Made a National Park in 1952, the North York Moors are a vast expanse of moorland in the north east of England.
Although notorious for its dramatic natural landscape, the North York Moors has been shaped by humans for millennia. One visit can include a trip to see flint tools and camps of the late Ice-Age’s hunters, the largest Iron Age hill-fort in northern England, Roman fortifications, medieval castles and abbeys and more.
Most recently, the Moors played a significant role in the Industrial Revolution: from the advent of Britain’s railways to the widespread exploitation of ironstone which saw the rise of the northern iron and steel industry.
Here are 10 of the best historic sites to explore when in the North York Moors.
One of England’s great abbeys, Rievaulx Abbey was a Cistercian abbey in Rievaulx near Helmseley in the North York Moors, seized during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1538.
The striking ruins of the main abbey continue to be a popular tourist destination, owned and managed by English Heritage. The abbey’s records also provide one of the earliest insights into queer relationships during the medieval period.
2. Nunnington Hall
Nestled on the peaceful banks of the River Rye, Nunnington Hall is a picturesque Yorkshire manor house boasting an organic walled garden with meadows, flamboyant peacocks and an impressive arts collection.
While the existing house was born out of a Tudor hall, Nunnington’s recorded history dates back to 1249. Today, the property is managed by the National Trust. Visitors can walk through the period rooms and even explore one of the world’s finest collections of miniature rooms in the attic.
Duncombe Park is one of Yorkshire’s most prominent historic houses and estates, overlooking the River Rye Valley and North York Moors National Park. The 40,000 acre Helmsley estate became Dunscombe Park in 1694 when it was bought by Charles Duncombe.
Today, the estate is a National Nature Reserve while the house remains home to the Duncombe family.
The Cawthorn Roman Camps are the remains of a Roman military enclosure situated in the North York Moors.
Today, their pronounced banks and ditches provide an intriguing look into the Romans’ activity in Yorkshire, and the ingenuity they brought with them.
5. Goathland Station
Familiar to many through numerous television series and even blockbuster films such as Harry Potter, Goathland Station is a picturesque railway station which opened in 1865.
The line was closed to passenger traffic in 1965, yet the station buildings and platforms have changed very little in the last 100 years. Today, you can take a train ride through the station or visit without a ticket to travel.
Initially built as a timber construction by the influential baron and military man Walter l’Espec in 1120, Helmsley Castle is a large medieval fortress and mansion providing a fascinating look into Britain’s Civil War past.
Helmsley Castle was left to fall to ruin, attracting the likes of J. M. W. Turner to sketch its atmospheric remains. Today, managed by English Heritage, it is open to the public who can enjoy its grandeur and explore more through audio guides and exhibitions.
7. Ryedale Folk Museum
A unique visitor attraction located in the picturesque village of Hutton le Hole, the open-air Ryedale Folk Museum offers collections in historic buildings on rural local life from Iron Age to 1950s.
Discover some 40,000 objects within over 20 heritage buildings, and stop by the farming area or find the perfect picnic site in their pretty heritage orchard.
8. Forge Valley
Forge Valley, located in the spectacular heart of the North York Moors, is a walk back into life 10,000 years ago.
A large lake formed just to the north of Forge Valley in the last Ice-Age overflowed, cutting out the steep-sided valley. The result is the beautiful Nature Reserve you can explore today, most of which via boardwalk, teeming with wildlife and transporting you back to life in our ancient woodlands.
9. Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay is an ancient and picturesque fishing village found along the Heritage Coast of the North York Moors.
It’s unlikely that Robin Hood – if he existed – was ever in the village. An old English legend tells the story of Robin Hood encountering French pirates who came to pillage the village. After Robin Hood returned the stolen loot to the residents, the bay took his name.
Regardless, this charming historic village is on the Cleveland Way national trail and marks the end of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route.
Technically a stately home rather than a castle, Castle Howard in Yorkshire is a magnificent 17th century building nestled among 1,000 acres of landscaped gardens and woodlands which has become a hugely popular visitor attraction.
Known for starring as the fictional estate Brideshead in two film adaptations of ‘Brideshead Revisited’, the novel by Evelyn Waugh, Castle Howard provides a wealth of art, architecture and history to explore.