North York Moors & Coast Overview (UK)

The North York Moors has a rich history and cover an area of 554 square miles (1.436 square km) and is home to the largest expanse of heather moorland in England and Wales. The purple heather can be seen at its best in late summer and autumn, when it is in full bloom covering the moors with a spectacular carpet of purple. However the Moors are a great place to visit all year round with its high moorland plateau and panoramic views stretching for miles, and its river valleys that divide the moors, some wide and grassy, others narrow and wooded.

The park is 22% forest making it one of the most wooded national parks in the country, many of which are working forests and are managed to provide timber, recreation & conservation value. Ancient deciduous woodlands and large conifer plantations offer a precious homes for many different animals.

The North York Moors National Park stretches from Helmsley in the South to Saltburn in the North, and from Whitby on the Yorkshire Coast to the Cleveland Hills and the Tees Valley in the West. The park is managed by the North York Moors National Park Authority, an independent authority within the local government. However farmers and other private entities are the main landowners, who mainly manage the land for grouse shooting.

Dry stone walls which are typical of the North York Moors surround picturesque fields which are grazed by rugged sheep and cattle. Agriculture is the main occupation on the moors however there are signs of an industrial past, with mining for coal, jet, limestone and iron ore.

One of the main rivers in the North York Moors National Park is the River Esk, it is a major river starting at Westerdale as a collection of becks called Esklets and flows eastwards through the Esk Valley into the sea at Whitby. Fishermen can fish for sea trout and salmon in the River Esk which is the only river in Yorkshire that this can be done. There is a lot of beautiful wildlife that inhabits the river and riverbanks. Voles, herons, otters, dippers and kingfishers are just some of the diverse animals and birds that can be found in and around the river habitats. The River Derwent starts at Fylingdale Moor before flowing south and brings the main supply of drinking water to Scarborough. The River Derwent is also an established trout and grayling fishing venue.

The North Yorkshire Moors Railway
The moors are also famous for the North York Moors Railway, built by Georg Stephenson in 1835 . This is an 18 mile stretch of track running from the traditional market town of Pickering to the picturesque village of Grosmont, high up in the moors and famous for the TV programme ‘Heartbeat’. The North Yorkshire Moors Railway was one of the earliest lines in the country. Travelling along the railway is a superb way to explore the moors, and if you break your journey you can stop to explore Levisham, Pickering, Goathland and Grosmont stations and also take one of the several enjoyable walks over the moorlands and through wooded valleys.

The East Coast
The North York Moors National Park shares its border with the North Sea, and here the moors meet the sea along the sensational East Coast with a stunning and rugged 26 mile heritage coast line, with towering cliffs reaching over 650 feet(200 metres) at Boulby; (the highest point on the East coast of England). The delightful fishing village of Robin Hood bay, which is associated with its smuggling past, is the focal point of the coastline. Robin Hoods Bay is also the start/finish of Wainwrights Coast To Coast long distance footpath. A population of grey seals also frequent the coastline and can often be seen at well trodden tourist spots.

Whitby just outside the National Park on the Eastern Coast is a bustling fishing Town complete with harpour and lighthouse. Whitby is also known as the training ground for James Cook the famous explorer, and for its connections with novelist Bram Stoker and his famous book ‘Dracula’! Places of interest include the Captain James Cook Memorial Museum, there is also a fine sandy beach,ruined abbey and historic Georgian buildings. The Cleveland Way runs the entire length of the North Yorkshire Coastline and is a designated national trail offering superb views to the many walkers.

Towns & Villages

The North York Moors features a superb selection of towns and villages for the visitor to explore.

More information:

  • has lots of detailed information about visiting Yorkshire. The site includes local information, history, walks, tours and places to stay. A plethora of excellent information, written by a local Yorkshireman, which everyone will find interesting.