They're wild and austere, and backpacker Jack Goodman came to a sticky end on them in An American Werewolf in London. But England's North York Moors truly deserve the much overused epithet stunning. The 1,436-sq-km national park is less touristy than the Yorkshire Dales, and contains chocolate-box villages and dramatic coastline as well as great stretches of moorland inhabited only by sheep. Here are five reasons why you should visit.
Most of the country's abbeys were smashed and looted on the orders of Henry VIII when he made himself head of the Church of England in the mid-1500s. Rievaulx Abbey, www.english-heritage.org.uk, was one of them but that hasn't dented its beauty. Located in an idyllic wooded valley on the River Rye, this striking ruin was once one of the most imposing Cistercian abbeys in Europe. To soak up the view of the abbey, weather permitting, take a picnic up to Rievaulx Terrace, an elevated grassy area created in the 1700s as a promenade for the local aristocracy.
As English villages go, there can't be many lovelier than Hutton-le-Hole. Some might say it's on the twee side but it more than fulfills the brief: Village green? Check. Stone cottages? Check. Stream running right through the middle? Check. There's not much to do other than stroll around and admire the scenery, eat a picnic don't be put off by the freely grazing ruminants or visit the local folk museum, www.ryedalefolkmuseum.co.uk. The museum is a complex of preserved cottages and shops, making the whole effect faithful rather than fake.
The fishing port of Whitby is steeped in history and atmosphere. Bram Stoker set much of his gothic thriller Dracula there and Captain Cook served his apprenticeship in the town, which is overlooked by a brooding Benedictine abbey high up on the cliff. Try Botham's, www.botham.co.uk, for breads, cakes and pastries, and Fortune's, www.fortuneskippers.co.uk, for smoked kippers. Both have been in business for well over 100 years. Whitby jet, which has been mined in the area since the Bronze Age, is on sale just about everywhere. Dalby Forest If nature is your thing, then Dalby Forest, www.forestry.gov.uk, will be your idea of heaven. Set on the southern slopes of the North York Moors, this glorious 3,200-hectare woodland is home to many bird species, Roe deer, otters and badgers. The thousands of firs and spruces make it feel like a little bit of Switzerland has been uprooted to Yorkshire. There are trails for walking, riding and mountain-biking. And if you want to stay for a while, there are log cabins to rent.
The Star Inn
A Tim Burton-esque hodgepodge of low ceilings, wildebeest trophy heads and perilously narrow eaves, the Star Inn, www.thestaratharome.co.uk, in the village of Harome, has been a hit for well over a decade. Michael Caine dined there every weekend while filming Little Voice, and you're as likely to find yourself rubbing shoulders with the London smart set as a cloth-capped native. The bar and Michelin-starred restaurant are housed in a 14th century building and there are eight double rooms and a private dining room in a converted barn over the road, plus a cottage consisting of three suites in the village and a house sleeping eight to 10. The catch? A 12-month waiting list for weekend accommodation and a two-month wait for a weekend table.