Helmsley is a picturesque market town that packs plenty into its small space. The location, within the North Yorks Moors and easily accessible from York, make Helmsley a popular visit for surrounding locals, both exploring the nearby countryside and flocking to the town’s own attractions. Indeed, a 24 mile drive from the city or a 31X bus from Exhibition Square will land you in Helmsley market place, where you can park up and begin touring the town…
Let’s begin with a quartet of wonderful attractions that would be impressive for anywhere. First up, Helmsley Castle, an English Heritage site with 900 years of rich history, from a medieval fortress, through a Tudor mansion, a Civil War stronghold and a Victorian ruin, to the striking exhibit that stands proudly today as a fascinating tour. Only footsteps away from the castle lies a wondrous place filled with flowers, fruit and the best of mother earth. A visit to the Walled Gardens is like steeping into a fairytale, as this seemingly secret space expands into glorious expanse of nature, with lots to discover. The café, plant centre and gift shop are all nice excuses for a purchase too.
Completing a hat-trick of visitor attractions, Helmsley is also home to the National Centre for Birds of Prey. Situated at the magnificent Duncombe Park, in which the woodlands can be walked, this place will excite and educate you with a variety of birds. Get up close to raptors, hawks and owls, and experience a flying demonstration that is sure to thrill. As if that weren’t enough, Rievaulx Abbey is a short walk away and another sight to behold. Approach through the tranquil valley to be met by the dramatic remans of this once powerful Cistercian monastery, now made into a serene day out for all.
Back in the centre and into the 21st century, Helmsley caters amply for the modern day too. Its art centre hosts performances of music, theatre, cinema, comedy, dance and more, and acts as a valuable creative hub within the town. Helmsley also has one of the country’s best spa hotels, with the Feversham Arms and Verbena Spa providing a luxurious and relaxing day and night for romance, fun, or frankly any reason you fancy to spoil yourself.
There are an enjoyable mix of shops to peruse here too, from clothes at Helmsley Outdoors, Carters Country Wear, Pennita and Crane Vintage, to interiors and gifts at The Ginger Bear, White Rose, Homle Lea and Agnus & Co. But a market town like this always tempts you towards the local food and drink, and it is there that the shops really excel, notably at the specialists of their names, the Traditional Sweet Shop, Helmsley Wines, and especially at the renowned deli filled with great Yorkshire produce Hunters of Helmsley.
Of course, you will not just want to take these goodies home, but also eat and drink whilst here, and there are unsurprisingly an array of excellent cafes, restaurants and pubs to do just that at. For daytime comfort try any of Crema Coffee House, Porters Coffee Shop, The Beck Tea Rooms, Auntie Anne’s Castlegate Bakery, The Cocoa Tree or Mannion & Co. Later, great restaurant food comes from Spain at Origin or Italy at Gepetto’s and La Trattoria. Helsmley also produces its very own sweet treats by Ryeburn who create incredible ice-creams and chocolates. And for that all important pint or two, The Royal Oak and The Feathers are classic homely inns, whilst Helmsley Brewing Company is a cracking microbrewery with a tap room to sample their on-site ales.
Phew. You might want to make this one a particularly long weekend. Or visit again. And again. And again.