North Yorkshire Heritage Sites for Days Out

North Yorkshire is filled with stunning listed heritage sites surrounded in history, going back thousands of years.

North Yorkshire is filled with stunning listed heritage sites surrounded in history, going back thousands of years. There’s so much to discover here from stunning architecture of Gothic and medieval abbeys to the beautiful grounds of impressive halls. Whether you’re visiting a romantic castle, a tranquil abbey or a country house, these attractions will take you deep into engrossing histories and atmospheric scenery. Check out these English Heritage sites in the surrounding towns and villages near the park for day out inspiration.

Scarborough Castle

Scarborough Castle stands on a massive promontory of rock that rises above the North Sea. Its 12th century great tower is the centrepiece of a royal castle begun by Henry II. The remains of the castle dominate the town and well illustrate the great advance in the scale and skill of castle building affected during the latter half of the 12th century. It became one of the greatest royal fortresses in England and figured prominently in national events during the Middle Ages. Its buildings are mostly relatively recent additions to a site which, as a natural fortress, has been intermittently inhabited and fortified for nearby 3,000 years. Climb the battlements to discover these thousands of years of history - and the stunning views of both the North and South Bays.

Pickering Castle

Set in the attractive moors-edge market town of Pickering, discover how this splendid 13th century castle was used throughout the centuries. This tourist attraction in the heart of the North York Moors National Park has been a royal hunting lodge, holiday home and a stud farm by a succession of medieval kings. The mound was raised by William the Conqueror, and the stonework added for Henry III as a necessary defence against the Scots. The last additions to the defences of the castle were the outer entrance, curtain wall and three towers built on the orders of Edward II. Stop to visit this medieval castle ruin when visiting Pickering, or even take one of the special exhibitions in the chapel to explore the castle’s fascinating history.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey is a whole lot more than a spectacular looking cliff top landmark. Generations have been drawn to these well-known striking ruins which inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula with its Gothic splendour. The Abbey is a site of literary inspiration, religious devotion and pilgrimage, and is known to be one of the most atmospheric visitor attractions along the Yorkshire coastline. Visit to discover the Abbey’s long history, founded in 657AD by the Saxon King of Northumbria, at the interactive visitor’s centre. Audio tours are available too.
The Abbey is the host of many Whitby and North Yorkshire events throughout the year, check out the English Heritage website for more information.

Rievaulx Abbey

Escape to this tranquil valley of the North York Moors and discover the impressive ruins of one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries. Learn about the fascinating past of the Abbey and the lives of the monks who once called it their home. Take a look in the museum for displays of previously unseen artefacts from the ruins with stories of the dramatic rise and fall of the first Cistercian abbeys in North England. Visitors here can enjoy the stunning views surrounding the ruins whilst having lunch or a snack in the new tearoom, or take an audio tour while wandering the extensive ruins. The nearest town to Rievaulx is Helmsley, and if you’re looking for a scenic countryside walk, the path between the town and the abbey is both stunning and peaceful.

Helmsley Castle

This 900 year old Castle is set in the beautiful picturesque market town of Helmsley in the North York Moors National Park. It’s a must-see for anyone visiting this area of Yorkshire. Discover how the castle evolved over the centuries from a mighty medieval fortress to a luxurious Tudor mansion, to a Civil War stronghold and a romantic Victorian ruin. Check out the hands-on exhibition in the mansion house and the tactile model showing how the castle once looked. Audio tours are available here too to learn more about the history. While here, consider heading to Byland Abbey or Rievaulx Abbey - perfect to add to a family day out, walking or cycling.

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