Stokesley, a small market town on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, is a place that travellers may whizz by on their way to or from Whitby or the moors themselves; the main A172 serves as a southern by-pass.  But it's certainly worth driving into the centre and having a look round.   It's the commercial hub of the region, where residents from surrounding villages come to do their banking and shopping.  For visitors, the Yorkshire Store and Style, close together on the south side of the high street, may be a good source of quality gifts and souvenirs.  There are also a number of good places to eat - the Spread Eagle probably the pick of the pubs, while the Chapters Hotel provides an altogether classier, and pricier, dining experience.  The centrally situated Bistro however, also run by Chapters, serves coffee, snacks and lighter meals at reasonable prices.  Eastern Spice is popular both as an Indian restuarant and takeaway, although it faces competition from Chinese and Thai outlets. 

The imposing High Street, running roughly east-west from College Square to West Green, sweeps past an array of well-preserved Georgian houses.  The recently refurbished Town Hall hosts concerts, flea-markets, craft fairs and coffee mornings.  It faces onto the market place, still used as such on Fridays and, on the first Saturday of each month, for a farmers' market.  The parish church of St Peter and St Paul boasts a light, airy interior that may come as a surprise given its unremarkable, even dour, aspect.

Stokesley's little secret is its pretty riverside walk, Levenside, accessed from Bridge Road which runs off at right angles from the High Street.  It winds past the historic Packhorse Bridge and the stepping stones from the back of Chapters, through a line of trees alongside the River Leven, whose level is now strictly controlled by flood defences at the edge of the town.  The river banks are home to some of the most over-fed ducks in the country: volunteers who dredge the river each year report a thick grey sludge formed from the uneaten bread thrown to the birds.

Highlight of Stokesley's year is its annual show, which is held on the Saturday following the third Thursday every September.  The high street is taken over by a huge funfair for the week, while on Show Day itself visitors can enjoy show jumping, stunt riding, sheepdog trials, brass bands and vintage traction engines, as well as all the expected features of a major agricultural occasion.  One tent is filled with exhibits of childrens' art, while another showcases the work of local photographers, painters, embroiderers, cake-makers ... it is probably not possible to see everything in the one day for which the show runs!

In short, Stokesley is a town to be reckoned with, not merely a place on the way to other, perhaps more high-profile, destinations in this part of the county.  For more information, visit the town's website.