17 best things to do in Helmsley, North Yorkshire

Helmsley is a delightful market town hidden in the heart of North Yorkshire in the North of England. My husband used to live about 10…


Helmsley is a delightful market town hidden in the heart of North Yorkshire in the North of England. My husband used to live about 10 minutes away from Helmsley, so we have visited many times. It has lots of rich history, and lovely landscapes and is the perfect place to spend an afternoon. There are ancient ruins, walled gardens and lots of local culture. There are some lovely things to do in Helmsley for those who love nature, foodies and history lovers.

Not many know about this picturesque market town, which is one of the best things about this small town. It’s a lovely surprise. I even took my niece for the day the last time she visited from Australia. 

Let’s look at the best things to do in Helmsley!

text says '17 best things to do in Helmsley'
Helmsley Castle
Helmsley Castle

1. Helmsley Castle

Towering over the town, Helmsley Castle lets you step back in time and explore England’s vibrant history. Established in the 12th century, this towering fortress has witnessed major historical events, from the reign of Richard III to the English Civil War.

Despite the test of time, the castle’s ruins stand tall, providing a glimpse into the past. Walking through the castle grounds, you can explore the interactive exhibition that delves into the site’s rich history. Don’t miss out on the excellent audio tour that offers a comprehensive insight into the castle’s past.

Helmsley Castle is open daily 10 am – 5 pm and is an English Heritage Site. You have to pay to go in and get close to the castle, but you can see the castle ruins from afar without paying. 

Address: Castlegate, Helmsley YO62 5AB

View the website and prices here. 

2. Helmsley Walled Garden

A short walk from the castle is Helmsley Walled Garden. Established in 1756, this walled garden was once a kitchen garden for Duncombe Park. Today, it’s a peaceful haven blooming with vibrant flowers and lush vegetation.

Here, you can walk through the restored Victorian glasshouses, admire the beautifully manicured flower beds, or simply relax at the Vinehouse Cafe with a cup of tea. The garden’s fresh produce even goes into the dishes served at the cafe, so you can savour a farm-to-table dining experience.

Address: Cleveland Way, Helmsley, York YO62 5AH

View the website and prices here

3. Rievaulx Abbey

About 3 miles from the town centre, you will find the stunning Rievaulx Abbey. Nestled in a wooded dale beside the River Rye, the ruins of this Cistercian abbey tell a tale of spiritual devotion and financial power.

Despite being dissolved by Henry VIII in 1538, the abbey’s ruins have remained remarkably preserved. As you walk through the site, you’ll learn about the monks’ way of life, their ingenious engineering feats, and the abbey’s significant role in England’s medieval history. Don’t forget to visit the museum, which houses a fascinating collection of artefacts from the site.

There is a scenic walk between Helmsley and Rievaulx Abbey which takes about 1.5 hours each way. You can find the route here

Address: Rievaulx, Nr Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5LB

View the website and prices here

Helmsley Delicatessen

4. National Centre for Birds of Prey

For wildlife lovers, a visit to the National Centre for Birds of Prey is a must. Set within the Duncombe Park estate, this wildlife attraction houses a wide variety of hawks, owls, eagles, and falcons from over 60 different species.

Witness the incredible flying demonstrations, get up close with these magnificent creatures, or take a stroll through the historic parkland. The centre also offers a unique opportunity to learn about the birds’ conservation efforts and you can pay extra for experiences. Such as the Raptor Experience of Winter Owl Evenings. 

Address: Duncombe Park YO62 5EB

View the website and prices here

5. Helmsley’s Tea Rooms

When it comes to food and drink, Helmsley doesn’t disappoint. The town is home to many charming tea rooms, offering the perfect opportunity to indulge in traditional English afternoon tea.

From freshly baked scones served with clotted cream and jam to a selection of fine teas and coffees, these tea rooms are a haven for food lovers. Some of the popular choices include the Black Swan Tea Room, Porters, and the Helmsley Traditional Sweet Shop. I personally really liked Porters Coffee Shop.

6. Helmsley Arts Centre

Art enthusiasts shouldn’t miss a visit to the Helmsley Arts Centre. Housed in a 19th-century Quaker meeting house, the centre is a hub of cultural activity, offering a diverse program of theatre, music, dance, comedy, and talks.

Whether you prefer a lively theatre performance, an insightful talk, or a relaxing film screening, the Helmsley Arts Centre has something for everyone. Plus, the Studio Bar serves as a cosy spot to grab a drink and enjoy a more intimate performance.

Address: Meeting House Ct, Helmsley, York, YO62 5DW

View the website here


7. Duncombe Park

Duncombe Park is a grand estate boasting 450 acres of parkland, gardens, and nature reserve. Although the Palladian mansion is not open to the public, the estate’s parkland and gardens are still worth the visit. 

Stroll through the large grass terraces, admire the classical temples, and enjoy awe-inspiring views of the surrounding countryside. From the beautiful sundial to the formal parterres, every corner of the gardens is a testament to the estate’s grandeur.

Address: The Estate Office, Helmsley YO62 5EB

Visit the website here

Helmsley Brewing Co
Helmsley Brewing Co

8. Helmsley Brewing Company

For beer lovers, a visit to the Helmsley Brewing Company is a must. This microbrewery offers a range of traditional ales and craft beers, all brewed on-site.

Whether you prefer a classic English ale, an American IPA, or a unique blend of hops and malt, the Helmsley Brewing Company has something to suit every palate. My personal favourite is the Helmsley Gold. We have spent many Sunday afternoons in this small brewery. You can buy bottles to take away, also. 

Address: 18 Bridge Street, Helmsley YO62 5DX

Visit the website here

9. North York Moors National Park

No visit to Helmsley is complete without exploring the stunning North York Moors National Park. With its vast heather moorlands, rolling hills, and quaint villages, the park is a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Whether you prefer a leisurely hike, a challenging cycle ride, or a horseback ride, the park offers many activities to suit all interests and abilities. And with the town of Helmsley serving as the gateway to this natural wonder, you’re perfectly placed to start your adventure.

Visit the website here.

10. Verbena Spa

After a busy day of exploring, there’s no better way to relax and unwind than at Verbena Spa. Located at the Feversham Arms Hotel, this luxury spa offers a range of treatments designed to soothe and rejuvenate. Whether you want a relaxing massage, a rejuvenating facial, or a dip in the heated outdoor pool, you’re sure to leave feeling refreshed and revitalised.

Address: High Street, Helmsley YO62 5AG

Visit the website here

Helmsley Market Square
Helmsley Market Square

11. Helmsley Market Square

The small market town of Helmsley has a lovely market square. It’s a great place to explore Helmsley marketplace and the town’s many independent shops among its lovely cobbled streets. There’s a deli selling local produce, a gift shop, fish and chips and even an old traditional sweetshop where you can buy sweets from the big tubs by weights! And don’t get to stop at Helmsley Wines to take a bottle home. 

12. Helmsley Open Air Pool

In the summer months, you can go to Helmsley’s open-air pool.- Yorkshire’s only 25m heated open-air pool. Great fun for the kids!

​Address: Baxton’s Sprunt, Helmsley, York YO62 5HT

Visit the website here

13.  Rievaulx Terrace

Rievaulx Terrace is a historic garden in North Yorkshire, England. Managed by the National Trust, it features a grassy terrace with classical statues overlooking the Rye Valley. The iconic Temple of the Four Winds offers sheltered views, and woodland walks provide a more natural experience. The terrace’s elevated position offers stunning vistas of the Rye Valley and the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. 

Address: Rievaulx, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5LJ

Visit the website here.

14. Nunnington Hall

Nunnington Hall is a historic country house in Nunnington about 5 miles from Helmsley. It is managed by the National Trust and features diverse architectural styles spanning centuries. Inside, visitors can explore rooms with period furnishings and art exhibitions. The hall’s beautiful gardens, including a walled garden and river setting, provide a serene escape. With family-friendly activities, a tea room, and events, Nunnington Hall offers a rich blend of history, art, and natural beauty.

Address: Nunnington, York YO62 5UY

Visit the website here.

Helmsley Church

15. Church of All Saints

The Church of All Saints in Helmsley, North Yorkshire, is a historic parish church with a rich history dating back to medieval times. Its architecture combines Norman and Gothic styles, featuring a notable tower that offers panoramic views. Inside, you’ll find intricate woodwork, stained glass, and memorials. Serving as a community hub, the church holds religious services and cultural events, adding to Helmsley’s cultural heritage.

Address: Church St, Helmsley, York YO62

Visit the website here.

16. Helmsley Discovery Trail

The Helmsley Discovery Trail is a self-guided walking route in the North Yorkshire town of Helmsley. It is about a mile long and highlights historical landmarks, cultural attractions, and natural beauty. You can explore at your own pace, engaging with interactive elements and supporting local businesses along the way. It’s a family-friendly way to learn about Helmsley’s history and charm on a nice day.

Download the PDF which gives you all the information about the trail here.

17. Cleveland Way

The Cleveland Way is a famous long-distance footpath in England, passing through Helmsley in North Yorkshire. Starting from Helmsley Castle, it covers 109 miles through the North York Moors National Park to the coast at Filey Brigg. The trail showcases diverse landscapes including moorlands, woodlands, and coastal paths. It highlights historical landmarks like Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey, offering scenic viewpoints and a rewarding journey for hikers.

How far will you go?

View more about the trail here.

Helmsley Sweet Shop
Helmsley Sweet Shop

Visiting Helmsley

There is a car park in the market square, but we usually find free on-street parking on Rygate. 

Nearby attractions

If you are visiting Helmsley for a few days and have a car, you may want to consider some nearby attractions:

So there you have it, the top things to do in Helmsley. Whether you’re exploring ancient ruins, strolling through beautiful gardens, or enjoying a traditional English tea, there’s no shortage of ways to make the most of your visit to this charming market town. If you’re the in the evening. I recommend Helmsley Spice for a lovely curry. Happy exploring!

Read my other guides:


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