Just a few minutes away from York House, Abbots Green and Monk Park holiday parks is the historic market town of Thirsk. Set against the spectacular backdrops of the Yorkshire Dales and North York Moors, it has numerous beautiful features and attractions.
To help you make the most of being close to this great community, we have created the Visitor’s Guide to Thirsk.
Please note this blog was originally written in August 2018 and updated in May 2021 to reflect any changes following the Covid-19 pandemic. We are absolutely delighted to report that every visitor attraction, eaterie and shop featured in the original blog is still going strong and welcoming visitors despite the impact of the pandemic. The only place currently closed is the Ritz Cinema, and we wish the volunteers all the best in their efforts to re-open soon.
Things to do in Thirsk
Step into Herriot country. As well as as being a traditional and charming market town, Thirsk was the home and workplace of renowned vet and author James Herriot. One of the top attractions includes his restored home and veterinary practice in Kirkgate, which is now the World of James Herriot museum. You can discover more about the life of this famed local vet whose books were based on his experiences. The museum has memorabilia from the author’s life, as well as looking at the wider historical context, including life in 1940s Yorkshire and the role of the rural vet.
Just across the road from the World of James Herriot, you can experience the history of the town at Thirsk Museum. It is the birthplace of Thomas Lord, founder of Lord’s Cricket Ground, and features exhibits about local life, farming, furniture, costumes and more. It is best known for the Busby Stoop chair. Legend has it the chair was cursed by a murderer awaiting the noose in 1702 and it was said to cause the death of anyone who sat on it. So many deaths were attributed to the chair that, in 1978, the pub’s landlord gave it to the museum… where it hangs from the ceiling to ensure that nobody sits on it again!
If a day at the races is more your style, you’re in luck: Thirsk Racecourse has regular meets throughout spring and summer. As well as beautiful surroundings and a fun day out, the racecourse offers options for hospitality – and there’s a traditional Ladies’ Day in September for those who like to dress up, too. Thirsk Racecourse is one of many dotted around North Yorkshire – find out more about other courses near our parks in this previous blog.
For something a bit different, see the eagles, falcons, hawks, vultures and owls dive and swoop at the Thirsk Birds of Prey Centre. There are impressive displays and opportunities to hold the birds under the guidance of skilled handlers.
We also love The Ritz Cinema, one of the oldest continuous run cinemas in the United Kingdom, and so wanted to mention it even though it is not yet open again following lockdown. Having first launched to the public in 1912 it is known far beyond Thirsk itself, offering a mix of box office hits and more unusual screenings. It is now run by a committed team of volunteers, who maintain its traditional feel and warm welcome. You can even hire the whole place out for special occasions!
Market days in Thirsk
The twice-weekly bustling markets are one of the best aspects of Thirsk life. Every Monday and Saturday, the space around the marketplace is filled with stalls selling everything from fruit and vegetables to gifts, clothes and much more. Make sure you take the time to browse the stalls while you’re at Abbots Green.
Independent shops in Thirsk
Thirsk boasts some outstanding independent businesses, selling clothes, jewellery, home furnishings, toys and much more. These are just a few of our favourites.
If you’re a book lover, you could lose a lot of time in the award-winning and independent White Rose Book Café. Its shelves are filled with everything from local history books to the latest bestsellers. There are regular events for children and adults, and you’ll find a wonderful cafe at the back of the ground floor.
Kristina’s is a charming craft and gift shop, with something to suit just about every taste. There are also opportunities to try crafts yourself in regular workshops – particularly fun if you have children or grandchildren to entertain! If you’re not the creative type, there are plenty of ready-made options to take home or give to friends, including lots of fair trade items.
Every good market town should have a decent butcher, and Thirsk certainly does. In fact, it has three! Johnson’s has been trading for almost 200 years and still offers great choice. You’ll find everything here from day-to-day meat to more unusual choices for a special occasion. There’s even a butchery school if you fancy learning how the experts prepare meat.
Places to eat in Thirsk
A good pub lunch and a local pint are two things you won’t struggle to find here. There are numerous pubs to choose from in the market square and lining the side streets, including The Little Three and The Frankland Arms.
One of the most popular places to eat and drink in Thirsk is the Golden Fleece. Part of a small chain, it boasts good quality food and drink, as well as function rooms for special occasions. If you have friends visiting who prefer their own space, it also has 26 comfortable en-suite bedrooms.
There are also plenty of cafes to choose from. We love Yorks of Thirsk, with its home-made sandwiches, soups and hot meals, as well as The Pantry – try its afternoon tea, complete with home-made cakes. Nearby, at Upstairs Downstairs, you’ll find a charming cafe with a deli selling local cheeses, meats, chutneys and more.
And don’t forget our very own café, The Old Barn Coffee Shop, located at Abbots Green. Open to the general public, The Old Barn provides a delightful place to enjoy coffee, cakes and many other treats in a countryside setting.
Thirsk is a wonderful place to visit and just four miles from the front gates at Abbots Green – you can even catch a bus into town from right outside. If you’re looking for something in particular not covered above, our team will be happy to give you the benefit of their local knowledge!