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Events in December

Santa Specials on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Credit NYMRSanta Specials on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway Credit NYMR

December is the perfect time to make a visit to the North York Moors, from Santa specials on steam trains, to Christmas shopping with a difference. You’re bound to find that special something from one of our talented artists and makers or wonderful foodie treats at one of the farmers' markets on around the North York Moors.

You can search for events by date here, which includes details of our last free guided walks for 2017 or book online.

Where to buy your real Christmas Tree 

Nothing beats the smell of a freshly cut Christmas tree at this time of year too. Is there a better place for getting your real Christmas tree than from one of our many special woods? Head to Duncombe Park, Dalby ForestGuisborough Forest, Scampston or Newburgh Priory.

  • Dalby Forest - selling trees every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 24 November until 17 December
  • Duncombe Park - open daily from early December
  • Guisborough Forest - selling trees from 1 December everyday while stocks last
  • Newburgh Priory - selling trees daily from 1-24 December (10am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-5pm Sat-Sun)
  • Scampston Estate - tree sales from 30 November - 22 December (10am-4pm).

Helmsley Walled Garden will be open on Fridays and Saturdays (until 16 December) selling handmade Christmas wreaths. 

Deck the Halls...

Head to one of the area's great houses all decked out for the season's festivities. Burton Agnes Hall opens its doors until 23 December, with festive events running alongside, including Christmas Craft Days (5 and 12 December) and Twilight Evenings (7 and 21 December).

Experience Christmas at Nunnington Hall from the Georgian era to the war years (weekends only until 17 December) while at Castle Howard a host of angels will be found throughout the grand state rooms along with floral creations and beautiful decorations until 23 December. 

Laurence Sterne's 18th century country parsonage in Coxwold is beautifully festive with candles, traditional log fires and decorations ready for Shandy Hall by Candlelight (8, 9, 15, 16 December). Tours begin 4pm and early booking is recommended.

Pick up a special gift from the talented artists and craftmakers from Brigantia. WinterArt is open daily throughout December in the Inspired by... gallery at The Moors National Park Centre near Danby, or make your own Christmas decorations this year at one of our workshops.

Christmas Festivals and Events

There's a rare chance to visit Ryedale Folk Museum at Night (1 December) – all ready for Christmas before enjoying A Victorian Christmas (2–3 December), including a visit from Father Christmas, festive crafty fun, Victorian fair games, festive music and Victorian dancing, and much more. Free entry all weekend, charges apply to visit Father Christmas.

Whitby's Winterfest (1-3 December) features pop-up market stalls, food and drink, live music and entertainment and more. Themed around ‘Whitby, Weird & Wonderful’, the festival opens with a parade on Friday night (1 December at 6pm)from Pannett Park to Whitby Pavilion.

Helmsley Makes Christmas Magical (2 December) celebrates Christmas from 4pm with trails, raffles, mulled wine, Swinton Brass Band, plus a visit from the man himself. Julian Norton 'The Yorkshire Vet' will officially switch on the lights at 5pm. The annual Christmas Tree Festival will open at 6pm, this year themed around ‘Stars' (and runs through daily until 17 December). Thirty beautiful trees will be individually and creatively decorated, can you guess them all? Not forgetting Helmsley’s fabulous independent and boutique shopping for all your Christmas present needs. Round the day off with a trip to the panto as Dick Whittington & his Cat takes to the stage with a new take on this classic tale at Helmsley Arts Centre (other performances: 3, 5–10 December). Plus all day parking in the long stay car parking is reduced to £1.50 for the day (and free coach parking).

Pickering's Christmas Lights Switch On, also on 2 December, sees the Market Place closed from 12noon for a Christmas Market, live music, hot food and mulled wine, a town treasure hunt, plus a visit from Father Christmas and the big switch on at 5.30pm. 

Months in the making, the spectacular Christmas lights switch on at Thornton le Dale is on 2 December. Enjoy music, seasonal stalls serving mulled wine and more from 4.30pm, Santa will arrive at 5pm with the official switch on at 6pm. 

Find Hidden Horizons at Dalby Forest (2/3 and 9/10 December) for woodland crafts and a chance to experience their star dome. 

There's seasonal music to enjoy with Bilsdale Silver Band at Stokesley (7 December) and in the splendid surroundings of Rievaulx Abbey as well as Ampleforth Abbey’s annual Christmas concert performing Handel's Messiah (both 10 December). Wassail at Whitby Pavilion (15 December) is an annual celebration of winter, including stories, rituals and traditions associated with Christmas and folk music, while the Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band perform their free Traditional Christmas Carol Concert at Kirkbymoorside Memorial Hall (17 December).

Dress up in your best traditional period costume for Robin Hood’s Bay 24th Victorian Weekend (8-10 December) as pirates and bawdy wenches take to the streets along with bell ringers, storytellers telling ghostly tales and carol singers. Christmas decorations, lights, trees and festive wreaths deck the atmospheric smugglers' village. Highlights this year include:

  • Victorian Christmas Market in the Village Hall
  • Children's Dinosaur and Fossil Festival
  • Craft fair and art exhibition
  • Traditional and beach games
  • Live music
  • Ghost and Smuggler Walks
  • Father Christmas
  • ‘Balls down the bank’ and King’s Beck RNLI duck race
  • Open house scheme giving a rare glimpse inside many of Bay’s 300 year old cottages 
  • Baytown Beer Festival at the Victoria Hotel, showcasing all seven Baytown’s beers in cask together with a range of ales from in and around the National Park.

Malton's third Dickensian Festival (8-10, 16/17 December) features Harry Potter star Miriam Margolyes and a festive lunch with Lucinda Hawksley, author and descendent of Charles Dickens at the Talbot Hotel.

Finding Father Christmas

For those seeking Santa Claus, be sure to book your place well in advance!

Little ones can visit Father Christmas at Nunnington Hall (weekends only until 17 December; booking is advisable).  At Burton Agnes Hall join Father Christmas, Mrs Christmas and Jingles the Magic Elf on Saturdays (until 23 December).

Nothing beats travelling through the heart of the North York Moors on a steam train and it's even better when you're joined by Santa and his special helpers. Santa Express Services run every weekend until 17 December plus 19/20 December. If you're on the Pickering service, there's a chance to meet a small herd of real reindeer too and take your #reindeerselfie! 

Or join them for a special steam train excursion on New Year's Eve for a winter’s day out with the family, including the dog, and a chance to walk off that Christmas pudding in Whitby. Tickets must be pre-booked.

Santa can also be found in his magical underground grotto at the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum in Skinningrove (9-10 December). Children will take an exciting trip down the North Drift, now decked out with twinkling Christmas lights. Refreshments, games and other activities will be on hand too.

The Santa Express will be stopping at the North Pole Station on the Cedarbarn Miniature Railway every day where Santa will be waiting from 10 - 23 December. Reservations essential, please call to book Monday to Friday, 10-12 noon on 01751 475614 Ext. 5.

Other great events and exhibitions

See a flying demonstration of tiny owls by candlelight at one of NCBP Duncombe's Winter Owl Evenings (every Saturday until Christmas, 7-9.45pm), including a 2-course meal and mulled wine. Pre-booking required.

Our final exhibitions for 2017 at the Inspired by... gallery continue throughout the month and run until 21 January 2018 (daily until 7 January, then weekends only). See the work of Brigantia's artists and craftmakers showcase the best art, sculpture, textiles, carvings and ceramics.

Also in Dalby Forest, there's a chance to explore not only our own solar system, the moon and objects from deep space on one of Hidden Horizon's two-hour Stargazing evening events held on various dates throughout winter. Booking is essential (Adults: £12; Under 16s: £8 inc. hot chocolate/snacks). These tend to sell out quickly so be sure to book your place early!

Walk off your Christmas dinner on two Winter Welly Walks at Yorkshire Arboretum (26 December and 1 January) perfect for all the family, complete with hot drinks and homemade treats on your return. 

We've got more ideas for you on our winter and walking pages and you'll find a number of fell and road running events in December too.