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.
Find out what's coming up in January too, search for events by date here or book our events online. Plus look out for more details of next year's Dark Skies Festival which will return 15 February - 3 March 2019. Early booking recommended!
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 Forest, Guisborough Forest, Scampston or Newburgh Priory.
- Dalby Forest - selling trees every Friday, Saturday and Sunday until 17 December
- Duncombe Park - open daily until 24 December
- Ellerburn - Trees grown at the family farm in Great Barugh and sold at Low Farm Campsite, Ellerburn. Open daily (T: 07872 678325)
- Guisborough Forest - selling trees from 1 December everyday while stocks last
- Newburgh Priory - selling trees daily from 1-22 December (10am-6pm Mon-Fri, 10am-4pm Sat-Sun)
- Scampston Estate - tree sales from 1-21 December (10am-4pm).
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 every Wednesday and Twilight Weekend (7-9 December).
Experience Christmas at Nunnington Hall from the Georgian era to the war years (weekends only until 16 December) while at Castle Howard The Twelve Days of Christmas will have flamboyant displays and installations to surprise and delight daily until 31 December (closed 24-26 December).
If you’d like something a bit different for your Christmas decorations this year, why not create your own festive door decoration at Helmsley Walled Garden (6 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 (14, 15, 16, 21, 22 December). Tours begin 4pm and early booking is recommended.
Christmas Festivals and Events
Helmsley is going (nut) crackers this year with a Nutcracker Window Trail and the popular annual Christmas Tree Festival, this year themed around ‘The Best of Helmsley' (both running through daily until 16 December). Thirty beautiful trees will be individually and creatively decorated. Pick up your Nutcracker Window Trail leaflet from Helmsley Sweet Shop, can you find them all?
Not forgetting Helmsley’s fabulous independent and boutique shopping for all your Christmas present needs. Round your day off with a trip to the panto as Red Riding Hood takes to the stage with a new take on this classic tale at Helmsley Arts Centre (1–2, 4–9 December).
Guisborough Christmas Festival (4 December) includes Santa's parade through the town centre with his reindeer, and an entertainment to visit his Grotto at Sunnyfield House (tickets for a grotto visit must be pre-booked). Nearby Marske Christmas Festival, Parade and Craft Fair (6 December) includes a funfair, live music, including Marske Fishermans Choir, Santa and his parade including real reindeer, all hosted by Zetland FM.
There's seasonal music to enjoy with Bilsdale Silver Band in the splendid surroundings of Rievaulx Abbey (9 December) as well as Ampleforth Abbey’s annual Christmas concert performing Handel's Messiah (9 December). Stape Silver Band's Annual Christmas Concert (16 December) is within the beautiful St Peter & St Paul's Church, Pickering (tickets on the door) while the Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band perform their free Traditional Christmas Carol Concert on 23 December (venue tbc).
Dress up in your best traditional period costume for Robin Hood’s Bay 25th Victorian Weekend (7-9 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 also include Baytown Food and Drink Festival at the Victoria Hotel, showcasing local ales and food from in and around the National Park.
Malton's fourth Dickensian Festival (8, 15, 21 December) features Victorian Street Theatre, Charles Dickens presents A Christmas Carol and A Christmas Carol in Concert, both at The Milton Rooms.
Wassail on the Moor (14 December) and Wassail in Whitby (19 December) is an annual celebration of winter, including seasonal songs, stories, rituals and traditions associated with Christmas and folk music. Find the festival at two new venues, Botton Village and Sander's Yard Bistro and features Richard Grainger, fiddle and accordion duo Christine Williamson and Carole Millward, better known as ‘Blind Panic’, and a host of folk singers and musicians. The Botton event is ‘Pay What You Want’ and open to all, while tickets for Sander's Yard Bistro are £13 and strictly limited.
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 16 December; booking is advisable). At Burton Agnes Hall join Father Christmas, Mrs Claus and Jingles the Magic Elf on Saturdays (until 22 December).
Head to Saltburn Cliff Tramway and you'll find Santa and his mischievous elves in their special Christmas grotto (8-9, 15-16, 21-24 December). Each visit costs £7.50 per child includes a return journey on the Tramway and a gift. Prebooking not available, entry from the bottom station only.
The Santa Express will also be stopping at the North Pole Station on the Cedarbarn Miniature Railway every day from 8-22 December. Reservations essential, please call to book Monday to Friday, 10-12 noon on 01751 475614 Ext. 5.
Santa will be dropping by The Moors National Park Centre in Danby (15-16 December). Visit Santa and his friends between 11am - 4pm* (*he will be taking a short break at lunch to feed the reindeer). There's no need to book just come along and you'll find Santa sitting comfortably in his grotto.
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 Specials run every weekend until 23 December. Or join them for a special Whitby Winter Excursion (30 December and 1 January) 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.
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 exhibition for 2018 at the Inspired by... gallery continues throughout the month and runs until 20 January 2019 (daily until 6 January, then weekends only). See the work of Brigantia's artists and craftmakers showcase the best art, sculpture, textiles, carvings and ceramics.
Join Large Outdoors for an end of season walking weekend (29 December - 2 January), this year held in the picturesque market town of Helmsley. Great walks are still on the schedule, including the likes of Rievaulx Abbey and coastal classics taking in Whitby, alongside good food, open fires and country pubs.
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