Lealholm, Danby and Beacon Hill

A terrific introduction to the Esk Valley and to two fine examples of Temple Moore's art. This walk makes use of the Esk Valley Railway, surely Britain's most scenic branchline. Leave your car in Lealholm and head up onto Beacon Hill, where you can enjoy spellbinding views over the moors and out to sea. After you drop back down into the dale, it's up to you whether you get the train back from Danby or press on to St Hilda's church, two miles away, and catch a train from Castleton. A walk for all levels of ability and all weathers!

  • Approximate distance: 5 or 9 miles
  • Approximate time: 3-6 hours
  • Terrain: Moderate to difficult - some steep ground and walking on exposed moorland
  • Maps: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL27 North York Moors Eastern Area; OL26 North York Moors Western Area; Ordnance Survey Landranger 94 Whitby and Esk Dale
  • Start: Lealholm
  • Parking: Car park in Lealholm
  • Temple Moore Trail locations: St James's, Lealholm; St Hilda's, Danby
  • Refreshments: Pubs in Lealholm, Danby and Castleton; bakery in Danby; shops and other facilities in Castleton
Lealholm, Danby and Beacon Hill


  1. The route given here starts in Lealholm and brings you back from Castleton on the train, but you can just as easily do things the other way round and start from Castleton — simply follow the directions in reverse. Likewise you can always cut the walk short and get on a train in Danby — that's the beauty of using the Esk Valley Railway. Assuming that you're walking the route the way it's described here, start at the car park in the middle of Lealholm village. St James's church is just across the road.
  2. Our onward route lies up the hill. Cross a bridge over the railway and pass the entrance to the station (an alternative start point if you're arriving by rail from further afield). The road climbs steadily, passing a few houses. Ignore a turning to the right. Not long afterwards, as the houses finally give way to open moorland, a road forks off to the left. In the crook of the two roads you'll see a footpath sign and the path itself snaking away across the moor.
  3. Follow the path through the heather. It eventually brings you out onto a rough track. Turn left. The same track will lead you all the way to the top of Beacon Hill, home to Danby Beacon, where fires have traditionally been lit to warn of invasion from the sea or to celebrate national occasions. As you go, look out for the heathery humps and bumps of prehistoric earthworks on either side of you.
  4. After a couple of miles the track meets a moorland road. Danby Beacon is over on your right, with an Ordnance Survey trig point at its foot. On a clear day the views from here are some of the finest in the North York Moors.
  5. From the Beacon take the road downhill for about 3/4 mile. Ignore a turning to the left with a bridleway opposite it. A short way further on, as the road bends, look out for a footpath sign on your right.
  6. Head away from the road towards a drystone wall. Pick up the line of the wall and follow it to the corner. Carry on alongside the wall, with moorland on your right and fields on your left. Soon the fields are replaced by woods. At the end of the trees strike out diagonally to your right across the moor, towards the obtuse angle made by two walls.
  7. Once over the wall the path bears slightly left and upslope before meeting another path. Contour left along the hillside, then bear right uphill to the wall. Cross over and keep going in the same direction beside the wall. The path eventually joins a vehicle track and leads out onto the road on the edge of the village of Danby.
  8. Turn right and walk into the village. At the junction by the Duke of Wellington Inn, turn left down the main street. The entrance to the railway station is further along on your right, if you're ending your walk here. Otherwise, keep on down the road as it crosses the railway and curves round into the neighbouring village of Ainthorpe.
  9. Take the second left up Brook Lane (the stream by the roadside is a giveaway!). Pass the Fox and Hounds and look out for a bridleway forking off to your right. Follow it into a field and strike diagonally over to the righthand wall. Pick up a track that leads to Rowantree Farm. Go between the buildings and then fork left on a public footpath.
  10. The path passes Plum Tree House and dips downhill to a field corner, then over the next field to emerge on a narrow lane. At the bottom of the lane take a left. When you reach a sharp bend, the access road to St Hilda's leads off to the right — you should be able to see the church across the field.
  11. From the parking area at the church a footpath heads north across the field and comes out on Burtree Lane. Go left to a T-junction where there's a bridleway on your right. Follow it through a long succession of narrow fields, bearing gradually over to the left. After you pass Field House, the path begins to bend to the right. By a clump of trees, take a bridleway leading off to the left along the edge of a particularly narrow field.
  12. The bridleway crosses a stream and then continues over a couple more fields to emerge on Castleton high street. Turn right downhill and go left on Station Road by the Castleton Tea Rooms. Follow the road all the way to the bottom of the hill where it crosses the railway. The entrance to the station is just the other side of the track.

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