) and cycling trails branch out from the centre. Events, activities, workshops and activities take place at The Moors National Park Centre through the year, with refreshments available in the on-site cafe.
Southern main visitor centre, the Sutton Bank Park Centre, is located midway between popular North Yorkshire locations Thirsk and Helmsley. Sutton Bank is renowned for its spectacular views. Take your pick of walking and cycling trails surrounding the centre. Maps and leaflets, a wildlife watch area, an exhibition and shop with books and local crafts are all on-site. Both National Park visitor centres are free to enter and both feature on the Moors Bus service route – find out more on the official North York Moors National Park website.
North York Moors Abbeys
The ruins of two spectacular abbeys are within the North York Moors National Park, both cared for 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 business powerhouse as well as a religious centre and the first of the northern Cistercian monasteries. Find out more in Rievaulx’s on-site museum, with cafe also at the site offering delicious cakes and locally sourced food. Why not make a day of it and take the scenic walk from Helmsley Castle through the Rievaulx Valley to Cistercian Rievaulx Abbey, following in the footsteps of Aelred and pilgrims.
Within easy reach of Rievaulx, early Gothic 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.
North Yorkshire Moors Railway & Esk Valley Railway
A relaxing way to take in the beauty of the National Park, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a classically vintage step back in time. See the park from a vintage steam or diesel train departing from Pickering market town on the southern edge of the park, pushing through the centre and culminating and Whitby on the coast. The line is 18 miles from Pickering to Grosmont (journey time around 1 hour), then a further 6 miles from Grosmont to Whitby (journey time around 20 minutes). You can take your bike on trains and parking is available at all stations except for Newtondale Halt – early arrival at Pickering is advised to ensure a parking space.
Each station stop along the line has its own unique charm and collection of attractions. Grosmont is a 1950s style station with traditional tea rooms and ‘Heartbeat’ village Goathland, also the site for Hogsmeade Station in the very first Harry Potter film, has on-site tearooms and Rail Trail direct from the station towards Grosmont. Beautiful 1930s style Pickering station has its original 1847 roof in place. A fabulous choice of year round events take place on the railway from steam gala weekends to Witches and Wizards Weeks, Santa Specials and themed wartime weekends.
Esk Valley Railway
The Esk Valley Railway runs between Middlesbrough and Whitby, taking in the northern area of the North York Moors National Park, running through Captain Cook Country in the Great Ayton area, via Danby and The Moors National Park Centre. Why not combine trips along both railway routes – the Esk Valley also stops at Grosmont where you can pick up the North York Moors Railway.
The Cleveland Way National Trail
The Cleveland Way was the second national trails to open in the UK in 1969 after the Pennine Way. A magnificent circular trail which runs around the edge of the North York Moors National Park for 109 mile/176km trail, the Cleveland Way starts at Helmsley, running towards the Sutton Bank Centre and beyond in a horseshoe shape around the edge of the National Park.
The Cleveland Way takes in much of the diverse landscapes around the North York Moors including Boltby Forest, the Hambleton and Cleveland Hills, the Dales in the north, across 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 landscapes you’ll see along 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 accommodation bases include favourite starting point Helmsley with bookshops, specialist shops, country pubs, fine restaurants and B&Bs. Osmotherley, Swainby, Great Ayton, Saltburn, Boulby, Staithes, Whitby, Scarborough and Filey are other popular accommodation bases along the trail.