From Castle Howard to Brimham Rocks, North Yorkshire furnishes an outstanding range of historic sites. North Yorkshire is home to the City of York, including its Minster, Clifford Tower and Shambles, while within North Yorkshire are also found some of the most enigmatic and haunting church ruins in England.
Here are 10 of North Yorkshire’s best historic sites.
1. The Shambles
The Shambles is among the most well preserved medieval shopping streets in Europe and one of York’s most famous landmarks. Likely deriving its name from the Anglo-Saxon word ‘fleshammels’, meaning flesh-shelves, the Shambles was a key area for meat vendors and butchers to sell their wares for many years.
In certain parts of the Shambles, you are able to stand with one hand on either side of the street, owing to the narrow medieval layout of its buildings dating to 1350-1475. Today the Shambles is occupied by a number of different businesses from restaurants to beauty parlours.
2. Castle Howard
Castle Howard is an impressive stately home, nestled in North Yorkshire, that has been the home of the Howard family since its construction in 1699. The imposing architecture of Castle Howard was constructed from 1699 for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle, and took over one hundred years to complete. Technically a stately home, not a castle, it is decorated in the Baroque style.
Castle Howard provides a wealth of art, architecture and history to explore, with its vast number of paintings, tapestries, sculpture and furniture collected over various Howard generations. Guides are present all over the house to inform you of its history, and tours of the house and garden are available with admission.
3. Fountains Abbey
Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire was founded in the 12th century, and soon became a thriving centre of Cistercian religious activity. Today its atmospheric ruins give an idea of the power and wealth of medieval monastic communities in England, before being dissolved by Henry VIII.
Visitors can explore the extremely well-preserved remains, including the cloisters and the cellarium – the cellarium of Fountains Abbey is home to several species of bats, but these only come out after dusk.
4. Brimham Rocks
Brimham Rocks is a site located in Ripon in North Yorkshire, England. Designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Nidderdale Area, the site is known for its extraordinary geological rocks which formed over 325 million years ago.
Today, it is a popular outdoor walking spot for locals and tourists alike and is cared for by the National Trust.
5. York Minster
York Minster – officially known as The Cathedral and Metropolitical Church of St Peter in York – is a vast gothic cathedral that has towered over the historic city for hundreds of years.
One of the largest of its kind in northern Europe, York Minster is a must-visit for anyone looking to explore York’s medieval past, or simply take in one of the most beautiful religious buildings in the country.
6. Richmond Castle
Richmond Castle is a picturesque ruined Norman Castle which was originally built to help secure Norman control of the North of England. Today, visitors can explore the castle’s ruins and take in the stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
the castle boasts more surviving 11th-century architecture than any other castle in England. Managed by English Heritage, visitors can explore the castle’s ruins as well as viewing the interactive exhibition detailing the history of the fortress and survey the surrounding Yorkshire Dales.
7. Whitby Abbey
Whitby Abbey is a picturesque cliff-top ruin of the 13th-century church of a Benedictine abbey. It overlooks the North Sea on the East Cliff above Whitby, North Yorkshire, and was once a centre of the medieval Northumbrian kingdom.
Whitby Abbey is open to the public under the remit of English Heritage. There is also a modern visitor centre housed in Cholmley House (also known as Whitby Hall), a 17th-century mansion, which tells the story of Whitby Abbey as well as having exhibitions of finds from the site.
8. Aldborough Roman Site
Aldborough Roman Site in North Yorkshire contains the remains of the Roman town of Isurium Brigantium, one of the northernmost urban centres of the Roman Empire. The accompanying museum explores the fascinating settlement’s past, while its ruins provide an intriguing walk through some of Britain’s oldest history.
9. Duncombe Park
Duncombe Park is one of Yorkshire’s most prominent historic houses and estates, overlooking the River Rye Valley and North York Moors National Park. Today, the estate is a National Nature Reserve while the house remains home to the Duncombe family.
Though the great house is closed to the public, visitors can still enjoy Duncombe’s vast estate, including discovery trails and orienteering courses, the great lawn, a scented ‘secret garden’, and a walk through medieval parkland to find the valley’s ancient trees.
10. The Georgian Theatre Royal
Built in 1788, The Georgian Theatre Royal in Richmond, North Yorkshire, is the oldest working theatre in Britain which is still in its original form. As a result, it is Britain’s most complete Georgian playhouse. It is a Grade I listed building due to it being ‘a building of special architectural or historical interest’, and is an important existing work of English theatre architecture.
The theatre regularly runs Georgian Theatre Experience tours during which the public can discover the theatre’s history, explore backstage, and try on vintage costumes.