Goathland's many attractions were first discovered by the Victorians after its isolation came to an end with the building of one the country's earliest railways. It is still one of the most popular moorland villages with its mile long green nibbled short by sheep and crossed by a network of ancient trods. Beyond the older houses are the late 19th century villas and hotels scattered across the fertile plateau between Eller Beck and West Beck.
Distance: 7 miles
Time: 4 to 5 hours
Grade: moderate, no severe gradients, few stiles
Conditions: well signed woodland and moorland paths, quiet lanes
OS Explorer Map OL27
Originally published: 20 September 2013
This 7 walk to the Roman road in Wheeldale takes in the variety of scenery for which the area is justifiably noted.
We start from the car park on Beckhole Road in the village centre (GR 833013). Go left out of the car park and in about 200 yards left again through a gate on to the Rail Trail which traces the line of the original horse drawn railway opened in 1836. For the next 29 years the railway carriages and wagons were hauled up this steep incline from Beck Hole to Goathland by rope, powered at first by water. Steam engines replaced the horses in 1847 but it was only in 1865 that the incline was superseded by the present line.
Incline Cottage at the foot marks the point where horse drawn haulage resumed for the level run through to Grosmont and Whitby. Just beyond the cottage is a crossing of paths where you could make a 100 yards diversion to the right to visit Beck Hole, one of the moors' prettiest hamlets.
The main walk goes left at this crossing (signed Thackside). Cross West Beck and then climb a flight of well worn steps. At the top the path crosses the remains of another incline which in the mid 19th century carried iron ore from mines in the woods to a short lived ironworks below.
The path now bears left and climbs as a raised trod through Carr Wood. At a junction bear left and follow a winding course through the trees to emerge in fields overlooking Goathland and the moors beyond. The path continues to Julian Park Farm on the Goathland to Egton Bridge road. At the farm turn left and almost immediately right on the tarred lane leading to Hollin House Farm.
Two fields short of the farm the lane is crossed by the still recognisable ditch and bank of Julian Park, a deer park established by the de Mauleys in the early 13th century.
Beyond the farm the lane continues to Hazel Head. A raised green causeway is visible on the right in the two fields before the farm, the first trace of the Roman road. The sunken hollow way beyond the farm keeps close to the line as it drops to cross Wheeldale Gill.
Here the Roman road is signed over a footbridge and the famous excavated section is reached after following a cart track uphill for another 300 yards. An information board describes the road's purpose. It appears to link the Roman town of Malton via the marching camps near Cawthorne with the small Roman camp built on Lease Rigg some 5 miles to the north. From there it probably led to the coast where in the 4th century the Romans built a series of signal stations to guard against invasion.
The road is some 16ft wide and consists of large flat stones on raised foundations, once topped with a gravel surface which has long since eroded. It was cambered to assist run-off and beneath it ran culverts to provide drainage.
Our walk follows the road south. Some 150 yards beyond a gate it crosses a surviving culvert and there's a second after a similar distance. If you wish to travel the full length of the excavated section then continue ahead for half a mile until it merges with the lane from Stape to Egton.
The main walk turns sharp left at a low cairn 90 paces after the second culvert. The path descends across open moorland to a massive horizontal boulder known as Skivick Crag before dropping to cross Wheeldale Beck by 14 sturdy stepping stones. (If the beck is in spate and the stones are covered then you may wish to return via the Roman road to a footbridge over the beck close to the bridge over its tributary Wheeldale Gill which we have already crossed. Then go right up the lane to Hunt House - mapped).
On the other side of the stepping stones go through a gate and bear left to Wheeldale Lodge and follow its access track to Hunt House. Athough the door lintel bears the date 1685 the farmhouse appears in 14th century records.
Close to the entrance to the house a path bears off right up on to the moor and flattens out after about 250 yards. Ignore any tracks that branch up on to the higher moor and keep to the well used route which contours along the lower slopes below a couple of prominent cairns. There are outstanding views ahead to the green pastures and red roofed Victorian houses of Goathland and left, down the wooded gorge of West Beck.
In just over half a mile the path descends gently past the former village pinfold to a road junction close to the Mallyan Spout Hotel..
It's now an easy stroll past the 19th century parish church down the green to the village centre.