Pickering is a glorious and ancient market town that sits on the edge of the North York Moors. We have picked out 12 things to do in Pickering when you visit.
It is full of handsome streets, quiet corners, and tucked away alleys to explore. As well as being a wonderful town just to walk around and view, Pickering has a plethora of exciting places to visit in and around it. These include The Beck Isle Museum, Cropton Forest, Cawthorn Roman Camp, Pickering Castle, and many more. Here are 12 of the best things to do in Pickering.
1. Visit Beck Isle Museum
Beck Isle Museum is housed within a fine regency period grade two listed mansion and aims to tell the tale of the social history and rural life of Pickering. Its collections include interesting displays of Pickering throughout history, photography, and historic costume. There are also business displays such as barbers, blacksmiths, cobblers, coopers, and a Victorian-era pub; all of which give you a fabulous idea of Pickering days gone by.
Beck Isle Museum also hold special events throughout the year including fossil hunting, traditional craft days, easy peasy printing, Christmas fairs, and the famous 1940’s wartime weekend. This last event is also celebrated throughout Pickering when the town turns the clock back to this post-war era.
2. Visit Rosedale Abbey
Rosedale Abbey is a small village located close to Pickering and incredibly popular with those who enjoy their country walks. It has a steep and winding route leading down to it on either side of the Dale which, for walking, may not be for the faint-hearted. Despite its name, there is actually no Abbey in the village, nor has there ever been. Rather there was just a small Cistercian nunnery of which only the stone turret remains.
Rosedale Abbey is now a very quiet and serene place although this was not always the case. It was, in fact, once a flourishing ironstone industry hub with traces of this still visible above the village on the line of the former mineral railway. Glass making was also practised here over 400 years ago but very much on the quiet. It was an illegal trade practised by Huguenot craftsmen who have been brought back there today.
Gillies Jones, owned by Stephen Gilles and Kate Jones is a fabulous glass workshop in Rosedale Abbey where you can view the phenomenal skills involved in making glass. They are most famous for, in fact, world-renowned for their complex cameo works. They use traditional methods to fold different coloured glass bubbles over each other to produce amazingly complex multi-layered and coloured pieces. All of which you will be pleased to hear you can purchase in the shop attached to the workshop.
3. Ride the North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Riding on an NYMR steam train is one of our favourite things to do in Pickering. Originally known as the Whitby and Pickering Railway, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a preserved line that has become a popular tourist attraction. It was planned by George Stephenson in 1831 as a means of opening up trade routes inland from Whitby. From 2007 it has run regular services over the six-mile stretch (North of Grosmont to Whitby) through the Esk Valley.
Pickering Station is, of course, just one of the places that the North Yorkshire Moors Railway services pass through. This station was restored to its 1937 glory recently with help from the Heritage Lottery Fund. All original fixtures and fittings have been installed in the booking and parcels office, as well as the station’s tea room.
Along the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, you can visit Lewisham, Grosmont, Dale Halt, Whitby, Goathland (home of TV’s Heartbeat and Harry Potter’s Hogsmeade station), as well as Pickering! Special events also take place throughout the year, including Halloween trains, winter excursions, Santa specials, and the Northern Lights Express. Many of these are run on either steam or diesel trains.
4. Shopping and Eating
No market town would be complete without having its fair share of shops and, of course, a market and Pickering is no different. It has a plethora of places to spend your money, many of which are vintage in style. There is also a fabulous flea market where you can buy items such as crystals, aromatherapy, antiques and gifts. It’s quaint, a hidden shopping gem, and full of the old and new.
For food, it would be fair to say Pickering has something for everyone. From tearooms specialising in traditional recipes to Indian, Chinese, and of course fish and chips. There is also a good selection of pubs, cafes, bakeries, and delis for you to choose from. Pickering certainly won’t leave you hungry, on the contrary, it will keep your energy levels high. We recommend The Bay Horse Inn for fantastic homely pub food.
5. Cawthorn Roman Camp
Just 17 miles from Pickering lies Cropton and the Cawthorn Roman Camp which was once home to a motte-and-bailey castle. Built of wood by Robert De Stuteville, the castle commanded an excellent defensive position that overlooked Rosedale. It is well worth a visit with the help of the ‘Cawthorn Roman Camp’ booklet which really brings the place to life.
Around the camp, you can still see the earthworks, the perimeter of the bailey, rampart, and the remains of the bank. A second ditch and earth bank can also be found which would have defended the castle from the valley bottom approach. Nothing, however, can beat the views that you get from the escarpment which defies description. From this viewpoint, you can see the splendour of the North Yorkshire Moors unfolding before you.
6. Visit The New Inn, The Yorkshire and Cropton Brewery
Cropton is also home to the Yorkshire and Cropton Brewery which was founded in the cellar of the New Inn in 1984. It started off small, just two pints being served to some customers, but soon took off due to its tasty ales. By 1994, the demand was so great that the brewery moved into farmland behind the New Inn, where production doubled within just twelve months. Fast forward to 2019 and this brewery is one of North Yorkshire’s best-kept secrets that you absolutely must visit.
If you fancy trying the Yorkshire and Cropton Breweries fine ales such as Monksman and Slaughter, you can pop into the pub itself. Here you will also find accommodation and food tasty enough to make your mouth water! Items on the menu include such delights as Yorkshire hand made pork pie, smoked duck, and baked cod fillet. You can choose to eat in their elegant restaurant, village bar, or conservatory.
7. Pickering Castle
Originally constructed by William the Conqueror around 1069, Pickering Castle was built to maintain control of the area after the harrying of the North. It is situated within the Vale of Pickering and holds a great defensive position with its steep cliff to the west side.
As you will see when you visit the remains of Pickering castle are remarkably well preserved. This is probably due to it being one of only a few castles to be largely untouched by the 15th century War of the Roses and the 17th century civil war. It also probably aided that it was regularly upgraded right up until the 14th century. It was taken from timber and earth to stone with a stone shell keep over the years.
Nowadays you can still see the motte and coleman tower, outer gatehouse, barbican, outer bailey, chapel, keep staircase, and outer bailey towers. You also should not miss out on the chapel exhibition, the keep, known as the king’s room, and the family books and activities.
8. St Peter And St Paul’s Church
Sitting on top of a small hill in the centre of town, St Peter and St Paul’s is Pickering’s parish church. It has a spire that can be seen right across the Ryedale District and is a grade one listed building built in the Anglo-Saxon era. Little is known about the original building which the remains of can be seen inside the current one, other than that it was rebuilt in 1140 with additions being made right up until the 15th century.
It is not, however, the outer building of St Peter and St Paul’s that makes this church an absolute must-see attraction, rather it is what is contained inside! A series of medieval wall paintings which follow the liturgical calendar!
Believed to have been commissioned in 1450, these wonderful paintings were later covered over during the protestant reformation where they could have been lost to us forever. However, this was luckily not meant to be and they were rediscovered, by accident, when plaster fell from the walls in 1852.
Though initially uncovered, the vicar at the time, a Rev F Ponsoby, took a disliking to the pictures and ordered them to be whitewashed out. He did, however, concede to have sketches of them done which the Rev GH Lightfoot would see in 1876. He, in turn, ordered the paintings to be uncovered again and restored them to their former glory for all to see.
Nowadays, you can view these wonderful paintings which cover the majority of the nave walls. They depict scenes from the lives of the saints, the seven acts of corporal mercy such as the passion and the resurrection of Christ, and also the harrowing of hell.
9. Step back in time at Eden Camp
Are you ready to hear, see and even smell what life would have been like on the home front and the front line? Eden Camp is a great place to have fun and learn about war history set in the buildings and grounds of an original World War 2 Prisoner of War Camp.
Eden Camp is not your average museum. It is an engaging experience that everyone can connect with. There is a vast amount of information to take in here covering all aspects of the war, from animals parts in the war to fashion and food of the era.
They have a ‘bunker cafe’ which is a great place to refuel, all of the food here is prepared daily and locally sourced. Eden Camp is a great place out for the entire family. They hold special events here throughout the year so make sure to check their website for more details.
10. Visit Malton
One of our favourite days out when stopping in nearby Pickering is a visit to the Yorkshire food hub of Malton. A short 15 drive from Pickering, Malton is bursting at the seams with independent shops and great places to eat and drink. It’s a town made famous by its markets, artisan producers and it is known as Yorkshires food capital. Its often featured on television programmes where people come to taste the culinary delights on offer here.
The Talbot Yard Food Court is a great place to head to in Malton to delight the senses, where you can try heavenly pastries from the bluebird bakery, enjoy delicious macaroons and desserts at Florian Poirot, the UK Pastry Champion, devour ice cream at Groovy Moo Gelato who’s signature flavours include Bakewell tart, or take home a fresh cut of meat, poultry or pies from Food 2 Remember.
11. Test your nerve at Dalby Forest and Go Ape
Dalby Forest, located in the North York Moors is well known for its incredible views and over 8000 acres of woodland to explore. There are 13 walking trails, 4 running trails and 6 cycling trails here, so you are spoilt for choice. You can also hire bikes here and then decide if you want to try a family-friendly or more challenging route.
There are plenty of things to do here for children, watch out for the magical fort, giant insects and carvings then test your skills at the Gruffalo orienteering route. There are picnic sites to enjoy some outdoor dining or grab a bite to eat and a drink in the café.
For those with a real sense of adventure, Go Ape Dalby is perfect. They have a Treetop Challenge, Treetop Adventure, and Forest Segways. The challenge course here is 35 metres in the air! Test your nerve and have a great day out here.
12. Enjoy Flamingo land
There is so much fun you can have at Flamingo Land, it has all the highlights of a theme park as well as a zoo. You can even have a short break or holiday and stay here. With animal encounters, thrilling rides, inspiring shows and lots of photo opportunities, Flamingo Land is a well-loved place for a family day out. Take a picnic and enjoy food on the grounds here or try one of Flamingo Land’s fantastic choice of restaurants, from The Metropolis Bar & Grill, to The Coach House, their traditional country pub.
You can pre-book online to save money on your ticket price and they often hold special events here so make sure to check out their website if you fancy celebrating with them.