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Helmsley

Helmsley by Chris J ParkerHelmsley by Chris J Parker

The picturesque market town on the banks of the River Rye has a gracious setting, sheltered beneath the remains of a medieval castle. There’s a fine market square and ancient market cross – market day is Friday – as well as some delightful alleys and independent shops in town. It's also the winner of Britain’s Best Market Town in the Great British High Street Awards 2015.

The beautiful ruins of Rievaulx Abbey are just a short walk away, while Helmsley is the gateway to the western side of the National Park with its stunning dales and moorland walks. 

Things to see and do

The fine market square is dominated by the 19th-century Feversham memorial – the family seat is at Duncombe Park, on the edge of town, whose woods and grounds are a National Nature Reserve, home to many ancient trees and bird species. And don’t miss the biggest collection of birds of prey in the north of England at Duncombe Park’s National Centre for Birds of Prey.

The ruins and walls of Helmsley Castle tower over the town, while All Saints, the Parish Church, contains some interesting murals which illustrate the history of the church and the parish.

Another peaceful corner is Helmsley Walled Garden, dating from the 1750s and originally used to provide fruit, vegetables and cut flowers for Duncombe Park. Its popular Apple Day held every October celebrates the English apple and more than 100 apple trees in the garden, with demos and orchard tours.

Nearby trips

Rievaulx Abbey shouldn’t be missed – it’s an easy 2-mile walk or short drive from town. There’s another fascinating historical building at Spout House, 8 miles north of Helmsley, a remarkably well-preserved 16th-century, thatched cruck-framed house.

Take a trip to the nearby foodie village of Harome, where Michelin-starred restaurant The Star Inn and upmarket country hotel The Pheasant offer seasonal locally-sourced menus.

Walks and views

Cowhouse Bank – north of Helmsley on the Carlton road. There are wonderful views across Bransdale from this Forestry Commission woodland and a lovely walk to Roppa.

Newgate Bank – on the B1257 road from Helmsley to Stokesley, 5½ miles north of Helmsley. A small pine and larch wood on the edge of Bilsdale with fine views and access to neighbouring moorland. 

The old market cross in the main square marks the start of the 109-mile Cleveland Way National Trail, which runs from Helmsley to Filey. The first section runs out to Rievaulx Abbey.

Activities

Helmsley Arts Centre is a superb arts venue right in the centre of town, with a year-round programme of films, music, talks, dance, theatre, comedy and workshops.

Helmsley Open Air Heated Swimming Pool is open each year from mid-June until the first week in September. 

Verbena Spa, at the Feversham Arms Hotel, has spa treatments available.

Helmsley Riding School offers horse-riding in Duncombe Park.

Bilsdale Riding Centre, 1 mile south of Hawnby. 

Eating and drinking

There are plenty of choices in Helmsley, from the old inns around the main square to tea rooms, cafés, restaurants and delis in the surrounding streets and alleys. Take your pick from fish and chips, pizzas, bar and cafe meals, afternoon tea, barista coffee, artisan baked goods or deli sandwiches.

Festivals and events

Helmsley's annual Festive Fun Day coincides with Small Business Saturday at the beginning of December each year and celebrates the town’s many independent businesses.


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