If you haven’t visited Hambleton before, you’ve got a lot to discover! Many people pass through this lovely area of North Yorkshire on their way to the East Coast but don’t think to stop and take a look around. As a business based in Hambleton, we know what an overlooked gem of a place it is.
From bustling market towns to picturesque villages, historic ruins to rolling hills, Hambleton offers the chance to enjoy a wealth of leisure activities. Whether you love shopping or walking in the countryside, family days out or history tours, artisan food or a room with a view, Hambleton is definitely worth a visit.
Read on to discover more about Hambleton.
Where is Hambleton?
Hambleton is a local government district in North Yorkshire centred around the bustling market towns of Northallerton and Thirsk. The area of nearly one-and-a-half thousand square kilometres is largely rural and stretches nearly as far north as Darlington and Middlesbrough, west towards Ripon, south towards York and east to the edge of the North York Moors National Park.
Pretty market towns
Take a stroll around Hambleton’s pretty market towns and discover fantastic artisan businesses, homemade fayre and historic curiosities.
Northallerton is the largest of Hambleton’s market towns and is a thriving hub for independent businesses particularly in the food and drink sector. Pubs, restaurants, craft beer bars, delis, artisan bakers, butchers, farm shops and traditional tea rooms can all be found as well as the independent gourmet food emporium Lewis & Cooper. In fact, Northallerton loves its food so much it hosts the Homegrown Food Festival every year to showcase some of the amazing products available in the town!
With a long heritage, the town also has some lovely historic buildings and sites, including the Church of All Saints dating back to 1120.
The Georgian market town of Bedale is also worth a visit with its pretty cobbled square surrounded by a variety of shops, cafes and pubs. Its 12th century church is lovely, and you can also board the Wensleydale Railway from here. It’s even got its own quirky little historic building in the form of the UK’s only listed Leech House, which you can visit by the riverside.
Thirsk is a charming market town that was the home and workplace of renowned vet and author James Herriot. His home and practice has been restored and is now the World of James Herriot museum, one of the most popular of Thirsk’s visitor attractions.
The town also boasts a racecourse, birds of prey centre, The Ritz Cinema and a whole host of independent shops and places to eat and drink. Read more in our Visitor’s Guide to Thirsk here.
Easingwold is another must-visit for those looking for foodie heaven. This pretty Georgian market town offers a range of independent businesses selling local produce and home baked deliciousness.
Great Ayton is probably most famous for being the birthplace of navigator and explorer Captain James Cook, and his former school is now the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum. This picturesque village is also a pleasant place to stop when heading to the North York Moors, with its nice little high street of shops. Situated on the banks of the River Leven, Great Ayton’s origins stretch back to ancient times and its boundary includes several Neolithic sites.
Stokesley’s impressive Georgian and Victorian buildings give this market town an elegant feel and its historic buildings include Stokesley Manor House and the Church of St Peter and Paul, featuring woodwork carved by the renowned ‘Mouseman’, Robert Thompson. It’s also a lovely spot to take in the views of Roseberry Topping and the North York Moors, and is a mere 15 miles from the coast and not far from beaches at Scarborough and Whitby.
Hambleton’s location in between the North York Moors National Park and the Yorkshire Dales makes it the perfect bolthole for exploring the area.
Hambleton lies in ‘Herriot Country’, made famous through the stories of vet Alf Wight. His James Herriot books are still loved by fans across the world, with a recent TV series bringing them – and the beauty of the rolling Hambleton landscape – to a whole new generation.
And it was Alf Wight who called the vista from Sutton Bank ‘England’s finest view’ – and we find it hard to disagree! This high point of the Hambleton Hills offers amazing views across the Vale of York and the Vale of Mowbray. Cut into the southern part of Sutton Bank is the famous White Horse of Kilburn which is visible for miles around. You can really make a grand day of it here, with various walking routes from the main visitor centre as well as the option to hire bikes from Sutton Bank Bikes.
Our Abbots Green blog on the best walks in North Yorkshire includes some lovely routes in Hambleton such as Sutton Bank as well as Roseberry Topping, whose peak is in the district.
If you’re visiting Hambleton with children, there’s a wealth of family attractions to enjoy.
Monk Park Farm has been a family favourite for many years but has recently come under new ownership and been treated to a facelift, with many more improvements planned for the future. It offers the chance to meet, pet and feed a host of cute animals, including guinea pigs, rabbits, lambs, goats, deer, llamas, alpacas and wallabies. It also has a fantastic children’s play area.
If birds are more your thing, head over to the Thirsk Birds of Prey Centre or Thorp Perrow Arboretum, an 85-acre woodland garden with adventure play area near Bedale which is also home to a variety of birds of prey and mammals such as meerkats and pygmy goats.
For a different way of travelling in the Yorkshire Dales – and one that’s bound to be a hit with the kids – why not board the Wensleydale Railway? Steam trains run from Bedale to Scruton, where you’ll also be able to see a recreation of a rural station from the early 1900s.
We’ve already mentioned James Herriot and if you’re a fan of his books, you may like to visit the World of James Herriot in Thirsk. Formerly the vet’s home and practice, it now showcases his life and books, along with veterinary science exhibits and Yorkshire Dales memorabilia.
Step back in time
Hambleton has a wealth of historic places of interest. Mount Grace Priory, House and Gardens features the most complete surviving Carthusian monastery in Britain, as well as a reconstructed medieval Monk’s cell, a 17th century manor house and 13 acres of gardens.
The Georgian mansion Beningbrough Hall, meanwhile, is a must-see for fans of baroque interiors and has lots more to offer including art collections, dog-friendly gardens and a wilderness play area for children.
The district also has various museums dedicated to local history including the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum and Thirsk Museum with its ‘cursed’ Busby Stoop chair that hangs from the ceiling to make sure no one sits on it!
Haven for foodies
From artisan cheeses to locally-distilled gin, award-winning restaurants to traditional farmers’ markets, Hambleton offers a slice of foodie heaven.
Among our favourites are the Durham Ox at Crayke, a 300-year-old pub offering a delicious menu using locally-sourced produce, and The Greyhound at Bagby near Thirsk with its Turkish cuisine inspired by head chef Fettah Alkoc’s heritage.
On the doorstep of Hambleton District in nearby Ryedale are two restaurants which deserve a mention for being among North Yorkshire’s finest. Both The Black Swan at Oldstead, which is right on the border with Hambleton, and The Star at Harome hold Michelin stars. The Black Swan is owned and run by the Banks family, including famous chef Tommy, who have lived and farmed around Oldstead for many generations, and the menu uses produce grown on their land. The Star, meanwhile, is a 14th century thatched inn that has been consistently rated as one of the UK’s top eateries, offering award-winning food and friendly service.
Our very own Old Barn Coffee Shop also deserves a mention after garnering so many great reviews that it was named a 2020 Travellers’ Choice award winner by the Tripadvisor website for receiving consistently glowing feedback from visitors. The café welcomes coach tours, cycling groups and dogs, and offers a fantastic homemade menu.
If you’ve already discovered Hambleton and have a favourite place that we haven’t mentioned here, do let us know!