Visiting the North York Moors in Autumn

Visiting the North York Moors in Autumn

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Autumn grass, with dead bushes and a tower from Fountain Abbey ruins peaking over the hill.

Most people choose to visit the North York Moors in summer. The temperatures are mild, the grass is lush and wildflowers are blooming. I decided it would be a good idea to visit the North York Moors in November. The moors must not have been expecting visitors, because everything was dead. But it was still beautiful, nonetheless!

Bringing the movies to life

A slow stream runs through the gardens with the ruins of Fountains Abbey in the background

My trip to Yorkshire was inspired by a moment in 1993 when I discovered the film “The Secret Garden“. This film inspired me to travel to the UK several times as an adult. Especially for the opportunity to experience the charming allure of the English countryside. Each time I visited somewhere new, the place was just as I’d imagined! But this time around, I decided to make my visit a little more specific than usual.

More than 20 years after watching The Secret Garden, I decided it was finally time to visit some of my favourite filming locations and take in the best of the Moors.

Joined by my friend Chris, who had never seen The Secret Garden and certainly wasn’t ready to experience my excitement. We rented a car and headed for the dream landscapes of my childhood. Leaving the busy city of York, we headed north towards our first stop, Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal Water Garden. This beautiful place is home to Fountains Hall. This hall was used for the exterior shots of the mansion, called Misselthwaite Manor in the film.

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Searching for Fountains Hall

Ruins of Fountain Abbey basked in sunlight sitting in bright green grass

When we arrived, I managed to contain my excitement just enough to ask the ticket seller how to find Fountains Hall. I must not have hidden it that well, because she asked me why I was interested in Fountains Hall in particular, instead of the rest of the gardens like most people. Shyly, I explained that I wanted to see the filming location from the early 90’s movie. I was a bit embarrassed since it’s such an old film!

She began explaining how the location was also being used to film a British television show called “Gunpowder” with Game of Thrones star Kit Harington. But I was more interested in talking about the early 90’s movie that made me fall in love with England in the first place than any modern stuff! She went on to give me a map and directions to get to Fountains Hall, as well as information about the rest of the gardens. It turns out a lot of the buildings have been used as sets for films and TV shows.

Chris and I set off to explore and closely followed the map towards Fountains Hall. Along the way, we were welcomed by the beautiful ruins of Fountains Abbey, which are the largest monastic ruins in the country. After pausing briefly, we decided to venture on, so I could bask in the glory that is Fountains Hall before exploring the rest of the gardens. We continued walking down the tree-lined path and before we knew it, there it was — the beautiful Fountains Hall. It was just as beautiful as I remembered from the film.

Turning a dream into reality

Exterior of Fountains Hall in the day light

Finally, I was in the majestic place of my memories! I closed my eyes, took a deep breath and tried to picture the rest of the surroundings of the film. Immediately began to wonder where the secret garden was hidden.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t go inside Fountains Hall as far as we wanted. There was a tiny area with some chairs and historic artifacts, but that’s all we could explore. As I marvelled at the architecture of the exterior of Fountains Hall, taking in all of its beauty, it began to rain. It was a light rain that filled me with happiness. I’m a total rain lover, so I took out my umbrella and embraced the smell and the sound of the drops as they hit my plastic protective cover.

Umbrellas in hand, we headed towards the Fountains Abbey ruins to venture further into the parts of the abbey we’d passed earlier. The ruins are owned by the National Trust and the place is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Noted for being one of the largest and best-preserved ruined Cistercian monasteries in England. As we stood silently in the rain staring at the ruins, I felt a rush of peace and happiness take over.

Time to visit the North York Moors

North York Moors during the dust with green, brown and yellow coloured grass

As I decided to visit the moors in the Autumn I knew the moors wouldn’t be a dazzling blanket of purple heather gently blowing in the wind. But the moors were still beautiful. As we drove along the roads that wound through the park, I was wondering where the best place to view the moors was. Chris and I searched for an entry into the national park. I was sort of expecting it to have a designated entrance. In Canada, when you visit the Jasper or Banff National Park in Canada. I was looking for an entry point that would lead the way to be surrounded by beautiful scenery.

But this was not the case at all and I realized we were already enveloped by the moors. As we drove over beautiful hills which were no longer covered in purple heather but offered us vibrant autumnal hues of reds, oranges, golds and fading greens. We hardly passed another vehicle on the road — Chris and I had the moors to ourselves. I could see for miles. It was as if these magnificent hills went on forever.

A detour to Whitby

Ruins of Whitby Abbey sitting in an Autumn field of dead grass with a blue sky behind

We hopped back in the car and ventured all the way to the seaside town of Whitby. We didn’t originally plan on going there, but once we’d started, we simply couldn’t stop driving. Unknowingly, we stumbled upon the Whitby Abbey ruins which were another location for a famous book and movie — Dracula.

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The ruins of the Abbey were closed to the public. So, we huddled around in the wind and took in the beauty. The view was amazing. The ruins in the foreground, with the dark blue sea behind the abbey. With the sun slowly setting on the horizon providing the perfect backdrop.

As we stood there, frozen, we decided to head through the beautiful peaceful moors back to our hotel in York. It was an amazing day filled with places that I fell in love with. The memories of my childhood were there in front of me to explore…and it felt magical!

North York Moors in Autumn sunset &  Ruins of the Fountains Abbey

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