Things to do in North Yorkshire

Where is Yorkshire?

The heart of the North-East is the broad, lowland corridor which carries the Main rail and road routes from London and the Midlands, through to the Scottish Border. If you are looking for things to do in North Yorkshire we are sure you will find inspiration here.

Things to Do in York – North Yorkshire

York is the great city of this lowland country and stands on a site between two rivers.  The Romans had chosen it as a place which could be easily defended. Their legacy is evident everywhere, but the history of this area includes huge Saxon Kingdoms and Norman Conquests.  

If you are heading for York, see our comprehensive guide, A Journey Through Time: Things to Do in York here

Things to do in North Yorkshire

A mecca for Lycra-clad cyclists, weaving their way amongst the stone-edged ‘B’ roads and tiny lanes.  These determined sportsmen and women descend ‘en-mass’ to tiny guest houses in out-of-the-way places.  No doubt keeping some of these B&Bs in business and the function of luggage concierge, a thriving industry. 

Walkers too love the huge expanse of grass and heather and Peat. The best way to savour the attractions of the area is to walk through the haunt of the grouse and pheasant.  It is easy to walk for a morning, a day, or even a whole weekend meeting only a solitary farmer. 

Inland, a visitor may walk canal paths. The Norman walls in York. Georgian towns such as Richmond. Admire the medieval stained glass in York Minster or simply relax at a variety of resorts. These range from tiny fishing villages such as Sandsend to Scarborough. One of the North East’s most visually striking coast towns.

Sports flourish in North Yorkshire with almost every town and village having a cricket field. Everyone you meet is an expert of the game.  Football too has a large following. The days of flat caps and Pigeon fanciers are long gone.  

North Yorkshire Drives

North Yorkshire also has some amazing driving routes.  This is no surprise as it has some of the most scenic roads in the country.  From the coast, you will find rugged hills and valleys…… and a sizeable lump of history.

If you are driving anything bigger than a car then we would suggest you check the route on google maps street view before setting off.

A171 Whitby to Scarborough Don’t miss this route and its amazing coastal views. We undertook part of this route when we visited Ravenscar from Whitby. The delights are there, but you may have to detour slightly.

B1257 Helmsley to Stokesley. Mentioned in our trip details and is an easy ‘add-on’ after you have visited Yorkshire Lavender.  The route follows the picturesque Moors through stunning villages and landscapes.  With breathtaking views,  it’s definitely worth a detour.

Driving routes out of York On leaving York to visit the Yorkshire Moors you have a couple of options. Yes, the A65 is very direct and very inviting (although often suffering under the weight of its popularity). Taking a more scenic route is always preferable to really get a feel of the area. By leaving York via the Strensall Road you can catch a couple of amazing treats.  

Yorkshire Lavender

lavender field

This gem of a family-run business is on the edge of the Howardian Hills.  

Open from April to November and obviously at its best when the Lavender is actually flowering, the site also boasts an amazing cafe with delicious local food.  

The Lavender Maze, the Wibbly Wobbly Way and a Huge Snakes and Ladders game will keep the kids amused.  For the adults, you will find a variety of different formal Gardens, from Dry to Bog. A sensory garden and a natural wildflower grassland.  Keep those eyes peeled for butterflies and creepy crawlies.

The entry price is exceptionally reasonable leaving you more money to spend on delicious lavender-based ‘smellies’.  If you are clever you can get all your Christmas presents bought.  For the budding chef in the family would question some Culinary lavender and a recipe book? 

Pre-order a picnic for your family, and bring your dog.  All are welcome here.

Finish by visiting the nursery section and bring back a little of the fabulous Yorkshire lavender to your home, Keep those wonderful memories alive.

The drive north from here will bring you out on the A170 at Helmsley.  

From here there is a great driving route to Stokesley along the B1257 through the  North York Moors national park.

Castle Howard – North Yorkshire

A short drive to the West and in the Vale of Pickering you will find the very grand setting of Castle Howard.  This palatial home, designed by Sir John Vanbrugh, is open to the public from Easter Sunday until the first Sunday in October.  

Originally built for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, eight generations of the Howard family have since occupied Castle Howard.  Each one growing and developing the estate.  

Famed for their Farm to Fork approach. There’s amazing food to buy and eat, all in addition to the house and its amazing gardens.  

Its immense facade in a setting of magnificent parkland, is visible for miles around.  The mansion contains a notable long gallery, fine furniture and paintings.  In the grounds, there is a circular mausoleum designed by Nicholas Hawksmoor and a Temple of the Four Winds designed by Vanbrugh.  Try and ensure you are on a tour to really get the best from your visit. You can do one for both the house and its gardens.

Today you can stay on the site in a house, tent or motorhome. It’s worth considering staying at this wonderful location and enjoying the walks and activities in the area. A day’s visit is unlikely to be enough time to really enjoy all there is to see and do here.  


A confusion of roads converges on this important market town. Situated above the River Derwent, it would be easy to miss the Norman Old Market square. Steeped in history the Wikipedia page for this town gives you great insight into its history.  Today this town is known as a draw for ‘foodies’. A regular Saturday Market is a lively day worth the trouble if your itinerary will allow.


Pickering High Street Things to do in North Yorkshire

Pickering, is often referred to as the “Gateway to the Moors”. It sits comfortably on the border of the North York Moors National Park, commanding the broad vale. Historically significant, Pickering’s roots trace back to the early Mesolithic period, making it a location ripe with ancient stories. Its iconic ruined castle, tells tales of the Norman Conquest and has remained an emblematic structure for over 1,000 years.

Pickering Church

Pickering Church Things to Do inNorth Yorkshire

St Peter and St Paul church in the centre of town above the Main Street.  Originally a Saxon church then rebuilt by the Normans in the 11th Century.  Additional parts were added from the 12th to the 15th Century.

King Henry VIII’s reformation caused the ‘painting over’ of the beautiful wall paintings. Rediscovered in 1851 they were covered back over until 1870 when they were extensively restored.  They remain one of the most complete series of wall paintings in English Churches. Giving you a real feel of what ecclesiastical interiors used to look like. 

North Yorkshire Moors Railway

You’ll find the usual mix of traditional and artisan shopping in Pickering, and additionally the Station of Pickering on the NYMR line. 

At the heart of this town, Pickering Station stands as a testament to Victorian architecture. Having opened in 1836, the station today serves as the southern terminus of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR). Emanating a nostalgic atmosphere, the station offers passengers a glimpse into the golden age of steam. Complete with its well-preserved signal box and period-appropriate fixtures.

Pickering is the end of the line (the other being Whitby). The station platforms are great to wander (free) even if you don’t want to take a train anywhere. If you time it right you’ll see a train come in.  Stay for a while and take tea and a snack in the wonderful little station cafe.

There is an exceptional carpark (attended) by the Railway sheds. Here you can find a reasonably priced space for any type of vehicle.  Everything in Pickering is within a short walk.

The Timeless Journey: From Pickering to Whitby on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Steam Railway north Yorkshire

A Scenic Route to Whitby

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway is one of the world’s most historic railway lines. Stretching for 24 miles, weaving through the enchanting landscape of the North York Moors. Along its route, several stations, each with its own charm and history, serve as milestones.

Pickering Station Steam Train
  • Levisham Station: Nestled within a secluded valley, Levisham offers visitors a peaceful retreat. With scarcely more than a handful of buildings in sight, the station is a perfect representation of the rural serenity that North Yorkshire provides.
  • Newtondale Halt: This request-stop station is a doorway to nature. Surrounded by dense forests, it’s a preferred spot for hikers and those looking to explore the adjoining Newtondale Forest.
  • Goathland Station: Recognizable to many as the fictional ‘Hogsmeade’ from the Harry Potter films, Goathland is much more than a movie set. It’s a bustling village station where time seems to slow down. Beyond its cinematic connections, the station and the village have a rich railway heritage.
  • Grosmont Station: Before reaching Whitby, trains pass through Grosmont, where the NYMR joins the Esk Valley Railway. Notably, it houses the engine sheds, where visitors can get an inside look at the locomotives.

Driving over the North Yorkshire Moors

The North Yorkshire Moors

Turning left out of the NYMR carpark onto ‘Undercliffe’ and follow the road. If you have time to only have one drive out across the moors then this is worth the trouble.  Purple heather as far as the eye can see. Tiny villages, concern-free sheep, river fords and finally arrival at Egton Bridge.

Heather on the North Yorkshire Moors

The Horseshoe Inn at the end of the drive is rather eclectic.  The outside is in no way reflected in the interior of Steampunk and Tartan.  It has excellent food and reasonably priced, comfortable beds if you find yourself looking for a home for the night.

Grosmont Engine Sheds

Grosmont Engine Sheds

For us, we were heading to the Engine sheds of the NYMR at Grosmont.
This was the main reason for our visit to Yorkshire.
I am delighted to confirm that it didn’t disappoint.

We had been in discussion with “Paul” from the train ‘sheds’ in Grosmont for some weeks regarding a ‘one-to-one’ tour for my elderly father who has a hearing impairment following years in Heavy Engineering.

The afternoon found us finally meeting with Paul, who was as genuine and lovely, as he had come across in our email exchanges. I am so thankful for his time and his interest in my fathers ‘tales’.

The look around the shed was a world of engine smells, grease, and old engines.  Some working some ‘works in progress’ but an absolute delight and time so well spent for any ‘train buff’.  The tours are free but have to be booked in advance.


You can travel on the NYMR from Pickering to Whitby. Enjoy an hour or so. Eventually, the perfect green British countryside is swapped for seaside ‘brass’.  Take time to enjoy Whitby famed for its Fish and Chip lunch before taking the train back.

We made our way out to Slights first. Staying in our motor home in a wonderful tiny field (just five spaces). Bonnie Banks is an Adult only site with just five spaces and it is very good value.  A wonderful view of the patchworked countryside, across as far as the sea. Whitby and its abbey were in full view, and there were horses in the next field. As the light began to leave for the day, out came the baby rabbits.  So perhaps there is an excellent reason why even the most well-behaved dog needs to be on a lead!

Tea this night was from Eskdale Fisheries in Slights. This was one of the best Fish and Chip dinners we have had in ages. I guess as we could see Whitby from there then the fish is about as fresh as it can be!

Caution if you are a fish-eating vegetarian. Yorkshire Fish and Chips are mostly cooked in Beef Dripping!

Whitby was an obvious destination for the following day.

Whitby: A Coastal Terminus

Upon reaching Whitby, the sea breeze immediately signifies the journey’s end. A picturesque coastal town, Whitby is renowned for its historical and cultural significance. The town’s abbey ruins, perched on the cliffs. Overlooking the North Sea it serves as a reminder of the region’s ancient monastic traditions. Whitby is also inextricably linked to the legend of Dracula. A rich maritime history also is enhanced by its thriving fishing industry.

Whitby North Yorkshire

Whitby Station, though not originally a part of NYMR, serves as the line’s northern terminus. The station itself boasts classic architecture that complements the town’s rich history.

Whitby Harbour North Yorkshire

In conclusion, the journey from Pickering to Whitby on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is more than just a train ride. It’s a voyage through time, capturing the essence of North Yorkshire’s rich past and diverse landscapes. For those who embark on this journey, the experiences and sights are truly unparalleled.

The A171 road from Whitby to Scarborough is an obvious route when choosing a way to ‘circle back’ to Pickering.  We couldn’t resist dropping into Ravenscar, somewhere we had not visited previously.  Its history was interesting and cliff views were going to make a change from beach photos.

Ravenscar – The Town That Never Was.

Ravenscar, the town that never was

This area was once a stop on the Whitby to Scarborough Railway.  The line was closed in the mid 1960’s. It was never really viable and suffered from steep inclines which the trains had difficulty in achieving.  

The Cliffs at Ravenscar

Today the Cinder trail is in its place, making for good walking and cycling along the coast path.

There had at one point been big plans for a coastal resort here to rival its famous neighbours. This came to nothing. The road networks remain but the town hasn’t grown as planned. It is much more pleasant for it.

Thornton Dale

Beck Isle Cottage North Yorkshire

Two miles to the east of Pickering. Here the cottage gardens of pretty Thornton Dale village slope down to a clear roadside stream.  The very well photographed, Grade two listed, thatched, “Beck Isle cottage” on the edge of Thornton Beck which runs through the town.  No doubt its owners are feeling the pinch following the demise of the “Photo topped Chocolate Box”.  

Don’t expect the whole of the village to look like this – it’s not the Cotswolds.  

However, it is a very pretty town, one of the prettiest in Yorkshire.  The market square has old stocks and an interesting range of shops.  Tourism is one of the main draws and parking is easy.  It’s most definitely worth a stop-off.

The Best Yorkshire Food

Whilst you are travelling around ensure you try some of the local fare.  

  • Dressed Crab or scampi in Whitby.  Try the Magpie Cafe
  • Yorkshire Curd Tart from the Russells Bakery in Pickering
  • Remember south of here is the Rhubarb Triangle!

The most well-known and loved item of Yorkshire fare is the Yorkshire Pudding.  You’ll find them as an accompaniment to all Beef roast dinners. They are also served as a Taco with gravy dip.  The Yorkshire love of Yorkshire puddings is evident everywhere.  

  • Try the York Roast Company in York town for a Roast dinner takeaway or a Yorkiepud ‘wrap’. 

Best Recipe for Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire Pudding Homemade

If you want to try to make Yorkshire Puddings at home, we can recommend this Yorkshire Pudding Homemade recipe, from Yorkshire man and amazing chef James Martin.  James is from Milton and started his culinary journey working at the Castle Howard kitchens.  Being the case it seems fitting that we finish this circular route with his own recipe.

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