Formerly known as The Moors National Park Centre, Danby Lodge National Park Centre in the North York Moors is great for a day out.
This historic visitor centre is surrounded by everything that makes the North York Moors unique, including moorland, woodland, farmland, historic structures, and wildlife. Here’s all you need to know when visiting Danby Lodge National Park Centre in the North York Moors.
Danby is perfect if you need some time in nature. This pretty village is situated in the Esk Valley, below the south-facing slopes of Danby Low Moor. It boasts a stunning backdrop of hills and peaceful scenery. There is plenty to see and do, whether you feel like long country walks, stargazing in this official Dark Sky Discovery Site or visiting the Danby Lodge National Park Centre. You will have a truly memorable visit. Admission to the centre is free, and you can learn more about the centre and the area in this article.
Things to do at the Danby Lodge National Park Centre
Exhibitions and gallery
Start by immersing yourself in the exhibition area, which provides a fascinating glimpse into the history and natural habitats of the North York Moors. The exhibit also pays tribute to the ironstone heritage of the area. Here, you can discover how the distinctive landscapes were shaped and gain insight into the various flora and fauna that thrive in this environment. The exhibit also tells the gripping tale of Victorian ironstone extraction, the brilliance of the moorland railways, and the difficult realities faced by those who participated in the brief “gold rush” of the North York Moors.
Make a stop at the Inspired by… gallery, which features rotating exhibitions of art inspired by the North York Moors and a gallery shop with artisan crafts, handmade jewellery, and artworks.
There are many activities to take part in outdoors here, too; there’s an adventure play area and mud kitchen, complete with ovens, cupboards, pots, and pans, open from spring until the end of November. A compass field where you can become a skilled navigator. Easy-to-follow trails in the Crow Wood, starting from the main car park. Crow Wood is beautifully maintained and fantastic to explore with children; see if you can spot the fairy house! There are also five easy-to-follow walking routes; maps are available at the Centre for £2.
If you’re feeling extra adventurous, try the fantastic climbing cave, but beware, it’s only for kids, as it’s far too much fun for adults!
During the holidays, they host many events and activities, such as family treasure hunts and fun educational activities for children to enjoy. You can drop in anytime to learn more and pick up a trail. We took part in their Easter Trail recently and had a fantastic family day out. The wish dragon at the park had lost her eggs, so we used a map and trusty navigation skills to find her eggs. This fun family event had us exploring Danby woodland and enjoying time outdoors. Tickets were £3, which was great value.
Don’t forget to visit the shop, where you can find a fantastic selection of books, maps, guides, postcards, and unique items related to the area.
The Park Life Café
The Park Life Café at the Centre is independently owned and opens daily from 10 am to 4 pm. They offer a delectable menu and excellent coffee that you can savour in their indoor or garden seating areas or take away. The café is dog-friendly so that you can bring your furry friends along.
The café’s opening hours may differ from those of the Centre. It’s a good idea to check their Facebook page before visiting for the most up-to-date information on their operating hours.
Please note that dogs are not allowed in the Centre buildings or Crow Wood, except for assistance dogs. Crow Wood, a small woodland area, is used for children’s activities such as den building and plant identification, where children are likely to be in close contact with the ground. Professional advice given is that they should avoid the potential for contamination with domestic animals. Please speak to the Centre staff, who will happily advise on alternative dog walks from the centre.
Parking at the Danby Lodge National Park Centre
There is a pay and display car park at Danby Lodge National Park Centre next to Crow Wood.
Card payment machines: There are card payment-only ticket machines throughout the National Park. They also accept payments through Apple Pay and Android Pay.
PayByPhone: Another option available to visitors is PayByPhone, which we recommend downloading before your visit as there is limited mobile coverage in the area.
Pay at the Centre reception: If the Centre is open, you can also pay for parking at Reception.
All funds raised from parking fees go toward maintaining the park and ensuring everyone has an enjoyable experience.
More things to do in Danby
Ride the Esk Valley Railway: One of our favourite ways to explore the surrounding area is by riding on the Esk Valley Railway, which stops at Danby Station. The railway runs through the North York Moors, passing through villages along the coast and countryside. It’s a lovely way to get a feel for the area.
Walk from Danby Lodge National Park Centre to Danby Castle: Danby village has a rich history; evidence can be found in the Danby Castle, a 14th-century fortress that still stands today. You can take a lovely 2-mile circular walk through the countryside from the Danby Lodge National Park Centre to Danby Castle. Don’t forget to visit Duck Bridge, a medieval packhorse bridge across the River Esk. A full route guide is available for download here.
Explore the North York Moors: The North York Moors is a vast national park with breathtaking scenery and various wildlife to look out for. There are many walking routes and areas to explore. You can find 8 of the best North York Moors walks here.
Go cycling: The North York Moors has numerous cycling trails catering to all experience levels. Visitors can go on a guided tour or rent a bike to explore the tracks independently.
Eat and drink nearby at The Fox and the Hounds, Ainthorpe
The village of Ainthorpe, located nearby, is home to the oldest pub in the region, the Fox and Hounds, which has operated since 1555. They pride themselves on using locally sourced seasonal produce in their dishes. The menu features delicious home-cooked meals prepared onsite and includes a selection of daily-changing seasonal specials. On Sundays, the kitchen roasts a choice of tender meat joints for a mouth-watering Sunday lunch. We love visiting here; it has such a lovely atmosphere!
Camp nearby at Wild Slack Farm
We camped here, and we had to include it in this article. The owner was lovely and fit us in despite having limited space; he could not have been more helpful and welcoming. Each pitch is equipped with a 240v 16amp electrical hook-up for your convenience. The site also provides practical amenities such as facilities for emptying chemical toilet cassettes and replenishing fresh water supplies. For your comfort, washing and shower facilities are available on-site. The site is set in the Moors, just a short drive from the Danby Lodge National Park Centre and is a great place to make your base. Learn more about Wild Slack Farm.
The Danby Lodge National Park Centre is a must visit for anyone exploring the North York Moors. From the fascinating exhibitions and educational displays to the beautiful woodland walks and outdoor play areas, there’s something for everyone to enjoy. Let us know your thoughts in the comments if you have ever visited.