Places to go and things to do in the Area
The following are some suggestions for places in the surrounding area which are perfect for a day out or a shorter visit.
The Church of St. Michael, Well
See the church page link at the top of the screen for more information on the church.
The village of Snape is the site of a Roman villa. Snape Castle also has connections to the mother and wife of Richard III, and was the residence of Catherine Parr and her husband John Nevill, 3rd Baron Latymer before she married Henry VIII. Prior to the mid 19th century Snape was a centre for the woolcombing trade. Snape Chapel is open to visitors every day.
Thorp Perrow is considered to be one of the finest collections of trees and shrubs in the United Kingdom. The Arboretum was created by Colonel Sir Leonard Ropner (1895–1977); he began the Arboretum in 1931 and in July 2006 the gardens celebrated their 75th anniversary by planting the 1,750th tree. As well as the gardens founded by Leonard Ropner, Thorp Perrow also includes Milbank Pinetum planted by Lady Augusta Milbank in the nineteenth century and the 16th century Spring Wood. Thorp Perrow also has ornamental lakes, scenic walks, a tearoom, and a popular a Birds of Prey Centre, one of the largest collections of birds of prey the north of England. It is open nearly every day of the year.
West Tanfield is one of the most picturesque villages in Yorkshire; the view from the bridge over the River Ure is popular amongst tourists, photographers and artists. The Marmion Tower is a 15th century gatehouse, which belonged to the now vanished manor house, formerly home to the Marmion family. At first floor level there is a fine example of an oriel window. The Anglican church of St Nicholas next to the tower contains monuments to the Marmion family. The tower is now in the care of English Heritage.
Masham (pronounced Mass-am) is a small market town, with a population of 1,235, situated the western bank of the River Ure. The name derives from the Anglo-Saxon “Mæssa’s Ham”, the homestead belonging to Mæssa. The Romans had a presence here, but the first permanent settlers were the Angles. Around 900 AD, the Vikings invaded the region, burning and laying waste to the church, and causing great suffering in Masham. They also introduced sheep farming, something for which the town is well known today. Masham is also famous for its two breweries, Black Sheep and Theakston’s, both of whom have visitor centres in the town.
Bedale was originally in Richmondshire, and is listed in the Domesday Book as part of Catterick wapentake, which was also known as Hangshire (so named from Hang Bank in nearby Finghall, and because of the many gallows used to execute marauding Scots); it was split again, and Bedale remained in East Hang. Bedale Beck is watered by the River Swale, helping the predominance of agriculture and its related small traditional trades, although tourism is increasingly important.
The town lies in the Vale of Mowbray, 23 miles (37 km) north of York. Cod Beck runs through the centre of Thirsk – the area to the east of the river is called Old Thirsk. The town is mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1089 as Tresche, derived from the Viking word þresk, or marsh. It is surrounded by a number of villages also having names of Danish origin, such as Thirlby, Boltby, Borrowby and Sowerby (the -by suffix (Danish in origin) meaning village or farmstead). Thirsk is built around a large medieval market square, which still hosts an open-air market each Monday & Saturday. Thirsk has a museum and the 15th century church of St Mary’s. Thirsk’s chief modern claim to fame is as the home of the veterinary surgeon and author James Herriot (real name Alf Wight), although it was renamed “Darrowby” in the books. The veterinary practice at 23 Kirkgate, in which he was a partner with Donald Sinclair (Siegfried Farnon in the books) now houses a museum dedicated to his life and works, The World of James Herriot. Thomas Lord, another Thirsk notable, who founded Lord’s cricket ground in London was born in a house which now houses the Thirsk Museum, also on Kirkgate. The racecourse at Thirsk is a leading venue for flat racing in the spring and summer months.
Ripon is a cathedral city and market town, located at the confluence of two streams of the River Ure, the Laver and Skell. The city is noted for its main feature, Ripon Cathedral, which is architecturally significant, as well as Ripon Racecourse, and other features such as its market. The city itself is just over 1,300 years old, one of only two cities in North Yorkshire, the other being York, and the fourth smallest city in England.
Northallerton is an affluent market town in the Hambleton district, lying in the Vale of Mowbray and at the northern end of the Vale of York. It has served as the county town of the North Riding of Yorkshire and, since 1974, of North Yorkshire. There has been a settlement at Northallerton since Roman times; however its growth in importance began in the 11th century when King William II gifted land to the Bishop of Durham. Northallerton became an important centre for religious affairs and was also a focus for much conflict between the English and the Scots, most notably the Battle of the Standard (1138) which saw losses of 12,000 men. In later years trade and transport became more important. Lying on the main route between Edinburgh and London it became an important stopping point for coaches travelling the route, eventually superseded by the growth of the railways in the 19th century. Lying in the centre of a large rural area, Northallerton was established as a market town in 1200 by Royal Charter, and there is still a market in the town today.
Fountains Abbey is a ruined Cistercian monastery, founded in 1132. It is a Grade 1 listed buiding, owned by the National Trust, and one of the largest and best preserved Cistercian houses in England. Along with the adjacent Studley Royal Water Garden, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Newby Hall is an historic mansion house and Grade I listed building, on the banks of the River Ure at Skelton-on-Ure, near Boroughbridge. The manor of Newby was sold by the Crossland family to Sir Edward Blackett MP in the 1690s. He demolished the old manor house and in 1697 built a spacious mansion designed with the assistance of Sir Christopher Wren. The estate was acquired by William Weddell MP in 1748, and the house was improved and enlarged during the 1760s. The interior was remodelled and several architects contributed, including Robert Adam. The present owners, the Compton family, descended from William Weddell, have restored the property, and the Hall and gardens are open to the public. The River Ure runs along the south side of the grounds of Newby Hall. It has magnificent herbaceous borders and woodland walks, as well as the usual collections of furniture, painting and precious artefacts within the house. The Georgian stable block (Grade I listed) is leased as offices. In 1979, the newly-constructed adventure playground was opened by Sir Jackie Stewart. A 2007 TV adaptation of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park was filmed at the Hall.
Jervaulx Abbey was one of the great Cistercian of Yorkshire, founded in 1156. Initially a Savigiac foundation, the abbey was later taken over by the Cistercian order and responsibility for it was taken by Byland Abbey. Originally founded in 1145 at Fors in Wensleydale, it was moved ten years later to a site a few miles away on the banks of the River Ure. It was dissolved in 1537, and its last abbot, Adam Sedbar, was hanged for his part in the Pilgrimage of Grace. Jervaulx is privately owned and relies on honesty donations from visitors to maintain the remains in its present state of repair. The owner is very passionate about preserving the abbey as much as he possibly can
Middleham Castle was built by Robert Fitzrandolph, 3rd Lord of Middleham and Spennithorne, commencing in 1190, near the site of an earlier motte and bailey castle. In 1270 it came into the hands of the Neville family, the most notable member of which was Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known to history as the “Kingmaker”, a leading figure in the Wars of the Roses. Following the death of Richard, Duke of York at Wakefield in December 1460, his younger sons, George, Duke of Clarence and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, came into Warwick’s care, and both lived at Middleham with Warwick’s own family. Their brother, King Edward IV, was imprisoned at Middleham for a short time, having been captured by Warwick in 1469. Following Warwick’s death at Barnet in 1471 and Edward’s restoration to the throne, his brother Richard married Anne Neville, Warwick’s younger daughter, and made Middleham his main home. Their son Edward was also born at Middleham and later also died there. Richard ascended to the throne as King Richard III, but spent little or no time at Middleham in his two-year reign. After Richard’s death at Bosworth in 1485 the castle remained in royal hands until the reign of James I, when it was sold. It fell into disuse and disrepair during the 17th Century. It was garrisoned during the Civil War, but saw no action. The ruins are now in the care of English Heritage. The town of Middleham is also a centre of racehorse training.
Lightwater Valley is a theme park, perhaps best known for being the home of Europe’s longest rollercoaster – The Ultimate. The park was founded by Robert Staveley, and initially evolved from a small farm attraction. It features around 40 other rides, and also has an adjacent shopping village and restaurant.
Aerial Extreme is a fun day out on one of the world’s most awesome High Rope Adventure Courses. All courses have a clip and go failsafe system, which means you are always clipped in and safe. The centre caters for children of 1.1m in height and above (about 6yrs old).
The Wensleydale Railway line currently runs 22 miles (35 km) between Northallerton on the East Coast Main Line and Redmire. This makes the line the longest heritage railway in Great Britain. Occasional freight services and excursions travel the full length of the line, however regular passenger services currently only operate between Leeming Bar and Redmire, a distance of 16.5 miles (27 km).
The Himalayan Garden is set in 20 acres of woods, lakes and streams within 3 different valleys, in a spectacular setting. We have over 800 different varieties of species and Hybrid Rhododendrons, and over 150 each of Azaleas and Magnolia along with other Himalayan ericaceous plants. Many of these have been grown from seed collected by modern day plant hunters in China, Nepal, India, Burma, Bhutan and Tibet. The garden is usually open from March to the end of June depending on the length of the flowering period.
The Yorkshire Dales National Park
The Yorkshire Dales is the name given to an upland area which lies within the historic county boundaries of Yorkshire, though it spans the ceremonial counties of North Yorkshire, West Yorkshire and Cumbria. Most of the area falls within the Yorkshire Dales National Park, created in 1954, and now one of the fifteen National parks of Britain, but the term also includes areas to the east of the National Park, notably Nidderdale. The Dales is a collection of river valley and the hills among them, rising from the Vale of York westwards to the hilltops of the main Pennine watershed. In some places the area even extends westwards across the watershed, but most of the valleys drain eastwards to the Vale of York, into the Ouse and then the Humber.
The North York Moors National Park
The North York Moors are one of the largest expanses of heather moorland in the United Kingdom. They cover an area of 1,436 km² (554 square miles), and have a population of about 25,000. The North York Moors became a National Park in 1952, through the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act of 1949.
Nosterfield Nature Reserve
Part flooded gravel workings, now a nature reserve popular with waterfowl and waders. Park at the visitor centre and follow the paths around the reserve.
The Thornborough Henges is an unusual ancient monument complex that includes the three aligned henges that give the site its name. The complex is located near the village of Thornborough. The complex includes many large ancient structures including a cursus, henges, burial grounds and settlements. They are thought to have been part of a Neolithic and Bronze Age ‘ritual landscape’ comparable with Salisbury Plain and date from between 3500 and 2500 BC. This monument complex has been called ‘The Stonehenge of the North’ and has been described by English Heritage as the most important ancient site between Stonehenge and the Orkney Islands.
Eating out or staying in the Area
There are numerous eating places in the area. Well has its own pub and restaurant, The Milbank Arms – www.themilbankarms.co.uk. There are also pubs and eating places at Snape, Thornton Watlass, Nosterfield, West Tanfield and Carthorpe. Masham and Bedale are not far away and both have a selection of pubs, restaurants and coffee shops. There is also a selection of B&Bs and hotels to choose from to suit all tastes and pockets – www.chapelhousebnb.com or search on the internet to find something to suit.
We thank the following for images used on this page: Phil Brown, www.luct.org.uk, – English Heritage and the towns and villages websites.