A Guide to the North York Moors National Park

North York Moors National Park Guide

One of the UK’s most cherished destinations, the North York Moors National Park spans 1,436 square kilometres of breathtaking, diverse landscapes, in the heart of North Yorkshire. Since 1952, this treasured piece of earth has been protected as a National Park, known for containing England’s largest heather moorland, 26 miles of heritage coastline, and large expanses of shady woodland. There is a rare sense of space in this park, whether you are standing in open moorland, ablaze with purple heather in summer, or stargazing, away from noise pollution, enjoying the depth and magnificence of the dark, star-filled night sky. There is so much to see and do when you visit the North York Moors that we have created this guide to inform your exploration. 

North York Moors National Park: What to See 

The natural wonders and scenic beauty of North York Moors are astonishingly diverse, encompassing everything from lush valleys to expansive moorlands to rugged coastline. Be sure to visit some of the iconic natural landmarks within the park, which offer breathtaking views and plenty of opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

  • Roseberry Topping may be the most recognisable hill in the entire North York Moors. It is sometimes called Yorkshire’s Matterhorn, and it looks a bit like a witch’s hat. It is a nice place to hike with children, because there is a relatively easy route that will take you to the top. In the springtime, you will enjoy the surrounding bluebell woods, which are absolutely stunning. 
  • Sutton Bank has its own cycling centre. There are plenty of trails for hiking and biking, and the view across Gormire Lake from Sutton Bank has been described by author James Herriot as the finest in Yorkshire. 
  • The Cleveland Hills overlook Cleveland and Teesside, from the northwest edge of the North York Moors. Located entirely within the boundaries of the National Park, the hills rise abruptly from the flat Tees Valley and are made of multiple stacked layers of Jurassic-age sedimentary rocks. 

North York Moors National Park: Things to Do 

If you are looking for outdoor activities and adventures, you will find an extravagant selection at North York Moors. Hiking, cycling, horseback riding, and wildlife watching are all on the menu, at difficulty levels suited for every member of the family. 

  • You will find an abundance of wonderful walks. Walk the Cleveland Way National Trail, which stretches from Helmsley to the Filey, on the coast, passing through moors thick with heather, beautiful villages, famous resorts, and more. There are stretches from easy to strenuous, to suit every ability level. The Wainstones Walk features 8 miles through astonishing moorland scenery, featuring the remoteness of Cold Moor, Urra Moor, and, of course, the rock crags known as the Wainstones. Along the way, you will find old boundary markers and Bronze Age burial sites that accentuate the ancient beauty of the place. You might also enjoy the Esk Valley Path, along the River Esk, particularly the part that runs from the village of Grosmont and ends in Whitby, by the sea. 
  • North York Moors is a cyclist’s paradise, with three cycling centres within the national park and numerous bike rental shops throughout the area. Bikers can ride on country roads, bridleways, forest tracks and disused railway lines. There are 11 routes within the Moor to Sea Cycle Network, a long-distance ride on quiet roads and scenic forest trails. Dalby Forest is a popular place for mountain biking, with routes suitable for families, like the 1.7-mile Ellerburn Family Cycle Route. There are also options for experienced cyclists, like Dixon’s Hollow Bike Park, where adventurous riders will enjoy dirt jumps and a track. Another great mountain biking spot for families and beginners is Sutton Bank, with its popular 3-mile Cliff Trail. 

  • Head to the shore for water sports and seaside recreation. Rent a canoe or kayak at Whitby Harbour, go surfing or paddleboarding in Sandsend or Cayton Bay, or head to one of the many beaches to explore rockpools and hunt for fossils. Robin Hood’s Bay, Saltburn, and Boggle Hole are all good beach options. You can also hire a wooden pleasure boat from Ruswarp, or take a boat trip from the harbour at Whitby. 
  • Relax and enjoy a ride on a heritage railway. The NYMR operates a beautifully restored steam train between Pickering and Whitby, with special services at different times of year. Take a ride to enjoy the gorgeous countryside, and stop at places like Grosmont’s 1950s-style station, Levisham’s Victorian station, and Goathland, which you might recognise as Hogsmeade from the Harry Potter films. There are also smaller seaside train rides available, like the North Bay Railway in Scarborough, as well as miniature railways at Saltburn and Ruswarp.
  • Find a Dark Sky Discovery Site and do some stargazing. The North York Moors National Park was designated an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2020, and the Moors National Park Centre in Danby, the Sutton Bank National Park Centre, and Dalby Forest are all Dark Skies Discovery Sites. 

North York Moors National Park: Historic Sites and Cultural Heritage

If your preferences run more towards history than outdoor sports, you are spoilt for choices in the North York Moors. Rich history and cultural heritage are here to explore, with ancient monuments, historic villages, and industrial heritage sites. 

  • Whitby Abbey sits atop a headland, overlooking the North Sea and Whitby, a charming Yorkshire harbour town. The first monastery was established at Whitby in 657, and the abbey that remains today is the ruins of a 13th-century monastery. Hauntingly beautiful, it inspired “Dracula”, when author Bram Stoker took a break in Whitby in 1890 and was moved by the abbey’s eeriness. 
  • Rievaulx Abbey has been a beautiful ruin for centuries. Once one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries, it stands at the northern head of the Cleveland Way National Trail. The perfect spot for anyone who loves history or nature, it features the Rievaulx Terrace landscaped gardens, located next to the abbey ruins. 
  • Helmsley is a popular market town, featuring excellent pubs, tearooms, and independent shops. It’s also home to Helmsley Castle, the Helmsley Walled Garden, and the only heated open-air swimming pool in Yorkshire. Wander along the stream that runs along the back of the cobbled market square, enjoy afternoon tea at the Historic Black Swan, and sample a handcrafted beer at Helmsley Brewery. 

  • Pickering, a bustling market town, sits on the edge of the North York Moors. There are about 100 independent shops to browse in Pickering, and a popular market is held there every Monday. Visit the town's bookshops, boutiques, gift shops, and indoor flea market. A 13th-century castle on the outskirts of town features interesting exhibitions and extensive grounds. 
  • Goathland will look familiar to fans of Harry Potter and the popular ITV drama, Heartbeat. Located a few miles from Whitby, it’s a pretty North Moors village with picturesque stone cottages, gorgeous scenery, quaint shops, and sheep often grazing on the green. From Goathland, you can take a ride on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway for outstanding views of the surrounding countryside. 

Wildlife and Conservation:

The diverse wildlife in the North York Moors includes rare species such as red grouse, curlews, and adders. Merlins, an endangered species and the UK’s smallest bird of prey, can be spotted in the park, along with skylarks and peregrine falcons. Conservation efforts are ongoing, because this landscape is so important to the wildlife it houses that it has been deemed a Site of Special Scientific Interest. Biodiverse and beautiful, the area is being sustainably managed so that it can retain its character and evolve to support an even greater abundance of species and habitats. 

Local Cuisine and Dining Experiences:

The culinary delights of the North York Moors include traditional Yorkshire dishes, locally sourced produce, and award-winning restaurants and pubs.

  • Pop into a pub for great local fare. The Pembrokes Bar is a mix of traditional country pub and continental bistro, so you have plenty of options. At the Goathland Hotel and Pub, you will find at least 16 malt whiskies, delicious home-cooked meals featuring locally sourced produce, and an atmosphere that is family-friendly and welcomes dogs. If you are looking for an “olde-worlde” pub, visit The Royal George, in the heart of Staithes, for a cool drink and some tasty fish and chips. On Blakey Ridge, at an elevation of 1,325 feet, you will find the Lion Inn, a 16th-century inn, and in the small valley bottom village of Beck Hall, the Birch Hall Inn holds the title of smallest pub in North York Moors. Just about every little village will have its own lovely pub, from The Golden Lion in Osmotherly to the Cod and Lobster in Staithes, to the dog-friendly Horseshoe Inn Levisham. 
  • Pubs are certainly not the only option. For a fine dining experience, try The Black Swan at Oldstead, a Michelin-starred restaurant led by head chef Tommy Banks, or The Star Inn Harome, a 14th-century inn that Yorkshire chef Andrew Pern has made into a top-notch restaurant. Find a wide array of seafood at Magpie Café at Whitby, or dine on locally raised meat at The Belted Bull at Lordstones. You can easily find a tea room, and one of the most charming is Graze on the Green in Rosedale Abbey. 
  • Find a farmers’ market or food festival. Almost every month, you will find a food festival in North York Moors, including the Filey International Food Festival in March, June, August, and October, Fish and Ships Whitby in May, and the Malton Food Lovers Festival in May and August. July brings the Scarborough Seafest, the Whitby & District Lions Annual Charity Beer Festival, and the Saltburn Food Festival, and the year wraps up with the Sun Inn Beer and Cider Festival in September, the Cropton Brewery Beer Fest in November, and the Malton Christmas Festival in December. Should you not be able to make any of these, you will find traditional weekly markets in many market towns, and an abundance of farm shops that sell fresh produce, typically alongside other local fare. 

Practical Travel Tips and Visitor Information

When you are planning a trip to the North York Moors, you will find a wealth of information on the North York Moors National Park’s official website. The Tourist Information Centres, located in many of the villages throughout the North York Moors, are also a good place to start when you are making plans. You can drive to North York Moors, but it is also accessible via rail or bus, and a good network of rail and bus services serves many of the main towns and villages. 

Explore North York Moors with Together Travel

When you are ready to visit North York Moors National Park, Together Travel Co. has a perfectly lovely cottage where you can stay and relax. Tucked away in Glaisdale, a village where cosy stone-built cottages are surrounded by the dramatically beautiful landscape of the North York Moors National Park, our property is a very special place. It offers a haven where walkers and nature lovers can relax and enjoy all the places to visit in North York Moors. Further, it is located a short drive away from Whitby, making it the perfect place to access both countryside and coast. No matter where you are travelling in the UK, Together Travel is here to bring your holiday dreams to life, just around the corner from home. All across the UK, we have luxurious, comfortable, unique properties located wherever you want to be, spending your holidays connecting, relaxing, and enjoying all these vacation spots have to offer. Find out how we can make your trip amazing by contacting our expert concierge team at +44(0)1625 416430 or emailing us for more information.