Helmsley is a market town in the Ryedale district of North Yorkshire, with a population in 2011 of 1515. The main attraction in town is Helmsley Castle, while Rievaulx Abbey is 3 miles west; the North York Moors surround the town.
The TIC is within the Castle, same hours.
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 Sa, no Sunday service. Pickering also has buses from Malton and in summer has 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 is suspended in 2020, so there's no public transport from Thirsk or Middlesbrough.
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.
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.
- The well-preserved market place is lined with buildings mainly from the early 19th century.
- 1 Helmsley Castle, 14 Castlegate, Helmsley YO62 5AB, ☏ . Apr-Sept daily 10:00-18:00, Oct daily 10:00-17:00, Nov-Mar F-Su 10:00-16:00. 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" - part-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 10:00-17:00, adult £8, child free.
- 2 Duncombe Park, Helmsley YO62 5EB. Park Feb-Dec daily 10:00-17:00, gardens Apr-Aug Su-F 10:30-17:00. 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 10:00-17:30; adult £9, child £6.50, no dogs.
- 3 Rievaulx Abbey (say "REE-voo"), Rievaulx YO62 5LB. Apr-Sept daily 10:00-18:00, Oct to 17:00, Nov-Mar Sa Su 10:00-16:00. 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), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. Feb-Oct Tu-Su 11:00-17:00, Nov-mid Dec Sa Su 11:00-16:00. 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 C 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.
- Helmsley Arts Centre puts on music, theatre, comedy etc.
- Helmsley Open Air Swimming Pool, Baxtons Road, Helmsley YO62 5HT. Closed until June 2021. Heated outdoor swimming pool, 25 m. The pool was refurbished in 2019 but facilities are limited, eg no lockers. It's normally open June-Sept but will not open in 2020. Adult £5, child £3.50.
- 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), ☏ , email@example.com. 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; the 2020 event was cancelled so the next is Tu 27 July 2021. Adult £10, child £5.
- 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, ☏ . M-Sa 09:30-17:30, Su 11:00-17:00. Small department store, a branch of Browns of York. They also have branches in Beverley and Gainsborough.
- Helmsley town centre choices include Gepettos, Helmsley Spice, the hotel bars, and half a dozen tea shops.
- Ryeburn Tearooms, Church Farm, Cleveland Way, Helmsley YO62 5AE (By castle car park), ☏ . Daily 10:00-16:30. Ice cream, home-made cake, toasties, teacakes and sandwiches, and of course tea and coffee. Friendly service.
- 1 Fusion Spice Nawton (formerly Desi Spice Club), Main Road, Beadlam YO62 7SU, ☏ . Su M W Th 17:30-22:00, F Sa 17:30-23:00. Reliable Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant and take-away.
- The highly-regarded Star Inn in Harome alas burned down in Nov 2021.
- Helmsley Brewing Company on Bridge St is a micro-brewery with a range of five ales. Tours are available on Wednesdays, £8.
- Royal Oak, 15 Market Place, Helmsley YO62 5BL, ☏ . M-Sa 11:00-01:00, Su 12:00-00:00. Pleasant hotel pub right on the market square. Food served daily 12:00-14:30, M-Sa 17:00-20:00. With 5 rooms en suite, B&B double £90.
- 1 YHA Helmsley, Carlton Lane, Helmsley YO62 5HB, ☏ . 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), ☏ , firstname.lastname@example.org. 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, ☏ . Elegant relaxing spa hotel in town centre. Great dining, dog-friendly. B&B double £120.
- The Feathers, Market Place, Helmsley YO62 5BH, ☏ . Cosy hotel with restaurant, two bars and coffee shop. No dogs. B&B double £100.
- Other mid-price options in town include The Royal Oak and The Garden Cottage where you can stay in a converted railway carriage.
- The Pheasant, Mill St, Harome YO62 5JG (100 yards south of Star Inn), ☏ . Lovely little upscale hotel in Harome village centre. B&B double £190.
- 4 Shallowdale House, West End, Ampleforth YO62 4DY, ☏ . Delightful B&B with just 3 rooms in lane near Byland Abbey. No children under 12 or dogs. B&B double £140.
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.
- 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 is Filey, Bridlington and Flamborough Head.
- York retains its medieval walls and has a great collection of sights and attractions.