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About Helmsley

The only market town in the 554 square miles of the North York Moors National Park, Helmsley is full of history, character and stunning architecture (including 51 listed buildings) making it a great place to visit – and an even better place to live and work!

Helmsley has it all

Helmsley has everything you’d expect in a quintessentially English market town: a vibrant market square, independent, specialist shops, excellent places to eat and drink, an imposing castle, friendly locals, a babbling brook, beautiful surrounding countryside… but that’s not all! It also has a walled garden, bird of prey centre, microbrewery, open air swimming pool, luxury spa, nature reserve, galleries and an arts centre. Two abbey ruins, Michelin-starred restaurants, and the North York Moors National Park are on the doorstep – enough to keep you busy for days and days! If you’re only visiting for a few hours, you’ll definitely have to prioritise… so why not stay over?

The Market Town

The oldest surviving house in Helmsley is Canon’s Garth, the vicarage. The Norman castle, dating back over 900 years, evolved over the centuries, from a mighty medieval fortress to a luxurious Tudor mansion, to a Civil War stronghold and a romantic Victorian ruin. It is open all year round for visitors to enjoy, under the care of English Heritage. The Walled Gardens also enjoy a historic past, tracing their roots back to 1759. Well worth a visit is Helmsley’s All Saints’ Church, dating back to the 12th Century, which has stunning and unusual frescos which are more than 100 years old, and Mouseman mice to spot.

A place to celebrate and come together

Helmsley is where the North York Moors National Park meets the Howardian Hills. It’s where the Cleveland Way meets the Ebor Way and the Inn Way. It’s where the valleys of Bilsdale and Ryedale leave the moorland and meet the flat Vale of Pickering… and it’s where countless friends and family meet to enjoy Helmsley’s cosy cafés, tea rooms, pubs, restaurants, shops and attractions.

It’s perfect for a family get together or celebration, and a spectacular place to get married, with venues as diverse as a stately home, a walled garden or beautiful country hotels. The town’s independent businesses can also help with bespoke wedding rings, creative cakes and breathtaking floral displays, along with many of the other touches which make the day really special.


With the old English name of Elmeslac, Helmsley predates the Domesday Book. It was first settled in around 3,000 BC and small farming communities lived in the town throughout the Neolithic period, Bronze and Iron Ages and into Roman times. The lands around Helmsley were held by William the Conqueror’s brother. You can still visit the ruins of the Norman castle, and see ancient oak trees in Duncombe Park dating from this time.

Robert de Ros and the Duncombe family

In 1191 Robert de Ros granted Helmsley its Borough Charter, which established it as a market town. Robert de Ros also gained notoriety in 1215 as a witness at Runnymede as the Magna Carta was sealed by King John — a pivotal moment in reducing the extraordinary power the Crown had at the time.

Having been passed through various families, the town was eventually sold to the city financier, Sir Charles Duncombe in about 1689. The 18th and 19th centuries saw major developments and expansion by the Duncombe family, beginning with the construction of Dubcombe Park. A statue of William Duncombe 2nd Baron Faversham stands in the town’s bustling square.

Historic Buildings

The oldest surviving house in Helmsley is the medieval Canon’s Garth, the vicarage. The Norman castle, dating back over 900 years, evolved over the centuries, from a mighty medieval fortress to a luxurious Tudor mansion, to a Civil War stronghold and a romantic Victorian ruin. It is open all year round for visitors to enjoy, under the care of English Heritage. The Walled Gardens also enjoy a historic past, tracing their roots back to 1759.

Well worth a visit is Helmsley’s All Saints’ Church, dating back to the 12th Century, which has stunning and unusual frescos which are more than 100 years old, and Mouseman mice to spot, hidden on the woodwork by the famous Mouseman of Kilburn.

On your doorstep

Imagine a city with Roman roots and a Viking past, where ancient walls surround contemporary independent shops and vibrant eateries and there’s a festival for every month of the year. Welcome to York – the Original City Adventure!

York is unlike any other English city. There’s thirty world-class museums you can explore, the best racecourse in the country and a thriving cultural scene, not forgetting, York is voted the best place to live in the UK by the Sunday Times.



In the News

Helmsley hospitality encourages diners by signing up to the Eat Out to Help Out scheme


New TV documentary on the ‘wild and remote’ North York Moors to air soon


Helmsley Swifts encourages people to look up to the sky this Swift Awareness Week


Helmsley shop comes up with sweet ideas to raise money for Ryedale Food Bank