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Winter Escapes in Ryedale
Winter Escapes (without spending a fortune!): How to Create Your Magical Moment
Christmas is one of the most stressful times of the year, but you don’t have to put up with it! Ryedale’s market towns are the perfect antidote to the shopping nightmare of the city centre and supermarket; but they’re also a perfect place to catch your breath once the fairy dust has settled.
So, why do Ryedale’s Market Towns make the perfect winter getaway?
Ryedale has some of Britain’s best year-round weather, benefiting from a rare meteorological microclimate in one of the driest areas of the UK, and sheltered from winter storms by the Moors and Wolds. So, you might see snow sparkling on the hills above, but you’ll be snug in Ryedale’s market towns.
The market towns are surrounded by some of Britain’s most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes, including an area of outstanding natural beauty famed for its unspoilt tranquillity. These landscapes are a haven for some of Britain’s rarest wildlife, a magnet for the country’s leading artists and craftspeople, and an extraordinary time capsule of thousands of years of human history. Travelling the few traffic-free miles in between each market town is a pleasure, not a chore. It also means that you have some of the best winter walking on your doorstep.
Ryedale’s market towns are not only picturesque, with their ancient market squares and cosy rows of small, independent shops and eateries - they are also award-winning, with top-class attractions and festivals. With a quieter pace than in city centres and malls, you’ll also find that people have more time for you too – in Ryedale’s market towns, customers are kings and queens.
Each market town is a perfect, pocket holiday, with everything you might need on your doorstep – whether it’s luxurious spa treatments and gastronomic indulgence, or the simple pleasures of wide open spaces and uncrowded streets. But there’s also plenty of car parking; frequent bus services if you want to leave the car behind (and especially if you have a bus pass!); easy access and plenty of places to go for friendly local advice if you need insider tips.
Wanting inspiration? Top 10 Winter Getaway experiences:
1. Take a trip to the edge of the galaxy. Owing to the proximity of Ryedale’s market towns to some of the UK’s darkest skies, you can see the Milky Way on clear, wintry nights – an exceptionally rare star-gazing phenomenon in Britain. During the winter, there are special star-gazing events, open to everyone, at the observatory in nearby Dalby Forest.
2. Discover the TRUE Father of Christmas - not Santa Claus, but Charles Dickens. His Christmas Gift was the enchanting Christmas Carol – the origin of so many of our beloved Christmas traditions today – and it was inspired by his happy visits to Malton and travels around Ryedale. The entire town celebrates an annual Dickens Festival in December: highlights of the upcoming festival includes star entertainment with guest Miriam Margoyles, talks by leading experts including Lucinda Hawksley, a Dickens Cookery School, Victorian street theatre, horse & carriage rides, and a special BBC Dickensian exhibition, in partnership with the Charles Dickens Museum in London.
3. The most magical Christmas adventure for young children? The North Yorkshire Moors Railway’s Santa Express is one of the most famous landmarks in Yorkshire’s Advent Calendar. Embarking from Pickering on weekends throughout December, the memorable highlight is a face-to-face encounter with Santa in his on-board Grotto, as the steam train journeys across the winter wonderland of the North York Moors.
4. Helmsley becomes heavenly during December: during its Angel Festival the entire town is adorned with beautiful angels. Every local business joins in the celebrations, with a special launch day on 3rd December providing weird and wonderful festive entertainment (and a great opportunity to find unusual gifts, and sample the very best of local produce).
5. There’s nothing quite like the sound of a traditional brass band at Christmas, and you can hear Best Band in the North of England – the 200-year old, championship Kirkbymoorside Town Brass Band - during Kirkbymoorside’s festive season, including the annual Christmas Light Switch On, bringing the whole town together into the ancient market square. Pickering, Malton and Norton also celebrate lively Christmas Light Switch-On events, each visited by a very busy Santa and attracting the best of local entertainment and foodie fayre.
6. Castle Howard - Britain’s finest stately home – is transformed into an enchanting winter wonderland each Christmas. The sumptuous rooms are imaginatively decked with an exquisite collection of decorations, and bathed by the glow of candlelight and firelight, while Christmas trees sparkle with colour. There’s a delicious menu of festive food and drink, popular Audiences with Father Christmas, and if you’ve been inspired by the Christmas decorations inside, then the Castle Howard shops sell one of the best collections of Christmas decorations – and especially designer baubles to dress up your tree - in Yorkshire. Nearby, the National Trust’s Nunnington Hall goes back in time to Christmas Eve in the 1920s, with the great hall dressed, sherry served by the butler, and stories of Christmas Past told through the eyes of the Hall’s ‘original’ occupants!
7. See Christmas Angels in flight. For an awe-inspiring and unforgettable experience (you may even shed a tear of joy): you can’t beat special Winter Owl Evenings, where the owls of Helmsley’s National Bird of Prey Centre become stars of the show, flying through woodland lit only by torchlight – like magical Christmas angels! The National Bird of Prey Centre in Helmsley has the largest collection of birds of prey in the North, from the tiny Burrowing Owl to the majestic Steller’s Sea Eagle, and the evening events include a tour of the Centre and its other pampered residents. Book early!
8. Natural Healing. Famed for its beauty and tranquillity, surrounded by spectacular scenery and lungfuls of delicious fresh air, Ryedale is one of the best places to come for natural healing. But we’re not talking the Bear Grylls experience. Ryedale’s market towns are centres of relaxation and indulgence: you can revel in breath-taking winter walks and rigorous outdoor adventure, but you can also enjoy one of the country’s top Spas at Helmsley’s Feversham Hotel, and a wide choice of natural healing therapies that’ll leave you glowing. Helmsley is a healing hotspot, with the Bay Clinic, and Natural Health Clinic both offering a wide range of high-quality, holistic remedies and therapies (you can even book yourself an MOT…). Appleton Spa in the village of Appleton le Moors, near Kirkbymoorside, is another regional favourite, their friendly, professional staff offering a wide variety of treatments to promote health and well-being.
9. Wonderful Winter Walking. You get the best of both worlds in Ryedale’s market towns: you can enjoy the winter beauty and tranquillity of the countryside, but without venturing too far from home comforts. From each market town, there are hundreds of miles of footpaths and bridleways - through river valleys and woodland, and across moorland – the perfect excuse to burn off excess calories, or just get away from the season’s stresses. A favourite is the route from Helmsley Castle, famed as the Cradle of English Chivalry, wandering through the ancient woodlands of grand Duncombe Hall, to the haunting ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, once of Europe’s largest monasteries (if you’re lucky you might even hear the whispers of a ghostly Christmas Mass…). New this year, local walkers have also made a collection of their favourite walks – 20 in total – setting out from Ryedale’s market towns, and posted them up with detailed notes onto iFootpath. You can easily download them on your phone or tablet, or pick up copies from the Visitor Information Points in Helmsley, Pickering and Malton, or the libraries at Kirkbymoorside and Norton.
10. Don’t Rush your visit – there is a huge choice of high-quality, award-winning accommodation in Ryedale’s market towns: from B&Bs and hotels with roaring log fires and four-poster beds to cosy self-catering woodland cabins with hot-tubs. We have the region’s best accommodation: No 54 in Helmsley not only provides 5* comfort, but has won national awards for its breakfast; 17 Burgate in Pickering has been voted Yorkshire’s Best B&B; while Beech Farm self-catering cottages near Pickering have been voted Yorkshire’s best holiday four times, have a coveted Visit England Gold Award, and boast a swimming pool, sauna – and llamas! We also have unusual places to stay: what about a Finnish Loghouse (with spa)? Or an olde worlde Post Office, a racing horse’s stable, a blacksmith’s forge, a railway carriage, or even a historic train station..?