Helmsley is the only market town in the North York Moors National Park and with its cobbled streets, boutique shops and wide choice of cafes, bars and restaurants it is deservedly a popular destination for anyone visiting North Yorkshire. Take a look at our Helmsley Holiday Cottages.
There’s a rather fine market square, a selection of fine Georgian townhouses, a pretty walled garden and even a historic castle to admire. It’s no wonder it was named ‘Best Market Town’ in the 2015 British High Street Awards!
Oh yes and it’s also surrounding by stunning North York Moors countryside with an array of walks to try and pretty villages to visit.
Here are our top picks of what to do on your next visit:
Afternoon Tea at The Black Swan
Afternoon Tea is something of a British Institution. After all what could be more elegant than sipping tea from dainty cups while enjoying delicate finger sandwiches and perfectly created miniature cakes?
Afternoon Tea at The Black Swan Hotel is a lovely way to spend time catching up with friends and more of an experience than a meal. Think pristine white tablecloths, warm wooden floors, creamy oak panelling and a fabulous patisserie.
The building itself is also very impressive and originally dates back over 500 years. Today it comprises of three separate ‘houses’ – striking black and white on the left, original Georgian architecture in the middle and a later Elizabethan house on the right. They combine together to give The Black Swan plenty of character and charm.
Mooch about the shops
Helmsley has a wide selection of shops ranging from Browns Department Store to lots of gift shops, boutiques and jewellers. I always seem to find something I simply can’t live without.
Hunters of Helmsley is an award-winning delicatessen which sources at least 70% of their products from Yorkshire and you’ll find a raft of teas, coffees, chocolates and preserves upstairs. There’s also an excellent wine shop in town that sells a range of spirits (including various Yorkshire gins) and you can even try some samples before you buy.
Eating and drinking
You’ll find plenty of coffee shops and cafes that serve anything from a simple scone to a full Afternoon Tea. For Fish and Chips, try Scotts of Helmsley where you can either take them away to eat from the paper or be more civilised and enjoy them inside their full-service cafe. Mannion and Co is another great choice for lunch and their bistro style menu includes charcuterie boards and cheese slates. You can sit outside when the weather is nice and treat yourself to a glass of champagne.
There’s a selection of pubs around the market square but I heartily recommend heading for a craft beer (or two) at the Helmsley Brewing Co. Their beers (with fab names like Helmsley Honey and Howardian Gold) are created in their on-site micro-brewery and served in a cosy little bar. You can take a tour of the brewery to see how they are made or simply enjoy a beer and a good old chat.
If you want to treat yourself to something a little bit more gourmet, head to nearby The Feversham Arms where their summertime lunches can be served al fresco in their pop-up restaurant 100 Days in Provence.
Venture just outside of Helmsley and there is a Michelin star restaurant (The Star at Harome) and the excellent Hare Inn at Scawton which has a fantastic tasting menu.
The 18th century Helmsley Walled Garden comprises of 5 beautiful acres of flowers and plants. Specific areas of the garden include The Vine House with around 34 varieties of Victorian Vine and the Hot Border which is a blaze of colours in the summer months.
You can see the impressive Helmsley Castle from the walled garden and the remains of this Medieval fortress date back around 900 years. The varied history of the castle also includes a Tudor mansion and today this building hosts a hands-on exhibition where you can see original finds and how the castle has evolved over time.
Rievaulx Abbey is just 1.9 miles from the Castle and you can follow in the footsteps of the Cisterian Monks on a picturesque woodland walk between the two English Heritage sites. There’s a nice tearoom when you arrive so you can treat yourself to a coffee and cake before viewing the impressive remains of the monastery from a new visitor centre.
It is also well worth paying a visit to Castle Howard – the 20 minute drive is very picturesque and you’ll pass through some lovely villages such as Hovingham on your way. The stately home and gardens are magnificent and you’ll feel like you are part of a regal drama (well it was used in both Victoria and Brideshead Revisited).
Time to relax
There’s nothing like a day at the spa to rejuvenate even the weariest of souls and fortunately Helmsley has a really good one at the Verbena Spa (located in the Feversham Arms Hotel). The high quality facilities include an Outdoor Heated Pool and indulgent Hot Tub Jacuzzi. There’s also an Aromatherapy Room, Steam Room, Saunarium and full range of treatments to help melt your aches away.
Alternatively you can try the Helmsley Open Air Heated Swimming pool for a refreshing dip. It’s Yorkshire’s only heated 25 metre pool and is open most days (weather permitting) from June until September
Where to stay:
Gorgeous Cottages have a range of self-catering properties in and around Helmsley, whether you fancy staying for a few days or spending the whole week there.
This stunning 3-bedroom / 3-bathroom townhouse is tucked just behind the market square and is great choice for families and groups of friends. There’s plenty of space to stretch out with an open plan kitchen / diner and elegant living room with cosy wood-burner. There’s even a separate snug if you want to escape on your own.
A contemporary chic 2-bedroom retreat that’s tucked away down a quiet street that’s just a short stroll to the market square. The charming property includes an enclosed garden with sun-trap patio, cosy wood-burning stove and luxurious wet-room bathroom.
Another holiday home with a difference, St Aidans is a converted church that’s located just a few miles from Helmsley in the little hamlet of Carlton. Original features from the original 19th century building include stained glass windows and hand painted ceiling arches while contemporary extension houses the modern kitchen / diner.
The Haybarn and The Stables
The Haybarn (sleeping 8) and The Stables (sleeping 4) have a peaceful location in the Howardian Hills about 15 minutes from Helmsley and can be booked together to accommodate larger group. The properties come with private hot tubs and a fabulous leisure suite which includes mini-gym, sauna and a fully-stocked games room.