In late summer England’s largest expanse of heather moorland flushes purple, creating a truly magnificent sight. The forests and ancient woodlands of the North York Moors harbour roe deer, badgers, owls and turtle doves, while seabirds, seals, dolphins and whales are regular visitors along a dramatic 26-mile coastline. The North York Moors National Park is home to some of the darkest skies in the UK and every February the Dark Skies Festival celebrates all things celestial. And don’t miss the daffs – a yellow blaze of native wild daffodils that transforms Farndale each spring.
The moorland landscapes shelter many secrets from the past, from Iron Age burial mounds to the serene ruins of medieval abbeys. Timeless stone villages and age-old fishing hamlets tell other stories, while the peaceful dales of Rosedale and Eskdale once rang with the sounds of Victorian industry and endeavour. Providing the majestic backdrop to Brideshead Revisited, the 18th-century Castle Howard lies at the heart of the neighbouring Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
Walkers have it made, with anything from a 1-mile easy access stroll to the 109 miles of the Cleveland Way National Trail – free downloadable route guides on the National Park website take you on step-by-step adventures to tumbling waterfalls, character-filled villages, coastal bays, moorland crags and historic monuments.
It’s great for cycling too, with cycling centres at Dalby Forest (one of the best places in the UK for mountain biking), Sutton Bank and Great Fryup Dale, as well as easygoing day-rides in the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Or follow the Moor to Sea Cycle Network, the National Park’s flagship long-distance bike route, which consists of a stunning series of moorland, forest and coastal loops – that’s 150 miles of pedal-powered freedom on quiet roads, woodland tracks and bridleways.