Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Tucked in the stunning North Yorkshire countryside, Helmsley beckons visitors with its enchanting charm and it relaxed atmosphere. This English market town sits on the River Rye and offers a delightful blend of rich history, natural beauty, and warm hospitality. From the captivating ruins of Helmsley Castle run by English Heritage to the serene Helmsley Walled Garden, Helmsley is one of my favourite places in Yorkshire.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Whether you’re an outdoor enthusiast seeking adventure in the North York Moors or a culture lover looking to immerse yourself in the region’s heritage, a visit to Helmsley offers a treasure trove of experiences waiting to be discovered. Indulge in local cuisine, browse unique shops, and embrace the idyllic countryside as you uncover the delightful things to do in Helmsley.

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Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Hiking the North York Moors National Park

Helmsley is located on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, offering fantastic opportunities for hiking and outdoor activities. Explore the scenic trails and enjoy the stunning natural landscapes and the incredible waterfalls. The North York Moors area itself is one of the United Kingdom’s largest expanses of heather moorland.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Visit Rievaulx Abbey and Rievaulx Terrace

One of the best things to do round Hemsley is to take a short drive from Helmsley to the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. The Cistercian Rievaulx Abbey monastery, is one of the most complete and atmospheric abbey ruins in England. Learn about its history, explore the grounds, and enjoy the peaceful surroundings. There is a Visitor Centre, a café and artefacts to see, the centre has large windows overlooking the Abbey ruins and you can enjoy a peaceful cup of tea while marvelling at the stunning scene laid out before you. 

Rievaulx Abbey, Hlmsley, North Yorkshire with double gates in front on a summers day

Rievaulx is one of the most famous of Yorkshire Abbeys. Rievaulx looms over this tiny village, whose population stands at around 100. The Abbey itself was closed and destroyed when Henry VIII dissolved the monasteries. Rievaulx is about  3 miles out of Helmsley and well worth a visit it makes a great walk on a sunny day.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

See Helmsley Castle

The first castle at Helmsley in North Yorkshire England was built sometime after 1120. This ringwork-style castle was surrounded by two earthwork ditches and the Castles rectangular shape was a result of the limestone outcrop it was built on.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

The major highlights at Helmsley Castle include the Tudor Mansion and its displays, the ruined east tower and the incredible dry moat. 

The extraordinary Tudor residence was built between 1563 and 1587 by the Manners family. The interior of the house has large mullioned windows, oak panelling and some finely detailed plasterwork.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Helmsley Castle has stood for more than 900 years and gone through various phases in that time. The castle was at one point owned by Richard III – and, during the 17th-century English Civil War, largely destroyed. However, the Tudor mansion at the site escaped damage.

Helmsley Walled Garden

Helmley’s walled garden was built to provide fruit and vegetables to the Feversham family at Duncombe Park, there has been a walled garden at Helmsley since 1758. The garden sits beneath the commanding ruins of Helmsley Castle

After WWI the garden was left derelict until 1994s when a local nurse – Alison Ticehurst saw its potential as a therapeutic horticultural garden.   

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

The ethos of the garden is to create a place where people can tap into the healing power of horticulture, or simply find a quiet place to sit and enjoy a stunning display of flowers throughout the seasons. The gardens are developed and maintained by a small core of staff with the help of a dedicated band of volunteers.

There is a stunning collection of clematis and many rare species of flowers, trees and shrubs. Along with  52 species of Yorkshire apples, and 34 Victorian vines.

Helmsley Brewing Company

Helmsley Brewing Co. is a renowned craft brewery located in the heart of Helmsley, Yorkshire. With a passion for producing high-quality, artisanal beers, the brewery has gained a reputation for its dedication to traditional brewing techniques and its commitment to using locally sourced ingredients. Helmsley Brewing Co. has been running since 2014 and they brew high quality ales such as Yorkshire Legend, Helmsley Honey, Howardian Gold and Striding the Riding. 

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

The brewery also offers brewery tours, to see the brewing process firsthand and learn about the artistry behind their brews.

The best place for drinks in town is at Summat’s Brewing pub. They have fresh draught beer from £3 a pint, their own bottled beers, Czech Pilsner, artisan cider, gin, vodka, wines and bubbles. The beer garden is the sunniest place in Helmsley and you are guaranteed a warm welcome.

Helmsley Market Square

On Fridays, there is a bustling market in the town square that everyone comes to shop at. There are fresh vegetable vendors at the weekly market, clothing and lots of interesting stalls with gourmet food products. In the centre of the square, you will spot the Feversham Monument which was installed in 1867 and the original Market Cross. 

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

There are lovely independent shops in Helmsley and if you are in the mood for al fresco dining, you can pick up a range of fresh supplies at Hunters of Helmsley for an idyllic summer picnic by the stream that runs along the side of town.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Helmsley attractions for the kids

The Limes Play Area has 2 muliplays, springers, swings for toddlers and older children, a seesaw, a basket swing, a rotating cone climber, a netting tunnel, a Warrior Pod fitness suite and a five-a-side football area.

There is another play area at Baxton’s Road at Helmsley Recreational Charity. This has a multi-play, zip wire, springers, a Vortex Rotator (for holding on to and swing round) and other equipment. 

Helmsley Open Air heated Swimming Pool

Don’t miss the Helmsley open air swimming pool on a warm day this is YOrkshire’s only heated open air pool. With excellent water quality and a constant 28 C it makes for the perfect relaxing swim. 

All Saints Church

All Saints Church stands just off the busy marketplace in Helmsley. It was built in the 12th century, though there was a church on this spot before the Norman invasion of 1066.  

Legend says that St Aidan preached here in the 7th century, and although there is no evidence of an earlier church there is a 10th century Viking gravestone carved with traditional interlacing patterns.  

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

All that remains of the earlier church from the 12th century are two rounded arches, the chancel arch and the south doorway. But the most incredible feature of the church is a series of Edwardian murals covering the north aisle wall. These tell the story of Christianity in the Helmsley area and the tree branches of the mural show the local parishes including those of Rievaulx Abbey.

Experience Helmsley Arts Centre

If you’re interested in arts and culture, visit the Helmsley Arts Centre. It hosts a range of events, including theater performances, film screenings, exhibitions, and live music.

Duncombe Park

Duncombe Park Gardens are open to the public but not the stunning privately owned Baroque Mansion on the hill which is owned by the Duncombe family. The parkland is over 450 acres, and the National Nature Reserve manages 182 of these. Here you can see tall broadleaved trees, as it is open to the public for most of the year (except around Christmas time).

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

There is a car park at the top, but many people walk up to the mansion house from Helmsley town centre, which takes about 20-minutes. 

Parklands, Nature Reserve & Walks

Monday 1st January – Friday 23rd December 2022, 7 days/week
10.30am – 5pm, last admission 4pm. Tickets can be purchased from the National Centre for Birds of Prey Centre located at the Parkland Centre within Duncombe Park, or the Duncombe Park Shop in Bridge Street, Helmsley at a cost of £1.00 per person per visit.

Monday 18th April 2022 – Wednesday 31st August, 6 days a week, closed Saturdays
10.30am – 5pm, last admission 4pm, £5 adult, £3 child

National Centre for Birds of Prey 

The National Centre for Birds of Prey can be found at the magnificent Duncombe Park estate, set within the world-famous North York Moors National Park. They are open to visitors 7 days a week from February until the end of October.

Many of the birds take to the skies in a spectacular flying demonstration or are part of important breeding projects. From the tiny terrestrial Burrowing Owl to the mighty and majestic Steller’s Sea Eagle the National Centre for Birds of Prey houses the largest collection of birds of prey in the north of England.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire
©National Centre for Birds of Prey

The Owl House Cafe at the National Centre is set within the grounds and serves a variety of locally sourced snacks, hot and cold meals – as well as fresh coffee and Yorkshire Tea. All the cakes are made on the premises. Please check for details

The Cleveland Way National Trail

Helmsley is the beginning point for the magnificent Cleveland Way National Trail, a 110-mile National Trail that goes through the North Yorks Moors and the coastline up to Whitby and Scarborough and ends in Filey

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Helmsley Tea Rooms

If you love an afternoon tea then you will be spoiled for choice in Helmsley. You can do tea at The Feathers, the Black Swan and The Porters.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Auntie Anne’s Castlegate Bakery

We stumbled upon Auntie Anne’s accidently as it isn’t in the village itself but we made sure we came back several times a week.Auntie Anne’s Bakery is a traditional Yorkshire family run bakery in Castlegate.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

They have a huge selection of traditional delicacies, all made and baked on the premises. From fabulous Yorkshire Curd Tarts, steak pies, delicious cakes, biscuits, sweet pastries, savoury bakes and meat pies to take home and enjoy you can stop by for a cup of tea or coffee with a pastry or sandwich.  Auntie Anne’s also has stalls on markets in York, Pickering and Kirby Moorside. 

Where to stay in Helmsley

Black Swan Pub and hotel

A must is a meal at the Black Swan Pub once the main stop off for weary travellers on a stagecoach route linking Leeds to York, The Black Swan dates back to the 15th century. With an Elizabethan building on one end, a Tudor one to the other and a Georgian House in the middle, the Black Swan is wonderfully higgledly-piggledy, with bags of character.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

You can also book a stay at the Black Swan just watch out for the ghosts. Book your stay here.

The Feathers

The Feathers opened for business early in 1959 having previously been two private houses, both owned by the local Duncombe Park Estate and each with very different, but equally fascinating, histories. The Feathers offers great dining and their Chefs concentrate on locally sourced ingredients. You can dine in the pub or the dining room and then rest upstairs in the gorgeous boutique rooms.

Book your stay at The Feathers here.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

The Feversham Arms

The Feversham Arms has a long history of hospitality, stretching back over 150 years. It exquisitely blends the traditional comforts of its Victorian heritage with an irresistible boutique design.

Originally an old coaching inn, the hotel was rebuilt and renamed in 1855 by the Earl of Feversham on the site of an older hostelry. It was previously known as The Guest House, The Board Inn and latterly The Bay Horse where beer and candles were made for sale.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

In 1967 the hotel was bought by Charrington’s Brewery before being bought by Mr. and Mrs. de Aragues in 1977. The de Aragues then purchased the three cottages to extend the hotel and added the swimming pool and gardens. The Feversham Arms Hotel & Verbena Spa, as it is known today, was born.

Book your stay at the Feversham Arms here

The only market town that’s fully within the boundaries of the North York Moors National Park, Helmsley makes an ideal base for exploring this beautiful part of England. I loved Helmsley Castle and village and would happily live there.

Visiting Helmsley is like stepping back in time in a charming market town. Located in the heart of North Yorkshire, this town is known for its fascinating history and stunning surroundings. One of the main attractions in Helmsley is its majestic castle, which dates back to the 12th century. Exploring its ancient ruins offers a glimpse into the town’s rich history and offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.

Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire

Aside from its historical appeal, Helmsley also boasts great shopping opportunities. The town’s vibrant market square is filled with quaint independent shops offering a range of unique products, from handmade crafts to local produce. Visitors can wander through the bustling market stalls, discovering hidden gems and enjoying the friendly atmosphere.  

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Best things to do in Helmsley North Yorkshire


  • Faith was born in Ireland raised in Canada and has lived in over 10 countries in Europe including England, Ireland, Scotland, France, Spain, Northern Ireland, Wales, along with Mexico, Antigua, the US and has slow travelled to over 40 countries around the world. Graduating with a degree in Anthropology and Women's Studies Faith is a student of history, culture, community and food and has written about these topics for over 40 years.

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