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The Best Places to Stay in the UK

North York Moors

The clue is in the name – 25 miles or so north of York lie the moors, notably the largest continuous expanse of heather moorland in England, which turns a must-see, dramatic purple in late summer. Wild journeys across the tops on single-track roads reveal views that go on for ever, picturesque stone villages in the valleys go about their quiet ways, while here and there are dotted reminders of more ancient times, from early Christian crosses to Roman encampments. If it sounds bleak and remote, well parts can be, despite the proximity of places like York, Middlesbrough and Scarborough, which triangulate the region. But it's also a thriving North Yorkshire visitor attraction – protected by national park status, while only around 25,000 people live here, another six million visits a year are made by hikers, bikers, bird- and wildlife-watchers, history enthusiasts and family holidaymakers.

From wonderful walks (including the long-distance Cleveland Way) to bucolic monastic ruins at places like Rievaulx Abbey, there's plenty to get your teeth into, and while the main town gateways – Pickering and Helmsley – aren't large they are charming and full of interest. An unexpected treat is the short 26-mile stretch of rugged coastline – from Staithes almost to Scarborough – that forms part of the National Park, which means seaside places like Robin Hood's Bay also count as a moorland day out. A heritage steam railway, vast swathes of forest, and famous spring concentrations of bluebells and daffodils are other surprises sprung by the moors, though perhaps the biggest is the claim understandably championed by the national park authority itself – the least rainfall and thus the driest of all the UK's national parks (we'd still pack a raincoat though).

History

The national park was established in 1952 and covers 554 square miles, and while it encompasses the most characteristic parts of the North York Moors region – the central and eastern moorland and the western Cleveland and Hambleton hills – it jinks around and excludes a few of the more obvious peripheral towns like Whitby, Scarborough, Thirsk and Northallerton. We cover Whitby, Scarborough and the North Yorkshire coast in a separate guide in any case, but attractions in handsome medieval market towns like Thirsk are just as much part of a visit to the moors as a tramp across the heather.

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North York Moors

North Yorkshire's dramatic heather-clad moorland hides remote valleys and old stone villages.
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