On the doorstep

The Georgian market town of Helmsley

Set within the North York Moors National Park, Helmsley is a charming market town and popular visitor destination. It has a bustling market square, boasts a superb selection of tea rooms, pubs and restaurants and has many excellent shops and boutiques.

Helmsley has a thriving arts & music scene and plenty to recommend it to adult visitors and children alike. It has an Arts Centre which hosts several themed events throughout the year, five acres of walled gardens set beside the backdrop of Helmsley Castle and Duncombe Park, a beautiful historic house and country estate. The area is popular with walkers – the town is the start of the Cleveland Way, a 110 mile walk which skirts the North York Moors National Park and finishes on the Brigg at Filey.

For those that like to discover history Helmsley Castle is a must-see as are the ruined abbeys of Rievaulx, Fountains and Byland nearby.

Duncombe Park, the home of the Earls of Feversham, is one of Britain’s finest stately homes. It closed its doors to the public in 2011 but the spectacular landscape garden and surrounding parkland are open to visitors and they are home to the National Centre for Birds of Prey.

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Explore Helmsley

Discover Helmsley

Helmsley Tourist Information

Visit Helmsley


Helmsley Castle

There may have been an earlier castle on the site, erected shortly after the Norman invasion of 1066 or during William the Conqueror’s ferocious ‘Harrying of the North’ in 1069. If was not a traditional Norman motte and bailey, but a ringwork fortification, with an earthwork ditch and bank topped by a timber palisade. The imposing 12th-century castle was built sometime after 1120 by Walter Espec, who was also responsible for founding nearby Rievaulx Abbey and Kirkham Priory.

The grim medieval fortress was remodelled into a comfortable residence by the Manners family during the 16th century. They converted the central block into a suite of rooms featuring ornate plasterwork and panelling, much of which is still in place.

In 1644 the castle was besieged by Parliamentary troops under Sir Thomas Fairfax. The Royalist garrison, headed by Sir Jordan Crosland, held out for three months until they ran out of food and were forced to surrender. Fairfax ordered the castle walls and the east tower to be pulled down so the castle could no longer be used for military purposes. Fairfax did not, however, destroy the Tudor mansion within the castle walls.

Helmsley Castle was given to Fairfax by Parliament, He, in turn, gave it to the 2nd Duke of Buckingham, whose wife was Fairfax’s daughter. When the 2nd Duke died in 1687 Helmsley Castle was sold for £90,000 to Charles Duncombe, a wealthy banker who later served as the Lord Mayor of London. On his death in 1711 it passed to his sister Mary and her husband Thomas Brown, who promptly changed his name to Duncombe. Rather than live in the decaying Tudor mansion, Thomas Duncombe called in the architect William Wakefield, who had studied under Sir John Vanbrugh, to design a sumptuous stately home overlooking the castle. The castle was left to decay and act as a focal point for views from the elegant new house, known as Duncombe Park.

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Helmsley Castle

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Helmsley Walled Gardens

Built in 1759, Helmsley Walled Garden is a five acre garden sitting beneath the imposing ruins of Helmsley Castle. It provided the vegetables, fruit and flowers for the table of Duncombe Park until just after the First World War when it was leased as market garden. Abandoned after it closed its doors for the final time in 1984, it fell into dereliction.

Restoration started in 1994 and since then the Garden has gone from strength to strength through the dedication and care of staff and volunteers. Visitors can now enjoy restored glasshouses full of colour, a double herbaceous Hot Border running the length of the Garden or sit and enjoy the tranquillity of the Garden of Contemplation.

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Helmsley Walled Garden

Discover Yorkshire – Helmsley Walled Garden


National Centre for Birds of Prey

The internationally acclaimed National Centre for Birds of Prey at Duncombe Park is the largest collection in the north of England with over 150 birds including owls, eagles, vultures, falcons, hawks and kites in a spacious 10 acre setting.

The centre is a leader in captive breeding, welfare and conservation of birds of prey. It has a team of trained birds who fly three times a day at 11.30, 14.00 and 16.15 and there is an indoor area if the weather isn’t favourable.

The centre is open 7 days a week from 10 February 2024 until 31 October.

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National Centre for Birds of Prey

North York Moors National Park – NCBP


Duncombe Park

Duncombe Park has been described by historian Christopher Hussey as ‘perhaps the most spectacularly beautiful among English landscape conceptions of the 18th century’.

The park is famous for its sweeping grass terraces, towering veteran trees, and classical temples. Beside superb views over the Rye valley, visitors will discover woodland walks (including the ‘yew tunnel’), ornamental parterres, and a ‘secret garden’ at the Orangery.

The garden and surrounding parkland extend to 100 aces, and are designated a National Nature Reserve for the rare insects and fungi which thrive on the dead and dying limbs of ancient trees.

The house is closed to the public, but hosts weddings and events, while Duncombe Park is a home to the National Centre for Birds of Prey, an award-winning visitor attraction which houses the largest collection of birds of prey in the north of England.

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Duncombe Park


Dog Walking

Helmsley is popular with walkers. It is the start of the Cleveland Way and a great launch pad for other walks across the Yorkshire Moors and Dales which include The Ebor Way, The Dales Way, The White Rose Walk, The Esk Valley Walk, The Lyke Wake Walk and The Tabular Hills Walk.

Our favourite dog walk ‘from the front door’ is the walk to Rievaulx Abbey. Just head across the High Street and turn right into Cleveland Way. Follow the footpath across the fields and through the wood to the village of Rievaulx. Stunning views of the ruined abbey await and remember to treat yourself at the Abbey Café .

The route is a well-trodden one, but it never loses its capacity to delight and inspire. This 7-mile circular route climbs gently for sweeping views of town and castle before dropping down through charming bluebell woods to reach the peaceful village and tranquil ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. Either return the way you came, or, to take in more dramatic views, return via Rievaulx Terrace and Griff Farm, high above the abbey.

Helmsley stands on the edge of the North York Moors National Park which is perfect for dog walking and family outings. And the coast is just an hour’s drive away.

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Best Dog Walks – Helmsley

Rievaulx Abbey

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