Helmsley is a market town in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, with a population of 1348 in 2021. The main attraction in town is Helmsley Castle, while Rievaulx Abbey is 3 miles west; the North York Moors surround the town.

Get in edit

East Yorkshire Bus 128 runs from Scarborough via Seamer, Brompton, Thornton-le-Dale, Pickering and Kirkbymoorside to Helmsley. It takes just under two hours and runs hourly M-F, every two hours Saturday. Pickering also has buses from Malton and in summer has heritage steam trains from Whitby.

Reliance Bus 31X runs two or three times M-Sa from York via Easingwold, Coxwold, Byland Abbey and Ampleforth to Helmsley, occasionally continuing to Kirkbymoorside.

The Moorsbus runs in July and August. M4 runs twice on Saturday from Redcar and Guisborough via Stokesley and Rievaulx Abbey to Hemsley and Sutton Bank. M5 runs once on Saturday from Stokesley via Northallerton, Thirsk, Byland Abbey and Ampleforth to Helmsley.

By road the usual approach is on A170 east from Thirsk, but caravans and heavy vehicles must not attempt Sutton Bank, where the road clambers up the scarp of the moors. Another scenic route, popular with motorcyclists, is B1257 from Stokesley near Middlesbrough.

Get around edit

The town is compact and Rievaulx is about an hour's hike. You need wheels to reach Nunnington Hall or to get around the countryside.

See edit

  • Market Place is well-preserved and lined with buildings mainly from the early 19th century.
  • 1 Helmsley Castle, 14 Castlegate, Helmsley YO62 5AB, +44 1439 770442. Apr-Sep: daily 10AM-6PM; Oct: daily 10AM-5PM; Nov-Mar: F-Su 10AM-4PM. Built in the 12th century: the monks of Rievaulx used to scutter here for refuge from attack. In Tudor times it was converted into a mansion, and later held out for the Royalists, so Cromwell had the fortifications "slighted",. i.e., partly demolished. It passed into the hands of the Duncombe family, who built a grand residence nearby at Duncombe Park and left the ruin as a picturesque garden ornament. Adult £8.70, child £5.20, family (2+3) £22.60.    
  • The Walled Garden is behind the castle. It's open Apr-Oct: daily 10AM-5PM, adult £8, child free.
  • 2 Duncombe Park, Helmsley YO62 5EB. Park Feb-Dec: daily 10AM-5PM; gardens Apr-Aug: Su-F 10:30AM-5PM. Parkland and gardens around a country house built in 1713, which is not open. The park is often used for antiques fairs, steam rallies and the like. Park £1, gardens £5.    
  • National Centre for Birds of Prey is at Duncombe Park. It's open Feb-Dec: daily 10AM-5:30PM; adult £9, child £6.50, no dogs.
  • 3 Rievaulx Abbey (say "REE-voo"), Rievaulx YO62 5LB. Apr-Sep: daily 10AM-6PM; Oct to 5PM; Nov-Mar: Sa Su 10AM-4PM. Handsome and substantial ruins of a grand Cistercian abbey in the dale of the River Rye. It grew fat (and so did the monks) on wool and other enterprise, but was laid low by a mix of sheep scab, raiding Scots then the Black Death. It was dissolved in 1538. Adult £6, child £3, conc £5.40.    
  • Rievaulx Terrace is the Duncombe family's 1750s prettification of the site. It's a long grassy terrace on the hillside, with a couple of mock Doric temples, from which to gaze down at the abbey ruins. It's run by the National Trust and is a separate ticket from the abbey itself. Adult £7.35, child £3.70, NT free. Enter off B1257 half a mile east of the abbey.
  • See Thirsk for Byland Abbey a little further west.
  • 4 Ampleforth Abbey, East Lane, Ampleforth YO62 4ER. In a landscape studded with ruined abbeys, this one is a modern foundation built in the 19th century. It's run by the Benedictine monks and has a school and college. You can visit the abbey church and stroll the peaceful grounds.  
  • 5 Stanbrook Abbey is even more modern. It hosts a community of Benedictine nuns who relocated here from Stanbrook in Worcestershire in 2009. You can attend their church services.
  • 6 Nunnington Hall, Nunnington YO62 5UY (5 miles southeast of Helmsley), +44 1439 748283, . Feb-Oct: Tu-Su 11AM-5PM; Nov-mid Dec: Sa Su 11AM-4PM. Mansion house built in the 1680s on the site of a nunnery. It passed to the National Trust in 1952 and now displays a sumptuous series of rooms in 17th-century style. Plus extensive gardens. Adult £8.25, NT free.    
  • See Malton for Castle Howard a few miles south.
  • See Pickering for Ryedale Folk Museum at Hutton-le-Hole.

Do edit

Rievaulx Abbey
  • Helmsley Arts Centre puts on music, theatre, comedy etc.
  • Helmsley Open Air Swimming Pool, Baxtons Road, Helmsley YO62 5HT, +44 1439 326008. Jun-Sep. Heated summer outdoor swimming pool, 25 m. Facilities are limited, e.g., no lockers. Adult £6, child £4.
  • Walk: The Cleveland Way starts at Helmsley castle. It heads west to Rievaulx Abbey; to loop around the abbey and return to Helmsley is seven miles. The trail continues to Sutton Bank, then turns north along the edge of the moors through Osmotherley, Guisborough, Saltburn, Whitby, Scarborough and Filey. The whole trail is 110 miles.
  • Ryedale Show, Welburn Park, Kirkbymoorside YO62 4BL (five miles east of Helmsley), +44 1653 697820, . Large agricultural show with livestock, show jumping, sheep-dog trials, trade stalls, craft stalls, food outlets and more. It's held on the last Tuesday of July, with the next on Tu 30 July 2024. Adult £18, child £9.

Buy edit

  • The market is in the main square every Friday, plus often a craft fair upstairs in Town Hall.
  • Browns of Helmsley, 22 Market Place YO62 5BJ, +44 1439 770247. M-Sa 9:30AM-5:30PM, Su 11AM-5PM. Small department store, a branch of Browns of York. They also have branches in Beverley and Gainsborough.

Eat edit

Nunnington Hall
  • Town centre choices include Helmsley Spice, La Trattoria, Bantam (below), the hotel bars, and several tea shops.
  • Ryeburn of Helmsley, Church Farm, Cleveland Way, Helmsley YO62 5AE (By castle car park), +44 1439 770331. Daily 10AM-4:30PM. Ice cream, home-made cake, toasties, teacakes and sandwiches, and of course tea and coffee. Friendly service.
  • Vinehouse Cafe is within the walled garden, open Tu-Su 10AM-3PM.
  • Bantam, 8 Bridge St, Helmsley YO62 5BG, +44 1439 770497. Tu 5-9PM; W-Sa noon-3PM, 5-9PM. Splendid small restaurant near the castle entrance, booking essential.
  • 1 Fusion Spice Nawton, Main Road, Beadlam YO62 7SU, +44 1439 772300. Su M W Th 5:30-10PM, F Sa 5:30-11PM. Reliable Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant and take-away.
  • Star Inn, Main St, Harome YO62 5J (100 yards north of Pheasant Inn), +44 1439 770397. Daily noon-1PM, 6-9PM. Rebuilt after a fire in 2021, it again serves excellent meals.

Drink edit

  • Royal Oak, 15 Market Place, Helmsley YO62 5BL, +44 1439 770450. M-Sa 11AM-2AM, Su noon-midnight. Pleasant hotel pub on the market square. Food served daily noon-2:30PM, M-Sa 5-8PM. With 5 rooms en suite, B&B double £90.
  • The Black Swan on Market Place also has rooms.
  • Helmsley Brewing Company on Bridge St is a micro-brewery with a range of five ales. Tours are available on Wednesdays, £8.

Sleep edit

Helmsley Castle
  • 1 YHA Helmsley, Carlton Lane, Helmsley YO62 5HB, +44 345 371 9638. Clean well run hostel with 4, 5 and 6-bedded rooms, plus private rooms, sleeps 40. Also has campsite for tents, they can't accommodate caravans or trailers. Open all year; in summer 2020 this YHA is only available for exclusive group bookings.
  • 2 Wrens of Ryedale, Gale Lane, Nawton YO62 7SD (off A170), +44 1439 771260, . Quiet, clean, well-run site, with friendly proprietors. Open Mar-Nov. Tent for two £22, hook-up £25.
  • 3 Feversham Arms Hotel, 1 High Street, Helmsley YO62 5AG, +44 1439 770766. Elegant relaxing spa hotel in town centre. Great dining, dog-friendly. B&B double £120.
  • The Feathers, Market Place, Helmsley YO62 5BH, +44 1439 770275. Cosy hotel with restaurant, two bars and coffee shop. No dogs. B&B double £100.
  • Others in town include The Royal Oak and The Garden Cottage where you can stay in a converted railway carriage.
  • 4 Yorkshire Spa Retreat, Gale Lane, Beadlam YO62 7SD, +44 1439 413102. Plush place hidden in the countryside, some rooms pet-friendly. B&B double £150.
  • 5 The Pheasant, Mill St, Harome YO62 5JG, +44 1439 771241. Lovely little upscale hotel in Harome village centre. B&B double £190.
  • 6 Shallowdale House, West End, Ampleforth YO62 4DY, +44 1439 788325. Delightful B&B with just 3 rooms in lane near Byland Abbey. No children under 12 or dogs. B&B double £140.

Connect edit

As of June 2020, Helmsley and its main approach roads have a decent mobile and 4G signal, though EE and Three may be scratchy indoors. 5G has not reached this area.

Go next edit

  • Thirsk is best known as the home of vet "James Herriot", and for its racetrack.
  • Scarborough is a Victorian seaside resort. Cliffs stretch north through picturesque Robin Hood's Bay to Whitby; south are Filey, Bridlington and Flamborough Head.
  • York retains its medieval walls and has a great collection of sights and attractions.

This city travel guide to Helmsley is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.