The Best Towns to Visit on the North York Moors

The North York Moors is rich in culture, history and beautiful landscapes. Discover our favourite towns to explore during your visit.


Whitby is a coastal town and a popular tourist destination. It has a charming old fashioned feel with beautiful views over the River Esk and out to sea. You’ll find it in the northern half of the North York Moors.

It is a fishing port with a rich shipping history and is home to the Captain Cook Museum. The town is also famous for another reason - if you have read Bram Stoke’s Dracula, you will recognise the 199 steps from the old town to East Cliff.

Whitby is the perfect place to eat fresh fish and seafood, perhaps after a bracing walk along the cliff top or time spent exploring the cobbled streets of the old town.


Helmsley is a market town which has some spectacular views over the North York Moors National Park. Here you’ll find the ruins of Helmsley Castle, built in the 12th century, and the National Centre for Birds of Prey.

Visitors can watch the flying demonstrations outside in good weather or indoors when it’s raining. The birds you’ll see include eagles, owls, hawks, falcons and vultures. There is also a five-acre walled garden to explore which has a huge variety of plants, flowers, fruits and vegetables, together with a habitat for eight of the UK’s most common bumblebees.

Helmsley also has a number of art galleries and craft workshops and a high street with a selection of privately owned businesses and not a high-street chain in sight. You can try a tasty treat from Thomas the Baker, buy your meat from Marley’s butchers or spend some time looking around the antique, clothes and gift shops.

Don’t leave Helmsley without looking in on the village ‘stick man,’ Keith Pickering. He makes beautiful hand crafted walking sticks with carved dogs, fish, birds and other animals. You can buy sticks for hiking, fishing and walking.


Scarborough became a popular seaside resort over 400 years ago and it is one of the oldest seaside resorts in Britain. It is located on cliffs overlooking the harbour with views out to sea, which you can enjoy from Scarborough Castle.

Visit Peasham Park and take a boat out on the lake, or walk round the path that follows the stream to view the oriental bridges and the Japanese pagoda. If you want fun with the kids take them to Playdale Farm Park or to learn how to drive a team of Huskey’s at the Pesky Husky Trekking Centre.

Budding geologists will love the Rotunda museum. It’s only small, but it has a fine collection of dinosaur fossils and lots of information about the geology of the area. It’s also where you can see Gristhorpe Man, a bronze age skeleton found buried in a tree trunk, which was a burial method in the Anglo-Saxon period.

If you don’t want to do much exploring, you can spend the day on Scarborough’s lovely beach, ride a donkey, dip your toes in the water and enjoy eating fish and chips outdoors.


If you’re a foodie, then you’ll love Malton, on the edge of the North York Moors. It is known as Yorkshire’s food capital and the yearly Food Lovers Festival held in May, always attracts famous faces from the culinary world.

There are food markets and tours and festivals throughout the year. The independent businesses of Malton produce meat, fish, pastries, chocolate, fruit, vegetables, coffee and beer. Book yourself on a Malton Food Tour or take a course at the Malton Cookery School at the Talbot Hotel. They offer one day classes in seafood, game and meat cookery, as well as baking, masterclasses for dinner parties and courses for kids.

From Malton you can also visit the prisoner of war museum at Eden Camp or have a stroll around the Walled Garden at Scampston.

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