Sutton Hall gives you a perfect hospitable base from which to explore North Yorkshire. There are an overwhelming number of choices for day attractions and places to visit that will give you an enjoyable couple of hours, or even a full day.
Helmsley is one of the places that is guaranteed to give you a good few hours’ worth of enjoyment. Whether you’re walking, dining, shopping, cycling or just visiting for a browse, the picture postcard town of Helmsley has mostly everything that you need.
Helmsley is one of a few markets town in North Yorkshire and the only one located within the National Park. The pretty little town has plenty to do and see. There’s a modicum of history, wildlife, horticulture and arts, and so it could be fairly argued, that Helmsley has something to appeal to all the family and varying age groups. This includes a 900 year old castle, a 250 year old Walled Garden, the National Centre for Birds of Prey, The Feversham Arms Hotel Spa and the unique Helmsley Arts Centre, which offers theatre, music, dance, talks, cinema, activities and exhibitions.
A visit to Helmsley Castle will reveal how this historic building has evolved over the centuries. The castle started as a mighty medieval fortress, transitioned to a luxurious Tudor mansion, it was then a Civil War stronghold before it became the romantic Victorian ruin that it is today.
You will have an opportunity to enjoy the Castle Visitor Centre. This offers a shop and information point. You can choose to follow the audio guide to find out more about the castle and explore the imaginative hands-on exhibition. There is an opportunity to see displays of a fascinating variety – from Civil War cannon balls to early tableware. This all helps you to get a flavour for the functions and activities that have taken place at the castle over the years.
If you like historic visitor attractions, you could complement your day with a trip to nearby Rievaulx Abbey and Byland Abbey, which we will feature in future blogs. If you are fit and healthy and like to walk, Rievaulx Abbey can be reached from Helmsley on foot via the Cleveland Way National Trail (3.5 miles each way).
Helmsley Brewing Co. is worthy of a visit. Located right on Bridge Street, they offer a warm welcome to visitors. There’s an opportunity to tour the brewery and find out more about brewing or, you can just visit for a beer and a chat. This is an authentic family business. The beers are designed and produced by Becky and Kyle to reflect their love for traditional real ales and craft beers from around the world. All of their beers contain Yorkshire Malts from the town of Castleford and at least one English hop, combined with international hops to produce flavoursome ‘grown-up’ craft ales.
A well-known local man, Keith Pickering, produces exquisite and unique handmade walking sticks. Keith hand carves birds, fish and animals in hardwoods or horn that are mounted on the finest hazel shanks, which are cut from the ancient woodlands around Helmsley.
Keith has made several sticks for film, TV and theatrical productions. The most famous is the ‘magical’ walking stick in the “Nanny McPhee” films. Sticks have also been made for the TV shows “Emmerdale” and “Heartbeat” and numerous stage shows. Keith was commissioned to make a special horn crook in 2011 for the newly ordained Bishop of Durham, Justin Welby. He has now been promoted to Archbishop of Canterbury. He wanted an African Rock Hyrax carving on the horn crook – a reminder of his days working in a mission in Africa.
Built in 1759, Helmsley Walled Garden sits beneath the imposing ruins of Helmsley Castle. It was the Kitchen Garden of Duncombe Park until just after World War 1 when it was leased as market garden. Abandoned after it closed its doors for the final time in 1984, it fell into dereliction. Restoration started in 1994 and since then, the Garden has gone from strength to strength through the dedication and care of staff and volunteers. The Walled Garden is open every day from April to October.
The National Centre for Birds of Prey is the largest collection of these amazing birds in the north of England. Housed in spacious aviaries you’ll find vultures, eagles, owls, hawks, falcons and more. A team of trained birds flies free for our visitors every day.
The National Park Authority has its headquarters in Helmsley, and the market town makes a great base for seeing the western part of the Park. Duncombe Park, Rievaulx Abbey, Sutton Bank, the Wainstones and Roseberry Topping are all within easy reach, while the flagship 109-mile Cleveland Way National Trail – a long-distance walking route right through the heart of the National Park – starts in the centre of town.
If you are appealed by the prospect of a visit to Helmsley, remember to check out Sutton Hall as the perfect place to stay.