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Green Traveller's Guide to the Howardian Hills
Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

Words by Paul Miles.
Artwork for Green Traveller's Guides by Tina Smith and Mark Edwards.

Foreword by Paul Jackson, Manager of the Howardian Hills AONB

Lying between the Vale of Pickering and the Vale of York, the Howardian Hills AONB forms a clearly defined geographical area of well-wooded rolling countryside. Clothed in a patchwork of woodland, arable and pasture fields, one of the most distinctive features of this hidden gem is the number of large country houses and their designed parkland landscapes.

The Howardian Hills offer a taste of a quieter, gentler England. Picture-postcard traditional villages of honey-coloured limestone under pantile roofs offer excellent bases for exploring. The network of quiet country roads, bridleways and footpaths gives at one turn far-reaching views from the tops of the ridges, at the next a chance to explore intimate hidden valleys.


The Howardian Way is a meandering 28 mile/46km walk from Coxwold to Kirkham Priory, which takes in many beautiful villages and excellent views en route. Other long distance routes including the Centenary Way, Ebor Way and National Cycle Network also cross the area, whilst for a shorter walk, cycle or horse ride a number of self-guided leaflets are available from local shops or

Traditional estates such as Castle Howard, Hovingham, Newburgh Priory, Gilling Castle, Nunnington and Ampleforth Abbey have been shaping the landscape for centuries; their houses, gardens and parks are an excellent choice for a visit, offering both architectural and natural beauty.

Accommodation available in or close to the AONB ranges from camping and caravan sites through to farmhouses, country pubs and self-catering cottages. The traditional Yorkshire food and hospitality, combined with the sense of finding a little-known hidden gem, means that once you’ve discovered the Howardian Hills you’ll want to keep the secret to yourself!

What Green Traveller's writer discovered in the Howardian Hills

Gently rolling hills and valleys covered in a mosaic of woodlands and arable farmland are dotted with some of Britain’s best loved country houses and medieval abbeys in this Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. A well-kept secret, the Howardian Hills AONB covers an area of just 79 square miles, yet there is no shortage of activities and attractions to entice visitors. Historic and extravagant stately homes, ruined priories and Iron Age hilltop forts are scattered across the landscape, as are great mountain bike routes and footpaths. In the evening, unwind with beer brewed by local monks and dine on delicious local produce in cosy pubs.

Stay, Eat, See & Do

Our pick of places across the Howardian Hills

Google Map Key:
Click on the coloured icons for more information about each listing
Green = Places to stay; Blue = Places to eat; Yellow = Attractions

Click on the square brackets top right of map to reveal expanded map

  • The Howardian Hills are the only area of Jurassic limestone landscape in the north of England to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty

  • The river Derwent cuts through Kirkham Gorge – a deep winding valley of great scientific importance formed as an overflow channel from glacial Lake Pickering

  • The AONB covers 79 square miles (204 sq. km), with around 18% being wooded

  • The Howardian Hills contain a remarkable number of fine country houses, whose parklands are an intrinsic part of the landscape experience. Most notable is Vanbrugh's famous masterpiece, Castle Howard – the location for Brideshead Revisited

  • The AONB has 180 miles (300km) of quiet and well-marked public rights of way

  • The City of Troy maze, dating from at least the 1800s, is the smallest turf maze in Europe. It measures just 26 feet across and is the only surviving one in England with the classical seven-ringed design

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