Car-free Guide to North York Moors National Park
Updated: Jan 11
As we launch our Green Traveller's Guide to the North York Moors, here's our guide to travelling to and around the North York Moors without a car.
Within easy reach of the national rail network and many major urban centres, the North York Moors' dramatic moorland landscapes are well connected by bus routes and heritage railway services; and with a fantastic range of cycling opportunities to boot.
A. Getting to the North York Moors without a car:
By Train: The East Coast mainline links Scotland and London with the North York Moors via nearby York, as well as less frequent stops at Thirsk and Northallerton. Further train services from around the country stop at Malton, Scarborough, Whitby, and Middlesborough, including regular mainline Transpennine services from Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool and more.
By Coach or Bus: National Express services from around the country stop at Thirsk, Northallerton, and Middlesbrough, close to the North York Moors National Park. There are also more frequent services to York and Leeds (National Express and Megabus), from where connections can be made via the Coastliner to Malton, Pickering, Goathland and Whitby.
B. Getting around without a car:
By Train: As with most National Parks, few mainline rail services run through the park, but there are a couple of great options in the North York Moors to see the sights from a train: The Esk Valley Railway is one of Britain’s most scenic routes, starting off in industrial Middlesbrough, before traversing beautiful moorland scenery around the Esk Valley en route to the historic fishing port of Whitby, stopping off at numerous places within the North York Moors National Park on the way.
More famously, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway is a heritage steam service sure to delight rail enthusiasts and children. Running through scented woodland and over the high moors from Pickering to Grosmont (before sometimes joining the Esk Valley line to Whitby), this is a great way to take in the scenery, and feel a little history, as you travel.
By Bus: The Western Explorer links Rievaulx, Byland, Helmsley and Mount Grace Priory. The Rosedale Rambler links Beck Isle Museum, Ryedale Folk Museum, and Cropton. The Dalby Forester is a scenic route through the forest. The Moorland Discovery takes in the best of the North York Moors, including Roseberry Topping, Captain Cook’s Monument, Ralph’s Cross, The Moors National Park Centre at Danby, Bilsdale, Sutton Bank and Helmsley.
Bus services running to and around the North York Moors National Park: The Scarborough to Whitby and Ravenscar bus (number 93) links destinations along the spectacular North Yorkshire Coast. The Yorkshire Coastliner runs all the way from Leeds to Whitby via Malton, Pickering, Thornton-le-Dale and Goathland.
Cycling: The North York Moors are blessed with a huge network of trails, bridleways and well-maintained country roads, ranging from quiet country lanes to challenging off-road upland terrain. This makes it not only a beautiful place to enjoy the wind in your hair and the smell of the heather, but the experience – and views – can be as much or as little of a challenge as you like: a pleasure for cyclists of all levels.
Mainline train services usually offer space to keep your bikes, however these spaces are limited and should always be reserved in advance to avoid disappointment, by calling up the train operator, or heading to your local railway station ticket office. Bikes are sadly not usually allowed on buses, though you could contact operators in advance to check.
If you want to hire a bike once you’ve reached the North York Moors, there are plenty of fantastic cycle providers that allow you to do that, and much more: with accessories, maps, and local advice they’ll get you geared up for a fantastic cycling experience. Local bike centres (call up in advance to check up availability of cycle hire) include: Blue Giraffe Bicycles Cyclemaster Pedals 4 All CIC Dalby Bike Barn/Pace Cycles Gone Mountain Biking (guided rides, mountain biking skills, etc., rather than bike hire) Trail Kings (guided rides and biking trips, rather than bike hire) Trailways Let's Bike (will deliver bikes to you)
The Moor to Sea Cycle Route is a fantastic family-friendly network of cycle trails (totalling 150 miles but split into manageable sections) that cover some of the North York Moors’ finest scenery on well-maintained routes that include The Cinder Track, a coastal stretch on a former railway line, particularly adapted to those who prefer to bike along the flat.
The Dalby Forest is home to England's largest trail centre, and is a great place to enjoy easy cycling along some flat terrain through beautiful scented woodland - look out for the wildlife! Find out more on the Dalby Forest cycling site and Dalby Bike Barn.
For more ideas, pick up one of the North York Moors National Park’s Pedal and Puff leaflets, which feature some of three great cycle routes, linked by a stream train route - on which you can of course take your two-wheeled friend.
For more maps, information and useful links, have a look at the North York Moors cycling minisite, or head to one of the visitor centres listed below. Sustrans also provides useful information for cyclists in the North York Moors and across the country.
Maps and further information Get hold of some great maps on the North York Moors online shop, or head to one of their well-equipped visitor centres for guides, maps, local information, expert advice, and sometimes much more.
For more information and inspiration for your trip to the North York Moors National Park, see the range of places to eat and stay, and things to do and see, on the North York Moors National Park website