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Heritage in spring

North Yorkshire Moors RailwayNorth Yorkshire Moors Railway

With spring in the air, it’s time to take a new-season look at some of our most cherished historic destinations and attractions. Come with us on a history and heritage tour of the North York Moors area – and discover a few spring surprises along the way, from hideaway gardens to yesteryear tea rooms.

History is far from horrible in Helmsley

Spring is the time to take a fresh look at historic Helmsley, the only market town in the North York Moors National Park. Daffodils line the grass verges, flowering bulbs brighten up the lawns of Helmsley Castle and birds of prey fly daily in the slowly awakening grounds of Duncombe Park.  

Don't miss!

For the full spring-flower experience, there’s no better place than Helmsley Walled Garden, whose April 1 opening marks the start of the season. It’s one of the prettiest historic gardens in the UK, dating from the mid-18th century, and much of the produce turns up in dishes prepared in the Vinehouse Café, which is sited in the garden's Victorian glasshouse.

Riches, ruins and romance

Brocken Spectre at Rievaulx Abbey Credit English HeritageNearby Rievaulx Abbey might be in runs, but what beautiful ruins they are. Generations of Cistercian monks lived and worked here, and it's easy to feel the weight of history as you stroll through the ruins. 

Today the abbey is a place of contemplation and artistic inspiration, its grounds used by picnickers, hide-and-seek players and resting walkers. 

There's a new museum, extended café and visitor centre to enjoy too.

Don't miss!

Brocken Spectre, an installation by artist Charles Monkhouse during Holy Week (12-15 April 2017). 

This shadow of an observer surrounded by an iridescent glory projected onto cloud or mist will be projected along the axis of the Abbey presbytery, along with a sound and light Illumaphonium and Helmsley Primary School's Silent Voices.

Step back in time on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway

Revel in the romance of steam with a trip on the world’s most popular heritage railway line, which runs between Pickering – on the edge of the North York Moors – and the sea at Whitby. Spectacular landscapes, flowering embankments, rail-trail walks, historic halts and traditional station tea rooms are all part of the attraction on a magical journey from moor to coast. Village stops at Goathland and Grosmont offer history and heritage in abundance

Don't miss!

The visit of 46100 Royal Scot, one of the world’s greatest steam engines, kicking the season off in style and running from Grosmont to Pickering for a week from 25 March. Book early as all seats are expected to be a sell out! Daily running on the heritage line commences from 3 April.

Take a new look at old skills at Ryedale Folk Museum

After a winter spruce-up, the 20 buildings of Ryedale Folk Museum, in pretty Hutton le Hole, put their best foot forward once spring comes around again. Whether it's exploring the reconstructed buildings, pumping water from an old-fashioned pump, feeding the pigs, talking to the 'villagers' or learning about the crafts and trades of yesteryear, the open-air museum is a real hit with the whole family.  

Don't miss!

The Easter holiday sees the start of their children's activities – from crafts to cottage cooking demos and novelty biscuit decorating in the Victorian White Cottage. Best of all, an entry ticket is valid for a year, so you can come back as many times as you like.

Spring's in the air at Castle Howard

The South Lawn, Castle Howard Credit Andy Bulmer webEngland’s most imposing stately home has a thousand acres of gardens and grounds, and a spring visit shows the estate emerging from its winter hibernation. Ray Wood – one of the finest woodland gardens in the north of England – can be explored on a self-guided trail, which points out seasonal highlights among the myriad trees, shrubs and flowers.

Don't miss!

Free guided outdoor tours of the grounds and buildings start in March, where you can discover more about Castle Howard’s architecture and landscaping.

Find more heritage ideas, places to visit and springtime inspiration in the North York Moors.