For centuries, Ryedale’s market towns – Helmsley, Kirkbymoorside, Pickering, Malton & Norton – have been the heart and soul of Ryedale, and that’s just as true today.
Only a few miles away from each other, they form an extraordinarily vibrant 20-mile neighbourhood – a ‘country centre’ – of award-winning shops, attractions and eateries that’s unique in the UK. They’re a pleasure-seeking, shop-hopping paradise and, surrounded by Britain’s most beautiful countryside, they’re also a wonderful place to walk and wildlife-spot.
Ryedale’s market towns are the places that friends and family gather to share the news, browse the stores and galleries, and eat and drink great food – in timeless rural tradition. They’re also the places where people gather to celebrate and be entertained – and Ryedale loves putting on a show, with major festivals all year-round attracting top names, and plenty of surprises.
Choice & Quality – A natural supermarket
The local area is blessed with a bounty of quality produce, from strawberries to beef, from wine to honey. There’s very little that can’t be grown on the south-facing slopes and sheltered valleys of Ryedale – and you can find it all in Ryedale’s five market towns. Butcher, bakers, brewers, greengrocers and delis… you’ll find them all on Ryedale’s High Streets (and yes, you’ll find candlesticks too).
Many of the area’s makers and growers are nationally or internationally award-winning, their produce gracing the tables of the country’s leading restaurants, and as a result Ryedale is a magnet for the country’s leading chefs – it’s no wonder that towns like Malton have been dubbed Yorkshire’s Food Capital, and Helmsley has been awarded Britain’s Best Market Town. Why shouldn’t it be gracing your dinner table too?
Individual and Unique
With so many independent businesses, you will discover products that are individual and unique. One of the joys of visiting a market town, is wandering the historic streets and market squares, and discovering your own tiny treasure-trove: small, independent curiosity shops, where you’re welcomed by someone by a personal passion for the past; or gloriously old-fashioned hardware stores of yesteryear, where you can buy everything you might possibly need for home and garden in one stop. Many of these places will never appear on a Google Search – you’ll have to use old-fashioned window shopping to find them!
Green and eco-friendly
With the vast majority of produce being sourced locally, there’s barely a food mile travelled. What’s more, it’s fresh, maybe even hand-picked or made that same day, so there’s less waste. What’s more, it’s made and sold by local people who care about the sustainability of the land, so there are a huge number of schemes to care for the environment.
Space and Time
Ryedale’s market towns have been the heart and soul of their communities for almost 1000 years, and they’ve always been places where friends and family gather – whether it’s for shopping or market days, farming shows, sporting competitions or Christmas festivals. They’re sociable spaces where you’ll never feel alone; where shop-keepers are friendly and welcoming, like the good old days. But if you’re with family and friends, they’re also home to some of Yorkshire’s top tea-rooms perfect for sharing a cuppa, cake and chat.
Why go indoors to shop, when we’re so often being encouraged by medical experts to get out and about for our health and well-bring? Ryedale’s five market towns are surrounded by some of Britain’s most beautiful and tranquil countryside – they’re full of fresh air. And as you can enjoy gentle strolling while you’re shop-hopping, you should perhaps consider shopping in Ryedale’s market towns to be one of your essential ‘5 a day’.
Since the pandemic, many of us are re-evaluating our life choices – trying to improve our mental well-being or trying to live life at a slower pace. Market town shopping is much less stressful than your average shopping experience: with stores spread out around the market squares and high streets shoppers have space and time – there’s no trolley rage here. Just time to browse and make good decisions on purchases, to talk about provenance and sustainability. Even time to hear bird song.
For a night out on the town, they’re also full of first-class entertainment and bonhomie, where music festivals and theatre shows star some of the UK’s leading lights.
Real-life experts to help
As each market town is dominated by small, independent shops – where many store-keepers are involved in the making or growing process – these town centres are the home of good old-fashioned friendly, personal service. Shop-keepers are experts on their stock, and able to give each customer their undivided attention (from simple advice, to measuring, to sampling), you will be able to purchase the item that suits your needs perfectly – or they can source it for you. It’s like getting bespoke, without paying for it. You won’t need to worry so much about returns and refunds – or whether it’ll suit you when you get home, or whether it’ll taste OK. Even better there’s no need for web-chats and hunting down an assistant!
Make it a Day-out
The region’s natural beauty, tranquillity, and rich heritage attracts the country’s leading artists and craftspeople, and the region’s art galleries and workshops rival major cities. Even better, you can see many makers in action in their studios, with a chance to chat about art and crafts – maybe pick up a few tips during a demo or masterclass.
Ryedale’s market towns are also home to some of Yorkshire’s top and award-winning attractions, including world-famous North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the National Centre for Birds of Prey, and Helmsley Walled Garden.
- Helmsley has been home to the finest lords and ladies in the land for nearly 900 years, and not surprisingly has developed a taste for the finer things in life. Today, it’s recognised as one of Britain’s best market towns – a Great British High Street Awards champion, and a gateway to the north’s best eateries, attractions, galleries, and award-winning independent shops.
- Kirkbymoorside is Ryedale’s smallest market town, but its weekly market is the liveliest – it’s been held in the cobbled market square for over 750 years. Kirkbymoorside is a treasure trove for antique-hunters, attracting collectors from across the world to its showrooms, and it’s also one of the quirkiest market towns you’ll ever visit, with many of its stores hiding unexpected surprises behind their facades. The old Bank is a café, the former gasworks are now a beauty salon, and the 19th-century chemist now supplies fine wines and spirits; while the butcher will happily tell you what time the next bus is, and Moorside Stores are famed locally for producing any cooking ingredient you might want (or ordering it for you personally).
- Pickering is home to the world-famous North Yorkshire Moors Railway, so perhaps it’s not surprising that the town’s tea-rooms and shops revel in vintage and nostalgia. As the gateway to the North York Moors National Park and Dalby Forest, the town also has an unmistakable spirit of adventure, and this is one of the best places to get ready for the great outdoors.
- Malton is Yorkshire’s Food Capital, famous for its year-round food festivals celebrating local produce – a magnet for the UK’s leading chefs – and also for its trailblazing town centre of independent food stores and award-winning artisans, where you can find anything your taste-buds desire, including taste tours, and cookery and gin schools.