Roger Ratcliffe offers his top 10 autumn outings on the North York Moors and coast.
Standing at the top of Sutton Bank it's possible to see most of God's Own Country. In the opinion of James Herriot, the patchwork of fields spreading out across the Vales of Mowbray and York was "the finest view in England", and his ashes are scattered on the famous bank.
Turn your back on this stunning scene and look towards the North York Moors National Park and you will – from this point – see little to suggest that there's a landscape even more remarkable on the other side of the trees. But there is. And only on foot is it possible to appreciate the real magic of the moors.
For those who have both the time and physical fitness, there are long-distance trails like the Cleveland Way and the C2C (text-speak for the Coast to Coast). For most people, however, the moors are best revealed by a series of much smaller outings. And the walks below provide as good a summary of everything that's good about the national park.
Take the route through the Esk Valley, for instance. On a glorious autumn day it must be one of the finest of its type in Yorkshire, and earns bonus points for being accessible by the North York Moors Railway. Or right at the heart of the moors, the walk round the old Rosedale Ironstone Mines combines beauty with history. Over on the coast, too, walking boots are far better for exploration than cars, and many who spent their childhood holidays here with buckets and spades now return with rucksacks and trekking poles.
1: MOUNT GRACE PRIORY
Old monastery against beautiful woods
This scenic haven of peace at the foot of the Hambleton Hills should be better known. Mount Grace (admission fee) is the best preserved Carthusian priory in Britain. Founded in 1398, monks who had taken a vow of silence lived an isolated existence, each with his own two-storey "cell" and herb plot. Meals were served through hatches. A good way to see it is by taking the lane north from Osmotherley, turning left to Chapel Wood Farm, passing Lady Chapel then left on a track to the priory. A good leg-stretching return is on the Cleveland Way to Scarth Wood Moor, south by an old drove road known as High Lane, and finally via Rookshaw.
Walk: 6 miles; 3-4 hours.
OS Map: OL26 North York Moors Western. Area. Parking: Osmotherley.
2: HAWNBY HILL
Delightful village and viewpoint
A simple walk from a quaint village to a lovely little summit, then a delightful return by the upper reaches of Ryedale amid picturesque woodland. Hawnby is as peaceful a place as you will find, but had national attention in 2005 when cut off by floods. Its eponymous hill, although just 965 feet high, is perfectly shaped and demands to be climbed. The path is found by proceeding ahead at the
T-junction on Hawnby's north side. From the top, descend to Moor Gate and turn left on a bridlepath to Hill End House. From here you can follow the lane back to Hawnby or turn west into woodland, cross the River Rye and take a minor road back to the village.
Walk: 4 miles; 2.5 hours.
OS Map: OL26 North York Moors Western. Area. Parking: Hawnby.
Refreshments: Hawnby, Helmsley.
3 THE WHITE HORSE OF KILBURN
Yorkshire's best viewpoint
You can see what seems like the whole of Yorkshire from the top of the limestone scar known as Sutton Bank. York Minster and the eastern flank of the Yorkshire Dales are visible across the Vales of York's and Mowbray's vast patchwork quilts of fields – multi-shaded golds, greens and browns in autumn. In reverse, Sutton Bank's famous White Horse is visible for 40 miles. The lower escarpment has conifers but at the top colour is provided by oaks, birches, hazels and hawthorns. The classic walk is south from the National Park Visitor Centre to the White Horse, named after the village of Kilburn below, and then down into lovely woodland before a sharp right turn for the return journey.
Walk: 3.5 miles; 2 hours.
OS Map: OL26 North York Moors Western Area.
Parking: National Park Centre, Sutton Bank.
Refreshments: NP Centre, Hambleton, Helmsley.
4: COXWOLD & BYLAND ABBEY
Fine village and ruin
The honeystoned houses of Coxwold's sloping main street look more Cotswold than Yorkshire, and the village has a fantastic position on the border of the North York Moors National Park and Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Shandy Hall, the 15th century home of author Laurence Sterne, is here. Several good walks emanate from the village but this one provides the bonus of a visit to Byland Abbey, said to have been one of Europe's finest churches in the 12th century. Starting westwards from the village, turn north from Shandy Hall to points on the map marked as Fox Folly and Cams Head. From Byland take the quiet lane back to Coxwold.
Walk: 6 miles; 3 hours.
OS Map: Explorer 299 Ripon & Boroughbridge.
Refreshments: Coxwold, Byland.
5: THE THREE VILLAGE WALK
Picturesque moorland fringe
Linked together, the these cute villages in the North York Moors National Park make a sensational outing. Hutton le Hole is a staple of Yorkshire calendars with its charming cottages, manicured green and tumbling beck. Ask for directions to the witch post at Stang End Cottage, which is supposed to ward off evil spirits and is popular at Hallowe'en. Almost two miles to the east, Lastingham has much religious significance, such as holy wells and a famous crypt in the church. By comparison, Appleton le Moors is ignored by the ice-cream eating hordes. Return to Hutton by quiet footpaths, farm tracks and bridleways along a route signposted as the Tabular Hills Walk.
Walk: 7 miles; 3 hours.
OS Map: OL26 North York Moors Western. Area. Parking: Hutton le Hole.
Refreshments: Hutton le Hole, Lastingham, Appleton.
6: ROSEDALE IRONSTONE MINES
Quiet dale with industrial past
The head of Rosedale at the heart of the North York Moors National Park is one of the area's most peaceful corners. It is also very accessible thanks to the old railway line which served the Rosedale ironstone mines until the 1920s. The line takes a horseshoe-shaped course above Rosedale to near the top of Blakey Ridge and reveals the dale to be especially colourful on a fine autumn day. It is accessible from Low Baring Farm and from the steep hill above the village of Rosedale Abbey. Along the route there are old mine workings, and derelict kilns with part of an old ventilation chimney. Fascinating though they are, respect the fences around structures that are considered dangerous.
Walk: 10 miles; 5 hours.
Map: OL26 North York Moors West.
Parking: Rosedale Abbey.
Refreshments: Rosedale Abbey, Lion Inn on Blakey Ridge.
7: HOLE OF HORCUM & LEVISHAM
Ultimate Moorland Walk
Popular in all seasons, the landscape
here looks especially colourful in October. This is a very special circular route between one of the National Park's
most impressive features and a
classic moorland village. Except in mist (when it should be avoided) the route is infallible. From the big car park near Saltersgate follow the road to the sharp right-hand bend ("the Devil's Elbow"), cross the stile and take a path over the moor, passing Seavy and Dundale Ponds, eventually reaching Levisham. To return, head east along Levisham Beck then north by Levisham Brow and into the huge natural bowl known as the Hole of Horcum.
Walk: 6 miles; 3.5 hours.
OS Map: OL27 North York Moors Eastern Area.
Parking: Saltersgate on A169 Pickering-Whitby road.
Refreshments: Levisham, Saltersgate.
8: ESK VALLEY
Dale walk returning by train
Running along the top of the North York Moors, the valley of the River Esk is wonderfully quiet outside weekends and school holidays, and in September and October the many woods and copses provide it with a particularly beautiful livery. There are numerous walking options, and one is to make use of part of the 35-mile Esk Valley Walk by starting from Grosmont, on the North York
Moors Railway line, and passing through Glaisdale and Egton Bridge and finishing at Lealholm. A look at the map will show where this runs. It is thus possible to use the Esk Valley line to return to the starting point. Of special note is Beggars Bridge (1619) at Glaisdale.
Walk: 6-7 miles; 4 hours.
OS Map: OL27 North York Moors Eastern.
Area. Parking: Grosmont.
Refreshments: Grosmont, Egton Bridge, Glaisdale, Lealholm.
9: ROBIN HOOD'S BAY
Rocky beach and old railway
The most dramatic bay on England's east coast makes an unforgettable walk. Most people are happy to stay on the beach at low tide, looking in the rock pools or hunting for fossils before retracing their steps. But the classic route is to reach the promontory of Ravenscar, climb up the bank and return via the old Scarborough to Whitby Railway line. Due to cliff erosion this is not for the faint-hearted.
It should only be attempted when there is an ebb tide, and by fit walkers with good walking boots. The much safer alternative is to follow the Cleveland Way from Boggle Hole to Ravenscar and pick up
the trackbed of the old railway for your return.
Walk: 8 miles; 4 hours.
OS Map: OL27 North York Moors Eastern.
Area. Parking: Pay and Display above Robin Hood's Bay.
Refreshments: Robin Hood's Bay and Ravenscar.
10: FILEY BRIGG
There's nothing else in England like this slender promontory which protrudes into Filey Bay like a jetty. With good reason it's the climax of two long-distance trails – the Wolds Way and the Cleveland Way – and although fascinating in summer because of its nesting auks and kittiwakes, birdwatchers love it most of all in autumn when migration is underway.
Purple sandpipers are often found picking through the seaweed, while offshore uncommon birds like winter-plumage red-throated divers, long-tailed ducks and velvet scoters make regular appearances.
A good circular walk starts from Coble Landing, proceeds up Church Ravine and Church Cliff Drive and takes a field path to the cliff top.
Walk: 4 miles; 2 hours.
OS Map: Explorer sheet 301 Scarborough.
Parking: Filey Brigg Country Park.
Refreshments: Country Park; Coble Landing.
YP MAG 25/9/10