Start point: Helmsley Long stay carpark. Postcode: YO62 5AT
Distance: Roughly 7 miles but could be extended by another 2 miles with an additional loop
Sights: Rievaulx Abbey & Helmsley Castle
Terrain: Easy walking on paths, a few hills with some steps that aren't particularly challenging
Facilities: Toilets in Helmsley carpark and at Rievaulx Abbey carpark. Tea room at Rievaulx and plenty of restaurant options in Helmsley
If you like to break up your walking with a little bit of history, then this is the perfect route, particularly if you're looking for somewhere not too far from York. It starts at a long stay carpark in Helmsley, which has the helpful bonus of loos. Whoop!
This is the official start of the Cleveland Way, a 109-mile national trail that runs across the North Yorkshire Moors and along the coast. As such, it's clearly signposted. Although the sign says 2.5 miles to Rievaulx, which should be a 5 mile walk there and back, my walk tracker definitely registered it more like 7 to 8 miles, but that will depend on how much walking around the Abbey you do!
After leaving the car park, there's a brief climb up a hill until you level out at fields. If you look back over your shoulder, you will see Helmsley Castle behind you. More on that later.
Simply follow the path alongside fields and through woodland. There is one section with a set of steps going down and then steeply up on the other side. But other than that, it is fairly level walking, with plenty of wild garlic, bluebells and primroses as a backdrop (well in May anyway!)
On the far side of the woods, you reach a road which leads to a pretty little stone bridge over a stream. Turn right just before the bridge and follow the road to the Abbey, which you will see looming in the distance.
If you are an English Heritage member, it's free to get in (£8.50 for an adult, £5.10 for kids if you're not - I would strongly advise getting English Heritage membership if you're keen on visiting historic place as it works out much cheaper in the long run).
Rievaulx Abbey was one of England's most impressive Cistercian monasteries. It's situated in a tranquil valley and the sheer scale of the ruins are impressive. It now has a new visitor centre and there are free audio tours you can take. Best of all, there is a lovely tea room with indoor and outdoor seating. And an excellent choice of cakes!
Once you've had your fill, you can either retrace your steps to Helmsley the way you came, or add an additional couple of miles to your walk by turning right out of the Abbey. Follow the road for a short while until you get to a gate on the left by a footpath with a sign to Bow Bridge. You'll pass a paddock and fields, briefly joining the River Rye, before bearing right through a gate of the meadow. You'll turn left over a gravel track, cross Bow Bridge and carry on to a right hand bend. Go through a gate to the left signposted to Ashberry. You follow the base of a hill before climbing it where you get views across to the opposite bank and glimpses of the Abbey again. The path eventually goes down, depositing you back at the bridge you came across earlier. Then retrace your steps back to Helmsley.
If you want another history fix, visit Helmsley Castle, is just a short walk from the carpark. Another English Heritage property (free for members, £6.20 for adults, £3.70 for kids), it is well worth a visit. Again you get a free audio tour and you can learn all about the fascinating 900 year history of the place. You get lovely views over Duncombe Park from the castle too.
After all of that, you'll be ready for a hearty lunch, afternoon tea or pint in a pub, all of which you can get in abundance in Helmsley. So add this walk to your list!
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