Places to Visit in North Yorkshire
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Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

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The video below pertains to Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire where we explore the only market town in the North York Moors National Park. Helmsley is famous for its castle, walled gardens, market square, independent shops and more.

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

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Introduction to Helmsley North Yorkshire

In this episode of Places to Visit in North Yorkshire, we will be sampling the many delights that the compact market town of Helmsley has to offer. This vibrant North Yorkshire town is well noted for its castle ruins, walled garden, parkland, independent shops and eateries as well as the popular Birds of Prey Centre and Duncombe Park. It is also the start or end point to three notable walking routes. We will also take a look at nearby Rievaulx Abbey, a 3 mile walk from Helmsley. Welcome to Helmsley!

Helmsley is an exciting and picturesque market town situated at the most southern side of the North York Moors National Park. What’s exciting about it is, although it’s not the largest market town in North Yorkshire, it lacks very little. In fact, it holds some very unique qualities and it is bristling with things to see and do, and this is why we’ve included it in The Places to Visit in North Yorkshire series.

Although we initially met up with a sudden September rain shower, the blue skies appeared shortly afterwards allowing us to receive some fantastic views of the town, castle and walled gardens! We have arrived early this morning so that we can show you the town centre before it gets too busy. Stay tuned to find out how we got on!

Getting to Helmsley

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Getting to Helmsley is relatively easy by car as it resides on the B1257 for Malton and Stokesley and also A170 for Thirsk, Pickering and Scarborough. There is a sizeable car park in the market square but there is also a much larger car park just to the left of the B1257 for Stokesley direction known as the Cleveland Way Car Park which accommodates coaches and motorhomes too. The main bus services are the East Yorkshire 128 service to Scarborough and the Reliance 31x towards Ampleforth, Easingwold and York.

Sadly, Helmsley has not had a railway station since the Beeching Cuts during the 1960’s. Although the station was built in 1871 as a calling point between Gilling and Pickering, the line was closed to passengers in 1953 and then completely in 1964. The services from York called at stations such as Beningbrough, Coxwold, Gilling for Ampleforth, Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside and of course Pickering, taking just under two hours to complete the journey. Evidence of the railway can still be seen today.

This is not an official guide to Helmsley, but the series will assist you to plan your visit to towns such as Helmsley and other places of interest in North Yorkshire. So let’s find out what Helmsley has to offer!

The Market Square

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

One of the many focal points of Helmsley is the attractive market square and it won’t take you tool long to realise just how floral the market town is. One of my personal favourites is the Hunters of Helmsley Delicatessen, and the vibrant flowers really counteract those familiar grey skies North Yorkshire receives from time to time. In honesty, I am glad that we encountered a brief rain shower on arrival because it emphasises that Helmsley isn’t just a town to visit in good weather as it has many indoor attractions including the many independent shops around the town.

Another notable building in the market square is the 19th century town hall. The hall has a Meeting Room, Main Hall and Kitchen that are available for hire. It is also the venue for the Helmsley Community Library. At the front of the building there is also a plaque in memory of those who lost their lives in the Great War pertaining to the Battalion King’s Royal Rifle Corps.

Market Cross

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

You may not believe it but this structure is probably the most important in the market square because without it Helmsley would never have become a market town. A Market Cross was a tangible confirmation that a town could serve as a market town owing to receiving Royal approval. So many market towns you will notice have one of these. Helmsley became a market town owing to Robert to Ros back in 1191, although farming communities have existed in the area since 3000 B.C. Presently, market day is held on a Friday, so you might want to plan your visit to include this.

Memorial to William Duncombe Second Baron Feversham

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

It would be extremely difficult not to notice the enormous memorial in the centre of the Market Square. William Duncombe not only owned the estate but was also well noted for being a Tory politician and prominent in the Royal Agricultural Society. In fact he was a prize winner with his herd of short-horn cattle. The estate has been in family ownership however, since 1694. A baron was the lowest of British nobility, but it would have given him the title of Lord. Certainly, the statue and memorial to William Duncombe certainly serves as a focal point in the market square, and you can sit under his shade on the many benches found here.

Independent Retailers

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

One of the charms about Helmsley is that the majority of shops in and around the square are independent retailers who are artisan in their field of expertise. In addition, the shops tend to be very well adorned in decoration and Thomas the Baker’s is just one example of this. So shopping in Helmsley really emphasises care and quality and it certainly somewhere to keep in mind approaching the Christmas period. However, Helmsley does have some more sizeable retailers too.

Browns have been trading for well over 100 years beginning as Drapers in 1886 and by 1919 became W.P. Brown. It has stores in Helmsley, York and Beverley. You will notice the William Sissons Gallery next door which is one of the many galleries you’ll find in Helmsley, strongly tying the town into the world of arts and crafts.

The market square is only touching the surface of Helmsley’s figurative iceberg and already we have seen a great deal of what the town offers in terms of commerce. Helmsley is a compact market town, but it offers a huge array of things to see and do that appeals to all ages.

Away from the Market Square

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Beside the delicatessen is a narrow street which contains agains some further specialised and artisan shops. You will also find some free to use public conveniences too. Again, many of these stores are attractively adorned with flowers and other decorative objects.

Scotts Fish and Chips present award winning fish and chips to either eat in their restaurant as well as to take away. If you would like to hear my personal review, the take away fish and chips are fantastic!

Walking further takes you towards Bridge Street where again you will find some independent retailers and eateries including the Duncombe Park Shop.

Hotels and Public Houses

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Around and facing the square are some public houses and places to stay. In the square itself resides the Royal Oak which offers accommodation as well as food and drink. If you are exploring the moors national park, Helmsley is a great place to base your accommodation.

Directly facing the Royal Oak is The Feathers which is also a hotel as well as serving food and drink. In addition, The Feathers also cater for Weddings and other meetings and events too.

Facing the market square you will see The Black Swan Hotel, and as the name suggests is a place to stay as well as a restaurant and tearoom, and again is a venue for Weddings and other events too. Something I particularly like is the use of a black swan to advertise its name. Additionally, I was attracted to the vintage car parked outside which I felt portrayed a historic North Yorkshire feel. Of course, this is in keeping with a historic market town such as Helmsley.

Bridge Street

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

One of the facts about Helmsley that you will immediately notice but perhaps take the granted is that the buildings are largely made of stone and red brick is somewhat rare.

Helmsley Brewing Co.

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

On the same theme as food and drink, would you believe that Helmsley has a small brewing company? Well, Helmsley Brewing Co. not only produce handcrafted beer, but they also have a shop as well as three tours held on Wednesdays between 10 to 12 noon. You can book online through their website.

Again to the left of the brewery is another of Helmsley’s art galleries where you can view and purchase art. So if you are a talented artist or not so much, you can still enjoy the intricate art that Helmsley offers, especially when the weather is wet and cold outside.

We may think of nearby Malton when it comes to locally produced foods, but Helmsley also offers a great deal in locally sourced meats and produce. In fact, it is a good idea to keep up to date with events held in the town which tend to include food and drink.

As we take refuge from a short rain shower that keeps Helmsley’s floral displays in bloom, we can explore one of the many cuisines the town has to offer. And just opposite the Italian restaurant is an archway to a small arcade leading up to another of Helmsley’s attractions, being the Helmsley Art Centre in the former Quaker Meeting House built in 1812. When it was purchased from the Quakers in 1984, its proposed use was for the Helmsley Festival and music venue. However, today it stands as a venue for theatre, cinema, events, dance, exhibitions and live broadcasts.

Aforementioned, you will also see some shops, barber and a cafe leading up to the Arts Centre which are worth a browse through, especially to keep out of those sudden downpours!


Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Continuing to experience these unique and idyllic stone cottages en-route, we can venture to one of my favourite streets in Helmsley known as Castlegate. Castlegate has a real North Yorkshire feel about it as it runs parallel to a narrow watercourse on the right hand side with the view of the Church of All Saint’s a short way in the distance. On your left, you have further stone cottages, shops and eateries that are all individually unique even though they are attached to each other. You can in fact follow a stepped path down to the watercourse and you might get to see a grey wagtail while you are there. They are grey in colour but with a contrasting yellow belly and are often seen in this part of the country.

You will also notice some stone outbuildings which may denote that some form of a mill once existed here. In any case, Castlegate meets with the rear of the Royal Oak and the Town Hall that are linked with a stone bridge taking you back to the market square.

In the same way that Castlegate was the original route to the castle in York, Castlegate in Helmsley would have served as a route to the castle here too. It’s vital to remember that gate is a norse word for street.

On Castlegate, you will find another art gallery and surrounded by creamy stone cottages, again tying Helmsley into the world of art. This is fitting because Helmsley could very accurately be described as a work of art too, especially when we consider how floral and picture-postcard the town is.

However, the art gallery is not the only attraction to those with good taste here. Again, you will find eateries and artisan retailers and you get to learn very quickly that Helmsley not only caters for the local community but also for visitors who are willing to explore. It also caters for those who are willing to relax and explore good food too!

We immediately think of Whitby when we consider jet, but Helmsley also has its own jet works that you can see from Castlegate. Jet was very popular with Victorians and still is today.

Walking to the top of Castlegate we encounter some more specialised shops but we also meet with the High Street, particularly the B1257 to Stokesley as well as one of Helmsley’s significant landmarks.

The Feversham Arms Hotel

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

The Feversham Arms Hotel is a large hotel close to the market square and under the shade of the towering Church of All Saints. This country hotel began in 1855 by the Earl of Feversham when it was rebuilt and renamed from The Guest House. In 1977 the three cottages to the left also built by the Earl of Feversham where purchased to extend the hotel further.

Church of All Saints

Helmsley North Yorkshire

Many churches date back to Norman times but Helmsley has had a Christian presence since A.D. 200 and this can be identified through the wall paintings found inside the current church from the 19th century. The church was actually built in 1838 but stands on the grounds of a former Norman church and the chancel arch is one of the largest in Yorkshire. So although the church has been hugely restored in Victorian times, it really presents itself to be a vital landmark owing to its tower. It serves the Helmsley Parish which also includes nearby Sproxton, Rievaulx and the East Moors. The clock chimes regularly and it is fantastic to listen to on a half-hourly basis.

Further down the High Street you again find some more exciting independent shops to visit but these are also surrounded by some very attractive dwellings crafted in Yorkshire stone. In a kind of way, at this point Helmsley feels like a village because you are suddenly facing open countryside, yet it has all the benefits you’d expect from a market town. So in actual fact, you could describe Helmsley to be a market town and village rolled into one settlement. However, it doesn’t end there because you also have a castle complex thrown into the equation. And this is the beauty about Helmsley, because although it isn’t huge, you could really spend a day if not longer here because of its many features and attractions.

At this side of Helmsley you will just notice St Mary’s Roman Catholic Church just tucked neatly away from the main road. You also notice the Borough Beck that runs through the town before it meets with the River Rye. The River Rye is found at the south of the town on entry. It certainly isn’t uncommon to find towns and villages built around a source of water, and Helmsley is a fine example of this. The River Rye begins its journey in the Cleveland Hills before passing through many settlements prior to merging with the River Derwent near Malton.

When exploring the High Street don’t forget to look out for the Scout Hut. This belongs to the Ryedale District Scouts who engage in all sorts of activities such as canoeing, archery, abseiling, gorge walking and more.

Heading back towards Linkfoot Lane which heads out towards Kirkbymoorside and Pickering, you will also find some more shops and eateries continuing the theme of the town. However, you will also notice that you will find the North York Moors National Park headquarters here too, just set back from the busy road. With Helmsley being at the foot of the national park, it serves as a fitting place. The authority takes care of the park paying particular attention to the needs of the people, visitors, wildlife and landscapes as well as the culture found on the moors. The authority is largely made up of volunteers and it may be something you might like to take part in.

The A170 continues to Kirkbymoorside, Pickering, Thornton-leDale and further attractive villages before ending it’s route in Scarborough. However, the opposite direction takes you through to Thirsk via Sutton Bank. In which case, Helmsley has good connections and it makes it a great base location to stay overnight as it is central to neighbouring places of interest including the North York Moors.

Helmsley’s Sporting Activities

Just a short walk up a side street at the church you soon find yourself facing open countryside. However, on your right hand side you can find a memorial of perhaps a not so common nature. You will find some memorial trees and these are a stones throw from a dedicated sports ground that opens out into a vast green space. You will also notice a sports pavilion further on. Another sporting activity is of course swimming, and you can certainly keep yourself healthy in Helmsley as it has an outdoor swimming pool along Baxton’s Sprunt.

Again on a health focused theme, there is a footpath to Rievaulx Abbey that is approximately around 3 miles long. There is also an optional 7 mile circular walk too. The access to this path is opposite the church towards Cleveland Car Park which we will explore shortly. The Cleveland Way Car Park has public conveniences as well as a picnic area that we will visit shortly on our way to the walled garden.

Situated on the access road is another reflection of Helmsley’s strong connection with arts and crafts. The Crafty Pair features needle felting, photography, wood turning, pottery as well as artwork created by locals and items are available for purchase. Workshops are available too.

If you don’t want to walk to Rievaulx Abbey empty handed, you can always purchase and ice-cream to fuel that two and a half mile walk, or perhaps call in to the tearoom on your return.

You’ve probably put it together by now that Helmsley is the starting point for a 109 mile walk to Filey via the Cleveland Way. The Cleveland Way ventures its way as far north as Saltburn-by-the-Sea before returning down the east coast to Filey via Whitby and Scarborough. However, it is not the only walk that begins here as the Ebor Way and Tabular Hills walks also begins in Helmsley. Both walks promise great views in any case.

At the opposite side of the car park you will find a path to the picnic area which not only hosts some superb views of All Saints and Helmsley Castle, but also provides picnic benches to sit and enjoy some food underneath the shade of some mature trees. You will also notice a dry stone wall surrounding the picnic area of which are common around The Yorkshire Dales and Moors national parks. In fact, dry stone walls are an ancient art of building a wall without any form of glue holding them together, and dates back to the Neolithic period.

The Stick Man

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Venturing towards the walled garden, you will come across The Stick Man. You might first think of a matchstick man, but in actual fact, the so called “Stick Man” is an artisan Walking and Hiking Stick maker, producing decorative sticks with hand-carved birds, fish and animals. Even if you don’t require a stick, it’s a great idea to call in anyway.

Helmsley Walled Garden

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Another major attraction to the market town is the attractive walled garden. This is really fitting because Helmsley has a hugely floral theme throughout the town. We’d like to at this point give Helmsley Walled Garden a special thank you for allowing us to take some footage within their premises. The garden have a small admission but the Plant Centre and cafe situated in a restored Victorian vine house are free entry. If you are a dog owner, dogs are permitted into the gardens and cafe which is a nice touch to the attraction.

The garden came about in 1759 to provide vegetables, fruit and flowers to the the kitchen at Duncombe Park. After the Great War, it was leased and became a market garden concern until 1982. Sadly, it then became overgrown and abandoned until 1994 when Alison Ticehurst resurrected this stunning garden that we see today. Furthermore, the gardens help to support those with disabilities, social isolation, depression and long-term unemployment through horticultural therapy. Coming from a rural and horticultural background, I was hugely impressed with the variety and use of colour, so you can understand easily how horticulture can be used in therapy.

Being a walled garden, the garden is obviously enclosed within a wall, and two herbaceous hot borders run the length of the garden with entertaining and eye-catching colour. You will also notice the fountain that provides not only a further focal point, but also the sounds of trickling water that a tranquil garden cannot be without. The garden also has over 100 varieties of clematis, so it is somewhat difficult to leave once you’ve entered.

There are seating opportunities within the garden so you can sit back and relax and enjoy the vibrant views surrounding you. Also the garden can inspire you and give you ideas on how to improve your garden at home if you have one. Helmsley Walled Garden is open from 10am until 5pm from the end of March through to October 31st and is currently open 7 days a week during the summer season.

The garden also has some attractive green spaces to enjoy too.

Another advantage of this garden is that you are very close to the castle and you can receive some fantastic views of the structure as you walk through. In fact, the garden adds a colourful frame to the castle rendering some amazing photos if you have a smartphone camera with you.

This fittingly brings us to our next popular attraction and probably the most notable of Helmsley’s landmarks, Helmsley Castle. However, we now follow the path back through the picnic area and towards the town centre, following the signs to the castle entrance. This of course is no hardship because you receive some idyllic views en-route both of the picnic area, and the castle to your right hand side.

Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Certainly a visit to Helmsley Castle should be on your bucket list if you have one, such as the walled garden. The castle is under the care of English Heritage as are most historical structures such as Clifford’s Tower and Kirkham Abbey for example. There is a small admission of which goes towards the care and upkeep of such historical sites. Again dogs are welcome when on a lead. Today, the castle is open to the public from around 10am but check the English Heritage website for details on opening times and admission. Typically on English Heritage sites, commercial photography is prohibited unless you have permission.

Helmsley’s most prominent landmark of course is Helmsley Castle that is open to the public just as much as a wide-angled lens. We call it Helmsley Castle today, but it’s medieval name was Hamlake. If you have watched our Kirkham Abbey episode, you may already know that Walter Espec had the castle constructed around 1120. He also granted the land to construct Rievaulx Abbey as a prominent military and judicial figure during the reign of Henry I. Rievaulx Abbey is around 3 miles away from the castle, and you can walk there from Helmsley along the Cleveland Way, where we visit later. Walter Espec died by 1154 and the castle was left to his sister Adelina and at this time the castle had been constructed in wood. She however married Peter de Ros and by 1186, Sir Robert de Ros rebuilt the castle in stone and was responsible for the remnants of the stone structure we see today. Sadly, he died by 1227 and he left the castle to his son William. The castle remained in the de Ros family until 1478 until it was sold to the Duke of Gloucester before he became Richard III. After the Battle of Bosworth where Richard III lost his life, the castle was returned to the de Ros family owing to Henry VII.

If you are planning to visit the Bird’s of Prey attraction, you can also receive stunning views of the castle from the idyllic Duncombe Park. However, getting up close to the castle and exploring the ruins as well as learning more about it through English Heritage is far more beneficial. What I also find to be beneficial is trying to imagine in your minds eye what it must have looked like fully intact when admiring the ruins. You can imagine that Helmsley Castle must have looked very impressive during its heyday.

Duncombe Park

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

Although the house is no longer open to the public except for events, you are permitted to walk through the grounds towards the National Bird’s of Prey Centre. If you are in a car this obviously takes a couple of minutes to get to the house and Birds of Prey centre and longer walking. In any case, Duncombe Park is available for weddings, corporate events, film and photo shoots and other events too. You can walk through the scented gardens and there are a number of way marked walks and discovery trails to enjoy. You can also purchase estate grown Christmas Trees here too. Aforementioned, you can also expect to receive some fantastic views of the castle from Duncombe Park too. Today there are a great deal of sheep adorning the walk to the house and Birds of Prey centre. You can see that the park is super-stunning so a leisurely walk is recommended.

Duncombe Park is a large house and estate based in Helmsley. The house is a fantastic stately home that was completed by 1713 for Thomas Duncombe who was originally Thomas Brown. The house stands in 300 acres of park land and of course this is also where the house Birds of Prey centre resides too. The senior members of the Duncombe family were granted the title of Earl and Countess of Ferversham. However, by 1963, these titles were discontinued and replaced with Baron of Feversham. The house is now closed to the public since 2011 but events are still held here. The estate has been in the family since Charles Duncombe purchased the 40,000 acre Helmsley Estate in 1694.

National Centre for Birds of Prey

Helmsley Places to Visit in North Yorkshire

An award winning attraction in Helmsley is the National Centre for Birds of Prey which has won the best attraction in Yorkshire. It is set in the ancient woodlands of Duncombe Park, and is a ten minute stroll from Helmsley. Charlie Heap one of the directors approached Jake Duncombe the owner of Duncombe Park back in 2011 to establish the National Centre of Birds of Prey. Plans were drawn up and after a struggle with the planning department, this amazing award winning attraction came to be established. They are generally open daily from 10am between the end of January through to Christmas Eve but check their website for more details. They also have three flying demos everyday whatever the weather.

Well, I sincerely hope you enjoy your visit as much as I have mine. Until next time!

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