Is there a better place to go hostelling than the North York Moors, where YHA boasts great hostels at Dalby Forest, Boggle Hole and Helmsley – home to the national park authority? Our Cool Places pals reckon this is as good as it gets, and to prove it they’ve given us some very cool recommendations of places to see, eat and drink in the region.
Take the path from the Hayburn Wyke Inn down through a wooded ravine to a remarkable bay filled with millions, possibly billions, of coloured pebbles and rocks, and seaweed-covered boulders the size of human heads. They’re built for rock-hopping, while the pools and crevices are filled with the flotsam and jetsam brought in by the tides.
A lovely café with a most un-English feel – under soaring conservatory glass and vines, with a homemade, largely homegrown, vegetarian menu. It’s part of Helmsley Walled Garden, where they produce their own salad leaves, herbs, fruit and veg, and just a short walk from the historic castle.
The old Wesleyan chapel in Robin Hood’s Bay has been converted into a café-bar with a sea-view terrace that’s worth the trip alone. Sitting here, looking out over the bay, gives you a dramatic perch above the fantastic rocky coastline.
The beautiful ruins of one of England’s finest Cistercian abbeys are set in a quiet vale three miles outside Helmsley. You can walk from Helmsley’s castle on a bucolic path through the countryside, which takes an hour or so, and once you’re there enjoy the new museum and café, or picnic in the grounds.
Part of a gallery and studio in the steam railway village of Grosmont, this easygoing café sports a rough-hewn, homespun feel – mix-and-match tables, stripped-wood floors, rugs, throws, cushions, and oodles of art. Everything is homemade and a lot of it is veggie: soups to casseroles, tapas dishes to Mediterranean salads.
See the finest moorland scenery courtesy of the vintage wood-panelled carriages and heritage engines of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Children will need no persuading – the station at Goathland was Hogsmeade station in the first Harry Potter film – but the whole line is a joy, taking you from the market town of Pickering all the way to the coast at Whitby.
This famous place among pub cognoscenti is much-loved for its quirky ways. Basically, we’re talking two age-old bars with a fully stocked sweet shop in the middle and a terrace-garden out back, serving a handful of real ales to walkers, locals and in-the-know visitors (it’s only a mile down the hill from tourist-heavy Goathland but you have to know it’s here).
The old railway line between Whitby and Scarborough provides a wonderful 21-mile off-road route along the finest part of the North Yorkshire coast. It’s known as the Cinder Track and has all sorts of quirks and highlights, from a tearoom in the former station at Cloughton to clifftop side-routes down into hidden bays. There’s bike hire at Hawsker, near Whitby.
The Star Inn at Harome, just outside Helmsley, is no secret – its quaint village setting, Michelin star and vintage look of thatch, low beams and wood panelling brings diners from near and far. But it’s relaxed and fancy-free, while the special Market Menu (£20/25) is an absolute steal.
Spotted fairies or elves amid the dappled forest? Frankly, no one would be surprised at magical Falling Foss, an almost ridiculously rustic cottage tea garden near Falling Foss waterfall, five miles south of Whitby. Laid out forest-bar style – with wooden tables under canopies – it’s the perfect place for a summer lunch, or tea and cake.