The North York Moors undoubtedly has some of the most majestic and beautiful scenery and landscape that you will find throughout the whole of the UK.
Wonderful countryside, however, is not all that the North York Moors has to offer. There are also many magical towns and vibrant villages that are just waiting to welcome you in. Within them all you will find a plethora of history, and things to do and see for all the family.
Hutton Le Hole
Hutton Le Hole is one of the most popular and beautiful spots within the North York Moors National Park. It is home to the Ryedale Folk Museum, Hangman’s Stone, and famous free roaming moorland sheep.
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First recorded in the Domesday book as the village of Hoton, Hutton Le Hole has a charming long winding village green with a stream running down its middle. Various footbridges can be found along the stream allowing its residents to cross from one side to the other. The village green is home to its many moorland sheep.
There are many theories as to what the name Hutton Le Hole means with the most likely being accepted as ‘the place near the burial mounds.’ This is due to the discovery of ancient burial mounds nearby. More details about this can be found at the Ryedale Folk Museum which is certainly worth a visit.
Hutton Le Hole is also home to an amazing amount of historical buildings with no less than twenty nine having achieved grade two listing. Most of these are 18th century constructions such as Turnpool House built in 1782, Potters House dating back to 1845, but there is also the 17th century ‘pound’. This is a stone walled enclosure that was originally used for holding lost sheep.
The only market town within the North York Moors National Park, Helmsley is not only a perfect base for exploring the surrounding areas but also a classic North Yorkshire delight. It has an open air swimming pool, vibrant market square, and not one, but two Abbey ruins to see.
Picture perfect and full of charm Helmsley dates back to approximately 3000 BC and was originally named Elmeslac. For many years it was home to small farming communities before becoming the village it is today.
Places of interest within the village include the walled gardens which date back to 1759, and the Canon’s Garth vicarage. There is also the All Saints Church which dates back to the 12th century and contains unusual and unique one hundred-year-old frescos.
Alternatively, if you like your sights to see on a grander scale there is the 900-year-old Norman castle to visit. Originally it was built as a medieval fortress but has been reincarnated several times. In Tudor times it was a luxury mansion, during the civil war a stronghold, and finally in the Victorian period another luxury dwelling. It is now sadly a romantic Victorian ruin!
The gorgeous village of Goathland has been a popular visitor attraction since the Victorian period when it was known as a spa village. Lots of people flocked here for the rejuvenating qualities they believed the nearby Mallyan Spout waterfall to possess.
More recently Goathland has become better known for being the fictional village of Aidensfield in the hit TV show Heartbeat and the train station Hogsmeade in the Harry Potter films. This is not, however, all that Goathland has to offer, it has a whole lot more!
Originally built in 1896 by Mr Walter H Brierly of York, Saint Mary’s Church is an Elizabethan place of worship that was specifically designed with it being in a bleak moorland place in mind. Of it Mr Brierly said ‘The qualities of simplicity, breadth and sturdiness were felt to be especially required for such a bleak moorland situation, and were aimed at in the design.’
Goathland is also home to a North York Moors Railway Heritage Station from which you can travel to Grosmont. From here you can then take the 3.5 mile walk back Goathland on the trail known as ‘the rail trail’ which travels down the old railway line. Once back in Goathland, why not pop to the Goathland Hotel or Aidensfield Arms as it was known in Heartbeat for a spot of lunch?
Once one of the largest fishing ports on the North-East coast Staithes is now more commonly known as a destination for geologists and a picturesque village full of history and old world charm. Being situated on the coast itself it is one of the more well known and popular North York Moors destinations.
Situated in a sheltered harbour and bound by high cliffs and two long breakwaters, Staithes is a village full of higgledy piggledy cottages in winding streets. It is a place lost in time where the houses do not have numbers, rather they are all named, and you may just see fishermans wives still wearing the distinct draped cotton bonnets of yesteryear.
When you step into this old-fashioned village, it is not hard to imagine the days gone by when the now depleted, but still there, colourful cobles would set sail from the mouth of Staithes Beck to start their days fishing. Or when Captain James Cook was working here as an apprentice shopkeeper before going off to seek fortune and fame. You may even see artists painting down by the harbour like the Staithes Group have always done over the years.
Modern day Staithes, you see, really has not changed and has to be the place to go if you’re looking for somewhere to visit that is a taste of the old North Yorkshire. If you want something a little more modern though why not attend the Staithes Art festival when the village becomes a bustle of pop up shops and cafes. Or try your hand at fossil hunting down on the beach. After all you never know you might just find the next rare dinosaur like they did in Staithes just a decade ago.
Ampleforth is home to the glorious Ampleforth Abbey that has been home to a community of Benedictine monks who are seeking God since 1802. It is a glorious place to visit if you enjoy peace and quiet.
Originally Ampleforth was made up of just a few houses that ran along the main road. You can still see examples of 19th century construction here in the shape of the village shop and the delightful Coram Cottage.
There are also two public houses should you feel peckish or thirsty whilst in this gorgeous setting, the White Swan and the White Horse. The latter is named after the large white horse that has been carved into the hillside a few miles to the West.
Should you be lucky enough to visit Ampleforth in Winter you may just catch sight of the Ampleforth sword dance. This was done traditionally around christmas time and with long swords that have their own back story. Legend has it that a traveller was killed by six swordsmen who then called a doctor to revive him. However, when the doctor gets there he is pushed aside by a clown who proceeds to bring the man back alive by using mystical moves!
Rievaulx is a small village close to the River Rye and built mainly from stones originally used in the building of the now ruined Rievaulx Abbey. The abbey itself is the main tourist attraction.
Built and founded in 1132 by twelve cistercian monks Rievaulx Abbey was intended to be a place where a strict life of prayer and self sufficiency could be made. It worked and Rievaulx Abbey went on to become one of the greatest Abbeys in England up until 1538!
In 1538 Henry VIII began the dissolution of the monasteries in his attempt to release the grip of the Catholic church and create his own new status as the head of the church. At the time Rievaulx Abbey was made up of over 72 buildings, housed 21 monks, and had 102 employees.
By the time Henry VIII had finished with Whitby Abbey it was nothing but ruins. Buildings were left uninhabitable and the entire place was stripped of anything with worth. The Abbey itself was left to fall into the ruins we see today. It is now owned and run by English Heritage.
Thornton Le Dale
Thornton Le Dale really is the quintessential chocolate box village that you see depicted on calendars and boxes of Yorkshire fudge! It is full of independent shops, cafes, pubs, and tearooms for you to enjoy.
Centred on a tiny triangular green with an old market cross and stocks Thornton Le Dale is home to a babbling brook and Beck Isle Cottage. This cottage as mentioned above is featured on countless chocolate boxes and calendars and the most loved sight in the village. Incidentally the village itself has been named as Yorkshire’s prettiest in a newspaper poll.
If you tire of the village which is unlikely, the nearby Dalby Forest has walking, cycling, nature, and stargazing to offer. There are also lots of woodland walks and nature trails even closer by. Go Ape is another option if you’re feeling adventurous and fancy zip lining through the trees.
Thornton Le Dale also holds many annual events such as Christmas light switch ons, spring galas, flower shows, scarecrow festivals, harvest festivals, and village plays.
Danby is a bustling moorland village that lies in the Esk Valley just half a mile from the North York Moors National Park. It has great walking countryside surrounding it and a magnificent castle.
Built in the 14th century for Lord Latimer as a sign of his great wealth Danby Castle was created with both defence and comfort in mind. It is now a wedding venue and farm famed for Catherine Parr living there before her marriage to Henry VIII.
Also close by are the Danby beacons that date back to the 1600s when the country was living under the threat of invasion by France. They would be lit should the soldier on duty see any sign of a foreign fleet. Nowadays they are a popular landmark that were rebuilt in 2008 and are used as waymarkers for walkers.
To learn more about Danby and other North York Moors villages you should head for the Moors National Park Centre where they hold history and information on them. Here you can also picnic in the beautiful grounds, explore wood-boggle houses, walk woodland trails, and purchase local crafts.
Pronounced ‘growmont’ Grosmont was once a hive of industry in the ironstone trade. Nowadays, however, it is more of a peaceful haven to get away from it all. There are several cafes and pubs to relax in after you have taken in the villages historic sites.
Grosmont is home to another priory that was dissolved by Henry VIII during his tirade against the Catholic church. It is also the place where the North York Moors and Esk Valley railways meet. In fact, the railway dominates this village, and it is home to the North York Moors Railway engine shed.
Also in the village there are some fantastic historic buildings including the 19th century Esk Villa, Rose Cottage, The Station Tavern Public House, and the post office dating back to 1835. All of these are well worth a visit.
If you care for a little walk whilst visiting Grosmont we recommend the 3.5 mile rail trail that runs along Stephensons original railway line from Grosmont via Beck Hole, and on to Goathland. If you’re lucky enough to be there in May the local woods has a fabulous display of bluebells.
Probably best known for being an RAF base, Fylingdales is a small village just inland from the old smugglers port of Robin Hood’s Bay. It is the site of a ballistic early warning system and the former home of the famous three geodesic dome-shaped balls. These are not, however, all Fylingdales has to offer!
The history of the village dates back to the 14th century when a group of monks maintained a lime kiln there. The Abbot of Whitby also owned a park and woodland in the area as well a mill and Fyling Old Hall. This could be why, in 1821, a very attractive church was built here that still stands today.
St Stephens Church is a popular tourist attraction with its 19th century box pews and triple-decker pulpit. There is also a poignant reminder of the sea faring history with memorials inside the church and in the graveyard to those lost at sea. A second church was later built in 1868 that was closer to the village centre.
Glaisdale is a quaint scenic village situated on the Esk Valley Railway. It is full of character with terraces of slate-roofed houses which were originally built to house stone miners and workers within the iron ore industry.
Walking is very popular in this quiet village with many visitors taking the time to visit Beggars Bridge at the eastern end. This is due to the rather romantic tale attached to it. It is situated just one mile from the village where the road drops steeply down into rich wooded valley.
The story goes that Thomas Ferres, the son of an impoverished Glaisdale farmer, had to wade across the river here to see the love of his life Agnes. She was the daughter of a local squire who unfortunately did not approve of their courtship. In order to get the squires approval Thomas left to seek his fortune which he did. He first became Sheriff and then later the Mayor of Hull.
Unsurprisingly when he returned to Glaisdale he claimed his bride and married Agnes and they lived happily ever after. Sadly, all good things come an end, however, and when Agnes died Thomas built a bridge across the river that he had once waded through to reach his love.
This bridge later became known as the Beggars Bridge and is visited by many tourists. It has the date 1619 engraved on it and the initials TF.