On the southern edge of the National Park, Gillamoor has two lines of limestone houses along the wide main street, and the unmissable "Surprise View", one of Yorkshire's most famous panoramas.
Just to the left of the tiny church the ground falls away some 300ft to Lowna Mill which marks the point where Farndale to the left turns into Douthwaite Dale. Beyond Lowna rise the heather covered expanses of Hutton and Blakey Ridges. To your right is the Nab or Shepherd's Nab, one of the limestone Tabular Hills and the focus of our easy 7 mile walk.
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 4 hours
Conditions: well signed field paths and forest tracks through a wide variety of exquisite scenery, few stiles
Refreshments: Gillamoor, Hutton-le-Hole
OS Explorer Map OL26
Originally published: 23 August 2013
When you have absorbed the view and perhaps visited the simple church (restored in 1902 by Joseph Smith and well worth a visit), take the path from the church gate (GR 683902), signed to Hutton-le-Hole.
This quickly drops below the churchyard. In 200 yards turn sharp right down the track to Gillamoor Mill, mentioned in 12th century records but disused by 1895. Beyond the bridge over the River Dove the path heads towards Grouse Hall but turns right one field short. In the next field head for the far end of a small wood where you cross a beck and climb half a dozen steps to a green lane.
Turn left for about 100 yards and then follow the path which branches off to the right over open moorland. You'll soon cross a dry water channel by a bridge or brigson of 10 stone slabs. The old watercourse can be seen heading away on the right for about 200 yards before doubling around the head of a natural depression.
The channel was one of more than half a dozen watercourses built in the mid 18th century by a local engineer Joseph Foord. In each case water was brought from springs on the moor by gravity to the waterless farms and villages of the limestone slopes. Most were in use for over 150 years until they were replaced by piped water supplies in the 20th century.
This particular watercourse is one of the shortest at some 1,000 yards. It tapped springs away to the left and fed water to Douthwaite Lodge around the right flank of Shepherd's Nab. It was probably in operation until 1950.
From the brigson continue ahead to a gate. The route is then well signed along a narrow path and across fields into Hutton-le-Hole where go right.
"A charming little place to find in a green hollow of the moors, it is all up and down with a scurrying stream winding among houses scattered here and there standing at all angles". Arthur Mee's description in his 'North Riding' 70 years ago is still apt, although he would no doubt be surprised by its present popularity.
As you walk down the village it's better avoiding the main road traffic by keeping to the right of the beck but if you want to follow up the district's history of farming, weaving, mining and glass making at the excellent Ryedale Folk Museum then you'll need to cross the road over on the left.
To avoid half a mile of road walking go down to the end of the long green and take the first track on the left (Oxclose Lane) on the other side of the main road. The beck is now on the your right. In about 300 yards after a short climb bear to the right and follow a path on the right (through a short nettlebed). The path drops down one field to a footbridge over the beck. On the other side it climbs through woods to rejoin the road. Turn left.
In some 250 yards and after crossing a cattle grid turn right down a hard surfaced lane where widespread views of Douthwaite Dale and the moors soon open up. In half a mile the lane reaches Yoad Wath, a deep ford over the Dove. The old cornmill on the far side was converted into a sawmill in the early 20th century.
Cross the footbridge and follow the lane past the mill for 200 yards before turning right on a rough track which climbs steeply through dense woodland. In the last 100 yards it reverts to a path where nettles also thrive. Turn right when you reach a tarred lane.
We now head north for some two miles along the west side of sylvan Douthwaite Dale, the valley carved by the Dove through the limestone hills. Few walkers come this way and much of the route is along tranquil forest tracks.
Follow the lane for some 400 yards and where it turns sharp left continue ahead on Back of Parks Road. The name refers to the medieval park of the de Stutevilles who built the 12th century castle in Kirkbymoorside and who were followed by the Nevilles. It was functioning as a hunting reserve as late as Elizabeth I's reign.
The official right of way, a bridleway, leaves Back of Parks Road on the right about half a mile from the tarred lane. Alternative tracks also descend to the river which is followed upstream as Shepherd's Road. A couple of fields are then crossed from which there's a good view over the river to Douthwaite Lodge below the Nab.
The bridleway then enters Hagg Wood through a gate. After a 400 yards climb and just before another gate bear to the right on a well used path which leads through the trees back to Gillamoor.