Day 1 - Arrive Great Broughton (transfer from Northallerton)
We begin the North York Moors Tour at the tour collection point. This is the North Yorkshire market town of Northallerton which is situated on the East Coast mainline and therefore has excellent transport links. From here we travel by minibus for around 40 minutes to the Wainstones Hotel in Great Broughton.
The rest of the day is at your leisure to explore the lovely local village, its footpaths and pubs where you may wish to enjoy a home-cooked meal. In the evening there will be the chance to meet your guide and learn a little about the area and the 101 miles ahead. Overnight Wainstones Hotel or similar. No meals included today.
Image – North Yorkshire Moors at sunrise by Mark Huggins
Image – Tranquil North Yorkshire lanes by Mark Huggins
Day 2 - From Priory to Iron - Guisborough Priory to Great Ayton
Today will be a chance to begin to orientate yourself with the area, its topography and history, especially the monastic links between valley and moorland: you will be driven a short distance to begin at the grandeur of Guisborough Priory’s Augustinian ruins, before climbing steadily onto the North York Moors, via its northern escarpment. The views are spectacular, with the distant former industrial powerhouse of Middlesbrough in view, with the coastline stretching beyond.
For much of the day, walking first through Guisborough Forest and onto High Cliff, the vista of the coast, the settlements of the Tees plain and the vast rolling swathes of moorland to the south shows what a series of surprising contrasts are in store. Your walk will lead down into the sequestered fields of Sleddale, often a good spot for raptor watching, and then up to Percy Cross ridge where you will see the splendid archaeological site of the Iron Age village, before passing the base of a moorland way-marker cross.
Finally, you hike across to stand atop celebrated profile of Roseberry Topping, with its 360⁰ views, before descending into the cradle of Captain James Cook’s career – Great Ayton, passing the site of his family cottage, farmstead, the ironstone and whinstone mines that surrounded the site, and ending up on the village green besides his childhood school. There may be time to wander the village and enjoy a coffee or something stronger, before the minibus takes you on to your accommodation.
The drive over Clay Bank and down into the mighty Bilsdale takes you into one of the Moors’ best kept secrets: the upper reaches of Ryedale and the tiny, exquisite village of Hawnby. Overnight at The Owl Inn, Hawnby. (B, L)
(Walking distance 10½ miles, 1,581 feet of ascent; approx. 4½ hours walking)
Image – View across to Roseberry Topping by Mark Huggins
Image – Percy Cross Ridge North Yorkshire Moors National Park by Mark Huggins
The Owl Inn, Hawnby
Rye Dale, known for its famous Abbey at Rievaulx and splendid castle at Helmsley, becomes ever lovelier as you head up into its upper reaches. Hawnby itself is a surprisingly unheralded jewel in the Rye Dale crown, despite its absolute charm and picture-box houses. Boasting a wonderful tea room and several cottages owned by the Hawnby Estate and bearing their bottle green livery, the summit of the slope is crowned by the newly reopened and renovated Owl Inn. Following its closure as ‘The Inn at Hawnby’, locals have been delighted at having the heartbeat of their community restored and done so in real style. With a terrace that bestows vast views and begs that you sit and relax to the call of curlew and circling red kite and buzzard, this is a place to truly unwind. Your accommodation is to the highest standard and offers a sense of luxury alongside a beautiful outlook, whether you stay in the main building or the lovely row of rooms that look across to the garden. The Inn’s fare is also superb, locally sourced, butchered and cured on site and cooked to perfection, the menu will leave you sorry to only have two nights to explore what it has to offer. Breakfast or dinner inside the two grand dining spaces is replenishing on all levels. If you still have the legs for an evening wander, follow the lane west for 10 minutes and drop into the tranquillity of the quaint 14th century All Saints Church. More intrepid legs may prefer to press on another 20 minutes to view the grand form of Arden Hall, site of a 12th century nunnery and hidden now amidst the tumbling forests of the upper valley. You may also wish to stay put off course and perhaps book onto one of the experiences that the Inn offers, the charcuterie course being especially recommended.
Image – The Owl at Hawnby – by Mark Huggins
Day 3 - Mediaeval Masons - Byland Abbey to Hawnby
Having been treated to the delights of The Owl’s breakfasts, your transport will take you along the edge of the southern limestone cliffs, with their stunning views across to the Wolds and the Pennines, descending Wass Bank to suddenly come upon the enchanting Cistercian ruins of Byland Abbey, with the broken outline of its elegant rose window arcing heavenwards with such sublime grace.
After a brief viewing, your guide will lead you up through the ‘haggs’ of the monastery’s once vital woodlands to emerge on the upper storey of the Hambleton Hills. With more stunning views under your belt, you slowly descend to Scawton, a typical limestone moorland village, and gateway to Ryedale and its jewel in the crown, the enchanting Rievaulx Abbey. The meandering river course leads you to what was one of England’s finest pre-dissolution religious houses, and one which has lost none of its appeal for today’s visitor, rank on rank of glorious white arches, nestling amidst a gently wooded valley.
As you head further up the valley, the skill and industry of the monks and lay brothers are often evident in the works scattered around you, from canals and bridges to the remains of granges. Your route then follows the Rye as the valley broadens and the hill-side village of Hawnby beckons you to a well-earned rest. Overnight at The Owl Inn, Hawnby (B,L)
(Walking distance – 11¼ miles, 1,522 feet of ascent; approx. 4¼ hours walking)
Image – Moors cottage in Hawnby by Mark Huggins
Image – Looking across to the village of Hawnby by Mark Huggins
Day 4 - From Tops to Hobs - Clay Bank to Hob Hole
After breakfast, the minibus will drive you up Bilsdale to the summit of the moorland hill pass of Clay Bank, passing the lonely hill farms that perch along flanks of this verdant valley. From here you be greeted with views across the plains below and then will begin the day’s main, and none too taxing ascent of Urra Moor. From the summit, Round Hill and at 1,490ft (454m), the highest spot on the whole of the Moors, the engaging uplands open out in all their glory.
The gentle descent takes you to the intriguing remains of the Rosedale ironstone railway, where the track-bed gazes down the dramatic Ingleby Incline. Passing the first of today’s three mediaeval monastic crosses – Jenny Bradley Cross – we head down into the former Cistercian stronghold of Baysdale, a beautifully isolated valley where nature holds sway. Retracing the steps of long-ago nuns, we take an ancient trackway across the moors, crossing pack-horse bridges and threading through the heather-swallowed stones of a 17th century still, before plunging into the tranquil haven of Hob Hole, supposed haunt of one of the Moor’s mercurial sprites.
After pausing to soak weary feet in the sparkling peaty beck that crosses the water-splash, your minibus will take you to Ainthorpe, a hamlet at the mouth of beautiful Danby Dale, and the first night of your stay at the historic inn there. Overnight at The Fox & Hounds Inn, Ainthorpe. (B,L)
(Walking distance – 11⅓ miles, 1,535 feet of ascent; approx. 4½ hours walking)
Image – View across towards Urra Moor by Mark Huggins
Image – Ingleby Incline by Mark Huggins
Image – Hob Hole by Mark Huggins
The Fox & Hounds Inn, Ainthorpe
This is simply the quintessential North York Moors pub: standing in a quite stunning setting up a small lane from Danby village, the inn enjoys a glorious panorama across the Esk Valley, across wooded vale and a collage of green fields to the regal rise of the moorland behind. In the foreground is a small green where the highly localised sport of quoits is played, the clink of metal hoop on spike echoing to the backdrop of sheep bleating.
Inside, the pub matches up to its locale: the core of the sandstone and terracotta pantile-roofed main bar dates back to the mid-1500s and is set around a lusty roaring fireplace. Expect an extremely warm welcome here and plenty of options, both in terms of the excellent home-cooked fare and impressive range of wines and beers. A family room with pool table and games, and a relaxing restaurant mean that you can enjoy this truly memorable spot in a variety of settings and moods. The locality is also well worth exploring. Sitting at the foot of Danby Rigg, a 10 minute stroll puts you back amongst the prehistoric settlements on its summit.
Heading downhill, the lane leads to Danby’s other centre, about 15 minutes away, with a bakery and high quality pub, The Duke of Wellington, which also serves great food. If you still have the energy on other evenings, you might want to head across the green and up Strait Lane which leads on to Castleton, about half an hour away, again offering an atmospheric pub and good repast in The Downe Arms. Danby parish is curiously fragmented and offers some absolutely enchanting short walks: to the south you will find the rugged profile of Danby church, isolated in the heart of the valley; to the east you may like to meander down Easton Lane and cross the Esk to Danby Lodge, watching out for kingfishers from the footbridge, before wandering the National Park centre’s sweeping lawns. More likely, you will relish the escape from the bustle of daily that simply being at The Fox and Hounds affords.
Image – Fox and Hounds Ainthorpe by Colin & Vicky The Fox and Hounds
Day 5 – Lost Nuns and Lost Villages - Ralph’s Cross (Blakey Ridge) to Ainthorpe
Today on the North York Moors Tour, you stay very local, nestling as Ainthorpe in the very heart of the Esk Valley. Your transport will send you to the top of Blakey Rigg, with huge skies and a panoramic outlook on the Moors from the northern coast to the Vale of Pickering to the south. Your walk will start close to the twin Ralph’s crosses, monastic monuments with a plethora of folk tales attached.
These will point you steadfastly across what can be a disorientating and wild country in the grip of sea frets and winter blizzards, past the memorably named ‘Fat Betty’ cross and onto the George Gap Causeway, one of a myriad of trods which traverse the North York Moors. The descent into gorgeous Fryupdale’s embrace follows a tumbling waterfall and emerges in a classic patchwork of moorland farms’ dry-walled fields. If time allows, we will stop for refreshment at what has to be a coffee shop boasting one of England’s most spectacular views.
The final stages of the day lead us up onto Danby Rigg where the remains of fascinating Bronze and Iron Age settlements cling to the snout of the rigg that finally leads you downhill to your accommodation. Overnight at The Fox & Hounds Inn, Ainthorpe (B,L)
Image – Ralph’s cross by Mark Huggins
Image – View into Fryupdale by Mark Huggins
Day 6 – Beacons and Beggars - Ainthorpe to Egton Bridge
Again, you will walk from the doorstep of your accommodation, this time immersing yourselves into the lovely Esk Valley, its delightful crossings, and the northern strip of moors with its constantly photogenic south-facing views. Passing Danby Castle, seat of the local ancient Court Leet, your steps take you down to the Esk and the graceful span of Duck Bridge, a 18th century crossing with its origins in the mediaeval period.
Now you head up to one of the Moors’ other great vantage points – Danby Beacon – which has been a signalling point for countless centuries. Treading along one of the ancient ridgeways, we pass Stump Cross, still guiding weary travellers safely down into Lealholm, one of the valley’s real treats with its cluster of houses, church and pub around the old stone bridge and green. You will now follow the course of the Esk for the majority of the rest of the day. Watch out for curlew, lapwing and oystercatchers wheeling in the skies and dipper and grey wagtail plying their trade amidst the tumbling rocky riffle pools.
Skirting below Glaisdale, you emerge into a deep groove criss-crossed by road, rail and packhorse bridges. The latter, Beggar’s Bridge, was built in 1619 by a frustrated lover who could suffer no more crossings of the ford to be with his beloved! Finally, you enter the shady climes of Arnecliff Woods which descend into Egton Bridge, a truly captivating village whose pub is a charming spot in which to wind down before your minibus returns you to Ainthorpe. Overnight at The Fox & Hounds Inn, Ainthorpe (B,L)
(Walking distance – 10½ miles, 1241 feet of ascent; approx. 4 hours walking)
Image – 19th Century Bridge over the River Esk in Lealholm by Mark Huggins
Image – Danby Beacon by Mark Huggins
Day 7 – Steely Seas - Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Runswick Bay
Today marks a change of scenery as you head north to the rugged north coast, an overlooked, but magnificent asset of the region. Starting on the slopes above Saltburn, you turn your back on the Victorian seaside resort and head up Hunt Cliff. Industry from across the ages is a constant companion today, beginning with a stretch which lies cheek-by-jowl with the precarious route of the old Whitby line which still serves Boulby’s potash mines.
Alum and ironstone extraction that has pocked the coastline is still in evidence with 19th century ventilation houses and, as you descend to the lovely dunes of Skinningrove, the extraordinary slag-formed cliffs rise up to greet you, formed by generations of smelting of iron and steel here. The cliff path becomes ever more dramatic as you rise over Boulby Cliffs, the highest point on the entire east coast of Great Britain.
Our descent affords some truly wonderful views of Staithes, one of the true gems of the Yorkshire coast; its labyrinthine streets of tiny fishermen’s cottages somehow squeezes into a fissure in the cliff-line and make for intriguing exploration, not least because it marks the first foray of Captain James Cook into seafaring. For the less curious, the village also offers several lovely spots to have a little light refreshment. The final leg takes you past the almost inaccessible Port Mulgrave’s long-deserted ironstone mines before arriving at another memorable panorama at Runswick Bay.
Once a thriving fishing village, the pantile-roofed cottages that gently tumble down to the languid curve of the shoreline make for a much more peaceful panorama these days. Your transport will then speed you across the beautiful northern moors back to the comfort of your accommodation after what has been the most challenging day of walking on the North York Moors Tour. Overnight at The Fox & Hounds Inn, Ainthorpe (B,L)
(Walking distance 11¼ miles, 1791 feet of ascent; approx. 4½ hours walking)
Image – View over Cattersy Sands Skinningrove
Image – Staithes village by Mark Huggins
Image – Saltburn Pier and funicular by Mark Huggins
Day 8 – Martyrs and Missiles - Ellerbeck (Goathland) to Beck Hole
The Moors are a pace of contrast and today’s walk catapults you across a vast period of human influence here. Riding eastwards, your minibus will drop you on the high moor above Goathland. From Ellerbeck bridge, your route heads up past the gaze of R.A.F. Fylingdales. The nuclear early warning station, built at the height of the Cold War, overlooks another monument to a violent epoch of north-eastern history – Lilla Cross.
We head up to this Anglian memorial cross, probably dating back to 626 A.D., raised to commemorate King Edwin’s bodyguard who threw himself in front of an assassin’s dagger. The cross also marks a historic route from Whitby south and you will head north via two more testaments to the determination of Whitby Abbey and subsequent patrons of the intrepid travellers, pilgrims and panniermen who struck out across this wilderness. When your path reaches the whinstone ridge quarries – the same geological feature crossed on your first leg near Great Ayton, the route meanders down to the excruciatingly quaint hamlet of Beck Hole.
If your luck is in, both the miniscule sweet shop and the pub will be open and here is the perfect end to a day’s striding out on the tops. As always, transport will be on hand to take you back via some of North Yorkshire’s most delightful settlements to your rooms at Ainthorpe. Overnight at The Fox & Hounds Inn, Ainthorpe (B,L)
(Walking distance – 9¼ miles, 860 feet of ascent; 3½ hours walking)
Image – Moors landscape by Mark Huggins
Image – Moors landscape by Mark Huggins
Day 9 - Shrines and Pints - Rosedale Abbey to Cropton
Having already had an insight into the ironstone heritage of the coast, today your post breakfast leg will begin with a drive into Rosedale, the valley that backs onto Danbydale beyond its southern watershed. Beginning in the picturesque sandstone and slate roofed former mining village of Rosedale Abbey, you will make the short, but steady pull up the Chimney Bank, with its noble kilns, furnace remains and railway embankment that stand as testament to Victorian industrial ambition, now inevitably reclaimed by heather and bilberry.
The views here are simply breathtaking. Swinging south, the older influences on the landscape become apparent as you follow the route marked by Ain Howe Cross that guided pilgrims and traders from the abbey at Rosedale to Lastingham, one of the cradles of English Christianity. The foundations and crypt of the Anglian minster of St Cedd have been built over many times, but this delightful little church lies at the centre of an equally appealing village.
You are moving into the southern limestone belt now, with buildings and walls taking on a very different hue and your path winding up dry valleys onto Appleton-le-Moors, a classic post harrying-of-the-north Norman planted village. Here, the importance of Lastingham is reiterated, with more pilgrims’ crosses pointing the way. Finally, you will cross the course of the Seven Valley before ascending to Cropton: here the vista from the motte of its castle has been displaced by the view enjoyed by those who imbibe the beers from the village’s microbrewery at The New Inn, your bed for the next two nights. Overnight at The New Inn, Cropton (B,L).
(walking distance – 9⅓ miles, 1291 feet of ascent; approx. 3¾ hours walking)
The New Inn, Cropton
Cropton’s famed inn stands atop the limestone ridge in a village which is entirely fashioned from the same stone; like many other villages in the area, it is a planned Norman ville, with a central wide street, strips of land running back from the houses and two back lanes encompassing the plots, both worthy of a wanderer’s curiosity! In the woods north of Cropton Bank lie the earthwork remains of Cropton’s 11th century motte and bailey castle.
This can easily be accessed from a lane running north-east from where the road to Lastingham reaches its summit. En route you will pass the characterful little church, complete with a mediaeval preaching cross. The footpath to the north of the churchyard leads directly to the castle grounds. Whilst exploring may be on the agenda for some, the lure of the inn itself is of equal merit: outside is a very tranquil garden, ideal for warmer evenings; inside, the bar and snug are excellent, warm atmospheres with real character.
The menu is a real draw, tow which guests and locals will readily attest – food is sourced from neighbouring producers and has a great range of classic pub food, served with a dash of elegance. Perhaps the greatest draw here for many is the superb microbrewery which stands in the grounds: a strikingly large range of high quality house ales are on offer, from Yorkshire Blackout to Monkman’s Slaughter, all mercifully also available in a third of a pint sampler. Upstairs, you will find recently refurbished and very comfortable rooms, all en-suite, with daily newspapers delivered to order.
Breakfasts at the New Inn are renowned for their quality, with a robust cooked meal or continental option on offer.
Image – The New Inn Cropton
Day 10 – Romans and Railways - Newton-on-Rawcliffe to Grosmont via steam railway; Mauley Cross on foot
Today’s leg takes you on a journey through two millennia of history on the North York Moors Tour, as well as allowing you to travel down one of Britain’s most classic periglacial features. Beginning with a very short post-breakfast transfer to tiny Newton-on-Rawcliffe, you will descend on foot into the dramatic Newtondale, carved out in a relative geological nanosecond by glacial meltwater from Eskdale escaping to the Vale of Pickering. Today it provides the preserved line of the North York Moors Railway with a route that still connects the two.
You will start relatively early today, so as to be certain to catch the steam train heading north from lonely Levisham Station to Grosmont, following much of George Stephenson’s original 1830s engineering project. En route, watch out for Goathland Station, made famous by the Harry Potter films and TV’s Heartbeat. Arriving at Grosmont, it’s hard to believe that this was once the focal point of iron smelting in the North East. From here, you will head south, following the Murk Esk upstream amidst beautiful woodland, eventually passing the Victorian Spa of Goathland’s renowned Mallyan Spout waterfall.
From here, you will follow farm byways and crossing delightful stepping stones over becks until you emerge onto the course of Wheeldale’s Roman road. This leads further south to cross ford and fell-side, before you walk along a tiny moorland road that feels a million miles away from civilisation, the lonely heather-clad hills stretching to the horizon. Your goal is the splendidly preserved Mauley Cross which stood proudly to guide travellers across the wilds; now its companion are the fringes of the forest planted here in the 1910s.
Alongside, your minibus will be at hand to take you back for a final night in the lovely limestone Inn at Cropton. Overnight at The New Inn, Cropton (B,L)
(Walking distance – 9¾ miles, 1876 feet of ascent; approx. 4 hours walking)
Image – Mauley Cross by Mark Huggins
Image – North York Moors steam train by Mark Huggins
Day 11 - From Seals to Saints - Ravenscar to Whitby
Your final day of the North York Moors tour begins after breakfast with a drive across the eastern moors to Ravenscar, where a short-lived entrepreneurial scheme to found a seaside resort to rival Scarborough and Whitby foundered when its first prospective buyers realised that the already built magnificent Victorian hotel stood hundreds of feet above the distant beach.
You will be able to gaze down from its vast vertiginous cliff-top ramparts and hopefully catch some views of the sizeable grey seal colony that basks on the shore. Your route then hugs the coastline, as you descend through long-abandoned alum works, close to the plucky route of the now defunct coastal railway, before entering the tiny haven of Boggle Hole. Throughout, jaw-dropping views of Robin Hood’s Bay have been on offer and this picturesque, tumbledown collection of cottages is your next stop.
Winding your way up the bank from the ‘Bay to the ‘Thorpe, a maze of tiny streets gives way to the rolling rise of the fields that lead on to Whitby. Along the way, you will see more dramatic cliffs, evidence of the ravages of coastal erosion. Despite this, the tumbling precipices are home to many seabirds, from kittiwakes, fulmar and razorbills to guillemots and even the occasional puffin. Whitby’s maritime importance is hinted at by the splendid lighthouse and foghorn that cling to the edges, but as we near our ultimate goal, it is Whitby’s iconic Abbey that rears into sight, a grand Benedictine monastery that was re-founded on the site of St Hilda’s Anglian counterpart.
You will finish in its noble shadow, a fitting symmetry with which to end your journey which began too with a mediaeval monastery; enjoy a hugely-deserved drink together here at the Whitby Brewery, following in the footsteps of the ecclesiastical brewers and brothers of the past, toasting your fine accomplishments. From here you may wish to spend a post tour night or two in Whitby. Alternatively, the evening train back along the River Esk is a stunning route back to Great Ayton, western gateway to the Moors you now know and, hopefully, love. (B,L)
(walking distance – 10⅓ miles, 1492 feet of ascent; approx. 4 hours walking)
Image – View from Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay by Mark Huggins
Image – Whitby by Mark Huggins
North York Moors Tour inclusions.
- Arrival transfer from Northallerton train station
- All accommodation as per the itinerary, or similar
- Land transportation by minibus and train
- Services of an English-speaking guide/tour leader
- Meals as listed (B – Breakfast, L – Lunch, D – Dinner)
- Entrance fees for sites listed as part of the itinerary
North York Moors Tour exclusions.
- Transport to the tour arrival transfer point
- Departure transfer from Whitby
- Travel Insurance
- Items of a personal nature
- Visa if applicable
- Drinks and evening meals