The Howardian Hills stretch from Helmsley and Coxwold, on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, down to Kirkham Priory and the River Derwent.
The landscape has evolved since prehistoric times to create a distinctive and exceptional area characterised by soft, rolling hills with a tapestry of arable fields, pasture and woodland. With far reaching views and intimate valleys, the Howardian Hills waits to be explored. Large country houses with their designed parklands are a prominent feature. The owners of Castle Howard, Hovingham Hall, Newburgh Priory, Nunnington Hall and Gilling Castle have moulded the landscape of the Howardian Hills over many centuries. Attractive and individual villages are dotted throughout the 79 square miles of the AONB, offering food, accommodation and an excellent base for walking or cycling.
The remarkable heritage of the area goes back further than the 18th century designed landscapes however, with Iron Age dyke systems, medieval castles and monasteries. The Howardian Hills supports a range of wildlife, from the rare knapweed broomrape to the more commonly seen brown hare.
The AONB’s Special Qualities
An unusual landform
The Howardian Hills is the only area of Jurassic limestone landscape in the north of England to be designated as an AONB. The deeply incised Kirkham Gorge is a unique glacial overflow channel of great scientific importance.
A richly varied landscape
The landform consists of a complex system of ridges, hills and valleys. These are clothed with a mosaic of woodland, rolling arable fields, small-scale pasture, fens, hedges and walls, formal parkland and scattered settlements.
A landscape of high visual quality
The variety of landform and land use produces a contrast in scale, colour, texture and form. The settings of the historic houses, the extensive woodlands, the broad sweeping views and the unspoilt farming landscapes and traditional building styles have a special aesthetic appeal.
An important wildlife resource
The AONB contains a section of the unique River Derwent, with its outstanding wild plants and animals. Other habitats of national importance include fens and relatively extensive remnants of Ancient Semi-Natural Woodland.
A remarkable heritage
The Howardian Hills has a concentration of archaeological and historic features, ranging from Iron Age earthworks on prominent hilltops to the castles and monasteries of the medieval period. The numerous grand houses and designed landscapes, such as Castle Howard, Newburgh Priory, Hovingham Hall, Gilling Castle and Nunnington Hall, have a dramatic effect upon the landscape.