In the heart of the National Park the verdant pastures of Westerdale or the upper reaches of the valley of the Esk are surrounded by moors which in places extend across the lower slopes.
Our walk explores these contrasting elements and starts from the large car park on the Castleton to Westerdale road, (Grid Reference 681077), half a mile south west of Castleton village. There are expansive views from here down Esk Dale and up its two tributary valleys of the Baysdale and Commondale Becks. Away to the left is a wide panorama across Westerdale.
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: field and moor paths
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: 24 August 2007
From the back of the car park walk some 20 paces directly over the moor to meet a well used path coming in from the right from Castleton. Go left along it passing close to a line of prominent white tipped stones marking the boundary between Danby and Westerdale. After some 300 yards the path follows a wall which soon curves downhill to the left to reach Carr House by the side of the New Road, built by the Duncombe Estate in 1869 to link Castleton Station a mile away with Westerdale.
Cross the road, go down a few steps and then right on a signed path before turning left in 100 yards in front of one of the farm's outbuildings. The path then crosses the Esk and continues left, uphill to a gate. Our well signed route follows through a new plantation on a
terrace some 50 yards above the river.
About half a mile from the footbridge turn right at a gate on to a green lane. At a second gate leave the lane by going half right up across two fields and then through a gate on the edge of Westerdale Moor. Turn left here and follow the wall along the edge of the moor. Over three thousand years ago Bronze Age settlers populated the moor and extensive cairnfields and earthworks from that period as well as hut circles from the Iron Age have been found at Crown End on the slopes to the right.
In about a quarter of a mile you will see Dale View Farm in its pastureland some 200 yards away to the left. Shortly afterwards the path leaves the wall and strikes out across the moor. At this point stay with the wall for some 300 yards by following a path across open access land to the road from Westerdalke to Kildale. Turn left.
Follow the road towards Westerdale village for some 200 yards before turning right on a path which links the mainly 17th and 18th century farms of the west side of the valley. The path soon passes in front of Crown House and continues over two fields to Stocking House. In another 100 yards it joins the Esk Valley Walk which we follow, left, to Hawthorn House.
Beyond the farm continue along the Walk as it crosses three fields before entering open moorland and joining the access lane to New House Farm. The lane soon curves to the right, uphill. Some 200 yards before the farm we turn left, once more following the Esk Valley Walk across fields to reach the side of the infant Esk which rises less than 2 miles away on Farndale Moor. The valley narrows and the fields are smaller as we head up the dale. The track to Hill House is crossed and the path then passes to the rear of Wood End before reaching the ford
where the track from High House crosses the river.
From here the Esk Valley Walk continues upstream for a further one and a half miles to the site of Esklets. This was once a grange of Rievaulx Abbey, the area so wild that the monks were given leave to set wolf traps and dig wolf pits. Once the remotest farm in Westerdale it was abandoned in 1940. From it a path leads over into upper Farndale, a strenuous walk if you have the time and energy.
From the ford, however, our route turns back towards Castleton. Cross the river and follow the traffic free lane which soon turns left down the valley. After about a mile and just beyond Riddings Farm go left on a path which leads directly into Westerdale. It's an ancient right of way which in places still retains its stone trod.
The path enters Westerdale near the village hall and next to the parish church which was rebuilt in 1838. Turn right outside the church and follow the village street which is also lined by a fine stone causeway. Opposite the house called 'Pinfold' turn left into Christy Gate Road, named for the elaborate cross which once stood at the crossroads you reach in about 300 yards.
This quiet lane soon descends to a ford over Tower Beck before climbing towards the formidable bulk of Castleton Rigg. Just beyond Quarry Farm our lane reaches a T junction. The easy way to return to our starting point is to follow the lane to the left. A far more spectacular route is to climb the ridge by a rough track which begins just to the right of the junction.
You will reach the top in about 10 minutes and should then go left along the edge on a good path over open access moorland. To your right and marching down the centre of this narrow rigg is a line of boundary stones which link with those which we met at the start of the walk.
However it's the sweeping views which will command your attention, away to the left up Westerdale and over the western moors with even a glimpse of Captain Cook's Monument, and, to the right, down into Danby Dale and across to Danby Rigg. After less than a mile the path bears to the right of a stocky boundary stone erected in 1836 by the Downe estate and inscribed Gallow How for the gibbet which once stood close by. You now join the ridge road from Castleton to Hutton-le-Hole and should follow it for another 300 yards before turning left to our starting point or of course continuing ahead to the delights of Castleton.