Goathland and the Esk Valley

Jonathan’s View

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

The Area

I discovered the Esk Valley by walking most of its length on the Coast to Coast. It was Heartbeat and Harry Potter that led me to Goathland. They are very different; the Esk Valley is a wooded (mainly ) valley with a river running through it, Goathland is high on the moors and exposed to the elements. However Goathland and the Esk Valley are linked by an interesting rail network.

A steam rail line runs to the coast at Whitby whilst a commuter service runs down the Esk Valley; use it if you can. It is the most popular area of the North York Moors. Throw in the Dalby Forest, the castle at Pickering and the geological masterpiece of the Hole of Horcum and the walker is a happy walker.

Pickering, moorland & the steam railway


The North York Moors Steam Railway provides a focus for Goathland and the western moors. It should be compulsory for any visitor; exciting for the kids, nostalgic for the elders and a grand way for anyone to start a day’s walking. Pickering is a good sized town, attractive with an excellent castle but it is as a base that it comes in to its own. The area around the Hole of Horcum and the nearby twin villages of Levisham and Lockton is fascinating walking country. Moorland, history and quiet river valleys combine pleasantly with the sound of the sea, if not literally, but via the sea gulls who have ventured only a few miles inland.

Goathland is sometimes criticised for selling its soul to film and TV. There is little doubt it can become busy but most tourists never venture beyond the cafes, garage (Aidensfield) and station. Explore the waterfalls and moors of the area and you may be on your own and away from high season the village is actually very pleasant. Further north the steam railway grinds to a halt at Grosmont (a mecca for steam trains) and meets the Esk Valley Railway. My first stop on the Coast to Coast was here (just for a cup of tea) and I have a great deal of affection for the place.

The Esk Valley

Glaisdale Rigg
Glaisdale Rigg

The villages and hamlets of the Esk Valley were established during ancient times but it was during the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th century they grew. The river may have drawn the original settlements but soon coal from the valleys and iron transported down from the high moors offers today glimpses of our history. Today the river is clean, full of salmon and trout and quick flowing making it one of the more better rivers to walk alongside. Many tourists come, drawn partly by the accessibility of the train line. Glaisdale is built on the side of a steep hill, set twixt valley and moor, whilst one of the most pleasant and popular villages is further west at Danby.

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

Guides to Other areas

Osmotherley & the West

Central Moors & Dales

the Yorkshire Coast

The Best Walks near Goathland and the Esk Valley

My favourite walks in the area are listed below. Just click on the name for further details.

Easier Walks

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

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

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.

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

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.

Harder Walks

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

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

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.

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.

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

Weather Forecast


Other Things to do

For further information on the Esk Valley please click here

All about the Pickering to Whitby steam train service click here

Places to Stay

Cottages in the Dales

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