The Howardian Hills form a distinctive, roughly rectangular area of well-wooded undulating countryside that rise, sometimes sharply, between the flat agricultural Vales of Pickering and York.
Jurassic limestone gives the landscape its character and, in effect, the irregular 180m-high ridges of the Howardian Hills are a southern extension of the rocks of the North York Moors. The AONB contains a rich and intimate tapestry of wooded hills and valleys, pastures and rolling farmland, as well as dramatic views from the higher ground across the agricultural vales below. On the eastern edge, the River Derwent cuts through the Hills in the Kirkham Gorge, a deep winding valley which was formed as an overflow channel from glacial Lake Pickering. The area is probably most famous as the setting for a remarkable concentration of fine country houses, whose parklands are an intrinsic part of the landscape experience. Most notable is Vanbrugh’s famous masterpiece, Castle Howard.
The AONB contains no towns, although the market towns of Helmsley and Malton lie just beyond the boundary, but the area has many attractive stone-built, red pantile-roofed villages. These form ideal starting points for accessing the extensive Public Rights of Way network, and a number of self-guided walks leaflets are available from local shops or www.howardianhills.org.uk
Combining high-grade arable land, pasture and managed woodland, this is rich farming country whose very diversity creates its attractive rural character.