Helmsley is a small market town in North Yorkshire that has everything you need for the perfect day out or weekend trip. It has lovely restaurants, shops, a fabulous spa, as well as plenty of interesting things to go and visit including a castle and an art gallery. But be warned, Helmsley may wake up all quiet and sleepy, but by lunchtime on any sunny day it will have attracted the crowds!
When you arrive in Helmsley, the first thing you will see (because it’s huge) is the Feversham Monument situated in the centre of the market square. Grab an ice cream and sit on the steps of the monument to people watch. On Fridays the local street market held here if you want to pick up a souvenir from your trip.
Also, quick note, the square is the only place in Helmsley you have to pay for parking – try to get yourself on a side street or up on the cobbles up in front of Browns. Another tip is to arrive after 5pm, if you are staying the night, as many of the people who work in Helmsley will have left for the day so there will be more available spaces.
Set around the square are some of the restaurants, pubs and hotels in Helmsley: it’s small and picture-perfect. For a walking tour that allows you to see the sights, I suggest that you walk away from the monument up towards The Black Swan hotel (which has a nice beer garden out the back), go left and into the church yard. Walk through here, past all the graves and the church (anyone else like looking at names on graves?!), and leave through the gate at the back of the yard onto Canons Garth. Turn left and walk towards the Feversham Arms (where the lovely spa, including rooftop pool, can be found) and onto Church Street. Have a walk round here – the houses are lovely.
When you’re ready, make your way back down Church Street towards the direction of the square. At Claridges Book Shop you can stop a little rummage amongst the shelves. Keep going down this street which turns into Castlegate and have a pause to watch the little stream that runs down between the side of the road and the houses on the other bank.
Here you will also have a pick of tearooms and cafes for a quick rest stop and a scone.
Back out on Castlegate, as the name suggests, you are now near the atmospheric ruins of Helmsley Castle (and the tourist office) complete with deep banks where the moat once was. A bit further out past the Castle is the Helmsley Walled Garden a must-see for all those with green-fingers.
Once you’ve seen these, walk back on yourself to come back to the road for a short walk on Castlegate to find yourself at the Helmsley Brewing Company (where tours run on Wednesdays). Otherwise, come out onto Bridge Street and walk back up towards the market square. Make sure to have a look in Hunters of Helmsley, a food shop with all sorts of fantastic things on sale. Also, be sure to call in at The Oak pub for a proper pint.
As well as all the above, Helmsley also has Duncombe Park (the historic house and over 450 acres of estate belonging to the Duncombe family), the National Centre for Birds of Prey, and an art gallery. It really does offer something for everyone!
For food in Helmsley there are plenty of places to choose from but try to book in advance as it is so popular. For the fish and chip fanatics, you will love Helmsley – there’s Scott’s Fish and Chips and Deep Blue. Helmsley Spice serves up delicious curries and La Trattoria’s pizzas are divine. For breakfast try Café on the Square for very reasonably priced full Englishes or pancakes.
The Black Swan and The Feathers also have very good restaurants and, having stayed at both, they are lovely places to spend the night.
Eaten and walked your way round Helmsley but still want more? Helmsley is around an hour’s drive to Whitby or Filey for some sea and sand (I can’t promise the sun). York city centre is about a 50-minute drive for more history, art and culture. For something a bit different, head over to Yorkshire Lavender, a 25-minute drive away, to get lost in lavender mazes and stare out with a cuppa over some stunning Yorkshire scenery.
Or for a lovely walk, head to the Hole of Horcum which is about a 30-minute drive away. It is a huge “natural amphitheatre” and absolutely stunning on a sunny day (or in the mist, very atmospheric). Legend has it, it was formed during an argument between Wade the Giant and his wife when he scooped up a handful of earth to throw at her. How very rude! Other people say it has just been caused over time by the rain…
And if you don’t fancy driving on your next adventure, Helmsley is one of the starting points for the Cleveland Way: a 109-mile walk which will take you from Helmsley Castle to the Brigg at Filey, skirting the North Yorkshire Moors.
You will be spoilt for choice on your trip so grab some comfy shoes and get on out there!