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Twixmas treats in Ryedale

In Ryedale, North Yorkshire there’s a perfect cure for the post-Christmas slump: a Twixmastide of tranquillity, featuring ten experiences guaranteed to recharge those burnout batteries.

“Preparing for Christmas can often take its toll and sometimes it can feel as though we’ll never find the peace promised in Christmas carols. Most of us need a restorative and relaxing trip in the middle of the busy festive season, but by Boxing Day it’s all too tempting to collapse on the sofa and switch on the TV.,” says Phillip Spurr, Programme Director for Place and Resources at Ryedale District Council.  “Here in Ryedale, an area famous for its beauty and tranquillity, we’re encouraging everyone to get out and about to help their minds and bodies recover this Twixmastime.  There are many ways to blow the cobwebs away in the fresh air to refresh our bodies (and work off the festive excess), or to reconnect with the magic of the natural world and restore our spirits.”

Ryedale’s Twixmas Top Ten

  1. For a Fairy-tale Christmas like no other, don’t miss Castle Howard’s Into the Woods (27 Dec – 2 Jan), where the stately home’s grand rooms are transformed into a magic kingdom of happily ever-afters and faraway wonderlands. Pre-booking is essential at  For those who simply want to wander at a gentler pace, Castle Howard’s parkland paradise, cafés and festive farm shop are also open between 27 Dec – 2 Jan. 
  2. For animal magic, there’s no better time to visit Flamingo Land’s award-winning zoo (27 Dec – 1 Jan): they’re guardians to over 140 species, many of which are critically endangered or extinct in the wild like the world’s smallest tiger, the Sumatran, or the Black Rhino. You can even go behind-the-scenes, meeting Zookeepers at feeding time during special Talks (free); enjoying close encounters with snakes and frogs during Meet a Creature handling sessions (free); or even helping to feed the animals – including playful penguins - by daring to enter the animal enclosures with a keeper (£).  Children can also let off steam in the play areas and kids’ rides.  Pre-booking recommended at
  3. Explore England’s first-ever Fairy Sanctuary, the Northwood Trail (27 & 30 Dec, 2 Jan): you’ll follow the enchanted woodland fairy-trail, unique in the UK, to the doors of the world’s only fairy museum, hidden in a woodland glade with its mysterious elven relics. It’s an awe-inspiring, nature-loving experience – and you’ll go home believing in fairytales again.  Pre-booking essential at
  4. “Everywhere peace, everywhere serenity, and a marvellous freedom from the tumult of the world...” You don’t need to climb a Himalayan mountain to find true peace - these words were written by one of the greatest spiritual writers of the Middles Ages, Saint Aelred, about his own retreat in the North York Moors, Rievaulx Abbey.  900 years later they still hold true.  Once one of Europe’s greatest monasteries, the abbey ruins seem a million miles away from the real world in their wooded valley, and English Heritage open the doors specially during Twixmas for any souls needing a spiritual retreat (26 Dec – 1 Jan).
  5. You won’t need the Tardis to time-travel at Helmsley Castle (open 30 & 31 Dec): it’s easy to imagine the knights and ladies from Age of Chivalry coming to life in the romantic medieval ruins. Explore the eerily-empty state apartments, once resounding with masques and music, with its views over the pleasure parkland and tournament field; or the impressive ramparts, as if scooped out of the stone by a giant’s hand!
  6. With its Gruffalo and Superworm trails, play areas and miles of 8500 acres of traffic-free walking and cycling trails, Dalby Forest (27 – 31 Dec) is a giant adventure playground perfect for everyone in the family during winter - there’s even Forest Yoga to reclaim your Zen on the 28 Dec (booking essential).
  7. Forget Banksy or Marvel’s comic art: 500 years ago, artists created one of Europe’s most important medieval masterpieces on the walls of St Peter’s and St Paul’s Church in Pickering, recreating – in colossal scale - stories from the Harrowing of Hell and St George’s battle with the dragon, full of drama and vibrant colour, like magnificent medieval manga. It’s not the only church in the area with amazing treasures: Byland Abbey, Lastingham Priory, St Gregory’s Minster in Kirkdale, and Stonegrave Minster all have unique – even legendary - masterpieces and artefacts to discover within their hallowed walls. Even better, they’re free to visit and open daily!

For many people, winter walking is the best route to relaxation and re-energising, and to help those planning a holiday hike, experts from the local Rambler’s Association have pulled together their Twixmas Top Three.  Each walk caters to a different mood or fitness level; all are suitable for winter weather conditions (if wearing sensible outdoor clothing!); and all start from Ryedale’s market towns, within easy reach of a wide range of services and facilities open during the 27 – 31 December.

“Surrounded by stunning scenery, with only wildlife to distract you, a winter walk is a great opportunity to take time out from everyday life and share some quality time with your loved ones.  Even better, it’s free!” says Penny Hudson, from Ryedale Ramblers.  “Ryedale is blessed with thousands of miles of walking trails, so it’s easy to find freedom and fresh air aplenty here – in fact, it was hard to pick a Top Three.  We’ve chosen to base our three walks around market towns to take advantage of family-friendly facilities – and of course, pubs and tea-rooms – but there are also many routes starting from villages like Welburn, or country parks like Castle Howard.  So, embrace a spirit of adventure and let your feet do the walking – you’ll feel so much better for it.”

  1. It’s become a winter pilgrimage for many people seeking peace and quiet: a ‘blow the cobwebs away’ hike between Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey along the Cleveland Way National Trail, through ancient woodland into the secluded valley of the River Rye. You’ll certainly work up an appetite, so take time to treat yourself in the abbey’s café, or one of the many top-class tea-tooms and restaurants in Helmsley, your starting point. Leave around 3 hours for the walk; route details are here:
  2. Take a happy history tour of Helmsley on this lazy amble that’s also ideal if your party includes pushchairs and wheelchairs. You’ll pass by the pretty beck, the imposing castle, the magnificent walled gardens and of course, wander through the picturesque marketplace, charmingly bedecked for Christmas and famous for its fascinating and friendly independent stores, eateries and galleries.  Route details are here:
  3. Malton might be famous as Yorkshire’s Food Capital today, but the market town is as old as the City of York, with a history stretching back to Roman times. On this easy, circular riverside walk, you get the chance to explore some of Malton’s ancient landmarks, passing by medieval Saint Mary's Priory, and the places where the Roman fort, and old Norman castle once stood.  Route details are here:

There are many more winter walks to discover in the area at, all curated by locals with insider knowledge and including full route details.  Please wear sensible winter clothing, and check the weather forecast before setting out to make sure you have an enjoyable and safe experience!

To discover more ideas on what to do during your winter holidays at home, head to visit


Notes to editors

For more media information, interviews or photographs, or to arrange a press trip to Ryedale please contact:

For media information about Ryedale’s destination development plan please contact: 

Visitor information

Information about where to go and what to do in Ryedale is available at – part of the destination development initiative from Ryedale District Council.

Notes to editors

Ryedale District Council’s destination development project supports the growth of responsible tourism in the district, and helps to attract seven million visitors annually, and a £281 million total visitor spend.