National Bird of Prey Centre daily flights in Helmsley

Yorkshire’s Doolittle Dale: discover the holiday destination that’s talking to the animals this summer

Snails-pace holidays where you’re free as a bird – there can’t be a better way of escaping the everyday this summer, and that’s exactly what you’ll find in Ryedale, North Yorkshire, where tourism businesses have been listening to wildlife, to create a holiday destination that’s in harmony with nature.

Launching this summer and autumn, new initiatives range from a playground for red squirrels – long extinct from the area but being reintroduced this year - to a carbon-neutral eco-distillery, kind to nature and unique in the world.  Meanwhile, tourism businesses from glamping to gardens have pledged to become sustainable champions in a new partnership with the University to York; and instead of HS2, the region has been investing in eBikes and cycle networks that connect the whole of Ryedale from north to south, east to west, so it’s never been easier to leave the car behind, getting out and about into nature without stress to you or the environment.  

“We’re sowing the seeds for a new breed of British holiday destination that doesn’t cost the earth,” explains Philip Spurr, Programme Director for Place and Resources at Ryedale District Council. “Although just a few miles from York, Ryedale is one of Britain’s most tranquil and beautiful areas, a haven for humans and wildlife alike.  Places like this are rare in the UK, and so we feel a huge responsibility to nurture it, to help nature thrive – to listen to what nature’s telling us and adapt what we do.  For this reason, right across Ryedale tourism businesses have been working hard to champion wildlife, investing in a huge range of sustainable initiatives that are now coming to fruition, and helping visitors to enjoy an eco-holiday without compromising on luxury.”  

All new this year, here's Ryedale’s Doolittle Dozen to get you started on your eco-holiday:

1. A new gateway to a pedalling paradise: due to open in May, a 12-mile cycle route between Malton and Pickering will connect not only the historic market towns of Malton (Yorkshire’s Food Capital) and Pickering (home to the world-famous North Yorkshire Moors Railway), but three of the UK’s best and most varied biking terrains: Dalby Forest, the ‘big sky rides’ of the Yorkshire Wolds, and the wild rides of the North York Moors. For the first time, all four corners of Ryedale will be connected by cycling routes.  To make sure that everyone can enjoy them, local bike shops – like Big Bear Bikes in Pickering - have invested in eBikes for visitors to hire, and events and workshops exploring the awesome cycling landscape.  Find out more at ryedale.gov.uk/M-P-cycle-route.

2. This autumn, Yorkshire Arboretum will be reintroducing red squirrels to the area, after a long period of extinction. They’re currently building a large, tree-filled squirrel enclosure, which includes a public viewing boardwalk and viewing platform, as well as breeding and release pens, to make sure that visitors can enjoy a close encounter while the squirrels play and thrive.  Find out more at yorkshirearboretum.org

3. Visitors can explore the region’s new eco-distillery, Ellers Farm, through tours later this year. They produce a range of products, including Dutch Barn Vodka, which is handmade on the farm from 100% British apples and the water sourced from the ground below. Ellers Farm Distillery has been carbon neutral from day one of production, find out more at ellersfarmdistillery.com. Neighbouring distillery Sloemotion, which uses foraged hedgerow fruits in its award-winning liquors (including a new gin in partnership with Castle Howard), also won a coveted, national Amorim Sustainability Award earlier this year.

4. This will also be the first year that Yorkshire Arboretum’s Tree Health Centre, the first in England, will be open to the public, with a range of conservation masterclasses on offer, from planting to pests. Visitors can also experience the magic of trees through inspirational poetry-writing or painting days, celebratory Dawn Chorus Days, or during a ‘Meet the Trees’ close encounter.

5. This year, visitors can discover how the region’s lavender distillery, Woldies has transformed into a bee-powered Nature Farm, with play and interactive gardens to help families explore how working in harmony in with wildlife can also help the lavender farmer. Find out more at woldies.co.uk.

6. Yorkshire Coast Nature has introduced new wildlife safaris for 2022, including tranquil Wildflower Wanders in the region’s ancient woodlands. Find out more at yorkshirecoastnature.co.uk.

7. Helmsley Walled Garden, another of Ryedale’s new sustainable tourism champions, has been designed as a place of peace and tranquillity, in balance with nature and the natural world with its ‘green’ gardening practices.  New for 2022, the award-winning visitor attraction is celebrating this relationship in a series of events exploring the ancient healing power of herbal remedies. Find out more at helmsleywalledgarden.org.uk

8. Nearby is the National Bird of Prey Centre with the North’s largest collection of birds-of-prey, currently hatching the first of this year’s chicks as part of their conservation programme to protect internationally-endangered species. New broods for 2022 include Spectacled Owls, Bald Eagles, Ural Owls and Grey Buzzard Eagles and Steller's Sea Eagles.  Find out more at ncbp.co.uk.

9. Flamingo Land – a theme park and zoo – is also involved in international breeding programmes to protect endangered wildlife around the globe, all revealed during ‘Be a Zookeeper’ experiences and Zoo Trails. Recent babies include Jabali, a rare black rhino, who visitors can meet in the Rhino House this year.  Flamingo Land is also actively involved in supporting animal welfare and conservation in Tanzania’s Udzungwa Forest, as well as projects to protect native wildlife closer to home in collaboration with David Bellamy.

10. Although famous as a foodie heaven with its thriving town centre of local producers, Malton is also the gateway to some of Britain’s most beautiful and biodiverse landscapes. In celebration, the market town will be launching an environmental sculpture trail during the much-loved Food Lover’s Festival this summer – the brainchild of Environmental Art, a collaboration of sustainable craftspeople, artists and designers based in Malton’s Shambles.  Local wildlife hero and international artist, Robert Fuller also has his gallery nearby: he can often be seen in action in his studio surrounded by nature cams, where he keeps a close eye on the cheeky antics – and welfare - of the region’s wildlife, whilst seeking inspiration for his latest masterpieces.

11. It’s becoming easier than ever to book a luxurious eco-holiday, with a growing supply of high-quality, sustainable accommodation on offer in the region, including the new Keld Spring holiday lodge development, opening soon. Not resting on their laurels, many of the region’s existing accommodation providers are also adapting to help the environment, including Longwood Farm Glamping and Low Costa Mill Holiday Cottages who have recently signed up to become ‘Sustainable Tourism Champions’, in a new partnership between Ryedale District Council and the University of York. 

To promote sustainable travel, Transpennine Express has just launched a new walking and cycling guide, helping visitors to get out and explore Ryedale’s spectacular countryside from Malton’s train station platform – no need for a car! Find out more at tpexpress.co.uk/walk

If you’re tempted to book an eco-holiday break or take a trip to Ryedale for a ‘wild’ day-out, visit www.visitryedale.co.uk.