Yorkshire encompasses four counties, which are located towards the north east of England. It’s a beautiful part of the country with ragged cliffs and coastline, rolling hills, dales, pastures and misty moorland. This lends itself incredibly well to walking, hiking and rambling.
Some national trails go on for miles. The Cleveland way, Yorkshire Wolds Way and Pennine Bridleway are among some of the best known. These pathways are for the hardcore, multi-day hiker, but if you’re just looking to get out for some fresh air and a bit of exercise, there are plenty of shorter options.
The routes below are by no means an exhaustive list, but, according to this Yorkshire born and bred blogger, they’re five of the best places to go walking in Yorkshire. The best way to reach these often remote locations is to base yourself in an interesting city, like the historic walled city of York, and to rent a car. If you start your walk in a lesser-known village or on a quiet road you’ll have no problem at all finding a place to park.
BRIDLINGTON TO FLAMBOROUGH HEAD
12.5 miles there and back; click HERE for a map
If you’re the kind of person who gets lost easily, this walk is foolproof. Beginning in the seaside town of Bridlington, it follows an obvious coastal path to the lighthouse at Flamborough Head and then returns the same way, although there’s the option of mixing things up a little by taking an inland route back.
If 12.5 miles sounds like too much – especially given the coastal path’s propensity to drop down towards the sea and climb back up again steeply on numerous occasions, you could start from Sewerby instead.
Aside from the refreshing sea breeze and sightings of huge gannet colonies along the cliffs, the highlight of this walk is Sewerby Hall, which has its own mini zoo containing llamas and miniature horses. The old Georgian House is also worth a look, but there’s a small admission charge for looking around the estate.
If the seabird sightings have whet your appetite for a bit of twitching, one of Britain’s top birdwatching spots – Bempton Cliffs – is a 15-minute drive north of Bridlington. This RSPB reserve is also well-known for attracting puffins between April and July.
CHOP GATE TO THE WAINSTONES
8 miles; click HERE to download a great guide and map
If you like wide open spaces, panoramic views that go on for miles, interesting rock formations and rugged moorland, this is the walk for you.
Starting at Chop Gate, which is actually pronounced ‘Chop Yat’, it begins with a long and relatively steep climb through sometimes boggy moorland. Upon reaching the higher parts of the moor, and especially at the escarpment west of Hasty Bank and the Wainstones, you can sometimes see as far as Newcastle. In the distance to the right is the distinctive hill of Roseberry Topping and to the left are the power stations of Middlesbrough.
As you head east past the Wainstones, consider stopping for lunch or a snack. These weathered sandstone formations are popular with rock climbers, but even an amateur can have fun clambering around on the smaller structures. They also provide almost the only shelter from the bracing wind on the entire route. Along this northern section of the walk, you’ll lose and gain height twice and the going can be steep.
As you head back towards Chop Gate through Urra Moor, you’ll cross a couple of gullies and have a good chance of spotting kestrels, before you dip back into the valley and return to the village hall car park.
8 miles; click HERE for a map of the route
The picture above may have been taken along the footpath of the White Horse walk, but, believe it or not, that’s not how the walk got its name!
The White Horse is a huge hill figure that was cut into the limestone landscape back in 1857 and has been covered with chalk. It’s located on Sutton Bank near Kilburn on the southern border of the North York Moors and can be seen from as far away as York on a clear day.
The walk begins at a car park and picnic area just below the White Horse. If you head back down the road for about 50m, there’s a path towards Acre House Farm. This path veers north through the woods towards Hood Grange and on to the very pretty Gormire Lake, where some brave souls have been known to take a dip. The bridleway continues to Southwoods Hall and then up the hill where it joins the Cleveland Way. The remainder of the walk follows this path south again, via Sutton Bank Visitor Centre to the White Horse. Near to the White Horse and on top of the embankment, there’s a gliding club and airfield where you can watch planes take off and land. Trial lessons are a reasonable £89.50 so, if you think you’ll be in the area an extra day, it might be worth inquiring. There can’t be a better way to view the White Horse than by taking to the skies.
THIXENDALE TO WHARRAM PERCY
8 miles; click HERE for more details on the route and a map
While anyone would find this to be a pleasant walk, it will particularly appeal to people with an interest in archeology. That’s because there’s a smattering of medieval ruins in and around the deserted village of Wharram Percy.
The walk begins in Thixendale – a small, quiet, and very pretty wolds village nestled in a hidden dale in East Yorkshire. Park on the roadside and head out of the village on a steep track towards Cow Wold. The path then heads east past North Plantation and north again to Wharram Percy. The only building still standing is St Martin’s Church. If you’re keen to know more about the rest of the ruins, the English Heritage website offers a downloadable audio tour on MP3. A public footpath to the left of the church follows the Centenary Way through Wharram Percy Wold to a Car Park close to Bella Farm. Here, the path veers south back to Deep Dale, where the Centenary Way leads all the way back to your start point.
7 miles; click HERE to see the route on an OS map
Starting in Malham Village in the Yorkshire Dales, this walk has some fascinating scenery. Largely due to impressive limestone formations, it also provides a natural playground of sorts for big adults who enjoy climbing and clambering up waterfalls and over boulders. For the most part, it’s not particularly hilly, but there are a few sections where the path is incredibly steep.
Initially, cross a small bridge in the village and head south along part of the Pennine Way beside Malham Beck, then veer east when the path forks and take the north/west bank of the river Aire and Gordale Beck until you reach the beautiful Janet’s Foss Waterfall. Take a moment to clamber down for a closer view, being careful not to slip. A little further north, you’ll meet Gordale Lane. Turn right and cross the bridge. If you’re in luck, you’ll pass a mobile refreshments van on this stretch of road, although there’s usually a long queue, so it’s better to come prepared with snacks.
Turn off the road through a gate to the left where Gordale Scar is signposted. The scenery changes from lush woodland to open space and limestone cliffs, until you’re greeted with what appears to be a dead-ended gorge. On closer inspection, the dry rocks to the left of the lower part of a waterfall make for a nerve-wracking climb. Those with a fear of heights can retrace their steps to the road and take an alternative footpath leading from a lay-by up and over New Close Knotts.
These two footpaths converge, after which you head along an obvious track alongside a steep valley until it meets a road. From here, follow signs to Malham Tarn. From the tarn, head south again via the limestone pavement at Malham Cove, descend a few hundred stone steps into the valley and follow a well-marked footpath back to your car.
Peregrine falcons and stoats are not uncommon sights on this hugely popular trail.
And an extra one on the border…
7.5 miles; click HERE for a more detailed description of the route and a map
The south side of Teesdale lies within the historic county boundaries of the North Riding of Yorkshire, but today it’s part of County Durham. While it doesn’t qualify for the list of top Yorkshire walks, it’s well worth considering if you’re based to the north of North Yorkshire or don’t mind a longer round trip.
This circular walk begins at the visitor centre carpark in Bowlees, which is about 25 minutes by car northwest of Barnard Castle. Its defining feature is the river Tees and its impressive waterfalls.
Begin the walk by heading past the visitor centre to Wynch Bridge. After crossing it, turn right onto the Pennine Way and you’ll soon come across Low Force Waterfall. Keeping the river to your right you’ll pass a sculpture of two stone sheep that almost everyone has the urge to sit on. You’ll hear the next point of interest before you see it. High Force Waterfall, as the name suggests, is the larger of the two. In fact, it’s the biggest waterfall in the country. Continuing along the same path upstream, you’ll pass a quarry and cross two footbridges before climbing a small hill. At this point, veer away from the Pennine Way onto a well-used track and head back southwards. From your elevated position, you should be able to see your path to Holwick Scar. After passing through this tiny village, there’s a signed footpath back to Wynch Bridge.
If you think you’ll be spending some time in the area, it’s worth considering checking into a B&B in the quaint town of Barnard Castle. If you choose to do this, you should also take the 20 minute round trip drive to see Greta Bridge, which has featured in a famous painting as well as a Charles Dickens novel.