With majestic hills, winding valleys and windswept coastal cliffs, Yorkshire is known for its dramatic landscapes, so it’s no surprise that the region is also home to some of the UK’s most scenic roads. Whether you’re looking to add excitement to your commute with a new route or want to explore somewhere new, here are a few of the best roads to discover in North Yorkshire.

The Stray, Castle Howard Estate

If you’ve ever travelled between York and the village of Slingsby, you’ll likely have driven down The Stray – a mile-long stretch of road on the Castle Howard Estate that is interspersed with gatehouses, arches, bridges and mock-fortifications. This spectacular interaction between landscape and architecture was designed in 1723 by Sir John Vanbrugh, who wanted to create a memorable and imposing approach to the stately home. Today, it still makes quite an impression on the many motorists who pass through it. The road is straight but it undulates and at times causes your stomach to drop as if on a rollercoaster. This adds to the novelty of a drive here, as does the challenge of squeezing through the Carrmire Gate and the Pyramid Gatehouse. The Stray is lined with lime trees, which make quite a sight when they take on their autumn colours. From the second gatehouse, you can enjoy a splendid vista with a view to the Obelisk, a 79ft monument that commemorates the War of the Spanish Succession.

Helmsley to Thirsk via Sutton Bank on the A170

Situated in the district of Hamleton, Sutton Bank is a high point that offers incredible views over the Vale of York and the Vale of Mowbray. If you’d like to take a drive through the area that surrounds this much-loved beauty spot, you can follow the A170 from the town of Helmsley – a route that was included in the third stage of the Tour de Yorkshire. As this A-road meanders through the moors, you may spot gliders from the Yorkshire Gliding Club as you approach the Sutton Bank National Park Centre, where you’ll find a viewing platform, walking trails and a cafe. It’s here that the notoriously steep route reveals some of its best scenery. The road then leaves the moors for flatter ground as it passes through the enchanting village of Sutton-under-Whitestonecliffe. Your journey will finally end in Thirsk – the bustling market town made famous by vet and author James Herriot.

Pickering to Scarborough on the A170

Picking up the same A-road further to the east, this 30-minute drive takes you past farmland and through the North York Moors with a number of delightful villages to explore along the way. The route starts on Eastgate Street in Pickering town centre, where the road is lined by attractive stone cottages and townhouses. It then winds out into the countryside, where you can see open fields stretching for miles. You’ll pass the Cedarbarn Farm Shop and Cafe, where you can stop for coffee and cake before travelling into the moors and through the photogenic town of Thornton-le-Dale. Emerging out of the other side, you’ll drive through the villages of Wilton, Allerston, Ebberston, Snainton and West Ayton on your way to the coast. As you arrive in Scarborough, you’ll find yourself in quieter residential areas with houses that get progressively older towards the town’s Victorian centre. 

The Hole of Horcum, between Thornton-le-Dale and Sleights on the A169

Also known as the Yorkshire Canyon or the Devil’s Punchbowl, the Hole of Horcum is one of the North York Moors’ most magnificent natural sights. This huge valley was formed by water welling up from the hillside and eroding the slopes above – though local legend says it was created by Wade the Giant, who uprooted clumps of earth and threw them at his wife during a heated argument. The Hole of Horcum is an impressive 600m deep, a mile long and quarter of a mile wide. It can be seen when driving on the A169 between Thornton-le-Dale and Sleights, a hilly and incredibly scenic route that is best when observed in summer as the heather begins to bloom. Opposite the hole, you’ll find the Saltergate car park, where you can stop to admire the views or take a walk through this dramatic landscape.

Helmsley to Stokesley on the B1257

Starting in the pretty and historic market town of Helmsley, the B1257 is one of North Yorkshire’s most exciting – and challenging – B-roads to drive. This winding, 20-mile stretch travels upwards through the glorious countryside of the North York Moors and is so popular with motorcyclists that it is known as the ‘Yorkshire TT’. The route climbs gently out of Helmsley and up onto Newgate Bank, from which you can enjoy stunning views of the surrounding wooded hills. It then descends and twists through the beautiful Bilsdale Valley on the banks of the River Seph. Later, you’ll travel through the village of Chop Gate – the starting point for the popular Wainstones walk – before finishing your journey in Stokesley. While this route is lots of fun, it gets busy at times and is a hotspot for accidents, so it’s necessary to take particular care when driving it.

Whitby to Staithes on the A174

If you fancy a coastal drive, this clifftop route between Whitby and Staithes offers breathtaking views of the North Sea. Starting in the centre of Whitby, the A174 travels out of the town past the Whitby Golf Club before curving down to the beach at Sandsend. After passing through this seaside village, the road ascends up the steep, tree-lined slope of Lythe Bank, from which you’re treated to occasional glimpses of the valley below. The route then remains inland until it reaches Staithes. The A174 is recommended by The Telegraph as one of the area’s best driving routes and makes for a perfect weekend excursion due to the number of excellent places to stop and eat at along the way, such as Sandsend’s Fish Cottage. 

Pinchinthorpe to Stokesley via Great Ayton on the A173

A relatively straight, flat and open road, the A173 passes working farms and picturesque villages as it follows the edge of the North York Moors between Guisborough and Stokesley. Starting in the hamlet of Pinchinthorpe, a short, 12-minute drive here offers many inspiring sights, including a wonderful view of Roseberry Topping. At the start of your journey, you’ll have fields to your right and the moors to your left as you pass Pinchinthorpe Hall – a 16th century manor house that’s now a restaurant. The road later skirts Langbaurgh before winding through Great Ayton, which comes alive in springtime as golden daffodils pop up on the banks of the River Leven. The route finally ends in the Georgian Town of Stokesley, where you can stop for a relaxed brunch at The Truffled Hog.

Kirkbymoorside to Castleton via Hutton-le-Hole and Blakey Ridge or Rosedale Abbey

If you’re travelling between Kirkbymoorside and Castleton in the North York Moors, you have two equally beautiful routes to choose from. The first and shortest option is a 25-minute drive. This route travels through the village of Hutton-le-Hole, where you’ll find the Old School House Bakery and the Ryedale Folk Museum, before continuing on to Blakey Ridge. Alternatively, you can take a detour past Rosedale Abbey, which adds another six minutes to your journey. To do this, you need to follow Moor Lane from the centre of Hutton, which will take you past the 1000-year-old abbey. At Rosedale, you’ll then take New Road and loop back around to rejoin with the original route at Young Ralph’s Cross – an ancient carved monument that may date back as far as the 11th century.

Images- @craigpjenkins, @stayinstaithes, @the_wannabe_bond