North Yorkshire

North Yorkshire

God's Own County, they call it, and North Yorkshire really does have it all. Even without the regions of west, east and south Yorkshire, it's still England's largest county and encompasses some of its most dramatic scenery, with no less than two national parks in the North York Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, and a coastline that's as beautiful and enticing as anywhere in Britain. It's a fabulous place to spend a few days, and there is an impressive range of boutique hotels, country inns and B&Bs to stay in – many of them enjoying superb locations in quiet villages, country towns and seaside resorts. The glorious emptiness of the Moors is spectacular – fabulous walking and cycling country, dotted with isolated villages, and and merging seamlessly into the rugged beauty of the North Yorkshire Coast, where quaint, Gothic Whitby, with its dramatically sited abbey,  and Scarborough – the grand old dame of seaside resorts –  are the two main resorts. A heritage steam railway connects Whitby to Pickering on the Moors, but perhaps the national park's biggest claim to fame is that it has the least rainfall and is thus the driest of all the UK's national parks. Inland, the medieval city of York provides another focal point, beyond which lies the pristine beauty of the Yorkshire Dales, the north of England's go-to destination for all the things that make Britain special – rustic pubs, hill walks, rolling fields, dry-stone walls, leafy valleys. And it doesn't disappoint. The folk across the border in Cumbria may disagree, but in some way the Dales is the most scenically satisfying of all Britain's national parks, yet it is also one of its most accessible – on the doorstep of the major conurbations of Manchester and Leeds, and also reachable by way of the spectacular Settle-Carlisle railway.

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Eat and Drink

North Yorkshire is a surprisingly good place to eat out, with loads of great country pubs, rural tea rooms and village cafés. Often pubs are the main choice in small towns and villages, and there are some excellent places dishing up great local produce, with the best places enjoying big reputations – for example the Angel at Hetton, or the Michelin-starred Devonshire Arms, where reservations are essential in busy periods. Stand-alone restaurants are scarcer, but the main towns all have good standbys for fish and chips, curries, pizzas and the like, and these days – in the Dales at least, – there is often a chic hotel with a decent restaurant, or a classy deli or modern bistro. There's a real emphasis on local sourcing and seasonality, even in the most out-of-the-way of places, and local producers are passionate about their foodstuffs – whether it's the cheeses of Wensleydale, lamb from the local hills, or more esoteric offerings, like Yorkshire chorizo, which you'll find on many a menu.

Shop

Shopping in North Yorkshire generally means good country produce, and fabulous arts and crafts. All the national park information centres are good places to ask about craft workshops and galleries – some also display local arts and crafts. For food, Helmsley in particular is full of independent food outlets – from bakeries to fishmongers – tucked away down narrow alleys. Pickering too is great for a wander, boasting traditional butcher's shops, old-fashioned bakeries and other yesteryear stores. Both towns also have good weekly markets, though king of the local farmers' markets is at pretty little Hovingham, and in the Dales Skipton's market takes up the whole town centre, and the 300-year-old Tuesday market in Hawes, Wensleydale, is billed as Yorkshire's highest.  You might want to purchase Wensleydale cheeses, cured deli meats and vacuum-packed steaks from Bolton Abbey Estate herds, and maybe a bottle or two of Copper Dragon beer.

Things to Do

There's so much to enjoy in North Yorkshire it's hard to know where to begin. First off there's York of course, with one of the finest medieval city centres in Europe and of course its majestic  cathedral. Beyond York there's the North York Moors, with its open countryside of big views and dark skies, ancient villages and sweeping forests, rolling moorland and of course a famous coastline. Most of the moors are given over to the North York Moors National Park, and there are two National Park Centres, at Danby and Sutton Bank, to fill visitors in on all there is to see and do. As you might expect, there's terrific walking and cycling to be had – the Cleveland Way National Trail cuts right through the heart of the region (as does part of the Coast-to-Coast walk), while the 'Moor to Sea' cycle network connects moors and coast in a 150-mile series of loops and rides between all the major settlements. Some of the UK's finest ruined abbeys nestle in secluded corners of the moors – Rievaulx is the most famous – while ancient stone crosses, standing stones and Roman roads tell the tale of a long human history here. As for the Dales, much is also contained within the National Park, and its hills have similar appeal for both hardcore walkers and Sunday strollers, along with tumbling waterfalls, underground caves and hidden gorges. There's also a ring of mighty medieval castles and a collection of picturesque market towns and old villages – from arty Grassington and rugged Malham to off-the-beaten-track gems like Reeth in Swaledale or Middleham in Wensleydale. Richmond is the single biggest town in the Dales and anchors the north; Skipton, with its mighty castle and age-old market, does the same for the south.