Words: Georgie Pridden (Instagram @georgie_pridden)

 Heading north out of York, Moors bound or to the East Coast, there are a host of cultural, culinary and shopping experiences. On the edge of the former and on the way to the latter, it would be easy to miss all that Malton, Pickering, Kirkbymoorside and Helmsley have to offer. These are historic market towns, and a lot more.

Malton recently gained the well-earned accolade of the ‘Food Capital of Yorkshire’, and is currently thriving. Away from the main high street is the market square, with endless shopping opportunities. It is off the beaten track though, that you really search out the gems. The Talbot Yard is a community of independent traders, including a knowledgeable butcher, an exquisite patisserie, original bakery, and for those with a thirst on, a gin distillery and coffee shop that blends and roasts its own brews. For a bit of old school charm, head to The Shambles, once a snicket dedicated to butchers, where now you will find an eclectic collection of antique shops, cobbler and wood carver.

Picture perfect Helmsley is best known for its fabulous square, presided over by the 1st Earl of Feversham, whose family are still owners and custodians of much of the town. Many travellers stop to have a cup of tea and piece of cake from one of the excellent cafes; what most miss though, is the historic ruins of Helmsley Castle, which overlook the Helmsley Walled Garden with its cafe, shops and immaculate garden, run by a group of volunteers. During the summer months, the open air swimming pool is a popular activity. Back to the main square, do drop in to Hunters of Helmsley, an epicurean temple, particularly the first floor with all sorts of rare and wonderful delights.

Perhaps the least known of the four is Kirkbymoorside. The town’s charm lies in its unspoilt character, supported by locals who come to shop and chew the cud. There is everything most people could want, from an independent electric shop with attended petrol pump, newsagent, butcher, a diverse vegetable shop and bakers. Perhaps less obvious is Towler’s, an old school chemist with a difference; Mr Towler is a keen oenophile and stocks a fine list of wine. If you are lucky you might catch the award-winning Kirkbymoorside Brass Band, which has been going since 1886.

The last stop on this tour of market towns is Pickering, the gateway to the North York Moors, Yorkshire Forests and Coast, which is famously known for the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. An outing to Pickering is not complete without a visit to the steam trains, which you may recognise from the TV series’ Heartbeart, Downton Abbey and Dad’s Army. A short walk from the station, you will discover the Market Place, with excellent local facilities, and a cracking coaching inn, The White Swan. If you fancy some sustenance, call into Elizabeth Botham’s Tearooms, opposite the railway station. And for culture and entertainment, Pickering has no fewer than three theatrical venues, including the renowned Kirk Theatre; not bad for a town of only 7000 inhabitants!