North York Moors Travel Guide
Our luxury experts have compiled a guide to some of the top locations to visit, sights to see and local cuisine to sample during your luxury cottage holiday in the North York Moors
The North York Moors National Park has been shaped by nature and blessed with fantastic countryside and coastline. With the vibrant city of York within striking distance, the North York Moors are great for an all-round luxury cottage holiday. Stretching from just above Scarborough in the south, to just beyond Staithes to the north, the North York Moors National Park incorporates delightful market towns, ancient abbeys, heather-strewn moorland and miles of heritage coast rich with beautiful beaches, fossils and even the odd dinosaur footprint. Add to this intriguing local tales about smugglers, mermaids and giants, as well as wonderful local produce from fresh crab to heather-infused honey, the North York Moors is an enchanting place to explore.
If you like lots of places to eat, shops and attractions on the doorstep, as well as the buzz of a vibrant city, York is a great place to base yourself for trips into the North Moors National Park. Equally, if you’re staying in the national park, York makes a fantastic day trip. Steeped in Roman and Viking history, with a superb racecourse, a vibrant cultural scene and a riverside location, York is full of character. Being fairly compact, it is easy to get around and walking the medieval walls that surround the Old Town is a great way to start to get your bearings.
"There’s a vast mix of independent shops, boutiques and local producers throughout the charming Old Town and the ancient street, called the Shambles, is a must to see the upper levels of the timber buildings that almost touch each other."
There are many highly regarded attractions in the city including the mighty York Minster cathedral, the Jorvik Viking Centre, York’s Chocolate Story and York Castle Museum. Meanwhile, evening entertainment can be found in the various pubs, bars and restaurants, as well as the theatres and on specialist guided walks like the Bloody Tour of York which tells of all kinds of local legends.
Scarborough is one of the UK’s oldest seaside resorts, which was known as a spa town in the 17th century, but with the introduction of the railway in 1845 it became a fashionable place to holiday for the Victorians. Today, those same lovely beaches that attracted visitors back then, still draw holidaymakers. High rocky cliffs and a headland topped with the ruins of the 11th century Scarborough Castle – from where there are incredible sea views, divide the beaches into North Bay and South Bay. Between the two is a Victorian Promenade which offers a lovely place to walk.
“Hay-South Bay is the older part of town, where there’s a harbour, lighthouse and fishing piers, as well as leisure boat trips, amusement arcades and theatres.”
It’s the main tourist hub and an original cliff lift still operates to help save your legs. South Bay is also where you’ll find most of the shops and nightlife. Meanwhile, North Bay is the more peaceful end of the resort where you’ll find the Oriental-themed Peasholm Park with its boating lake. Other things to do in Scarborough include visiting the iconic Rotunda Museum to learn about the town’s ‘Dinosaur Coast’ and boarding the North Bay Heritage Railway, while the nearby secluded cove of Hayburn Wyke is a beautiful place for a picnic.
Staithes lies about 10 miles along the coast from Whitby and is a small, but pretty fishing village that has been home to many generations of fishing families. The old part of town is dominated by winding streets packed tight with colourful cottages and a charming harbour that is tucked in between two rocky headlands. There’s still a small fleet of traditional fishing boats here, often tied up on the banks of Staithes Beck which flows into the harbour. There are a handful of places to eat in the village, but the Cod & Lobster Inn draws visitors for its pretty location right on the quayside.
“Staithes is a tranquil base for fossil hunting on the small sandy beach and for exploring Yorkshire's cliff top paths.”
One of Staithes’ claims to fame is that in 1744 a 16-year-old James Cook worked here as an apprentice shopkeeper before he went on to become a mariner. Find out more about Cook, as well as the town’s fishing heritage, at Staithes Heritage Centre and the Captain Cook Museum. Staithes is also associated with a group of impressionist artists, including Dame Laura Knight, who were active in the late 19th century, and their legacy lives on at the exhibitions and events at the Staithes Arts Festival held each autumn.
Whitby is full of interesting facts including being where, in 1746, James Cook (who later became Captain Cook), began an apprenticeship as a seaman. His famous ship, Endeavour, was built here too. The Captain Cook Memorial Museum is a great place to discover more about this famous explorer. Whitby is also famous for the semi-precious stone called jet, which was made popular by the Victorians and visitors can purchase a piece of Whitby jet jewellery as a souvenir. If you like a good fright, visit the Dracula Experience, for Whitby was where Bram Stoker chose as the place for the world’s most famous vampire to arrive in England.
“A traditional seaside resort, Whitby has blue flag beaches, amazing fish and chips, and lots of quirky, narrow streets.”
You should pay a visit to Whitby Abbey that dates back to the 7th century, which can be accessed via the walk up the famous 199 steps from the old town. To learn more about the town, Whitby Museum tells of its whaling, maritime and geological history, whilst the Whitby Jet Heritage Centre is where you can see an authentic Victorian jet workshop in action. For walkers, there’s the Cleveland Way or the Esk Valley Walk, whilst vintage train enthusiasts can ride along the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.
Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay’s roots lie in fishing and smuggling. The town is rich with fascinating history and as you wander from the top of the village, down the steep winding cobbled lanes towards the sea, it’s easy to imagine scenes of sailors, smugglers and fisherfolk of centuries ago. Today, Robin Hood’s Bay is a popular seaside place to visit on the North York Moors Coast. Streets are lined with delightful cottages and there’s a good choice of places to eat and small shops for somewhere that’s relatively small. Views from the top of the village are magnificent, whilst beyond the quayside below there is a lovely stretch of beach.
"Find out about the local history at the Robin Hood’s Bay Museum and the Old Coastguard Station, or discover scary tales on an evening ghost walk."
There’s plenty of beach fun to be had playing games, rock-pooling and combing for treasures including fossils, but do check the tides so that you don’t get cut off – especially at Boggle Hole. Robin Hood’s Bay is at the eastern end of the Coast to Coast route, or there’s a 7-mile cliff top walk to Whitby along the Cleveland Way. Meanwhile, the Victorian Weekend in December is a great time to visit, as it also incorporates the Baytown Beer Festival.