The North York Moors National Park is one of the UK’s most extraordinary places, established in 1952 the 554 square miles of fabulous countryside, open heather moorland and rugged coast are worth exploring. From rolling panoramas and big skies to enchanting forests and idyllic dales, there’s a sense of peace and tranquillity here that’s hard to beat – and all this just 20 miles or so north of York.
Head to the National Park to experience the vast swathes of heather moorland, which during late summer flushes purple, creating a truly magnificent sight. This beautiful place is a haven for all sorts of wildlife, particularly ground-nesting birds such as curlew, lapwing, golden plover and merlin, worth looking out at for at dramatic moorland sites including Levisham Moor and the Hole of Horcum. Exploring the National Park’s 26-mile Jurassic-age coastline – from historic, picture-postcard fishing villages like Robin Hood’s Bay to hideaway coves and soaring cliffs with breath-taking views, is an absolute must. The atmospheric cobbled alleyways of Robin Hood’s Bay are yearning to be discovered and you can even follow a set of clues to uncover its smuggling secrets.
Why not take an unforgettable wildlife trip? North York Moors Wildlife Photography Tours promise a memorable day out, or join whale spotting adventures from Staithes, nature safaris or rock pooling expeditions with the Hidden Horizons team.
Great journeys await you by train on both the Esk Valley Railway, linking moorland villages to the sea at Whitby and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the most popular heritage line in the world which sees steam and heritage diesel services running right through the heart of the moors. Be sure to head to Goathland Station, famously portrayed as Hogsmeade Station in the first Harry Potter film.
Danby Lodge National Park Centre offers ideas aplenty for adventure play areas, woodland and riverside trails (complete with five-metre long dragon!), family events and activities, and Inspired by… a beautiful contemporary art gallery with regularly changing exhibitions.
At Sutton Bank National Park Centre, soak up ‘England’s finest view’ from the spectacular panoramic viewpoint. Let the kids go wild in the natural adventure play area, various cycle trails and 330metre pump track. Investigate the many hands-on exhibits, crafts and activities available. The beautiful valleys in this area have inspired monastic communities for centuries – see why with a visit to the haunting ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, Byland Abbey and Mount Grace Priory, House and Gardens where you can discover your own place of contemplation. Other heritage gems include Helmsley and Pickering Castles and Helmsley Walled Garden.
Follow the Moor to Sea Cycle Network, the National Park’s flagship long-distance bike route, which connects Scarborough, Whitby, Dalby Forest, Pickering and Great Ayton in a stunning series of moorland, forest and coastal loops – that’s 150 miles of pedal-powered freedom on quiet roads, woodland tracks and bridleways. Hit the bike trails at Dalby Forest – one of the best places in the UK for mountain-biking – or spend a more leisurely day walking the forest and moorland tracks, picnicking in the grassy meadows or having a fun-filled adventure under the canopy at Go Ape! Tree Top Adventures.
With Dark Sky Discovery Sites at Sutton Bank, Danby Lodge and Dalby Forest, the National Park is also a fabulous place to glimpse the Milky Way with the naked eye. We have two annual Dark Skies Festivals taking place in February and October half term with various events including: workshops, stargazing, wildlife watching, dark skies runs and bike rides, it's a great way to celebrate the night.
The area’s market towns and villages are also thriving communities full of historic and culinary interest. Weekly markets in Helmsley (winner of Britain’s Best Market Town in the Great British High Street Awards), Kirkbymoorside, Pickering, Thirsk, Stokesley and Northallerton are always worth catching, while Malton is carving out a fast-growing foodie reputation, from artisan food producers in Talbot Yard Food Court to its annual food fest.
Explore the quiet villages, rolling countryside, country inns and majestic Castle Howard in the neighbouring Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.