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Day trip from York without car

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I will be staying in York Thursday, May 15 arriving around lunchtime, and Monday/Tuesday, May 19 and 20. I would like to see some of Yorkshire outside the city but I won't have a car. I read that Monday is Market Day in Thirsk. I have enjoyed reading and watching James Herriot stories so I think a side-trip there would be fun. I also would love to see any historical sites, quaint towns or nature walks within reach of there. I'll be traveling alone so safety is a concern (not sure about long walks out of town?). I'm fit and enjoy exercise. I am coming from the Chicago area and this is my first time in Yorkshire.
I am thinking one day out of York and 1 1/2 days in the city is a good split?
What would be the easiest way to get to Thirsk from York? Is the James Herriot museum walking distance from the market area? Are there other towns, sites or walks I could reach from there by bus or train? Any restaurants/pubs/tearooms not to miss? Any tours of the area that depart from York? Any souvenirs that would really represent the region?

I am staying with a friend in York so I don't need accommodations. Thank you in advance for your advice!

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