A Stroll with Stuart - Up to Danby Beacon

Danby Beacon
Danby Beacon

With nature having a variety of colourful tricks up her sleeve at this time of the year, I very much recommend this gorgeous seven mile walk around upper Rosedale.

By the time this appears in the Whitby Gazette, the summer (March and late September this year) will be a vague memory and the first flakes of snow may be falling on the highest moors.

So, ransack your wardrobe for your kagoule for this seven-mile circular walk from Danby.

That’s not too far, but there is one seriously stiff 500-feet climb from the valley floor up to Danby Beacon, which will leave you cursing the idiot who suggested you should wear your kagoule.

I started from Danby Station on a warm and hazy day, though if you prefer you can start from the Moors National Park Centre. (Please jog on the spot until everybody else arrives).

From the station, turn right on the main road and cross the rail and river bridges. From the latter I saw what I thought was an otter scuttling along the riverbank.

Maybe I should have gone to Specsavers, but it seemed too large for anything else and I couldn’t get a second glimpse as it disappeared under the bridge and refused to come back out – possibly a bit wary of the big lummox leaning precariously over the parapet, 100 yards after the bridge, take a signposted path on the left leading uphill to quickly join Easton Lane.

Turn left down this minor road and enjoy the views of Danby Rigg and Danby Castle in the distance.

Shortly after dipping down to pass Kadelands House, take a signed path left and follow the track over the railway line, then up to a bridge over the river into the grounds of the incongruously named Moors National Park Centre.

Here you’ll find trails and play areas, art exhibitions, a tourist information centre/shop and an excellent cafe where I enjoyed a pot of tea and a fairy bun.

The centre remains open throughout winter, though you should probably check for specific times. Similarly, the cafe has reduced opening times after the half-term holiday – typically 11am to 3.30pm.

Turn right on the main road from the Moors Centre, passing the car park on your left, 100 yards or so after bending left, go through a gate in the hedge on your left signposted for Lealholm, then diagonally uphill to the wall in the far corner.

With the wall on your left, cross a couple of stiles and follow the path above Park House to soon enter a farmyard with more dogs than you can shake a stick at. And you probably shouldn’t.

The track soon joins a metalled road which you should follow for a mile or so rising slowly uphill and revealing lovely views of Eskdale and Little Fryupdale away to your right.

This tiny road leads to the village of Houlsyke which, as a friend of mine reminds me every time we pass it on the train, is the only sizeable hamlet in Eskdale without a pub. I do wonder what happened though to the guy who, a few years ago, reportedly set up a microbrewery in Houlsyke. Perhaps he drank the lot himself and is still snoring on the settee with a slice of pizza stuck to his shirt.

Shortly before the road dips down to Houlsyke, a signed path on your left (slightly to the right of a wider track), leads up to a ladder stile over a wall.

Brace yourself for a long slog uphill keeping a wall to your left and head through two gates before emerging on to moorland where you soon turn right on a minor road to spend quality time gasping for breath.

As you admire the view across the valley, pause to consider why the human body, on reaching 50 years of age, begins to judder and creak like the Tin Man on the Wizard of Oz, and make a mental note to eat fewer fairy buns in future. That should sort it.

After passing Oakley Walls Farm on your right, immediately opposite a gated road going back downhill, turn left on a wide track into the heather.

You will soon see that this leads directly to Danby Beacon, standing proudly at the highest point in the distance.

The Beacon dates back to the 17th Century when it was first erected to warn of a marine invasion from the French, had a lease of life as a radar station in the Second World War and was rebuilt to reflect local history in 2008.

The vantage point affords wonderful views across to Scaling Dam, flotillas of French warships in the North Sea, and also inland towards the high moors of North Yorkshire and North to the last few puffs of smoke from industrial Teesside.

After a gentle mile downhill on the road to Danby the road suddenly turns sharp left. Take a path to the right alongside the stone wall ahead of you.

Follow the path/wall as it turns left then downhill to the secluded valley of Clitherbeck.

Cross the stream at the bottom of the hill using a footbridge 150 yards to the right of the wall, then bear left over a stile and diagonally up to a gate taking you into young woodland.

Emerge through a second gate, then go right up to another gate in the wall.

If you are headed back to the Moors Centre, reject that gate and head alongside the wall to another gate into mature woods.

The left fork on the distinct path in the woods will take you back to the visitor centre for extra cake-related fun.

For Danby village, go through that gate in the wall at the top of the field, head uphill through bracken, then join a wider track heading down and left to the excellence of the Stonehouse Bakery Cafe, or one of the best pubs in the Esk Valley, the Duke of Wellington. Please use the bins provided, for your kagoule.