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Heavenly Helmsley: Eating and Exploring at the Heart of the North York Moors

Ah, time to breathe… The handsome market town of Helmsley, the start (or end) point of the Cleveland Way, is just the place to sink into and absorb the vast North York Moors National Park. Helmsley itself has enough to keep you occupied: a ruined castle and walled garden, an arts centre, galleries, small boutiques and delicious delis, good pubs, even its own brewery. But those hills that lie just beyond the old square in the centre will tempt you to explore further afield.

Just a short distance from Helmsley lie some of the country’s most magnificent abbey ruins, heart-pumping mountain-bike trails, reputedly the ‘finest view in England’ and atmospheric thatched pubs that boast Michelin stars. With a mixed bag of moorland, forest, dipping dales, plunging escarpments, open spaces and brilliantly dark skies (all the better for star-gazing), the North York Moors National Park does diversity in spades.

Tour Overview

The icons below highlight the distance, difficulty and theme of this itinerary.

Days

3

Distance

Walks around 5km

Difficulty

Easy / Moderate

Landscape

High Hills & Moorland / Rolling Countryside / Connecting Villages & Towns

Theme

History / Food & Drink / Wildlife / Pilgrimage

Activities & Experiences

Walking / Cycling / Heritage / Hands On

Heavenly Helmsley: Eating and Exploring at the Heart of the North York Moors

Here’s everything you need to help you plan your very own walking and exploring break in the North York Moors National Park. Click on the blue arrow tabs below for more information. To save this itinerary to view later, use the Save to My Rucksack button at the top of the page.

Itinerary

Head to Helmsley for three days, discovering the diverse North York Moors from all angles. Walk short but spectacular sections of the Cleveland Way, get up-close to birds of prey, cycle dramatic ridge-tops, eat like a king and inhale the fresh moorland air.

Day 1 England’s Finest View

Wake in Helmsley and start with a slap-up Yorkshire breakfast and the short drive to Sutton Bank National Park Centre (or it’s a 17km walk along the Cleveland Way, if you’re feeling fit). Follow the White Horse Walk to the eponymous turf-cut stallion (created in 1857), along the high escarpment. From here, the vales of York and Mowbray lie spread below, with the Pennine mountains glowering in the distance – a panorama once described by renowned vet James Herriot as ‘England’s finest view’. Don’t forget to look up either – you’ll likely see the craft of the Yorkshire Gliding Club, which have been soaring on these perfect thermals since 1933. The club offers taster flights, if you fancy an even better view.

The Park Life Café will keep you fuelled (its wonky vegetable soup is especially popular), so you can spend the afternoon exploring Sutton Bank on two wheels. Hire a mountain bike from Sutton Bank Bikes and take your pick: there are trails for all abilities, from the beginner-friendly Cliff Trail to the rocky, technical singletrack of the Paradise Trail. Or hit the exhilarating pump track, to ride its loop of banked turns and rollers. There are great options whatever your experience.

If you’d prefer a more tranquil afternoon, drive back towards Helmsley via Rievaulx Abbey (500m off the Cleveland Way). These impressive ruins, in a truly tranquil setting, reveal one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries; the state-of-the-art visitor experience here will help you immerse yourself in the lives of the monks who once called it home.

Overnight in Helmsley. There are many options – see Accommodation, left.

Day 2 Hanging out in Helmsley

Rise with the lark to meet the owls. Helmsley is home to the National Centre for Birds of Prey, where you can not only watch raptors sweep over the skies of Duncombe Park, but sign up for a full-on Owl Experience: by 10am, you’ll be on the flying ground, ready to feel the thrill of the trained birds swooping straight to your leather-gloved hand, followed by the chance to hold some of these beautiful creatures

Alternatively, hang out in Helmsley. Start at the castle, which stands proud above the town and which, in its 900 year history, has variously been a medieval stronghold, a Tudor mansion, a Civil War citadel and a romantic Victorian ruin. Nearby is Helmsley Walled Garden. Founded in the 18th-century, restored in the 1990s, it’s now a fragrant, restful haven where you can stroll among the glasshouses, apple orchards, wildflower meadows and community allotments. Call in at the Vine House Café for lunch, which uses the garden produce to create lovely dishes, served beneath the Victorian vines.

Today’s ‘wow’ lookout lies a 30-minute drive north, in Lord Stones Country Park. Trace a magnificent section of the Cleveland Way up onto Cringle Moor. It’s a stiff climb, but worth it for the views of the Cleveland Plain, Roseberry Topping and Captain Cook’s Monument. Plus the Lord Stones Café at the bottom will top up your energy levels nicely.

And you can toast your minor exertions back in town at Helmsley Brewery’s tap room. Try a selection of their artisan beers, including a pint of Striding the Riding, the official beer of the Cleveland Way

Overnight in Helmsley. There are many options – see Accommodation, left.

Day 3 Yorkshire Stars

Today, drive to Thirsk to travel back in time. James Herriot, the world’s most famous vet, lived, worked and wrote in this North Yorkshire market town; his former home – fully restored to its 1940s glory – is now a museum dedicated to the man. See recreations of his surgery, play around on the mock-up TV sets and enjoy a nostalgic journey into bygone Yorkshire life.

Next, drive north for another scenic slice of the Cleveland Way. From the handsome stone cottages of Osmotherley, walk to Mount Grace, the best-preserved Carthusian priory in England, hidden at the foot of the Cleveland Hills. Walking to this peaceful place, via the reconstructed monk’s cell, Arts and Crafts garden and lovely Lady Chapel feels a far cry from the hectic modern world.

You could grab a bite in the Mount Grace cafe or one of the characterful old pubs in Osmotherley itself. But do leave room to end your visit in the highest style: Helmsley has two Michelin-starred restaurants within a few miles. For the ultimate dining experience, head for the Star Inn at Harome, where chef Andrew Pern takes the best Yorkshire produce and cooks it to perfection, in a historic thatched pub. Or try the Black Swan at Oldstead, where Tommy Banks – Britain’s youngest chef to win a Michelin star – creates dazzlingly different tasting menus from ingredients grown on site.

Overnight in Helmsley. There are many options – see Accommodation, left.

Accommodation

There’s a range of accommodation across the North York Moors National Park. Helmsley makes a good base.

Helmsley
Beyond
  • Lordstones – Glamping pods, bell tents and yurts in Lord Stones Country Park.
  • Queen Catherine, Osmotherley – Historic pub with rooms.
  • The Golden Lion, Osmotherley – An 18th-century inn with fresh, modern rooms, overlooking the market cross.
  • Three Tuns, Osmotherley – Comfy, cosy rooms and a quality restaurant.
  • The Star at Harome, Harome –Historic thatched pub with characterful rooms and an acclaimed restaurant.

Food & Drink

From Michelin stars to cafes with to-die-for views, the North York Moors delivers all types of dishes.

  • Vine House Café, Helmsley – Delightful spot in Helmsley Walled Garden, supplied in part from the garden’s produce.
  • Helmsley Brewery Tap – Sample some of this microbrewery’s wonderful beers on site, including Striding the Riding, official beer of the Cleveland Way.
  • Park Life Café, Sutton Bank – Tasty local food; the wonky vegetable soup is popular.
  • Rievaulx Abbey cafe – Quality food using locally sourced ingredients.
  • Lord Stones Café & Restaurant, Lord Stones – Tasty light bites in the cafe; the restaurant specialises in the belted galloway beef supplied from the neighbouring farm on Urra Estate.
  • Three Tuns, Osmotherley – High quality, freshly prepared food.
  • Golden Lion, Osmotherley – An 18th-century inn overlooking the market cross with a simple menu done well.
  • Queen Catherine, Osmotherley – Family-owned pub with a wide range of wine and ales.
  • Star Inn, Harome – Andrew Pern’s Michelin-starred restaurant in a historic thatched pub.
  • The Black Swan, Oldstead – Tasting menus by Michelin star award-winning chef Tommy Banks.

 

 

Activities

The North York Moors National Park is laced with walking trails – and circular walks along the Cleveland Way make great half-day trips. The region is well set up for cycling too.

Walks
  • Cleveland Way, White Horse Walk, 5km – The classic walk from Sutton Bank, via ‘the finest view in England’; easy.
  • Cleveland Way, Lord Stones Walk, 4.5km – Awe-inspiring views of the Cleveland Plain and Roseberry Topping; worth the climb.
  • Cleveland Way, Osmotherley and Mount Grace, 5km – Lovely walk, via Mount Grace Priory and the Lady Chapel; easy.
Other
  • Sutton Bank Bikes – Hire a mountain bike to hit the well-marked trails; there are routes suitable for all experience levels.

For further walking inspiration visit The Outdoor Guide.

 

Experiences

Mix up your trip to the North York Moors National Park, combining walks with a wealth of heritage experiences.

 

 

Cycling

Sutton Bank Bikes, Sutton Bank – Hire a mountain bike to hit the well-marked trails; there are routes suitable for all experience levels.

For further information on cycling visit Cycle England.

Travel

Car required.

Advice

Good walking shoes recommended. Walks will take around two hours. There is the occasional steep climb, but walks are fairly easy.

We advise that you check opening times and booking restrictions before travelling.

Please check out these links for latest advice when in the countryside

Countryside Code

COVID-19 Guidance

Interactive Map

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Maps, Guidebooks & Merchandise

The official guidebook and map for the Trail are available from the National Trails Shop along with a wide range of gifts and other merchandise.