Kirkbymoorside to Gillamoor & Kirkdale

A busy town with an ancient church, the scanty remains of two castles and a good choice of pubs and cafes, Kirkbymoorside also makes an excellent centre for exploring the nearby landscape to the north and west.


Distance: 8 miles

Time: 5 hours

Grade: easy

Conditions: well signed field paths and bridleways

Refreshments: Kirkbymoorside, Gillamoor

OS Explorer Map OL26

Originally published: 21 April 2017


We start our 8 mile walk from the Memorial Hall in the Market Place, opposite the Black Swan with its distinctive porch dated 1624 (GR 696866).


Walk up the main street past Buckingham House, named for George Villiers, Duke of Buckingham, disgraced favourite of Charles II who died here in 1687 after falling ill whilst hunting on the moors.


At the end of High Market Place continue ahead up Castlegate, the road leading to the 14th century castle of the Nevilles. Where it forks bear right up Park Lane. On the hillside 200 yards away to the right is the still moated site of the 12th century castle of the de Stutevilles.


Like Buckingham both medieval families enjoyed deer hunting and their hunting park covered a large area to the north of Low Park Farm which we reach in half a mile. Continue past the farm for another 400 yards to a junction where turn left on Back of Parks Road, which marked the eastern boundary of the hunting demesne. Today the lane separates arable fields from Hang Wood, the dense forest which covers the steep slopes of Douthwaite Dale. There are tantalising glimpses of the dale through the trees and, after half a mile, widespread views of the high moors ahead.


When the lane turns sharp left continue ahead on a field path into Gillamoor, emerging by the parish church of St. Aidan, restored by James Smith in 1802. Just beyond the church to the right is the Surprise View, one of Yorkshire's most celebrated panoramas. The ground falls away some 300ft down to Lowna Mill where Farndale, to the left, turns into Douthwaite Dale. Beyond Lowna rise the heather covered expanses of Hutton and Blakey ridges. To the right is The Nab, one of the limestone Tabular Hills.


All this magnificent landscape can also be appreciated by taking the footpath opposite the viewpoint where there are seats for pausing and picnicking.


The walk continues through the village, two lines of limestone cottages and the Reckon Forge of 1828. It is then an easy half mile road walk into Fadmoor and past a large marker stone on the green, dated 1823 and recut for the Millennium.


Turn left on the Kirkbymoorside road and almost immediately right on Starfits Lane. In another 100 yards there's a choice of routes (both mapped). One is to take a path which strikes off right across fields to link with the lane to Sleightholmedale. Then turn left uphill to join the road route at a left hand bend. The alternative is to continue along the road for about 300 yards before going right on the tree shaded lane Green Lane to the same bend where the other route is rejoined.


From this corner follow the Tabular Hills walk signed to Hold Caldron. For the next half mile there are glorious view ahead  over the Vale of Pickering to the distant Wolds. Then the track descends in trees into Kirkdale, the valley of the Hodge Beck, and the peaceful setting of the 19th century Hold Caldron Mill. A plaque dated 1734 from an earlier building commemorates Matthew Foord, father of Joseph Foord, famous for his skills in constructing a series of watercourses connecting moorland springs to the waterless villages of the Tabular Hills.


Cross the bridge and follow the lane along the valley. In some 500 yards it starts to climb, past a 19th century limekiln. At the top follow a bridleway left into trees and then through a gate and down the edge of a large field to a tarred lane.


Turn left and left again to visit the secluded St. Gregory's Minster sheltered by cypresses surrounding the "Christ's Acre" which has belonged to the church for at least 1,000 years. An original sundial in the south porch proclaims the church's restoration by Orm in the 11th century. The tower is Saxon too and in the simple nave are two fine coffin lids with Anglo-Saxon interlace and scroll patterns.


Now return to the lane and go left down to a ford with footbridge over Hodge Beck. This is often dry for, if the river is low, the water disappears a mile upstream and flows entirely underground through fissures in the limestone, returning to the surface below the ford.


On the other side is Kirkdale's other claim to fame. In 1821 workmen found the bones of hyenas, wolves, rhinoceroses and more than 20 other animals in a cave which they were quarrying for road stone. Alerted to the finds, Dr. Buckland of Oxford University visited what was left of the cave and proved that the bones dated from about 70,000 BC when the climate in 'Britain' was tropical. They had been dragged into the cave over many years by scavenging hyenas.


Sadly quarrying continued and all you can see today are two narrow apertures which were branch passages of the original cave high up in what is now a limestone cliff.


We continue up the lane to a crossroads. Go through a gate on the far left corner and follow a path along the fence side to the entrance to the dry valley of Robin Hood's Howl ( a howl is a hollow). Turn right out of the valley and follow the well signed footpath mostly across the middle of series of fields towards Kirkbymoorside. The right of way enters a housing estate where bear left down the unsigned Shaw Drive, Where it bends right go left on a tarred path and then right, down Back Lane to Dale End. Turn right up to High Market Place.

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