5 things to do in Pickering, North Yorkshire
PUBLISHED: 00:00 19 January 2015 | UPDATED: 15:48 09 February 2018
Joan Russell Photography
There's plenty to keep you busy in this bustling North Yorkshire market town
Winter still has us in its icy grasp but that doesn’t mean we have to sit huddled round a roaring fire at home with our feet in a giant mug of hot chocolate till the first tentative shoots of spring start to poke through the solid soil.
Unless you actually are a small furry creature or – heaven help you – a tortoise, there really is no need to hibernate just because it’s a bit parky outside. There’s life in them thar hills, even if some of them are still a bit frosted on top, so get your coat on and let’s get out and about.
Pickering is the perfect place for a winter day out (and spring, summer and autumn come to that). There’s plenty to do in the town itself and further afield in the North York Moors and Dalby Forest to keep you busy from dawn till dusk. Here are just a few suggestions, gleaned from numerous visits to this charming market town known as ‘the Gateway to the Moors’ but with such a lot to offer in its own right.
People get very steamed up about old trains, and it’s easy to see why when you step back in time in Pickering to experience Britain’s most popular heritage steam railway.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway enjoys stunning scenery along 18 miles of track through the National Park, where its magnificent steam engines pass through pretty rural stations manned by smartly uniformed staff.
Pullman dining services operate in the evenings and at weekends throughout the year, proving particularly popular for anniversaries and special occasions. But, if you’ll take a bit of advice from someone in the know, you’ll treat yourself to a bacon sarnie in the café on the platform at Pickering – honest to goodness, they’re the best (and we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time testing them on your behalf).
For further information and to check the daily timetables, visit nymr.co.uk.
Trees a crowd
Dalby Forest, just ten miles north-east of Pickering, is the perfect place to enjoy a stroll, indulge in a spot of wildlife-watching or join a thronging crowd to sing-along with top-name musicians.
Former Housemartin Paul Heaton and Jacqui Abbott are the first act confirmed to appear in Dalby Forest in 2015 as part of Forest Live, an annual summer music series organised by the Forestry Commission, in which bands perform in unique woodland locations across England.
Paul and Jacqui’s 2014 album, What Have We Become, which reached number three in the UK charts, marked the 20th anniversary of their first album together, The Beautiful South’s Miaow. Equally significantly, it reunited Paul with John Williams, the producer of his first album, The Housemartins’ London 0 Hull 4, and his first number one, Caravan Of Love from way back in 1986.
The Dalby Forest concert on June 27th will see them play material from their new album and songs from The Beautiful South and the Housemartins.
Tickets (£29.50 plus £2.95 booking fee) are on sale now via the Forestry Commission box office on 03000 680400 or forestry.gov.uk/music.
A royal retreat
Pickering is home to a splendid 13th century castle that has been used as a royal hunting lodge, holiday home and a stud farm by a succession of medieval kings.
The original motte and bailey structure was built by the Normans under William the Conqueror in 1069 to maintain control of us unruly northerners. Its remains are particularly well-preserved because it is one of only a few castles which were largely unaffected by the Wars of the Roses and the Civil War.
The castle, which is cared for by English Heritage, is currently closed until March 29th, but when it opens again – presumably after the queen mother of all spring cleans – don’t miss the exhibition in the chapel, the keep (known as the king’s room), the fun activities in the chapel and the fabulous views across the surrounding North Yorkshire countryside.
To find out more – and to check opening times and admission prices after March 30th – visit english-heritage.org.uk
Bridging the gap
Hard-working volunteers have done a trail-blazing job bringing a previously neglected area of Pickering woodland back to life, giving people – both local and from further afield – a great place to grab a breath of fresh air while doing something fun.
Newbridge Park, which you can find just behind Pickering Castle, is now the place for cross-country mountain biking, bike skills, walking, picnicking and wildlife-watching (native species are being gradually reintroduced as part of a long-term woodland management plan).
If you’d like to find out more about this 100 per cent volunteer-run project and see what sort of fun and games you and your family can have in the great outdoors, visit newbridgepark.org
When it comes to shopping, Pickering maintains that magical balance of old and new, chain and independent. In other words, there are plenty of places just waiting to tempt the pennies out of your purse (sorry chaps, of course we really mean ‘wonga out of your wallets’).
This consistently busy little market town has around 100 independent retailers in Market Place, Park Street, Hungate, Westgate and Eastgate Square keeping the bigger boys on their toes by offering everything even the most dedicated shopaholic could ever want – clothes, books, art, hardware, toys, outdoor gear and antiques; all shopping life really is here.
As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s also a traditional market every Monday and a farmers’ market every month.
Blimey, after all that shopping, we feel like a sit down and a cup of tea. So it’s a good job Pickering has such a plentiful supply of cafés, restaurants and pubs, isn’t it?
Now, if only we could decide whether to try The White Swan Inn, Middleton Post Office Tea Parlour, Mr Wilf’s, Poppies Tearooms, Figaro’s, Willowgate Bistro…