Earlier this year I was extremely exited to receive an email from Silver Travel Advisor to say I had won a two night break to North Yorkshire. This consisted of two nights bed & breakfast & one evening meal at the renowned Black Swan hotel in the lovely market town of Helmsley. I was accompanied on this two night break by my sister and we travelled by public transport as we no longer travel long distances by car. Unfortunately Helmsley does not have a railway station so we set off from Manchester on a direct service to Malton. At Malton we went by taxi to Helmsley & booked into the Black Swan. The original Black Swan used to be a partly timber framed coaching inn which has been extended over the years by occupying adjacent buildings. This makes for a quirky interior with lots of different levels & creaky stair cases. It also has a very pretty garden at the rear where you can eat and/or just have a drink and relax. As part of the prize we had one evening meal in the hotels renowned restaurant. This consisted of ten courses from their Tasting Menu, which was marvellous, but rather too filling, even though each course was very small, so we gave up after eight courses. I must say though that both my sister & I tasted food we would never have ordered from the menu. I can therefore highly recommend this form of dining if you would like to excite your taste buds with food cooked in interesting & novel ways. Overall the service & food, including the hearty breakfast's, were outstanding & I would highly recommend this hotel to anyone considering a stay in the North Yorkshire area. Helmsley itself is a bustling market town with lots to do in the local area. We visited over a long June weekend when there was a Bikers Festival held in the grounds of Duncombe Park, but this did not intrude on our enjoyment of the local beauty spots. The ruins of Helmsley Castle, which is managed by English Heritage, was an easy stroll from our hotel. This was held for King Charles 1st during the civil war and endured a 3 month siege before being starved into submission in 1644 by the Parliamentarians.It later became the home of the future owners of Duncombe Park before they moved out & the ruins became a romantic folly. Well worth a visit for the spectacular views of the beautiful local countryside. Also worth a visit is the adjacent original walled gardens, which is now run by a local charity. During our stay we walked a well marked path to the to the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey, which along with the Rievaulx Terrace was spectacular and very atmospheric. Both well managed and run by English Heritage and The National Trust respectively. Rievaulx Abbey has a lovely cafe with outside seating where we enjoyed a lovely picnic lunch after our walk. We also tried to visit Castle Howard, but due to unreliable public transport in the local area this had to be abandoned. This is a shame in an era when we are all asked to consider green issues & use our cars less. All in all though we managed to pack a lot into our three days in Helmsley. If I ever return to this area I would definitely go by car. There is so much more you can explore if you do not have to rely on public transport. Examples of which are Whitby & Scarborough on the coast and of course Castle Howard.