[AD] Over the last few weeks I’ve been discovering the lovely district of Hambleton in North Yorkshire. It’s nestled between the rugged North York Moors to the east and the limestone landscapes of the Yorkshire Dales to the west with lovely rolling green fields, charming historic market towns, sleepy villages and plenty of attractions for days out!
You can easily reach Hambleton by train or by car! The LNER line stops in Northallerton going from Edinburgh to London and you can also arrive in Thirsk from London too. The A1 runs directly down the middle of Hambleton so it’s very easily accessible and many of the places on this list or not far off this main road. The A19 also runs through the district making it easy to get around!
Read on for 15 places you have to discover in Hambleton for yourself. You might need a whole weekend to see them all…
1. Mount Grace Priory
Mount Grace Priory is one of the jewels in the crown of England’s religious ruins. Its sprawling remains are hidden at the base of the Cleveland Hills, surrounded by picturesque woodlands just minutes from the A19. The priory is the best preserved of the charterhouses from the Carthusian Order which existed in the Middle Ages. Mount Grace is unusual as the monks lived in individual ‘cells’. One has been reconstructed and gives an unsettlingly realistic experience of what life would have been like here especially when taken in on your own.
If you pay a visit in February then you may be rewarded, as I was, with lots of wonderful snowdrops around the grounds! At other times of the year, the garden in front of The Manor is full of gorgeous colours and blooms, keep your eyes peeled for an elusive Mount Grace stoat sneaking around. Enter into The Manor and discover a world of Arts & Crafts as well as plenty of information on the Priory & Manor House. The Manor was decorated in the Arts & Crafts by Sir Lowthian Bell. He completed this redesign around 200 years after the building was originally converted from the priory guest house into a home.
I arrived in Thirsk on a wonderfully crisp, blue skied Saturday morning as the market stalls were just beginning to be set up. The Georgian facades that surround the market place hide the much older timber framed buildings which lie behind, their elegance gives a nod to the importance and prosperity of the town. This was due to its location between Edinburgh & London and made Thirsk a popular coach stop between the two cities. There were three different coaching inns in Thirsk and two are still here today. As you wander through the town you’ll notice the twisting narrow alleys leading from the market place which were used as a defensive mechanism against any invading forces.
You may know Thirsk better as Darrowby, the fictional town in the well-loved James Herriot stories written by Alf Wright who lived in Thirsk for over fifty years. The series revolves around the life and tales of a vet in Yorkshire and it has twice been turned into TV adaptations as All Creatures Great and Small. Fans of the show need to make a stop at The World of James Herriot Museum in Thirsk and must find The Ritz cinema which featured in the second series of the latest adaptation.
The sleepy village of Osmotherley with its teeny tiny village green has a peaceful charm. With tree lined streets, orange tiled roofs and plenty of views, it ticks all the boxes for a village on the edge of the North York Moors, complete with the cutest village store! Osmotherley is a popular spot to start and finish a walk with close proximity to a number of well-known routes including the Cleveland Way and the Coast-to-Coast walk.
4. White Horse of Kilburn
In 1857, after seeing the chalk images on hills in the south of England, Thomas Taylor decided he wanted to create one on a hill near his home! So, he chose and designed a horse image which was then cut out of the hillside above the village of Kilburn. It’s the largest such figure in England and is quite a sight to behold! The best place to admire the craftmanship is from the bench on the way into Kilburn (from the west). After you’ve seen the design from afar, you can walk up to, and around the edge of it to see how it was etched into the landscape. Combine it with a walk at Sutton Bank for some incredible views out across Hambleton.
5. Great Ayton
Whilst technically a village, Great Ayton on the very edge of the Hambleton district has more of a town feel to it – it actually has two village greens! Driving towards Great Ayton along Stokesley Road will reward you with stunning views to the iconic outline of Roseberry Topping (the peak is in Hambleton). Great Ayton was the boyhood home of the prominent explorer Captain James Cook and walking through the village you’ll uncover a number of places linked to him including the Cook Schoolroom Museum and All Saints Church.
Stokesley is a bright gem of a market town located further back along the River Leven from Great Ayton (above). The market square has the most magnificent Georgian facades and town houses. The impressive town hall also shows off the wealth of Stokesley’s past.
Stokesley’s weekly market is on a Friday and it boasts a local Farmer’s Market on the first Saturday of every month. Throughout the rest of the week there are some lovely greengrocers, cafes and independent shops to explore. Be sure to duck away from the main centre of town to explore the side streets. You definitely want to keep your eyes open for the colourful houses lining the riverside on Levenside.
Hambleton is packed with some of the loveliest villages and this includes Coxwold. Whilst the village is built upon a steep hill (it’s quite a workout!), making it to the top rewards visitors with superb views out over Hambleton. The views are rather wonderful. I particularly enjoyed the view from the 15th century church at the top of the village. Nearby you’ll find Easingwold (8) and Crayke (13).
Easingwold was my first stop off on my Hambleton adventures and despite a rather damp, misty day, the market town’s lovely orange bricked buildings brightened up the day. The first thing you’ll notice in Easingwold is the number of Georgian architecture buildings and it’s easy to imagine it as a hub for the Georgian society of Yorkshire.
Today, Easingwold has found its place as something of a culinary spot. There are plenty of foodie delights with lots of cafes, Artisan bakeries and other independent shops.
9. Beningborough Hall
The magnificent structure of Beningborough Hall was completed in 1716 and its Italian baroque style was inspired by the owner’s travels to Europe a few years previously. The Hall and its wonderful gardens are a lovely place to visit. The Hall is currently closed for conservation work but when it is open you can enjoy the National Portrait Gallery paintings on display. As Spring is starting to bloom the gardens will be full of colour and after your walk around the garden you can stop for a classic National Trust cake & coffee (or tea!) at the tearoom. Many ingredients are sourced directly from the estate’s own walled garden!
This wonderfully pretty village sits beneath the White Horse of Kilburn so you can visit both of them at the same time. The village is famous for the white horse as well as being the birthplace of Robert Thompson – one of the most famous woodworkers in Britain. You might not know his name but you’ll maybe know of his work as he would carve a mouse into all of his furniture. Today you can visit the Mouseman Visitor Centre and buy a piece of furniture from the workshop in the village to take home.
11. Thorp Perrow Arboretum
Thorp Perrow Arboretum covers 100 acres of woodland at the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and is the home of some of the most important, and unusual plants in Britain – notice the wonderful veteran trees as you enjoy your walk. There are lots of different sections to the arboretum and depending on when you visit different trees and plants will be in flower. In the Autumn I can imagine the arboretum being a blaze of orange, red and yellow as the leaves turn. In the summer, every shade of green is on display and a rich variety of leaves and species comes alive. Through spring (when I visited), the gardens were starting to burst into colour again as the blossom is budding and swathes of cheery trumpeted daffodils seemingly singing to the new season.
Thorp Perrow has something for everyone with a delightful tearoom to start (or finish) your stroll, birds of prey flying displays and the mammal centre as well to keep the littlest entertained. It’s somewhere you want to keep coming back to so that you can see how it changes throughout the year.
The quaint little market town of Bedale is set just on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales so compared to the other market towns of Hambleton really does have more of a Dales feel to it! Despite its impressive architecture (look out for the Palladian style Bedale Hall) which alludes to the town’s bustling and busy past. Today it is a tranquil oasis (except I’m sure on market day) with lots of independent shops to peruse.
A trip to Bedale is best enjoyed with an excursion to nearby Thorp Perrow Arobretum (above) as well as including time for at least one meal in town as there are so many lovely cafes and restaurants to choose from to refresh at. I came here with my parents and we found it very, very hard to choose between the different options…😉
Crayke is another of Hambleton’s super cute villages! The church is rather sweet especially with the lamp detail above the entrance to the churchyard. From here there are spectacular views across the village and out to the rolling fields of Hambleton beyond. Look out for some gorgeous cottages here and the pub above with the wonderful old style signpost outside.
The busy market town of Northallerton is the County town of North Yorkshire and conveniently located on the East coast railway line between Edinburgh & London so it’s a great entrance point to Hambleton. I visited when the buzzing Saturday market was setting up. I picked up some fresh veg to take home to cook with in the evening!
Northallerton has a lovely wide High Street with lots of independent cafes & shops with the magnificent building of the council presiding over from one end.
15. Kiplin Hall
A rather cheeky entrant on this list is Kiplin Hall. I say this because whilst the Hall itself is within the Hambleton District of North Yorkshire, the gardens are actually situated across the border in Richmondshire! Kiplin Hall has an interesting American connection since it was built for George Calvert who was the founder of the state of Maryland. The incredible building looks impressive but was actually built to be used just as a hunting lodge. You can only imagine the wealth that Calvert had!
Unfortunately, when I visited, the house was still closed (although it is now open for the 2022 season) so I can only imagine the 400 years’ worth of treasures that lie inside. The rooms are filled with the family possessions, portraits and furniture of all four families that have lived in Kiplin Hall.
Venture slightly across the border into Richmondshire with a walk around the gardens and around the Lake. On my visit in the late Winter / early Spring, there was a glorious carpet of dainty snowdrops in the grounds – just marvellous!
When will you discover your Hambleton adventure?