Guide to the North York Moors holiday cottages

Guide to the North York Moors

Julie 25 June 2023

Welcome to our brilliantly comprehensive guide to the North York Moors, where you learn about the best walks, visitor attractions and places to eat and drink across the region - all in one simple guide where we've done the hard work so you don't have to.

Virtually unchanged, humans and animals have made a relatively light impression on the North York Moors since time began. The upland area contains one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in England and The North York Moors National Park status was first designated back in 1952 covering an area of 554 square miles.

Known as ‘God’s own country’, the region’s sheer beauty has been an inspiration for outdoorsmen, artists and writers. It is also a major draw for those of you seeking a holiday destination which doubles as both a retreat and an escape from the cities and towns. 

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Discover the North York Moors

A view of the North York Moors with a bench in the foreground

Skirting the northern edge of the central moors, you can find the Esk Dale Valley. Bisected by the River Esk on its way to the North Sea, the charming local scenery and well-kept villages of the northern moors are a delight to visit. The best way to see them is by train on the Esk Valley Line which runs between Middlesbrough and Whitby every day.

The northern moors’ coastline is a varied mixture of terrains with rugged cliff tops, peaceful bays with pretty fishing villages, and sandy beaches. Whitby, Sandsend and Robin Hood’s Bay are amongst some of the star attractions in the north area of the moors. You can embark on Wainwright’s Coast to Coast Trail in the latter. Lake Eskdale is another wonderful sight to behold as you take a lovely stroll along its shoreline. Marvel at the contours of the surrounding land, once carved by glaciers at the end of the Ice Age. Whitby is known for its associations with the famous novel Dracula and the iconic ruins of Whitby Abbey. This spectacle is not to be missed.

On the southern slopes of the North York Moors National Park, you'll find around 8,500 acres of woodland to explore in the form of Dalby Forest with mountain bike trails, peaceful picnic spots and spectacular dark skies. 

Find plenty of fun things to do

Sun breaking through the clouds at a sandy and rocky beach at low tide

Rock pooling at Robin Hood’s Bay

Children love a day at the beach, but unlike Mum and Dad, they aren’t there for the suntan. Take them rock pooling along the shore at Robin Hood's Bay to find what the sea has left behind in the bevvy of pools; all manner of marine life can get stranded between high tides. After your own investigation, you can take a look at the water tanks located in the coastguard station. These are a great collection of lively flotsam and jetsam that they have retrieved from the rock pools.

Flamingo Land Resort

With rollercoaster rides, a zoo, events and a plethora of fantastic events to entertain you, Flamingo Land Resort is the place to be for families with kids and young adults. Roughly 140 species of wild animals, birds and reptiles live in the zoo so you'll be knocked off your feet by the sheer variety of creatures and creepy crawlies. The rides range from thrill rides for big kids to motorised jaunts for tiny ones too. Book tickets to avoid getting left behind. 

Sea Life Centre

A seal squints its eyes and looks up at the camera

Set against Scarborough's cliffs, the distinctive white pyramids of the Sea Life Centre offer a unique opportunity to experience marine wildlife from around the world - and none of you will get wet! Talks, feeding displays and demonstrations are presented each day. The centre also houses a group of seals in an outdoor pool which can be viewed through an underwater observation window.

Danby Moors Centre

An excellent place to start your visit to the North York Moors National Park is the Moors Centre in Danby. There is a really good education centre, an adventure playground and lots of lovely walks and information points that can really help to steer you in the right direction to enjoy your visit. There's plenty of information at the Visitors Centre about wildlife, history and things to do.

Swing through the trees at Dalby Forest

An empty path cutting through a dense and green woodland

With a Treetop Adventure course for little ones and thrilling Go Ape zip wires for older kids, there's lots of fun to be had on a visit to Dalby Forest. They can also travel through the trees on a Segway, follow a Gruffalo Sculpture Trail or try archery and paintballing at the Dalby Activity Centre.  

Stay nearby:

  • Lenwood is a three-storey sandstone cottage in the heart of Robin Hoods Bay for 4 guests and 2 dogs.
  • Gateways is a handsome stone property for 5 guests in Thornton-le-Dale, close to Dalby Forest.

Climb aboard a train

A steam train passing under a bridge surrounded by trees

No matter how old you are, there’s something irresistible about a journey aboard a steam or vintage diesel train. The North York Moors are home to two stretches of scenic railway: the Esk Valley Railway and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

The Esk Valley Railway

This beautiful line connects the rural communities across the national park to the vibrant city of Middlesborough and the seaside resort of Whitby. After the early morning commuter runs, it’s a pure delight to travel through some of the most striking and otherwise inaccessible moorland countryside around. You can download walks and cycle routes that originate at Esk Valley Railway stations along the line. There is also a programme of on-train events throughout the year including music and ale nights.

North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR)

A platform at the North Yorkshire Moors Railway

The NYMR is a National Lottery-funded endeavour where you can enjoy a steam train ride in style across 24 miles of restored track - kick back and watch the scenery unroll before you. You can even take lunch at one of several heritage stations along the route or book a meal in one of the Pullman dining carriages. It’s a wonderful, fun day out for adults and children, especially seniors. Daily services run between Whitby and Pickering and all stations in between such as Goathland, Newton Dale, Grosmont and Levisham. Visit the NYMR for a full locomotive inventory and roster – on average there are five trains in operation per day. Similarly to the Esk Valley Railway, there is a full programme of special events that happen on board certain trains and in the stations.

Ryedale Miniature Railway

If your children become obsessed with trains, why not also take them out to the Ryedale Miniature Railway near Ampleforth? This family attraction is only open to the public on Sundays during the summer months. Families are encouraged to sit on top of the tiny carriages as the train chugs its way through a country estate. There is an on-site café and grounds for you to explore and relax in too. 

Stay nearby: 

  • Three Trees is a characterful cottage near the NYMR station in Grosmont that sleeps 2 guests. 
  • Melrose Cottage is a charming property near Ampleforth that sleeps up to 6 guests and 2 dogs.

For older families looking for a fun activity

Whitby Abbey on a blue sky day

Whitby Abbey

At 1,500 years old, these iconic ruins are the signature visitor attraction for the North East. Discover their secrets on a visit as you walk in the footsteps of the first English poet Caedmon and follow the dubious tread of the Prince of Darkness, Dracula. Inspiring the Irish author, Bram Stoker, Whitby Abbey plays an important role in the story of Dracula. Ascend the staircase where this bloodsucking fiend took the form of a black dog! Such is the bewitching beauty of Whitby Abbey, you will be inspired in more ways than one in the pursuit of its alluring beauty.

Discover even more of what wonderful Whitby has to offer in our full Whitby guide.

Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum (CIMM)

Mining for ironstone is an uncommon practice in the 21st century, however, at the CIMM, you'll learn about the trade and discover its important legacy in the North York Moors and the Tees Valley. It's situated at the former Loftus Mine, the first mine to be opened in Cleveland. The iron mined here was used in the building of bridges and railways across the globe from Europe to America and India to Australia. An interesting place to visit for enthusiasts of mining, geology and the Industrial Revolution – there’s a lot to see at CIMM.

Eden Camp

From Pickering, just as you get to the big roundabout before Malton, you come across Eden Camp which is housed in an original Prisoner of war camp. The award-winning museum allows you to experience the sights, sounds and even the smells of World War II. It is believed to be the most comprehensive display of British Second World War history in the world. Also covered are the First World War and post-1945 conflicts.

Falling Foss Tea Gardens

Falling Foss waterfall surrounded by leafy foliage

Evoking thoughts of Into the Woods and the dark fairy tales of the Brothers Grimm, this quaint tea house is a delightful place to stop by. Located near Whitby, Falling Foss is a small stone house set in a beautiful woodland valley with an attractive waterfall. Its beguiling charm will draw you in, as you find yourself wanting to venture further into the neighbouring Sneaton Forest - a superb place for long walks and other outdoor pursuits.

Ryedale Folk Museum

This brilliant museum allows visitors to immerse themselves in the history and heritage of the North York Moors with full-size models of houses dating back to the 15th century and demonstrations from traditional craftspeople such as cobblers and blacksmiths. The Ryedale Folk Museum is set over six acres in the lovely village of Hutton-le-Hole which is famous for sheep grazing on the pretty village green and a babbling stream running straight through the middle of it. Highlights include an Iron Age roundhouse, a medieval crofter's cottage and an Edwardian daylight photography studio which is the oldest example of its kind in the UK.

Stay nearby:

  • Abbey Lookout is the perfect base for a Whitby holiday and sleeps 4 guests.
  • Hollyside Cottage in Hutton-le-Hole sleeps 4 guests and is just down the road from the Ryedale Folk Museum

For a couple's getaway

A gate in a field next to a public footpath signpost

A romantic getaway is an unbeatable experience – a lovely way to leave the world behind and enjoy some serious quality time together discovering new places. Here are a few of our favourite spots for day breaks.

Castle Howard

An exterior image of Castle Howard and its pleasant gardens

TV addicts will leap at the chance to visit the filming location for Downton Abbey and Brideshead Revisited. Privately owned by the Howard family, you can enjoy leisurely romantic walks around the extensive gardens and grounds of Castle Howard. You can also book a tour of the house and view its interior design and the stunning architecture which impresses just as much as the exterior does. There is a chapel and an exhibition space for touring and permanent displays. Take a picnic and sit by the lake where dogs on leads are permitted on the grounds.

Rievaulx Abbey

An image of Rievaulx Abbey surrounded by trees

Managed by English Heritage, Rievaulx Abbey makes a lasting impression on every visitor. Now in ruins, this former Cistercian monastery is an important remnant. It’s a delectable spot to take a carefree wander with your loved one. Rievaulx Abbey was sacked and dismantled under orders from Henry VIII in 1538-9 and was sold to a local landowner. Then it became the site of an ironworks for 100 years before taking its first steps to becoming a preserved landscape monument in the 18th century.

Helmsley Castle

Close to Rievaulx Abbey is the iconic fortress, Helmsley Castle. Also managed by English Heritage, a visit to both is a great idea for visitors who like nothing better than exploring picturesque, well-appointed ruins together. Situated in the centre of the small town of Helmsley, this former Civil War stronghold is over 900 years old. There are guided and audio tours available as well as a series of live events and historical re-enactments.  

A day out in Scarborough

A harbour on a clear day. There are docked boats everywhere

Take a stroll along the legendary promenade at Scarborough and round to the harbour with its eye-catching lighthouse. If you love a traditional seaside resort, Scarborough offers all the exciting staple features like fish and chips, ice cream and deck chair afternoons. Elsewhere, the town has a castle, the Rotunda Museum of Geology, the boating lake in Peasholm Park, Sky Trail Adventure, and the original Victorian cliff lift that will take you from Scarborough Spa to the beach below.

Stay nearby:

For big groups to explore

Pathway through a grassy field leading to the coast

For large groups of friends and family, the North York Moors region can be a great escape, and if you are joined together by your love of long walks, then this is the place. Long-distance walkers will be rewarded with spectacular and dramatic scenery here in the North York Moors.

Wainwright’s Coast to Coast

Stretching from Robin Hood’s Bay near Whitby on the east coast all the way across the North York Moors, the Vale of Mowbray, the Pennines and finally the coastal plain of the Lake District to the settlement of St Bees on the east coast, this trail is something else. Roughly 183 miles in all, a well-deserved stay in a holiday cottage to cool your heels and recuperate after a day's hiking is just the ticket. 

Roseberry Topping

A stone wall with a closed gate. Beyond, Roseberry Topping awaits.

View bagging is a great group hobby. Head to the summit of this curious rocky outcrop near Guisborough and Middlesborough. Now managed by the National Trust, this unusually named destination is an excellent choice for groups to head to for a walk. Walkers of moderate ability are likely to have the time of their lives bonding and achieving the summit to see one of the best views around. The summit stands at 320m and is but a third the size of Scafell Pike (England’s tallest). The hill has dazzled settlers down the ages, back further than even the Bronze Age.

Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way is a 109-mile-long trail that runs for the most part along the hem of the North York Moors. Following a massive semi-circular route from Helmsley in the south-west to Filey by Scarborough in the south-east, you can enjoy the coast, heather moorlands, castle ruins, fishing villages and beautiful seaside resorts.

Stay nearby:

  • Roseberry View comes with a hot tub, sleeps 10 guests and is just a short walk from Roseberry Topping
  • Alby House sleeps 11 guests and is close to the cliff top path of the Cleveland Way in Runswick Bay

Discover top pubs and places to eat

A fancy restaurant setting with a glass of red wine and a dish of salmon

Whether you are looking for an exceptional North Yorkshire-style fine dining experience or some traditional English fare in a gastropub, the region is full of surprises for foodies. Here are a few of our favourites that are open for business all year round.

Gisborough Hall  

Home to several fresh and alternative dining experiences, Gisborough Hall is a brilliant place to dine both formally and informally. For the former, book a table at the Chaloner’s which is bursting with elegance and charm. Nearby is the G-Bar – a contemporary bistro for informal diners. You’ll not want for great food in either of these eateries.

Black Swan at Oldstead

A fancy-looking plate of food

The Michelin star-awarded Black Swan at Oldstead is a definite must if you take good food seriously. Effortlessly demonstrating the art of cookery, the menu offers fresh and delicious plates and a wine list to match. The owners, who have managed the plots for generations, also own 2 acres of farmland where their vegetables are grown and harvested. For those with impeccable taste, make your reservation in advance to avoid disappointment: you won’t want to miss the chance to dine here.

The Worsley Arms 

One of our favourite gastropubs in the North York Moors is the Worsley Arms. Overlooking the pretty Hovingham Green, the stately Worsley Arms is an AA Rosette winner and it’s easy to see why. The food here is to die for and the bar and restaurants are decorated to high standards in a traditional North Yorkshire style. Close to Castle Howard, this is a wonderful pub to relax and dine at after a day of touring and holiday exploration.

The Fox and Rabbit 

A restaurant setting with crockery and polished water and wine glasses

The Fox and Rabbit Inn is situated at the edge of the Dalby Forest between Whitby and Pickering. We think this gastropub is the type of pub that makes you feel just as welcome whether you’ve turned up for a swift pint or a slap-up meal. When dining, you can enjoy panoramic views of the moors, and all dishes, where possible, are made with locally sourced ingredients from the fish to the vegetables.

For an even wider choice of eateries across the North York Moors visit the 'Taste of the North York Moors', a brilliant reference guide. 

Dog-friendly places

A happy dog runs through a wild flower meadow

With dog-friendly beaches such as Runswick Bay and Staithes where canine companions are welcome all year round plus acres of glorious countryside to explore, Yorkshire is a true haven for four-legged friends. Great places to head to include castles and abbeys such as Pickering Castle, Whitby Abbey and Scarborough Castle and the grounds of gardens of stately homes like Castle Howard and Mount Grace Priory. Dogs can sniff out adventures between the trees at Dalby Forest and can even ride the period steam trains of the NYMR railway between Pickering and Whitby. 

Dogs on leads are also welcome at:

  • Ryedale Folk Museum
  • Danby Moors Centre
  • Falling Foss
  • Rievaulx Abbey
  • Helmsley Castle (grounds only)

Be sure to check before planning a day out as details are always subject to change.

Plan your next North York Moors getaway

Stream running through Hutton-le-Hole

Stay in a self-catering holiday cottage in the North York Moors for your next holiday. There’s an endless choice of lovely places to stay. Choose from remote farmhouses deep in the heather moorlands, a fisherman’s cottage, a luxury apartment with seaside views or a large suburban home-from-home with additional extras. Wherever you decide to stay, we have the accommodation you are looking for.

Visit our full collection to find your perfect holiday today.

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.

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