North York Moors

North York Moors has been a national park since 1952. As its name suggests, this England national park is located in the county of Yorkshire. It is about 40 miles northwest of the ancient city of York, and boasts a long boundary of impressively rugged cliffs and secluded beaches along the North Sea coast.

There is an area of woodlands and a vast stretch of treeless rolling hills covered in heather. This is one of the largest expanses of heather moorlands in the world, and the plant carpets the hills in vibrant colors that change with the seasons. There is abundant birdlife, including merlin, grouse, curlew, lapwing, ouzel, hawks, warblers, plovers, and many more species. Along the coast are sandpipers, gulls, and terns. There are roe and fallow deer, as well as many wildflowers and a variety of butterflies. Although these are wild and natural landscapes, they have thrived through hundreds of years of farming and agriculture. Farmers in the dales have grazing rights on all parts of the open moors.

Things to do in these beautiful landscapes include hiking and walking on more than 1,400 miles of trails and paths. Along the way, you will see that the North York Moors are filled with history despite the vast expanses and sparse population. Here are prehistoric burial chambers, ancient forts, and a megalithic standing stone said to be 3,000 to 4,000 years old in the Ruston churchyard. There are only a few towns and villages in and around the moors, and they also offer rich history.

The southwest border of the Yorkshire England National Park is home to the little market town of Helmsley surrounding its twelfth-century castle. Just to the west of the park is the town of Thirsk, home to the veterinarian and author James Herriot. The village of Kilburn is home of the famous white horse of Kilburn, a huge figure in the shape of a horse carved into a limestone hillside. On a clear day, the figure is visible from Leeds, almost 30 miles away. The town of Farndale is famous for its daffodils, and nearly 50,000 visitors come during the spring just to see them.

One of the attractions in North York Moors is to travel along the eighteen miles of the of National Heritage steam railway from Pickering to Grosmont. This is the train and scenery made famous in the Harry Potter films; the station at Goathland was Hogsmeade in the films. The train runs as far as the coastal town of Whitby during the peak season. Whitby is widely regarded as the place to find the best fish and chips in the UK. It also boasts an ancient abbey and beautiful sea views and beaches. At the town of Rievaulx are the stately ruins of a sixteenth-century Cistercian abbey. The only steam passenger bus in the world (managed by the railway) operates daily tours through town. There is also a pet-friendly Moorsbus that travels across the moors and allows you to hop on and off at various stops.

In addition to hiking, the Yorkshire England National Park has guided bike tours, walks, and horseback tours that often last for several days, staying overnight in charming bed and breakfast inns. While more costly than self-guided tours, having an experienced guide along on the trip can add a great deal to the journey.

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