The Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has rolling parkland, well managed woodland and rich farmland. The area is well worth exploring as it also has a network of rights of way which, some 10 years ago, were improved with new stiles and gates (mostly the latter), as well as signposts which usually give destinations and distances. Most are in good condition but underused.
Distance: 9.5 miles
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: well signed but underused paths and bridleways, quiet roads
Refreshments: Terrington, Castle Howard
OS Explorer Maps 300
Originally published: 2 September 2016
Our 9 and a half mile walk starts in Terrington, one of the hills' most attractive villages with honey coloured stone cottages with red pantile roofs and a church with many Norman features. We then walk eastwards to Castle Howard, use the rights of way across the parkland which encircles the house before returning through Coneysthorpe.
Our route starts from the Village Shop on the Green (GR 672706) half way down the village street. Go down Mowthorpe Lane, south eastwards which soon rewards the walker with views south into the Vale of York. After about half a mile and just before a Birkdale Fishing sign look out right for a view of York Minster some 12 miles distant. Much closer are the towers of Sheriff Hutton Castle, former home of Richard III, whose infant son is buried in the church.
The lane now descends into the pretty valley of Mowthorpe Dale with its two large and popular fishing lakes. Head past Low Mowthorpe Farm to the car park and continue ahead through a gate on a bridleway which climbs out of the dale to Brandrith Farm.
Turn right and follow the road for half a mile to a path on the left, signed Brandrith Wood. After about 100 yards the right of way switches to the left side of the hedge before turning sharp left towards the trees. At the end of the wood the path joins The Stray, the nearly 5 mile long ride which acts as a grand entrance avenue to Castle Howard. It is punctuated by a line of monuments on such a grand scale that visitors coming in from York and the south cannot fail to have been impressed.
Turn left uphill to the Gate House or Pyramid Gate of 1719, one of the many grand follies designed by John Vanbrugh for the 3rd Earl of Carlisle. The gate is a central point for a castellated wall with bastion towers of Mediterranean aspect stretching out along the ridge on either side. Just before you pass through the arch look back down the road to the equally impressive Carrmire Gate of the late 1720s, nearly a mile away, and, another mile distant, the column on a hill top erected to the seventh earl in 1870.
Some 300 yards on the other side of the gate is the 100ft obelisk of 1714 where today's visitors turn right to the house. The ride continues for a further mile to large, rusticated gate pillars at the turn for Coneysthorpe. If you wish to reduce your walk by about one and a half miles then follow the ride which has broad grass verges and offers the opportunity of refreshments at the visitor entrance in the former stable block (mapped).
The main walk turns right by the Gate House along the lane towards Gaterley. There are sweeping views ahead towards The Wolds, but one's attention is drawn to the monuments with which the Howards covered the landscape and which helped to earn Vanbrugh the suggested epitaph of "Lie heavy on him, Earth! For he laid many heavy loads on thee". Away on the right is the newly restored Pyramid of 1728 by Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh's assistant. Soon after there's a good view of the house itself, on the left.
In another 250 yards we turn left, signed Coneysthorpe. Three of the finest follies come into view. Away to the right is Hawksmoor's Mausoleum of 1728, the burial place of the 3rd earl and many of his descendants. It was described by Pevsner in his 'North Riding' as"extremely noble in design and "of a majestic simplicity".
On the hillside to the left is the Temple of the Four Winds of 1724, by Vanbrugh. The two buildings together were said by Sacheverell Sitwell in his 'British Architects and Craftsmen' to be as" beautiful as anything similar in Europe". The path now descends to the New River Bridge of 1743, with its rusticated decoration and colossal heads, one of the finest of 18th century bridges, even though it serves only farm vehicles and walkers.
The walk returns to normality after this feast of architectural treasures, with gentle landscaped pastureland alternating with densely planted woodland. Follow the green track over the hill past the Temple and down the side of the massive park wall to a white gate where you enter Ray Wood. In a few yards go half left away from the tractor track along a path which soon joins the the lane from Coneysthorpe to Bog Hall. If the path is blocked with brambles as it was when I walked the route, then stay on the tractor track and turn left when you join the lane.
Then follow the lane through to the Malton to Coneysthorpe road. Turn left into the Victorian estate village with its oblong green and a couple of welcome seats.
Our walk continues beyond the houses to the gate pillars described on the shorter walk. Cross straight over The Stray on the road to Terrington which we follow for less than half a mile with the estate wall on the left. Where the road swings to the right into trees go left on a path signed to Ganthorpe. The path at first follows the edge of the wood but after some 200 yards bears to the left of a rough corridor of land to the edge of Cum Hag Wood. Turn left along the edge of the wood for some 200 yards before entering it at a stile.
The right of way descends through the trees. After leaving the wood through a gate it crosses two fields to a junction with a bridleway. Go straight ahead keeping a hedge on your left which is then crossed by a stile in about 250 yards. With the hedge now on the right the path soon joins the grassy Broats Lane. At a road junction in 200 yards go straight ahead uphill into Terrington.