The North York Moors National Park


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Visitors to the North York Moors National Park will be able to enjoy extensive stunning views over delightful dales and forests.

The North York Moors National Park lies in the north-east of England and was established as a national park in 1952. It has 1,408 miles of public rights of way, including The Cleveland Way National Trail, which is 109 miles long. The park is home to 1,500 boundary stones and crosses, including one of the oldest Christian monuments in England, Lilla Cross, which dates from 626 AD.

Covering 554 square miles, the North York Moors National Park has 26 miles of stunning coastline with miles of sandy beaches. Nearly a quarter of the park is covered with forest and it is a European Special Protection Area for merlin and golden plover. The park is also host to the country’s oldest surviving Gooseberry Show, held at Egton Bridge; the show is over 200 years old. Abbi Olive is head of marketing at Castle Howard, the stunning stately home located in the south of the North York Moors National Park.

Abbi knows the North York Moors National Park well having grown up in Coxwold, a village not far from Castle Howard where she has worked for five years.

“I have a Jackapoo called Flanagan who has just turned two,” said Abbi. “Castle Howard is very dog friendly and people bring their dogs to work so Flanagan gets to come with me. Some days we have more dogs than staff members in the office!”

Castle Howard Estate Walk - North York Moors

“There are lots of different walks on the estate,” explained Abbi, “but this one is a loop around Castle Howard, which offers the walker the best vantage points of the architecture. There are two options, a short version which is four miles and a longer one at five-and-a-half miles. The walk is suitable for most people of average fitness with some gentle hills to climb and paths through fields, so it can get muddy.

There aren’t any stiles but there are some gates, which we ask people to close after them. And, at certain times of year, we have ground-nesting birds so we put up signs asking dog owners to keep their dogs under control.” The walk starts and finishes at the main visitor car park in the courtyard, where there is a farm shop, cafe, and a garden centre, all of which are dog friendly and where you can pick up a map of the walks on the estate.

“You can go either way round the walk, but I always turn left out of the car park, up the Stray, and through the lime trees,” said Abbi. “In front you can see the gatehouse, before turning left onto Gately Road, which gives a fantastic view of the south side of the house.

“Turn off Gately Road and past the Pyramid folly. At this point you can turn left through the field across New River Bridge, which leads up to the Temple of the Four Winds. At times there may be Aberdeen Angus cattle in this fi eld so keep your dog on a lead,” advised Abbi.

“Or you can avoid the cattle by continuing along the road to Low Gately Farm buildings and turn left to follow the track to Bog Hall.” The walk takes in several of the estate’s key monuments including the Mausoleum, the Gatehouse, and the Pyramid, and leads through a mixture of fields, footpaths, and ancient oak woodland, which is home to owls and curlews.

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Sutton Bank and The Kilburn White Horse - North York Moors

The Kilburn White Horse was created in 1857 by a local schoolmaster who drew an outline of a horse on the ground then stripped off the turf revealing the white limestone underneath. The White Horse lies on the side of a steep escarpment called Sutton Bank, which local author James Herriot described as having “the finest view in England.”

“On a clear day you can see across the Vale of York, which is my favourite view in the world,” explained Abbi. “As a family we used to park in a small car park on the road from Kilburn at the foot of The White Horse and climbed up about 150 very steep steps to the top. From here you walk along the top of the escarpment and past the gliding club. Keep your dog on a lead up the steps and along the escarpment where there are areas with a steep drop, and be aware of gliders landing near the path,” Abbi cautioned.

“You can either walk all the way along to the visitor centre and back, or halfway along the escarpment you will see a sign taking you back down the hill to the car park. It’s a more gentle slope down and you can let your dog off the lead through the woods.”

For an alternative walk, which avoids climbing the steep steps, drive to the top of the escarpment and park at the visitor centre, which has a cafe and picnic benches.

To get the full impact of The White Horse it needs to be viewed from further away, from Gormire Lake for instance which can be reached from the visitor centre. Follow the path down the hill to the lake, which is the subject of local myths and legends, including the tale of a lost city under the water.

“The woodland path around the lake is a lovely off -lead dog walk,” said Abbi, “but the area is privately owned and swimming is not allowed, which is probably just as well as the lake is full of leeches.” Be warned, the climb back up to the visitor centre is very steep so this walk is for the fitter dog walker.

Sandsend Beach - North York Moors

A beach walk offers a change of scene and the chance for your dog to race along the sand and play in the water. There are several dog-friendly beaches along the North York Moors National Park stretch of coastline, including Sandsend Beach. Sandsend is a picturesque village north of Whitby and the beautiful sandy beach has two small rivers running into the sea. At low tide the beach stretches far into the distance with rock pools to explore and fossils to find.

“Sandsend is a quaint village with a beautiful long beach and you can walk as little or as much as you want,” said Abbi. “You can walk from here all the way to Whitby, which is six miles there and back. It can take about three hours, depending on how often you stop to enjoy the glorious coastline and how much sniffing your dog wants to do.”

Be aware that you cannot walk along the beach at high tide when you will need to walk part of the way along the cliff top path and the road, which has a pavement. Some people choose to walk along the beach one way and back on the path. Remember to check the tide times before you set off. There are plenty of places in Whitby to sit and enjoy refreshments, plus the chance to visit the stunning Whitby Abbey, made famous in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’, which allows dogs on leads. “Whitby is very dog friendly; it seems every second person has a dog,” explained Abbi.

“Sandsend also has cafes and an amazing fish and chip restaurant where you can sit and eat outside with your dog, plus ice-cream and coffee vans so there’s something for everyone.” There are some dog-restricted areas on Sandsend Beach from May to September so check the signs.

Dalby Forest - North York Moors

Dalby Forest just outside Pickering is a great place to take dogs for a walk as well as offering lots of activities for the whole family.

“Dogs are very welcome in the forest which has a huge variety of routes for people of all abilities,” Abbi said. “The paths are colour coded with clear way marks so it’s very difficult to get lost. Some of the walks are quite hilly but there are several more accessible walks so there’s something for everyone and dogs can run off -lead.” Maps of the forest paths are available in the visitor centre or can be downloaded from the Dalby Forest website.

The forest offers varied scenery, from thick woodland to viewpoints such as Jerry Noddle, a headland that looks over the high moors. One trail, The Woodcock Way, is suitable for most people with moderate fitness and takes about one-and-a-half hours, starting at Staindale Lake. The trail involves climbing a hill, with views across the moors, before descending back to the valley. The route is mainly along surfaced tracks but there are woodland paths, which can be slippery so wear suitable boots. Cyclists share the same path, so keep an eye on your dog too.

PLEASE NOTE: The moorlands are home to rare ground-nesting birds so keep your dog on a short lead when walking across the moors between the beginning of March and the end of July to protect nestlings.

Fascinating facts about the North York Moors

  • When Christianity arrived in Britain, wayside crosses were constructed to guide travellers. More than 30 stone crosses are scattered across the moors. One of these, Ralph’s Cross, is seen at Rosedale Head and has been adopted as the motif for the North York Moors National Park.
  • The Cleveland Way is a long distance footpath, 290km/108 miles long. It is marked with an acorn symbol. It starts at Helmsley and follows the western and northern edges of the North York Moors before reaching the coast and then continuing along it.
  • Contrary to popular belief the moors are not a natural landscape. They are the product of hundreds of years of woodland clearances, careful management, and the relentless nibbling of countless woolly jaws. Sheep suppress the scrub that constantly tries to invade the area. The national park is home to a wealth of wildlife. Listen for the evocative call of the curlew as you walk the moors. You are also likely to see golden and green plovers.
  • More than 2,000km/1,300 miles of footpaths and bridleways are cared for by the national park and you can walk even the quietest corner of the moors.
  • The North York Moors was the backdrop to ITV1’s popular police drama series ‘Heartbeat’. Set in the 1960s, the show revolves around the work and lives of a group of police officers in the fictional places of Ashfordly and Aidensfield. The series is mainly filmed in the real-life village of Goathland near Whitby in the North York Moors.

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