Alan enjoys writing these articles, assembled with local knowledge and research. Take this road trip with him over the North York Moor
Start out in period style from Thirsk
Starting at Thirsk - James Herriot, Thomas Lord and Flat Races
Talk of Thirsk and thoughts turn to James Herriot. Yorkshire's favourite vet was born in Sunderland, however, and moved with his parents to Glasgow to a new life in shipbuilding.
James Herriot was his writing persona. Because he was a professional veterinary surgeon Alf Wight could not use his real name, as it could be construed as advertising if his name was used to promote his writing.
Nevertheless the writing played a part in highlighting the attractions and character of the North Yorkshire Moors and Dales, and his vet practice on Kirkgate provided the grist to the mill! His surgery has been opened to the public as a museum for some years now, and worth spending a couple of hours there on any day of the week. There are practical tasks children or adults can undertake, and there is a filmshow in the stable that takes you through his eventful life all the way from Sunderland and Glasgow via veterinary college, practice, a wartime spell in the RAF and back to practice on the moors and dales.
You can wander through a 1950s English household with not a computer, games console, i-pad, mobile phone/cellphone or HD TV in sight, nor BSkyB dish on the outer wall (twelve inch square screen)!
Across the road is the Thomas Lord birthplace museum at 14 Kirkgate. Does this name mean anything to you? If you're a cricket player or fan, English or Commonwealth - and many other places these days - then you'll know of the Lord's Cricket Ground on St. John's Wood Road, London NW8, (the home of cricket, although the first game between Australia and England was played at the Oval in London SE. A tour of Lord's is a worthwhile investment in an hour and three-quarters of your life. This is digressing on a grand scale!)
Another way to spend time in Thirsk is in a visit to the races. The racecourse grandstand sits squarely along the main A61 road west to Ripon and the course itself ends just short of the East Coast Main Line (Ripon racecourse on the Boroughbridge Road is not far away. Sunday mornings it's the site of a weekly car boot sale. Altogether in Yorkshire there are nine racecourses!) There are only a few meetings a year at Thirsk, and only in the Flat Season, i.e., spring and summertime.
We shall leave by way of the ever-busy market square for the North Yorkshire Moors on the A170 up towards Sutton Bank. The view from the top is breathtaking but getting there can be taxing. The route takes a series of S-bends up a gradient of 1 in 4 (25%)! All very well if you're not behind an easily intimidated or beginner driver, but some lorry, coach and caravan drivers ignore the warnings lower down and ground. Better try starting on that gradient with cars behind you, but even better turn off left before Sutton Bank, you can always come down the bank on your way back to your hotel - as long as you don't get too distracted by the view. Turning off left takes you through a couple of picturesque villages called Felixkirk and Boltby (a hint of the Scandinavian history of the area there) up to Hambleton Moor. Stop just over the top and go back to take in the view. You can see right across to the Dales in the west and the Pennines behind them.
From here - a renovated farmhouse and outbuildings to your right - you drive across the undulating moorland to Hawnby (more Danish influence) and then onto the B1257 past Laskill Farm. If you're driving a saloon or sports car turn right for Helmsley via the turn-off for Rievaulx Abbey. Helmsley is a very picturesque market town with historic buildings and a ruined castle (Yorkshire's full of ruins, mostly castles and abbeys. They're our heritage, courtesy of Henry VIII and Oliver Cromwell and a few other characters along the way. Hermann Goering left his mark on York).
If you're driving a 4X4 turn off left a short way along the road towards Helmsley to where a forestry track takes you eastward along a bumpy forestry track to neighbouring Bransdale, with views north over the western Cleveland Hills (remember them, from the Tees to Esk episode in this series? By the way this route is closed in October for the rutting season).
More soon, here's a picture or two until you get onto the next stage below:
Re-start from the Hambleton ridge overlooking Boltby, Felixkirk and Thirsk
Roulston Scar view
Bilsdale eastward to Goathland
If you were driving a saloon car you would have taken in Helmsley and left the A170 for the hamlet of Carlton (this can be confusing, as there are lots of Carltons around North Yorkshire, but keep going), and through, up along Bransdale where the Forestry track I mentioned joins this road further along. Both routes having come together again, keep on trucking...
Higher and higher, up onto the moor-top where footpaths leave the road and you see your road far away to the north-east as it climbs from a dip in the moortops. There are a couple of gates fairly close together near a farm at the top of Farndale. These are to keep the sheep from wandering, shut them again before you carry on (my kids used to compete to open and shut these gates, and others further on). The road takes you through the top of Farndale to a village called Church Houses and the Feversham Arms. This inn is worth a second glance. Good ales/beers and home-cooked food. Or you can take the road ahead and go up to Blakey, where the Lion Inn sits beside the old Castleton to Hutton-le-Hole road. Either of these inns is sought out from far afield, but the Lion Inn is on the Coast-to-Coast walk promoted recently by Julia Bradbury of Country File fame (BBC TV, Sunday evenings) and her half-hour programmes on the Alfred Wainwright Lakeland walks. The inn is easily accessed from either Kirkby Moorside to the south on the A170, or Guisborough in eastern Cleveland to the north.
Replete from your meal, you might consider taking a room at the Lion Inn and enjoying their overnight hospitality at reasonable prices. If not press on, squeeze behind your steering wheel again and head for the 'horseshoe' around the head of Rosedale. By the road at the junction is a wayside cross called 'Big Ralph'; take the road east for Rosedale Abbey. Not far from the road junction is another wayside marker, the 'squat cross' named 'Fat Betty', marked out in white. It is tradition here to leave a few coins for the needy. You can also leave wrapped food items in exchange for something you might fancy that's already there. There's plenty of room at the roadside to park and take in the view down into Rosedale or back toward the Lion Inn without blocking the way for other traffic. (Driving a Land Rover of any age gives you an advantage, the height of the cab off the road lets you see more).
Rosedale Abbey is a village with an inn, a hotel, a tea-shop and a caravan park. A little wander around lets you digest your meal and perhaps take tea. On your way east follow the road for Lastingham, a quiet, leafy road that you will enjoy driving on with views all around. At Lastingham there is a historic church, a worthy public house (the Blacksmith's Arms) and another road that takes you on to Cropton with its own well-known public house, the New Inn with its brewery, the Cropton Brewery (sample a choice of six ales including 'Blackout', 'Endeavour' and 'Scoresby Stout', reflecting historical links with the sea and WWII). Carry on eastward ward Newton-on-Rawcliffe on the Pickering road. Along this road on the left is an easy track that takes you to Cawthorne Camp. This is an English Heritage site you don't need to pay to access. A Roman camp astride the Eboracum road that runs straight across the moors - I kid you not, it's a straight as a die! - is laid out here with views northward 180 degrees Instead of going into Newton - where there's an inn called the White Swan facing the green - turn left for Snape, a farming hamlet. The road passes between farmhouses on and up towards the high moor by way of a twisting minor road, A forestry road on the plateau snakes down to Levisham Station on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, take that another day. A little further the road dips twists and climbs onto the next stretch of moorland. A small car parking area lies adjacent to the Roman Road here on Wheeldale Moor. You can go and check it out for yourself, go on!
The road climbs yet further but don't be deceived - it soon drops gradually again, and steeply descends to a ford. At times of the year - spring and autumn usually - it floods. A white post stands by the ford with markings up to 8 feet (about 2.6 metres?) so be warned! There is a camping area here, a small bridge that featured on one of the early HEARTBEAT episodes, perhaps an excuse to get out and stretch your legs, let the kids run around a bit before the next stage. Up again onto the moor-top on a long 20% gradient that begins with a steep left-hand curve from the dale bottom. To left and right is open moorland where here and there tall, slotted stone monolithic waymarkers stand that date back to before the Romans came. On the left is Murk Mire Moor - that sent a shiver down your spine, didn't it! - where a lone Rowan tree stands in the middle of this moor, and warns of chill times should you not be prepared for sudden changes in the weather. Another waymarker stands at a road fork. Take the track sharp right that leads downhill to another gate that needs to be opened (more fun for the kids) and up onto a crossroad with a four-way sign. Left for Egton Bridge, straight on for Eskdale (that's a dead end, a long row of cottages at right-angles to the North York Moors Railway route into Grosmont) or right for Goathland. HEARTBEAT HQ, where the Goathland Hotel doubled up as the AIDENSFIELD ARMS. Yeesss! Right it is, up to another moor, past dry stone walls and Julian Park Farm where the road dog-legs. Watch that! Down to a small ford where the road narrows, bends sharp left and up again, onto the moor-side and Goathland nestles in the lee of the high moor. Parking at the Goathland Hotel 's all right if you plan to go in, otherwise try the public car park at the side of the Beck Hole road. Have a look into Goathland (a.k.a. Aidensfield) Station on the NYMR. There's a cafe in the old goods shed and a shop on the other platform. Fancy a train ride behind a steam engine down to Grosmont and back? Go on, spoil yourselves, it won't cost the earth and I'd recommend it (I would, I've got shares in it)!
There might be a family room at the Goathland Hotel or the Mallyan Spout Hotel opposite the church if you're fed up with driving when you get back from Grosmont. Travel by train to Grosmont and walk back on the trackbed of the old Whitby & Pickering Railway by way of Beck Hole. Here is a small settlement with an attractive old inn called the BIRCH HALL INN, two eighteenth century buildings side by side, one painted white next to the bridge over Ellerbeck, the other in natural stone. They have rooms, too, just in case... Oh, well, on to Goathland for the night. See you in the morning.
Cleveland Way - the western end near the Cleveland Hills escarpment
Historic moorland way-markers
Take time off from driving to become a 'spectator'
Travel on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway ,the historic route first built under the auspices of George Hudson, the 'Railway King', and George Stephenson with public investment. I've outlined the history of the line on pages elsewhere, but just sit back on well upholstered seats and let the scenery roll by. Buy an all-line ticket or just take the train from Pickering or Grosmont for one stop and walk back through or past woodland, high escarpments and farm land between Newton-on-Rawcliffe above Levisham Station (reached by a winding footpath), or Levisham and Lockton villages to the east on a steep climb that will sharpen your appetite for a bite to eat at the pub. Waymarkers abound, so no worries about getting lost. It ain't Texas..
North Yorkshire Moors and its railway
One thing, you won't starve around here in the season
There are enough hostelries scattered around in the villages. Grosmont sports a tearoom near the river - the Murk Esk - as well as a large public house by the station. And there's a cafe on Grosmont's station platform that serves cooked meals as well as snacks, hot and cold drinks. Walk it off in the woodland by the large car park (the site of a former iron works), take a paddle in the ford where the River Esk passes under a narrow bridge on your way to open countryside, or follow the track to Egton station down the road (turn right at the church) where a quiet country pub-hotel offers a cosy welcome. .
Goathland and Birch Hall Inn at Beck Hole
Goathland to Whitby
Having rested well in the Aidensfield Arms, sorry Goathland Hotel, or in the Mallyan Spout Hotel, and after a Full English Breakfast (F.E.B) you're ready again for the 'off'. There's a choice of routes for eastward traffic towards the coast.
You can take the road over the bridge past the station or turn back to the moor on the south side of Goathland past the church and turn left. I prefer this route, it takes you past the old Whitby to Pickering Railway trackbed at Moorgates and under the 'new' route, the Deviation route, then up the moor side to the Whitby-Pickering road where you turn left. The newer Fylingdales Early Warning Station is in sight here, at the crest of the moor. It looks like a concrete pie, the sort of shape you associate with a child's sand-castle mould. When the American engineers first came in the mid-60's three 'radomes' were built. Everyone called them the golf balls, but at the end of the Cold War someone decided to rebuild the site to its present form. You wouldn't see it if you blinked!
An undulating road twists and turns to the moor-top, where there is a large car park and a view into the Hole of Horcum. Legend has it two giants fell out and threw boulders at one another, one landing on the moor creating a huge 'dent'. A lone farmhouse nestles against the side of the dale, other than that it's just a nice view where you might enjoy a picnic later, in the evening before sunset, listening to bird calls, watching kestrels hover and soaking up the atmosphere. Downward again, and before coming into Sleights on Blue Bank there's a right turn for Littlebeck. This is where you join the Coast to Coast walk again, if you've a mind to. There are warning signs for another 25% drop on the road into the village, followed by an equally steep climb around the dale on the other side.. At the top of the dale the road eases towards the main Scarborough A171 road.
Driving a 4X4? Fancy a bit of adventure? Take the road right towards Scarborough to where a sign points to Boggle Hole. Great name for a bit of nowhere but a car park and a few houses! The road drops to the left when you reach the car park, and onto the bed of another moorland beck that empties into the sea some way down from here to the right. Study the ground before driving on then follow the bed and mind the tricky drop to the left where your left front wheel might get jammed, to the rising track on the right. Shortly after the climb starts one of your willing helpers might go up and keep the gate open for you whilst you drive through and stop a little further on where the road begins to level. This narrow road takes you past Fyling Hall school to Bay Town, Robin Hood's Bay. Whether he ever came here is debatable, if he existed. Still the views to the right are worthwhile as you drive past the station buildings on your left to the cap park at the end. Charges are reasonable, as at Goathland, and it's worth the insignificant hassle just for the views onto the roof-line of the village below. Thank your stars you don't have to drive down, like at Staithes as delivery drivers do. Take a walk down the main street past the shops, public houses and cafes. The road divides, on the right is the old police station. Look at the top of the wooden gate at the carving of a mouse. This is the handiwork of Robert Thompson, the 'mouseman' of Kilburn near Thirsk. (Mr Thompson's work can be seen in many places including York Minster and Richmond Church, now the museum to the Green Howards, Princess Alexandra's Own Regiment of Yorkshire). Down to the front, to the slipway where the inshore fishing boats are launched at high tide. On the right is the Coastguard Museum, on the left the Bay Hotel with its Wainwright Bar, dedicated to the great man himself - this one sells food as well, but can get crowded. Alternatively the Dolphin is just up the street, just as cosy and also does cooked food at lunchtime. Again, cafes abound, if you're not of the drinking persuasion.
Working off a good meal is no challenge, the climb back up the hill would work off most of it! This is where you count your blessings and hope your gearbox and brakes are as sound as those on the delivery vehicles. By the time you reach the car park you've probably worked off your lunch!
Now the drive on to Whitby, to take in the sights and catch any you missed last time, when you followed the coast south-eastward from Teesside. Back on the A171 turn right and before long Whitby Abbey can be seen to the right on its cliff next to Saint Hilda's church overlooking the harbour. There is a narrow road that leads straight to the abbey car park, where you make up your mind whether you want to see Cholmley (pron.'Chumley') Hall first or the abbey. You pay to see both on the one site. Another challenge is the nine-hundred-and-ninety-nine steps down to the street below. Don't forget to allow time to climb back up them..One thing you notice about Whitby is the number of gift and souvenir shops, and jewellery shops where an abundance of jet artefacts can be found. Queen Victoria started the fashion for wearing Whitby Jet jewellery after Albert's death, and you can find outcrops of it on the cliff walls at the back of the beach below West Cliff. If you came a hundred times to Whitby you could find something else to see each time, so rest assured there's no danger of boredom setting in with your kids! Nose around the narrow streets, make for the Sutcliffe Gallery where you can see sepia photographs taken by the master himself in the days of sail, when Whitby Cats put out to sea with cargoes (they lasted until the advent of steamships), and whalng ships came in. A limitless range of inshore and sea-going fishing vessels can be seen here. A half-sized replica of Discovery, one of James Cook's ships plies the waves in and out of the harbour. Watch the swivel bridge turn to allow bigger boats through, and walk up to the marina to look at the variety of keels.
Fylingdales to Whitby
Whitby nestles in the lee of cliffs, a basin hollowed out beside the River Esk with a pair of curved breakwaters that calm the waters within the harbour area. On the south side, overlooking the harbour is the old parish church of St Mary beside the ruins of the later Norman abbey. There was an earlier abbey here, established by Saint Hilda (sister to King Oswy of Northumbria) in the 7th Century that was sacked and destroyed by Norsemen in the 9th. The abbey was rebuilt in the 12th and destroyed again in the 16th under the orders of Henry VIII during the Dissolution era.
From the 18th Century James Cook was employed by local ship owner John Walker on the Whitby 'Cats', the ships that took coals from Newcastle-upon-Tyne to London and across the North Sea into the Baltic on the timber trade. The ships he worked on were usually built by the River Esk at the Whitehall shipyard on the south bank of the river. There were other shipyards at Whitby, and the harbour in those days could be crowded with fishing boats, whaling and merchant ships as Victorian photographer Frank Meadows Sutcliffe showed at late as the turn of the 20th Century in his many plates.
Whitby Town station was built in 1847, designed by architect George Townsend Andrews after the rebuilding of the line. The original station was built close to the gas works, further out of town, remains of which can be seen alongside the line. In the 1880s rail links were built to Whitby along the coast from Loftus to the north via Whitby West Cliff and Prospect Hill, and the Whitby & Scarborough Railway via Robin Hood's Bay over the high Larpool Viaduct to Prospect Hill where it joined with the Whitby Redcar & Middlesbrough Union Railway to descend into Whitby Town. Earlier in the 19th Century another link was established to the west past Grosmont via Danby and Castleton to Battersby and Picton (for Stockton-on-Tees).
These days Whitby is a thriving town with markets and shops, harbour-front amusement arcades, an inshore and sea-fishing fleet, timber boats from the Baltic still come and excursions for day-trippers are available along the coast on a half-size motorised replica of the 'Endeavour' and other pleasure craft. Restaurants, cafeterias, tea-shops, hotels and bed-and-breakfast hostels abound, as well as self-catering. The town is alive all year round, and there are several festivals during the year, including the now well-established Whitby Regatta. Take a few days off here, or a week or two to discover the area.
Whitby Harbour in times of plenty
Cleveland Lyke Wake (Corpse Walk) Dirge
[This is in dialect, so don't worry if you can't understand it all - or even any of it - until you've read it at least twice or more!]
"This ean night, this ean night,
every night and awle:
Fire and Fleet and Candle-leet,
And Christ receive thy Sawle.
When thou from hence dost pass away,
Every night and awle:
To Whinny-moor thou comest at last,
And Christ receive thy Sawle.
If ever thou gave either hosen or shoon,
Every night and awle,
Sitt thee downe and pull them on,
And Christ receive thy Sawle.
But if hosen or shoon thou never gave nean,
Every night and awle;
The Whinnes shall prick thee to the bare beane,
And Christ receive thy Sawle.
From Whinny-moor that thou mayst pass,
Every night and awle,
To Brig o' Dread thou comest at last,
And Christ receive thy Sawle.
From Brig o' Dread that thou mayst pass,
Every night and awle,
To Purgatory fire thou com'st at last,
And Christ receive thy Sawle.
If ever thou gave either Milke or Drinke,
Every night and awle,
The fire that shall never make thee shrink,
And Christ receive thy Sawle.
But of milke or drinke thou never gave nean,
Every night and awle,
The Fire shall burn thee to the bare beane,
And Christ receive thy Sawle".
Real charmers in Yorkshire, aren't we! For those not in on the language, here's a short glossary:
ean - means one
fleet - floor
shoon - shoes
hosen - hose/breeks/trousers/strides (take your pick)
beane - bones
Brig o' Dread: - is the Bridge of Dread, (crossing point when someone's 'passed away', one way is up, the other down, like a moorland escalator really!).
There is a walking route across the moors from west to east called the Lyke Wake Walk. A Lyke is a corpse. [It helps if you know a bit of German, because a corpse in German is a 'leiche']. More direct than the Cleveland Way, it's also more exerting. Some have run it, others done it at night, (not recommended in the 'rainy season', that's 12 months a year up this way, with dry spells in between)! Follow the Lyke Wake Walk in the Hub-page in this TRAVEL NORTH series:
Whitby Harbour west side
North Yorkshire Moors Railway, a day out for all the family with railway walks, all-line tickets (alight at intermediate stations and rejoin trains at another station); war weekends at autumn half-term, with people dressing up in 40's costume and uniforms,
www.nymr.co.uk/ Timetable; Events, Footplate experiences; Line guide; Loco allocations; Restoration - 12 Park Street, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 7AJ, ph: 01751 473799
Next - 8: Whitby to Scarborough
Glen Rix from UK on August 16, 2017:
Sherwood Forest in North Nottinghamshire, 22 miles from Nottingham
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on August 16, 2017:
Is that Barnsdale, Glenis, or further over (near the bottom end of the A614)? I drive north fairly regularly on the A1, past the massive sign that advertises 'Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood country'. On the way back south, from a stop-off at York, I use the A19 to Selby and then down the A614 to Blyth roundabout before turning onto the A1 again.
I think it was just fanciful about Robin Hood, aka Robert of Lockesley, being in the area. Nobody's even sure he existed, and Magnus Magnusson did a TV programme, 'Looking for the real Robin Hood'. they found several candidates between the time of Richard I and Edward II, and one of them was in the south-west Midlands. Bay Town might not have been there at the time, although Fyling Thorpe (south-east along the bay and higher up, by the Scarborough road) is in Domesday.
Plenty more to look at in the TRAVEL NORTH series, Glenis. Enjoy.
Glen Rix from UK on August 15, 2017:
God's own country. Lovely pics. Two generations of my family have been on junior school trips to Whitby and Robin Hood Bay (I wonder why it has that name as he spent most of his time here in Sherwood.) Anyway, the kids loved it.
Alan R Lancaster (author) from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire) on April 04, 2014:
Thanks Colin. Wharfedale is no less attractive, and these days (since 1974 - have you lived there since before it was taken out of the West Riding? ) it's in North Yorkshire as well.
I've been over both Dales - as far as Ingleton - and Moors, and I honestly can't say I prefer either. They're equal in many ways.
Have you looked up the other TRAVEL NORTH pages, such as 'West from Bedale' and the one at the top end of Wharfedale/Littondale? There's bags to choose from, all the way from Hornsea in the East Riding to Bamburgh and Kielder in Northumberland.
Colin Neville on April 04, 2014:
I live in West Yorkshire in Wharfedale, but North Yorkshire has the edge of beautiful countryside and spectacular coastline. Lovely article.