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Discover the best of North Yorkshire’s market towns ideally situated between the stunning North Yorkshire Moors and the beautiful Yorkshire Dales…

Full of history, characterful cafes, local butchers, bakeries and boutique shops, there’s plenty to explore and support some fantastic local businesses. All close to our luxury holiday cottages, here are our top 10 market towns to visit in North Yorkshire… 

Market town mooching in North Yorkshire

1. Richmond

Richmond, North Yorkshire is one of Britain’s most beautiful market towns, with its 11th-century castle, fine historic building, large cobbled market place and many hidden corners making it a treasure trove for visitors. You’ll find a good choice of pubs and plenty of places to eat, as well as shops to stock up on essentials and gifts, and of course, miles of the best walking and mountain bike country in England.

Be sure to visit the grand Norman Richmond Castle – set in the heart of the town, from there you can take a stroll around the castle walls, walk along the riverside and take in the falls, which are particularly stunning after a rainy day, then follow the trail along to Richmond Bridge where you can reward yourself with a treat from the award-winning bakery found in The Station, a stunning riverside Victorian railway building.

There are a number of interesting walks around Richmond, why not try the Drummer Boy Walk for some spectacular views of the River Swale, the Batts and the Castle. On Saturdays make sure you don’t miss the Saturday Market, with local produce to be enjoyed in your luxury holiday cottage.

2. Knaresborough

This charming market town spills down the most picturesque riverbank with the iconic Victorian viaduct and its 78 foot high arches towering over the River Nidd, alongside the ruins of Knaresborough Castle beyond. Explore ancient walkways, cobbled paths leading down to the idyllic waterfront for a spot of boating and mini-golf as well as the bustling marketplace with cafes, pubs, independent shops, and secret passageways shrouded in mystery, with a history that goes back to the 5th century.

Further along the riverbank you can take a relaxing woodland walk and discover one of Knaresborough’s enduring curiosities; the famous Mother Shiptons Cave and the Petrifying Well. Don’t forget to make a wish in the wishing well before you go.

On a sunny day, we like to simply sit by the river and enjoy the tranquil view of passing boats with a local Brymor ice cream. With three picnic areas and two childrens play areas, this is a great place to visit for a family-friendly day out.

Hop on the train into Harrogate for a bit more shopping, and glide over the imposing railway viaduct looking down on the River Nidd – an amazing view. Make sure you try a slice of homemade cake at the famous Betty’s tea room whilst you’re there.

3. Helmsley

Helmsley is the perfect English market town, with its bustling market square featuring charming tea rooms, cosy pubs, Michelin starred fine dining at The Star Inn, consistently voted the favourite Northern restaurant, all surrounded by miles of the beautiful North York Moors.

Soaring above this tranquil town are the dramatic ruins of Helmsley Castle, be sure not to miss the bronzed archers ready to battle! With a 100 foot high tower and substantial medieval, Tudor and Victorian remains, it’s a history lovers delight. Helmsley Walled Gardens are nestled next to Helmsley Castle and offer 5 acres of magnificent garden that encapsulates harmony through its flowers.

The magnificent ruins of Byland Abbey and Rievaulx Abbey are nearby and are well worth a visit. Follow your walk with a trip to Mannion & Co, a dog-friendly deli and artisan bakery for the perfect afternoon treat.

Or for a more relaxing day out, you must visit The Verbena Spa which has been named one of Tatler’s 101 Spas of the World and is the perfect retreat for a unique revitalising experience!

4. Thirsk

Situated midway between the Moors and the Yorkshire Dales, Thirsk is an ideal base for visiting many much loved attractions and exploring the wonderful Yorkshire countryside. Rolling hills run into spectacular limestone valleys, with historic castles and ancient abbeys offering something for the whole family and at any time of the year.

Fancy a day at the races? Thirsk offers a picturesque country racecourse with excellent facilities and high quality flat racing throughout the summer. Centred around a bustling cobbled market square with a weekly Monday and Saturday market, Thirsk has a charm of its own, essentially unchanged and influenced by the world. Why not take a break from your busy day and pick up some freshly baked bread from Olivia’s Artisan Bakery.

Birthplace of Thomas Lord, founder of Lords cricket Ground and spiritual home of author James Herriott, Thirsk is a Yorkshire legend. Today, the World of James Herriott is an award winning museum which attracts lovers of BBCs All Creatures Great and Small from all around the world – Quite an achievement for a small market town in the Vale of York.

5. Leyburn

At the heart of Wensleydale lies the vibrant market town of Leyburn, set amongst acres of Yorkshire’s finest countryside.

This cobbled market town has a great mix of quaint and quirky shops with a bustling market every Friday and plenty of places to eat after exploring some of England’s finest walking and cycling country. Leyburn has a number of great walking routes, but a time when walkers really come to town is for the Wensleydale Wander, typically held between March and April.

If you want to give your legs a rest and travel in style then why not hop on a train at the Wensleydale Railway. This heritage line has a station in Leyburn and uses diesel locomotives with the occasional steam services running.

Hop on board at Leyburn and take a scenic route to Redmire, where you will find Bolton Castle, one of the country’s best-preserved 14th century medieval castles, with over 600 years of fascinating history to explore. Look out for the sword fighting demonstrations and falconry displays.

If you like antiques, Leyburn is home to the largest auction house outside of London. Tennants Auctioneers has been running since the late Victorian period and holds more than 100 auctions of fine art, antiques, and specialist collectibles each year.

Fun-loving families should look no further than the nearby Forbidden Corner, a unique labyrinth of tunnels, chambers, follies, and surprises, created in a four-acre garden, for a day out with a difference that will challenge and delight children of all ages.

6. Bedale

Within a stones throw of Wensleydale lies the charming Georgian market town of Bedale.

Shop for delicious local cheeses and make a trip to the towns renowned butcher in the cobbled square, filled with a variety of unique shops as well as delicatessen, bakery and greengrocer. The weekly market on Tuesdays continues the food theme with the fishmonger, locally grown vegetables and plant stalls amongst the most popular.

With a rich seam of history that stretches back to the Domesday Book, you can’t afford to miss the Heritage Trail when visiting Bedale, taking in the Palladian Bedale Hall and museum as well as a 12th century church named as one of the best in Britain.

Bedale is also home to the Wensleydale Railway where visitors can enjoy a relaxing trip, through 16 miles of stunning Yorkshire countryside into the Yorkshire Dales National Park and Bolton Castle.

Make sure you visit Thorp Perrow for a family day out with a difference and explore 85 acres of stunning woodland, while the kids run wild in the adventure play area before meeting exotic birds and animals such as meerkats, wallabies and Shetland sheep.

7. Stokesley

This elegant Yorkshire market town is known as the Gateway to the North Yorkshire Moors. The town centre offers cobbled streets lined with a number of award-winning restaurants, shops and boutiques.

One of our favourite tea rooms nearby is The Rusty Bike which offers a warm Yorkshire welcome and is the perfect pit stop for some homemade cakes, scones and tray bakes after exploring the area. Peruse the art gallery or hire a bike for the day and speak with a member of the team about the best routes and what to do and see nearby!

Stokesley is the perfect base from which to explore North Yorkshire from, with plenty of varied walks and trails from your doorstep with plenty of pubs and picturesque picnic spots along the way.  The River Leven, crossed by the ancient Pack Horse Bridge, provides a perfect spot for walking and picnics – not to mention the spectacular views of Roseberry Topping and the North York Moors from the east end of the town, where an ancient mill wheel can also be admired.

Further afield, you can get in the car and enjoy the Yorkshire coastline for a family-friendly day trip or explore Osmotherley, with fabulous food, fish and chips, a reservoir, and a shooting ground to impress the whole group!

8. Malton

Malton, best known as ‘Yorkshire’s Food Capital’ is only a short scenic drive over the North Yorkshire Moors from many of our luxury holiday homes and is a must-visit during your trip to Yorkshire. A quintessential market town, with its new foodie scene, is a town of makers and markets, set between the North York Moors and Yorkshire coastline, amongst some of Yorkshire’s finest countryside.

You will find there is so much to do in Malton, a town of makers and markets, with traditional food shops, Malton cookery school, artisan food tours, restaurants, Talbot Yard, exciting events and festivals as well as a large number of excellent independent shops to look around in the buzzing town.

Every second Saturday of the month you can enjoy a feast as Malton’s central marketplace is transformed into a foodies heaven with local artisan stalls showcasing the best local produce and street food, live music as well as tasting trips to the Talbot Yard, where you can munch your way around the streets learning about the local history and tasting delicious Yorkshire delicatessens along the way. With 2-hours free car parking, you can follow your nose around the town, butchers making sausages, bakers baking bread, greengrocers & fishmongers too – it’s the way that all towns once were, and Malton still is.

On your way home, make a detour for Castle Howard – one of the grandest stately homes in Britain, where you can explore the 1000 acres of beautiful landscape, relax in the idyllic gardens, enjoy lakeside walks, and children can play in the adventure playground.

9. Masham

A vibrant and friendly market town in the heart of North Yorkshire and the home of the great Yorkshire beer.

Real ale lovers will be in heaven in Masham with two family-run breweries; The Black Sheep Brewery and Theakston Brewery, offering tours from their visitor center as well as plenty of samples to enjoy along the way.

This quintessential Dales town is an idyllic spot, best known for its breweries, steam engines and an annual sheep fair, which happens each September and is a celebration of all things sheep, with activities, market stalls and a sheep race to entertain all ages. As well as a thriving community for artists, authors and craftsmen in Masham, there is a picturesque market place, lined with shops, cafes and great traditional pubs to discover.

For the perfect family friendly day out nearby, explore Druid’s Temple, one of Yorkshire’s quirkiest 19th century follies with stunning views over the Leighton reservoir, surrounding moorland and the Yorkshire Dales landscape beyond. There are many public footpaths to the main folly, with other standing stones throughout the woodland and walking trails with plenty of picnic spots along the way.

Make sure you have time for a trip for a try of Yorkshire’s famous Brymor Ice Cream, to Swinton Park for a delicious afternoon team, or enjoy some excellent pub grub at the White Bear.

10. Wetherby

Wetherby is a thriving Yorkshire market town, with many treasures to explore alongside panoramic scenery and historic architecture. With a plethora of independent boutique shops, cafes and restaurants as well as a popular farmers’ market with over 30 regular stalls in the Market Place on the second Sunday of each month.

Visit the racecourse, which is considered to be one of the country’s finest jumping tracks and is a great day out for the whole family.

Come in Spring and Summer to see the floral displays, that are award-winning with the community working together to provide hanging baskets, tubs and window boxes that add colour to the town centre and well-tended gardens around the town are planted with attractive evergreens. Visitors will find good riverside walks and picturesque picnic areas and a free car park by the riverside Bandstand.

Take a trip to Stockeld Park, a place where magic is made and adventures begin for the whole family. Every season boasts fun within the park, with themed adventure playgrounds, climbing nets, a covered ice-skating rink, ayew tree maze, the Enchanted Forest, a large picnic area, amazing gift shop and café. Stockeld Park’s renowned Christmas Adventure is centred around the exquisite Winter Illuminations, where you can see the award-winning Enchanted Forest come to life after dusk and becomes one of the country’s largest and most creative light displays. Hire a pair of Nordic skis and glide your way round the Enchanted Forest, before visiting Santa’s Grotto, for a memorable Christmas day out!

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