To the northwest is the town of Thirsk, an excellent base to stay in a self-catering cottage and explore this section of Yorkshire. Thirsk has its own attractions, most notably the World of James Herriot, which is set in the authors' actual house and surgery. It has quite a collection of memorabilia and a re-creation of the sets from the television series. It has been done rather well, and you will find lots of Herriot fans, all with that tell-tale look on their faces.
There are two ruined abbeys not too far away, one to the east, Rievaulx, and one to the west, Fountains. Rievaulx is a former Cistercian abbey, destroyed by Henry VIII in the 16th century, and the ruins are sited in a beautiful secluded valley on the river Rye. There are towering pillars, examples of beautifully carved stonework, and graceful arches, and they all give you a good idea of how it might have looked when the church was at the peak of its power in the 13th century. The scenery is much as it would have looked when the monks arrived 900 years ago, and this is a perfect place to sit, relax and maybe have a picnic. Fountains Abbey was also a Cistercian establishment, but considerably more powerful and vastly richer. After the buildings had been destroyed much of the stone was removed and used to build Fountains Hall, but apart from the abbey ruins the Water Gardens of Studley Royal are the main attraction. The gardens are beautifully formal, with artificial lakes and extensive landscaping to enhance the remains of the abbey, and today they are the most visited of the National Trust's properties, and the only World Heritage site in Yorkshire.