The Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk is a fantastic figure-eight route in the North York Moors National Park. Walking from Helmsley Castle to Rievaulx Abbey is a great way to explore these two English Heritage Sites. Taking place in North Yorkshire, you have the option of visiting both Helmsley Castle and Rievaulx Abbey as part of the walk. Otherwise, you can simply enjoy them from afar, if you’re simply just following the figure-eight route. Certainly, when it comes to Helmsley walks, the walk to Rievaulx Abbey is a gooden.
In this guide, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know about the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk. After talking about the walk itself, we’ll cover information about other popular walks in and around Helmsley and Rievaulx Abbey. We’ll also tell you how to get there, what to pack and answer some FAQs.
Anyway, before you read this guide, feel free to watch our North York Moors hiking video (coming soon). For your convenience, when you press play below, it’ll start at the section showing the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk.
We hope you find this guide helpful. For information about other great walking routes in the North York Moors, read our guides on the Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby Walk, the Sutton Bank Walk and the Hole of Horcum Walk.
Table of Contents
About the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk
The Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk is also known as the Helmsley Castle to Rievaulx Abbey Walk, Helmsley to Rievaulx Walk and Helmsley Rievaulx Abbey Walk. Very simply, the walk starts in Helmsley, next to Helmsley Castle. You’ll then follow Cleveland Way, pass Griff Lodge and eventually reach Rievaulx Abbey. From there, some people will simply retrace their steps to complete an out and back walk.
But, by following a figure-eight route, you’ll get to explore more of the area. To that end, from Rievaulx Abbey, you’ll follow woodland trails, pass Griff Lodge again and then return via a country lane that passes through the impressive grounds of Duncombe Park. Indeed, this figure-eight route is the best way to do the return walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey.
Let’s look at a map and some quick stats of this version of the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk below.
Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk Information and Route Map
- Type: Figure 8
- Distance: 12.8km (7.9 miles)
- Time: 3–4 hours
- Accumulated elevation gain: 225m
- Difficulty: Easy
- Trailhead: Cleveland Way Car Park
- Map: Wikiloc
Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk Elevation Profile
Below, you’ll find the elevation profile of the walk.
Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk Trail Overview
In this trail description, we’ll talk about the highlights and key points of the return walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey.
Start of the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk
Once you’ve parked in Helmsley, you have two options. Certainly, you could join Cleveland Way and start the walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey. Otherwise, you could visit Helmsley Castle before starting the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk. In case you’d like to visit Helmsley Castle, let’s look at this option below.
Helmsley Castle was built around 1120 and is currently an English Heritage Site. The castle started as a medieval fortress. Over the centuries, it changed and evolved to become a Tudor mansion. Eventually, it would become a Victorian ruin, as we see it today. If you want to visit Helmsley Castle, you’ll need to pay to enter. Head to the official Helmsley Castle website for the latest information about prices and opening times.
Whether you visit Helmsley Castle or not, you’ll join the Cleveland Way National Trail to start the walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey. The 175km (109 mile) multi-day trail actually starts in Helmsley, next to Helmsley Castle! So, you’ll get to experience the very start of this multi-day trail. The Cleveland Way trail leads by some farmland before heading into woodland.
Blackdale Howl Woodland
Cleveland Way will guide you into a wooded area called the Blackdale Howl Woodland. It’s a peaceful and quiet woodland. There is a gradual gain in elevation, which will get your heart pumping. Beck and I were speed hiking at this point. So, our heart rates were definitely high! The trail then leads to Griff Lodge.
What’s speed hiking? We like to speed hike for a good workout when we’re exploring. Find out more about it here.
Griff Lodge and Griff Farm is the meeting point of the figure-eight route. So, you’ll pass this point of the walk twice. Simply, pass Griff Lodge and Griff Farm, by following a path heading in a northerly direction towards Ingdale Howl.
When you reach the road (Ingdale Howl), turn left. You’ll then follow the road for around 600 metres. You can then turn left onto Rievaulx Bank, which is a road leading down into the village of Rievaulx. Alternatively, just before Rievaulx Bank, you can follow a steep wooded trail, that passes by Rievaulx Terrace. Personally, we took this wooded trail to avoid any more road walking.
Rievaulx Terrace is a National Trust site. It’s an 18th-century landscape garden, which contains two temples. Personally, we didn’t stop to visit Rievaulx Terrace. We simply passed by as we followed the wooded trail down to Rievaulx. It’s possible to visit Rievaulx Terrace; but, only between mid-March and November. Head to the official Rievaulx Terrace National Trust website for more details and prices and opening times.
Once you reach the village of Rievaulx, Rievalux Bank will lead you to the Rievaulx Abbey. The abbey was founded in 1132 and was the first Cistercian abbey to be established in the north of England. You can get a good look at Rievaulx Abbey without needing to pay to enter. Of course, to explore Rievaulx Abbey in more detail and learn more about its history, it’s definitely worth paying to visit the site, which features a museum. For more information about prices and opening times, head to the official Rievaulx Abbey website.
Personally, Beck and I didn’t visit the site. We were happy to stick to the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey walking route.
After passing by or visiting Rievaulx Abbey, you’ll then continue south on Rievaulx Bank. You’ll be following the quaint River Rye, to your right, as you continue towards Rievaulx Bridge. Also to your right is a wooded area called Ashberry Wood. Certainly, River Rye creates a serene ambience. The gentle stream of River Rye is truly lovely.
Eventually, you’ll reach Rievaulx Bridge. As part of the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk, you won’t actually need to cross Rievaulx Bridge. But, feel free to cross and explore the charming Rievaulx Bridge before continuing through Spring Bank Wood.
Spring Bank Wood
The wooded trail through Spring Bank Wood will pass Abbot Hagg Farm and steer back to Griff Lodge. From there, continue in a southeast direction, on a country lane that steers you towards Duncombe Park.
Duncombe Park (Evolution of Helmsley Estate)
The walk leads you through the parklands of Duncombe Park, which was formerly Helmsley Estate. In 1713, Thomas Duncombe pioneered the building of the mansion, Ionic temple, gardens and terraces. It was later added to by his son, Thomas Duncombe II, who led the building of a third terrace in 1758. Specifically, a Doric temple was built at one end and an Ionic temple at the other. It’s this third terrace that’s now known as Riveaulx Terrace.
National Centre for Birds of Prey
At the grounds of Duncombe Park, you’ll also find the National Centre for Birds of Prey, which contains northern England’s largest collection of raptors! Head here for more information about prices and visiting times for the National Centre for Birds of Prey.
Anyway, after passing Duncombe Park and the National Centre for Birds of Prey, you’ll then follow a path leading back to Helmsley. Along the way, you’ll catch a glimpse of Helmsley Castle!
Car Park and Facilities
The easiest and quickest way to get to the Cleveland Way Car Park for the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk is to drive there yourself. Simply, park at Cleveland Way Car Park, which is next to Helmsley Castle and start the walk from there. Check this website for the latest Cleveland Way Car Park prices. All in all, it isn’t cheap to park in this car park.
Thankfully, there’s plenty of free street parking in Helmsley. Parking is generally limited on the weekend unless you arrive early or are willing to park far away and do some additional walking to get to the trailhead.
At Cleveland Way Car Park, you’ll find public toilets. From the car park, it’s easy to access the town of Helmsley and all of its shops and amenities.
If you don’t have your own set of wheels, we recommend hiring a car using Rentalcars.com. You’ll find a wide variety of cars on Rental Cars, which are very easy to book online.
How to Get There (Public Transport)
It’s possible to use public transport to get to Helmsley. The nearest town offering a direct bus service is York. You can catch the 31X bus from York to Helmsley, which takes around 1.5 hours.
FYI – there is a Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey bus that operates; but, only on Sundays during August and September. Head here for more details.
Other Helmsley Walks (Walks Around Helmsley)
There are many other Helmsley walks to choose from. You’ll find a few different circular walks from Helmsley as well as short walks around Helmsley. One option is to simply walk from Helmsley to Duncombe Park. On its own, this would be a lovely short walk. Otherwise, to explore new trails and land, we’ve handpicked the best of the rest when it comes to Helmsley walks. To find out more about these walks, click on the links below, which will take you to their respective GPS-guided trail maps.
- Helmsley Discovery Trail
- Helmsley and River Rye
- Helmsley and Beck Dale
- Helmsley and Ash Dale Woods
- Helmsley Circular Walk
Other Rievaulx Abbey Walks
In a similar token, there are a couple of Rievaulx Abbey walks to choose from. So, if you’re keen on a walk from or near Rievaulx Abbey, check out the list below. We’ve handpicked the best trail options when it comes to Rievaulx Abbey walks. Specifically, these walks either start or finish at Rievaulx Abbey or involve walking in areas adjacent to the village of Rievaulx.
- Sutton Bank Walk to Rievaulx Abbey (follows the Helmsley to Sutton Bank section of the Cleveland Way)
- Rievaulx Circular Walk
- Rievaulx Abbey Circular Walk
- Rievaulx Moor Circular Walk
Below, we’ve answered the most frequently asked questions about the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk and some of its attractions en route.
How Far Is Rievaulx Abbey From Helmsley?
As the crow flies, Rievaulx Abbey is around 3.6km from Helmsley Castle. The drive to Rievaulx Abbey from Helmsley Castle is around 4.5km. The walk from Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey, as described in this guide, is approx. 5.2km.
Is Rievaulx Abbey National Trust?
No, Rievaulx Abbey is an English Heritage Site. Although, Rievaulx Terrace is National Trust.
Are Dogs Allowed in Helmsley Castle?
Helmsley Castle is somewhat dog friendly. Dogs on leads are welcome on the Helmsley Castle grounds only. Assistance dogs are welcome across the site itself.
These are our five hiking gear essentials for the Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk.
- Merrell Moab Mid Gore-Tex Hiking Boots: these hiking boots are super comfortable and lightweight.
- The North Face Venture Jacket: a fantastic windproof/waterproof jacket.
- Osprey Skarab 30L Day Backpack: a great backpack for hiking, which has plenty of space to store your gear.
- The North Face TKA Glacier Fleece Jacket: an excellent warmth:weight ratio fleece jacket that’ll help keep you warm.
- Columbia Convertible Trousers: a value for money pair of water-resistant convertible trousers.
Make sure to also pack water, snacks, sunscreen and a hat! For a longer hiking gear list, read our 66 Travel Items You Must Travel With. For a list of everything else you’d need for travelling, read our Packing Checklist.
- The Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey Walk is a family friendly walk: although, you’ll be a better judge of your children’s abilities!
- Check opening times: check the official websites (which we have linked to in this guide) to ensure the various sites are open when you visit. Some of the sites, that you’ll pass on the walk, close at various times of the year.
- Why not try Get Your Guide? if you’re looking for other great activities and attractions in the North York Moors, head to Get Your Guide below.
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