Helmsley is a classic North Yorkshire market town, a handsome huddle of old stone houses, historic coaching inns and – inevitably – a cobbled market square (market day is Friday), all basking under the watchful gaze of a sturdy Norman castle. Nearby are the romantic ruins of Rievaulx Abbey and a fistful of country walks.
Top Things to See in Helmsley
The impressive ruins of 12th-century Helmsley Castle are defended by a striking series of deep ditches and banks, to which later rulers added the thick stone walls and defensive towers. Only one tooth-shaped tower survives today, following the dismantling of the fortress by Sir Thomas Fairfax after the Civil War. The castle’s tumultuous history is well explained in the visitor centre.
Helmsley Walled Garden
Helmsley Walled Garden would be just another plant-andproduce centre were it not for its dramatic position next to Helmsley Castle and fabulous selection of flowers, fruits and vegetables (some of them rare), not to mention the herbs, which include 40 varieties of mint. If you’re into horticulture with a historical twist, this is Eden.
Duncombe Park Gardens
South of Helmsley lies the superb landscape of Duncombe Park estate, with the stately home of Duncombe Park House at its heart. From the house (not open to the public) and formal gardens, wide grassy walkways and terraces lead through woodland to mock-classical temples, while longer walking trails are set out in the landscaped parkland, now protected as a nature reserve.
You could easily spend a day here, especially if you take in one of the many walks. Cream of the crop is the 3.5-mile route to Rievaulx Abbey, and the tourist office can provide route leaflets and advise on buses if you don’t want to walk both ways. This route is also the opening section of the Cleveland Way.