Castle, English Heritage, Market, North East England, Places, Walking route, Yorkshire and the Humber

Helmsley, the only market town on the North York Moor

Helmsley is on the North York Moor equi-distant between Thirsk and Pickering. There is evidence of settlement here since 3000BC, including Bronze Age, Iron Age, Roman and Viking. The town is one of the 17 with a mention in Magna Carta. The medieval Canon Garth, the vicarage, is the oldest surviving house in Helmsley. Helmsley All Saints Church, dates from the C12th.

Helmsley Castle

The imposing Castle dates from Norman times when it was a fortress. The ancient oak trees in Duncombe Park date from this time. The tower is 100ft high. The Castle now has medieval, Tudor and Victorian remains. English Heritage manages the Castle and there is a Visitor Centre. There is an exhibition showing the development of the Castle through time from its early days as a fortress. In Tudor times the Castle was a fabulous mansion, but in the Civil War it was again a stronghold. Later the Castle and grounds underwent extensive improvements. Visitors can now enjoy the peace and serenity of the recently restored walled garden.

Market day is Friday, and the Market Place is by Temple Moore Town Hall. In an area which produces high quality food, it is no surprise that the town is noted for its wide range of food shops and eateries. There are over 50 independent and specialist shops with shopkeepers who take a pride in their vocation.

Activities in and around the town

English Heritage publishes a walking guide showing the route from Helmesly to Rievaux Abbey. The walk is about 4k and takes about 1.5 hours. The Abbey was one of the Cistercian Abbeys dating from the C12th. Building commenced in 1132, the same year as Fountains Abbey. The Cistercians were great agricultural innovators and successful sheep farmers.

Helmsley Walled Garden

Helmsley Walled Garden is a delight for gardeners looking for inspiration, or anyone looking for day out with beautiful gardens to stroll through. With the beautiful town of Helmsley to explore as well, what better way to spend a weekend?

Helmsley’s famous Stick Man has been in business for almost twenty years. He made the famous magical stick held by Emma Thompson’s Nanny McPhee, he’s provided walking sticks for stars, sportspeople and royalty, and even created a Staff for the Archbishop of Canterbury. Now Keith Pickering is one of the country’s biggest suppliers of stickmaking materials and tools. 

Based in the craft workshops at Helmsley Walled Garden, when Keith first started out he worked almost entirely to order and each stick would take a week or more to make. Now, a large part of the business is selling components, stick shafts, antlers, horns and carving blanks to the growing number of people who make sticks as a hobby.

Helmsley is a great place for us to be based as it’s such a supportive community. The efforts of our Helmsley in Business group have made an enormous difference to visitor numbers. And, since we won the Britain’s Best Market Town award a couple of years ago it’s become an even more popular place to stay or visit.

There are plenty of activities for children to enjoy. The Castle has a Step Inside activity pack. In the milder months the an open air heated swimming pool is open. And, the International Centre for Birds of Prey at Duncombe Park is an attraction that adults and children enjoy.

Best Market Town in 2015 Great British High Street Awards

In 2015, Helmsley beat off hundreds of high streets across the country to be named Britain’s Market Town high street.

A record number of 230 high streets entered and nearly 200,000 votes were cast across the seven categories.  This year the public got the chance to vote for the first time, alongside a visit by an expert judge from the Future High Streets Forum.

Carolyn Frank, Bid Leader from Libby Butler Jewellers said:
“Winning the city Great British High Street Award is a fantastic achievement. Over the past few years we’ve tried our best to adapt to the way people’s lives have been changing… Thank you every one that voted.”

What impressed the judges was the independent spirit of the town, the range of events  throughout year such as the popular Christmas tree festival. But also the number of events which counteract seasonality. They also liked the wide range of interesting schemes including the new motorhome parking project bringing a regular flow of tourists to the town to support the evening economy.

If you have enjoyed the North York Moors, why not tell us about it.

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