When we explored North York Moors National Park, we decided to stay in the beautiful, rolling countryside of the Howardian Hills AONB.

Tucked away in the small hamlet of Stearsby, we found an ideal self-catering accommodation.

Hobbits Cottage is a quaint and delightful detached barn conversion situated in the owner’s grounds.

The cottage is light and airy and big enough for two. The ground floor open plan living area comprises a kitchen, a dining area and a sitting area with a woodburning stove.

The sitting area leads to the French doors opening out to the terrace with open views to fields.

We had a great time staying at Hobbits Cottage and it is perfectly placed for exploring the idyllic countryside and villages of the Howardian Hills.

The famous City of York is only 12 miles away, whilst the North York Moors and East Coast, seaside towns of Scarborough, Bridlington and Whitby are all within an hour’s drive.

The surrounding area is steeped in history, with an abundance of abbeys, stately homes and gardens, such as Castle Howard, Byland Abbey and Helmsley Castle.

Howardian Hills AONB

The Howardian Hills are located between the Yorkshire Wolds, the North York Moors National Park and the Vale of York.

They take their name from the Howard family who still own local lands.

This area is sometimes overlooked by visitors flocking to the North York Moors.

But if you like the Cotswolds then you will love the Howardian Hills because the look and feel is quite similar as it is the same Jurassic limestone that underlies both.

Here you will find sleepy quintessential English villages set within gentle rolling countryside.

It is an enchanting landscape with its patchwork of arable and pasture fields, scenic villages and historic country houses.

Images by Cool Places Britain | Index image by hobbits-nyorks.co.uk

We explored three picturesque villages in the Howardian Hills.

First, we went to the small hamlet of Nunnington, six miles south-east of Helmsley, to the north of Hovingham, on the banks of the River Rye.

After visiting Nunnington Hall and its beautiful gardens, we enjoyed a 4,5-mile circular walk heading up Caulkley Bank.

This is a very distinctive limestone ridge running east-west to the south of Nunnington.

A trig point is the highest point on the bank, offering dramatic views across the Vale of Pickering to the North York Moors.

This path then follows the route of the river upstream back to Nunnington.


The day after we went to the highly attractive and vibrant village of Hovingham.

Hovingham has been home to the Worsley family since 1563. The sixth Thomas Worsley (1710-1778) designed and built the current Hovingham Hall.

Starting at the Hovingham Bakery, we walked a 10-mile figure of eight.

A great countryside ramble taking in the history of Hovingham and its surroundings. Along the way you will encounter historic churches, ancient woodlands, fens and wildlife.


Not far from Hobbits Cottage you will find the charming village of Crayke. It sits on top of a little hill with staggering views across the Vale of York.

Until 1844 Crayke was officially a remote enclave of County Durham.

It is said that the body of St Cuthbert was hidden from the Vikings here in Crayke before its final burial in Durham Cathedral.

We had a very nice lunch at the Durham Ox, an award-winning gastro pub in Crayke and afterwards we went for a short 3,5 mile walk across the Crayke Estate.

Ebor Way

Three long distance footpaths visit the area in passing, the Ebor Way, the Centenary Way and the Foss Walk.

The Ebor Way is a 70-mile (112 km) long-distance footpath from Helmsley, North Yorkshire to Ilkley, West Yorkshire. It takes its name from Eboracum, the Roman name for York.

This walk connects the Cleveland Way and Dales Way running through the low-lying Vale of York.

From Helmsley, the walk heads south via Oswaldkirk, Cawton and Hovingham to Terrington.

Here it is joined by the Centenary Way, which follows a broadly similar route to York.

Centenary Way

The Centenary Way runs across the Howardian Hills and Yorkshire Wolds via Castle Howard and Wharram Percy.

It links York and the Foss Walk with the Yorkshire Wolds Way and Cleveland Way National Trails.

Meeting the Derwent and Foss, it combines riverside walks in deep valleys with forest tracks.

Foss Walk

The Foss Walk follows footpaths along or near the river Foss, from its confluence with the River Ouse in the historic city of York to its source at Pond Head.

The Walk passes through Strensall, Sheriff Hutton, Crayke and Oulston.

Cool Places to Explore

Castle Howard | Rievaulx Abbey | Helmsley Castle | Yorkshire Lavender Gardens | Robin Hood’s Bay | Whitby | North York Moors Railway.

Cool Places to Eat

The Durham Ox | The Hovingham Inn.