Travel,  UK


I cannot even tell you what a joy it is to write a travel blog. Yes, an actual travel blog. North Yorkshire is a bit of a staycation favourite for us. You can read about last year’s visit to the Yorkshire Dales in that brief “covid window” when they let us out.

I spent my student years in the city of York, studying History & American Studies. I grew a passion for all things medieval monasteries which still burns brightly whenever we visit the Yorkshire Moors.

But there’s more to North Yorkshire than ruined Abbeys. So I’ve jotted down a few ideas if you fancy a staycation in this glorious part of the world.

Where to stay?

We’ve staying in a few different cottages the edge of the North York Moors. Always self catering. Usually between Thirsk/Sutton Bank and Helmsley/ Pickering.

Valley View Farm

Our current favourite is Valley View Farm tucked away in the most peaceful village of Old Byland. Perched on the banks of the River Rye, surrounded by wheat fields, Old Byland is 4 miles from Helmsley. And Helmsley, if you’ve never been, is the absolute perfect market town. Just a 5 minute drive down to the medieval ruins of Rievaulx Abbey.

Valley View Farm is a working farm with 6 cottages where you’ll find peace and quiet in bucketloads. You’ll wake to the sound of swallows dipping and diving in the courtyard and fall asleep in perfectly peaceful silence.

Where to eat?

Bettys Cafe & Tea Room

Simply put, Bettys is a Yorkshire institution, and it’s always top of my list. My favourite is a silver pot of Betty’s blend tea and a Yorkshire Curd Tart. But pretty much anything on the menu will be super delicious. The trick is – you have to keep coming back to try everything! We called to Bettys Harrogate for lunch on the way to Old Byland. Of course. And it was well worth the 30 minute queue. Yes, there is usually a queue.

But you can offset the wait by taking home a bag of goodies like these.

You can visit Bettys in York, Harrogate, Ilkley, Northallerton and RHS Harlow Carr.

The Pheasant Hotel

We picked The Pheasant Hotel to celebrate Mr Bond’s birthday and what a great choice. It’s tucked away in the village of Harome, just outside Helmsley. A really special place if you’re looking for somewhere a bit fancy.

We sipped prosecco and nibbled canapés as the sun dipped behind a pond full of flapping ducks and mooching moorhens. Then moved into the Garden Room restaurant for delicious starters of Whitby Crab and Waldorf Salad. Mr Bond chose Fisherman’s Pie and my Garden Herb Risotto was one of the best I’ve ever tasted. Desserts were heavenly, of course. Buttermilk & Lavender Mousse with peach and meringue and for the birthday boy, a posset of Lemon and Blueberry. What a treat.

The “cherry on the cake” for our evening was a Pheasant Cocktail for moi, and a very thoughtful teeny birthday cake complete with candle and chocolate piped message for him.

Hunters of Helmsley

Hunters of Helmsley are almost as well known for their flowering hanging baskets than for their wondrous selection of picnic goodies. Just the place for award winning pies and sausages, a world of Yorkshire cheese, and the most delicious freshly made sandwiches. It’s a must when you visit Helmsley.

Where to relax?

Yorkshire Lavender

We booked our tickets for Yorkshire Lavender a few weeks before, not knowing it might be the hottest day of the year. We picnicked under a shady silver birch tree overlooking the lines of lavender breathing in the welcome breeze up the hillside. English lavender is harvested around the end of July/early August, so we were just in time to see the fields at their glorious best.

Expect to feel relaxed, even sleepy. Take advantage of sitting or every lying down amongst the acres of lavender. It’s kind of the perfect spa day.

There’s another lavender attraction near Malton which we visited on a previous holiday Wolds Way Lavender. Equally great to visit.

RHS Harlow Carr

Another advance booking was the Jazz & Pimms Evening at RHS Harlow Carr, although by the time we arrived the rules have relaxed and pre-booking is no longer required. Harlow Carr has been on my bucket list for a long time especially given there’s a Bettys Cafe on site. We arrived early to enjoy a mooch around the gardens, woodland and arboretum before settling in with a chilled glass of Pimms and (another Yorkshire Curd Tart) for the Jazz Evening. It’s on every Thursday in July and is well attended by locals who piled in with their deck chairs and immense picnics – the couple next to us where tucking into a plate of hot curry. Smelt pretty amazing.

Where to explore?

Moors & Coast

When you’ve made it all the way from the west coast of Wales, you have to visit the east coast of Yorkshire, and from our cottage that means a gorgeous drive over the North York Moors. You’ll need to take a day over it. We stopped for iced coffee in Hutton Le Hole, one of the prettiest villages in the National, overlooking the Hutton Beck winding it’s way through the village green. The Ryedale Folk Museum is an interesting way to spend a few hours if you fancy it.

Driving north across the Moors is simply breathtaking. We took a meandering route up to Whitby, parked on the Headland and enjoyed our (Hunters of Helmsley) picnic with a ringside view of Whitby Abbey.

If you have time, call to Robin Hood’s Bay for a couple of hours. Park at the top of the town and take a walk down the hill through this ancient fishing village. It’s like a ready made film set with tiny cobbled streets, chocolate box cottages and a smattering of pirates – if you know where to find them.

Where to reflect?

Ah yes, it’s time to talk Abbeys. There’s a whole bunch to choose from – Fountains, Jervaulx, Rievaulx, Byland, Kirkstall, Bolton, Kirkham, St Mary’s, Whitby and many others. They’re a big part of the history and culture of the region and hard to avoid when you’re driving around.

I have 2 favourites – Rievaulx Abbey and Fountains Abbey. Both Cistercian, founded by the White Monks, in the early 12th century.

Rievaulx Abbey – the peaceful one

Rievaulx was the first, established in 1132 as the mission centre from which the french Cistercian order could evangelise the north of England. You’ll find it in a pretty secluded spot tucked away in a river valley surrounded by woodland. It’s best seen in bathed in early evening sun when the ruins and postcard perfect village take on a golden glow. Rievaulx is the closest to Valley View Farm – just a 10 minute drive, or a delightful 5 mile circuit walk.

Fountains Abbey – the impressive one

We visited Fountains on our last day, and it’s anything but secluded. Just outside the city of Ripon, it’s one of the National Trust’s flagship locations with a shiny new visitor centre, numerous walking trails and the adjoining Studley Royal Water Park. Although Fountains began under the austere regime of the Cistercians, the monks at Fountains became successful entrepreneurs turning the Abbey into the largest and richest of all the British monasteries. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular day out all year round.

A few more places

There’s so much to do in North Yorkshire that you’ll need to make a list and prioritise. We were a little limited by time, and by the weather.

It was just too hot to walk during the day so apart from a long evening walk round the Old Byland fields, we didn’t get as many walks in as we’d have liked. Sutton Bank has a great circular walk round the White Horse, and the Moors are just on your doorstep with countless options to get your daily steps in.

We’ve visited the National Centre for Birds of Prey before and loved it. It’s in the grounds of Duncombe Park, Helmsley. Take a picnic, watch the flying demonstrations over the Park, and take your camera for some amazing close ups.

Helmsley Walled Garden is another place we didn’t get to. Maybe next time. Enjoy coffee and cake in this centuries old walled garden beneath the imposing ruins of Helmsley Castle and drink in the history and tranquility of this special place.

Check out National Trust Nunnington Hall, a beautiful Yorkshire Manor House nestled on the banks of the Rye.

Castle Howard needs no introduction for fans of Netflix’s Bridgeton, BBC’s Victoria or if you’re a bit older Brideshead Revisited. It’s a magnificent estate for walkers, history buffs, picnic lovers. A lovely day out.

I really hope this little guide will help you plan your visit to one of my favourite parts of the UK. If my heart wasn’t in North Wales, I’d be very tempted to move there.

Happy staycation.

Judith xx

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