Steam, Great Ayton and the Esk Valley

Jonathan’s View

“The scent of sea air on the moors and the sound of steam in the valleys…lovely”


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I discovered the Esk Valley by walking most of its length on the Coast to Coast whilst Heartbeat and Harry Potter led me to Goathland, Pickering and the fabulous steam railway that lies between each. It is the most popular area of the Yorkshire Moors and the scenery is a veritable feast; from the high moors around Goathland to the woodlands of the River Esk. Throw in the Matterhorn of England, the castle at Pickering and the geological masterpiece of the Hole of Horcum and the walker is a happy walker.

However the North York Moors Steam Railway does provide a focus for the area and a simple trip on it is compulsory for any visitor – exciting for the kids, nostalgic for the elders amongst us and a grand way for anyone to start a day’s walking. From the south Pickering is a good sized town, pleasantly manicured with an excellent castle but it is further into the heart of the Moors that the character is revealed. The Hole of Horcum and the nearby twin villages of Levisham and Lockton  is fascinating walking country, moorland, history and quiet river valleys combining pleasantly with the sound of the sea, if not literally via the sea gulls who have ventured only a few miles inland.

Goathland is sometimes criticised for selling its soul to the TV programmes and it can become busy but I do love its situation, its open views and feeling of space. Most of the TV tourists never venture beyongd the tea shop, garage and station so explore the waterfalls and moors of the area and it can be easy to avoid any human contact. Further north the steam railway grinds to a halt at Grosmont (great book shop) and meets the Esk Valley Railway. My first stop on the reverse Coast to Coast was here (just for a cup of tea) and I have a great deal of affection for the place.

The villages and hamlets of the Esk Valley come thick and fast and it is clear why the area was so popular to settle in. Today the river is clean, full of salmon and trout, reasonably quick flowing making it one of the more pleasant rivers to walk alongside. Take the train though so not to need to double back. Glaisdale is built on the side of a steep hill, set twixt valley and moor, whilst one of the most pleasant and famous villages is further west at Danby. The river may have drawn the original settlements but soon coal from the valleys and iron transported down from the high moors offer glimpses of our history 150 years ago.

Talking of history this is Captain Cook country. The great man was bought up in Great Ayton and there is a staggeringly large monument to him on the nearby hillside dominating the landscape of the area. It even towers above its iconic neighbour, the beautifully formed Roseberry Topping but both are worth visiting and both are linked by the Cleveland Way. Roseberry Topping is in such contrast to anything not just in the Yorkshire Moors but down the entire east side of the country, with its steep sides and rocky summit where one false step could lead to an even more unpleasant ending that Captain Cooks…or maybe not!

Jonathan’s view of Osmotherley & the West

Jonathan’s view of the Central Moors & Dales

Jonathan’s view of the Yorkshire Coast


Steam Trains from Pickering. Take the train and return via the valleys and woods. 7 miles

Short walk around Pickering. Visit the castle, the station and explore the town

Levisham & Lockton. Link the two villages via woodland, valleys and rivers

Hole of Horcum. Popular walk to walk in this area of geographical interest.6 miles

Visiting Malo Cross. A short walk to visit this ancient cross and Whinny Nab

Waterfalls of Goathland. Follow the rivers of Goathland on a short but undulating walk

High Sneaton Moor. A 10 mile walk from Goathland across the exposed Yorkshire moors

Grosmont & Goathland. Visit both villages via moors and the railway path. 7 miles

Villages of the Esk Valley. Take the train and return the 6 miles by the River Esk

Lealholm & Scaling Dam. Lonely moorland walk with tremendous views and feel of space.

Moors over Glaisdale. A beautiful valley explored from above and below for 8 miles.

The Fryup Dales. From Danby go up/down dale in the quiet Fryup landscape

Beacon Hill from Danby. A short climb brings you out to a wonderful viewing point

Roseberry Topping. An iconic fell offering a variety of interesting climbs to its perfect summit

Captain Cook’s Adventure. Visit the memorial and continue to Roseberry Topping for a varied walk.

Other Things to do in Pickering, Great Ayton & the Esk Valley

For further information on the Esk Valley please click here

Updated Weather Forecast

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Places to Stay

Eden House B & B, Pickering

Church House Farm B & B, Danby

Basin Howe Farm Cottages, nr Pickering

Bank House Farm & Bunk House, Glaisdale

Church House Farm Cottages, Danby

Old Cobblers Cottage, North Dalton, nr Beverley

Cottages in the Dales

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