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Exploring North Yorkshire’s Moors & Coast

Abbey ruins over the picturesque seaside town of Whitby are reached by the seemingly never-ending steps.

Part of England’s largest county, the North York Moors offers a landscape defined by its inhabitants, both past and present, as much as its rugged natural beauty. The abbeys at Whitby and Rievaulx help to reveal the area’s historical heritage, whilst the rolling hills of the moors and the dramatic Heritage Coast offer outdoor opportunities for visitors of all ages. 

Lush dales divide the flat, open moorland that bloom with purple heather in late summer under the big sky landscapes. Woodland ranges from ancient deciduous trees to more modern coniferous forests that now lend themselves to recreation from mountain bike trails to tree-top zip wires.

In the east, the national park’s natural boundary is the North Sea; that boundary with its cliffs, beaches and hidden villages is now known as Heritage Coast because of the combination of its landforms, minerals and fossils. Picturesque villages, such as Robin Hood’s Bay and Staithes, and the town of Whitby which once bustled with a healthy fishing industry now rely on holidaymakers exploring their networks of narrow lanes.

There are over 2,200 kilometres of public rights of way to explore on foot or bicycle. For committed walkers, there is the 176 kilometre Cleveland Way National Trail that sweeps around the North York Moors starting in the popular market town of Helmsley and finishing on the coast at Filey. 

Urra Moor  Credit: NYMNPA

Indeed, North Yorkshire offers a wide range of activities to suit all tastes with themes ranging through transport, animals, walking, water, culture, food and beer. Moorland, forest, coast and dales. I’ve tried to explore most of them over the years but there is always something new to discover.

The steam railway winds its way to the coast across the moors and brought us into the heart of Whitby in bright sunshine this summer. An early lunch of fish and chips fuelled the appetite for a walk along the cliff tops towards Robin Hood’s Bay. It wasn’t the open moorland but it was the Cleveland Way National Trail. Retracing our steps to Whitby, it was time to enjoy a trip around the bay by boat before re-joining the train. Whitby is worth a whole day’s exploring but Bank Holiday weekend madness doesn’t show it in its best light.

Ryedale Folk Museum has something for everybody and the Moors Bus is a great way to get about.

Family fun is usually a euphemism for keeping children occupied but the Ryedale Folk Museum has something for everybody. Tracing the timeline of the area’s development from Iron Age times with historic buildings and glimpses into others’ lives, it was really absorbing. Having an allotment, there was an extra dimension to the smallholding elements of the visit. It underpinned the value in looking beyond the obvious to try out other things and the suspended walking plans were hardly missed.

Blacksmithing demo at the Ryedale Folk Museum’ forge.

Encouraged by the visit to the Folk Museum, a new day dawned with visits to Dalby Forest and Scarborough on the agenda. Happily, there was so much to do at Dalby that Scarborough remained unticked. As well as the Visitor Centre, there are miles and miles of walks and cycle routes to soak up the hours.

The North York Moors Railway steams its way to the coast from Pickering.

Switching from outdoors to history, a visit to the National Trust property of Nunnington Hall proved fascinating both in the house and around the grounds. As Sutton Bank National Park Centre lay on our route home, dropping in was obvious and also proved a winner. Indoors and on the waymarked walks, there’s plenty to see and do so the afternoon flew by.

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