To get the best of any walk in Eskdale it is most rewarding to be able to contrast its deep dale with the rugged moors that flank it. This 9 mile walk from Grosmont climbs to the high moorland to the south and threads the roadless Little Beck valley before returning across the farmland from Sleights.
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 5 hours or 2.5 from Sleights to Grosmont
Grade: moderate, one steep climb from Grosmont
Conditions: well-signed, few stiles
Refreshments: Grosmont, Sleights
OS Explorer Map: OL27
Originally published: 14 August 2015
A shorter walk of almost 4 miles is equally attractive. Take the train (4 each way daily) from Grosmont to Sleights and return on foot along the valley floor.
The longer walk starts from the busy level crossing in the centre of Grosmont (GR 827062) where the North Yorkshire Moors steam heritage line starts its journey to Goathland and Pickering. Go up the hill past the Station Tavern built in the 1830s to serve passengers using what was one of the earliest lines in the country.
In about 250 yards bear right on the Goathland road and go right again at the next junction. It's a steep climb but you will be rewarded by magnificent views back down to the dense woodland where the Esk is joined by the Murk Esk.
About a mile from Grosmont, at a cattle grid, turn left beyond a barrier on a quarry track. Some of the most durable building stone in England came from the crags on the right and from across the valley at Aislaby. Whitby Abbey and many of Whitby's handsome Georgian and Victorian houses are built of this Jurassic sandstone.
Our bridleway passes through a still working quarry at Lowther's Crag and continues as a track alongside a wall on the edge of Sleights Moor. In another 500 yards the best views of the walk can be enjoyed from the Millennium Beacon erected by Eskdalesiode cum Ugglebarnby Parish Council. There's an especially fine prospect of Whitby, its abbey and sea some 6 miles distant.
In another 400 yards our track diverges from the wall and in a similar distance you should ignore a way into a disused quarry on the right and instead bear left, following a track which soon swings round to the right and crosses rough open access land to the A 169 (Whitby to Pickering road) near the top of Blue Bank.
Turn right here some 50 paces up the road to two car parks. Ignore a trail which strikes out on to the moorland and instead go left on a newly cleared, signed path which drops down to a lane to Littlebeck village. Turn right down the lane which seems quite ordinary at first with a scattering of farms and fields but it then suddenly plunges into the secretive Little Beck valley in a series of sharp bends and precipitous gradients, all in less than half a mile.
At a junction go left, signed to Alum House. The lane leads to a ford over Little Beck (footbridge). There's another ford in a few yards which is usually dry. Cross the beck and immediately go right re-crossing it by stepping stones. After 100 yards our wayward route returns to the left bank by more stepping stones before a fifth crossing by a sturdy footbridge,.
Of course all this variety, in a sylvan setting, adds to the attraction of the walk, If however the beck is running high there's a dry shod alternative. Between the two fords a little bridge crosses the beck and is well signed up the drive to Throstle Nest. Turn right when you reach this 17th century house to return to the riverside and the sturdy footbridge.
From the bridge you'll notice the fine stone trod called Seggymires Lane climbing away on the right. We shall follow an even longer example on the return leg. Our walk continues downstream via a ladder stile.
For the next two miles the beckside path is easy to follow. At the pretty hamlet of Iburndale go left over the road bridge before continuing along the stream. When you come to the first houses of Sleights, go right at the end of the first street (Whin Green) and then left along the side of the beck opposite playing fields. Sleights station is another 5 minutes away.
To complete the circular walk or take up the shorter linear walk, cross the railway line at the station and then the Esk by a metal footbridge. Turn left and follow the road to its junction with the A 169 by Sleights Bridge, opened in 1937 after floods had destroyed its predecessor.
Cross straight over and follow a tarred lane signed St. Oswald's Retreat Centre. It climbs gently through a grove of stately beeches to Woodlands, an imposing Georgian house of he 1780s. Round the corner, and just before the castellated St. Oswald's, go left on a bridleway signposted with the leaping salmon symbol of the Esk Valley Walk.
For the next 2 and a half miles we follow one of the finest stone causeways in the national park. Still known as Monks Trod it was probably the medieval route between Grosmont Priory and Whitby Abbey. After Thistle Grove it's tarred for 250 yards but is then visible over two fields before crossing Lady Hilda's Beck. Turn right beyond the beck and then right again on a farm track. After 10 paces go left. The bridleway continues through Back Wood and along the edge of Hecks Wood to reach the 17th century Newbiggin Hall, once the home of the Salvins.
Continue along Old Park Lane which probably marks the boundary of Newbiggin's hunting demesne before bearing left after 200 yards on a bridleway where the Monks Trod is again well preserved.Then follow Grosmont Farm's access track to a tarred lane. Continue ahead to the Grosmont to Egton road. Turn left to re-cross the Esk and return to Grosmont.