Why I like walking in the North York Moors

September 3, 2020

Some of my favourite times have been spent walking in the North York Moors. The unique feeling of space and big skies has always attracted me with only birds and grouse as company.

Lovely walking near North Grimston

What I love about walking in the North York Moors is the variety of scenery within a few miles. It makes for an excellent walking holiday. Cutting deeply in to the high moors are some pretty green valleys, full of interest and history and largely untouched by the tourist. Travel to the coast and the walking offers some of the best coastal scenery in the country (particularly north of Whitby) whilst to the south there are the dry valleys of the chalk landscape of the Yorkshire Wolds.

Faber Stones on Osmotherley Moor

In many way this is encapsulated in the excellent Cleveland Way long distance walk which starts in a pretty market town before heading up to the moors for a few days airy walking. The small peak of Roseberry Topping interrupts the moors and leads to the pretty Esk Valley. Finally the undulating coast is met which is the constant companion for the last stage of the walk. Neither the moors or the coast makes for easy walking, the undulating landscape gives just as an exhausting day as a climb in the Lake District but the miles will be longer.

Lifeboat at Skinningrove
Skinningrove

It is a large area and one visit will not be enough. There are three distinct ‘types’ of landscape. The moors and deep valleys dominate but to the south is the lovely Wolds and the east of course the coast.

The Wolds

The Wolds are separated from the Moors by a change in geology and a marked change in look and feel. Whereas the moors are harsh and unforgiving the Wolds are gentle and welcoming, easy walking on good well maintained paths and full of history. The filming of Downton Abbey were based not too far away. The Wolds are hidden from public view but well worth a few days potter.

The Yorkshire Coast

The Coast has some hidden gems. Staithes and Runswick Bay are two. Whitby is the popular hotspot but it is the coastal scenery that stands out. Perched high above the sea the main coastal path climbs steeply above the cliffs before dropping again to a hidden bay or not so hidden beach. For us bred on mountains the change is surprisingly satisfying. Any trip to the moors should take in at least one coastal walk.

The Dales and Vales

Inland, and under the brooding backdrop of the high moors, are a selection of pretty valleys with easy walking. The Esk Valley is generally wooded but the others are a farmers paradise. Farndale, the Fryups and Rosedale have rolling green fields and attractive working farms dotted along their fringes. Take the steam railway across the moors and stop in Goathland or Grosmont, just two pretty villages in the area. Alternatively stay in the popular market towns of Osmotherley, Helmsley or Pickering.  

For a really peaceful break take in the quieter villages of Rosedale Abbey, Chop Gate, Levisham or Hutton le Hole.

My Favourite walks exploring the valleys

The High Moors

However it is the Moors which are the showcase of the area, a vast plateau of brown moorland with miles of walking. Follow the old railway tracks past Bloworth Junction or take to the escarpment near Osmotherley to give the walk a ‘purpose’ . You will be assured of miles of excellent walking. Wide paths stretching in to the distance and be accompanied by even wider views (if the cloud is down don’t bother or at least be able to navigate well with both map and compass!). It is a unique walking area (aside from Dartmoor) with moorland walking at its very best.

Busy or quiet, village or town, moor or valley, coast or inland, sheep or fields the North York Moors does variety as well as anywhere. Finishing a lovely day on the moors with a pleasant pint in the Lion Inn  is one of the must do experiences of any walker.

Enjoy your walking

Jonathan

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