Esk Valley Loop

A variation on an old favourite. This ride has its share of ascents, but what you'll most remember is the long freewheeling section from Danby Beacon down to the Moors Centre, with the wind in your hair and stupendous views in every direction. For a spot of pre- or post-ride contemplation, there's St James's in Lealholm, a contender for the title of the Temple Moore church with the most idyllic setting.

  • Approximate distance: 9 miles
  • Approximate time: 2 hours
  • Terrain: Moderate - some steep hills. Almost entirely on mettled roads. The off-road section over Beacon Hill can be omitted in favour of a less bumpy alternative route on a quiet moorland road
  • Maps: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL27 North York Moors Eastern Area; Ordnance Survey Landranger 94 Whitby and Esk Dale
  • Start: Lealholm
  • Parking: Car park in Lealholm
  • Temple Moore Trail locations: St James's, Lealholm
  • Refreshments: Pubs in Lealholm and Danby; bakery in Danby; tearoom at the Moors National Park Centre
Esk Valley Loop


  1. From the car park in the village centre, turn right up the hill on Eller Gates. St James's church is over the road. Cross over the railway and pass the entrance to the station (an alternative starting point if you're arriving by rail).
  2. The road climbs steadily, past a few houses. Ignore a turning to the right. Not long afterwards, as the houses give way to open moorland, a road forks away to the left.
    About half a mile further along this road, there is a lane leading off to the left. If you want to miss out the off-road section, here's your opportunity. Stay on the lane, ignoring a turning off to the left and one to the right. At a second turning off to the right, rejoin the longer route at direction 6 below.
  3. Continue until you emerge on a rough stony track. Turn left. The same track will take you all the way to the summit of Beacon Hill, home to Danby Beacon, where fires have traditionally been lit to warn of invasion from sea or to celebrate public 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 among the finest in the North York Moors.
  5. From the Beacon take the road downhill for about a mile of untrammelled freewheeling. Ignore a turning to the left. A short way further on, the road bends down to a junction. Turn right.
  6. Keep going downhill — no pedalling required! You'll arrive at a road junction behind the Moors National Park Centre.
    The Moors Centre is the North York Moors National Park's flagship visitor centre. Housed in a former hunting lodge of the Dawnay Estate, it occupies an idyllic spot on the banks of the River Esk. It's an ideal way to find out more about the Moors. There's a permanent exhibition, an art gallery and a tourist information centre. If you're worn out from all that freewheeling, there are beautiful grounds to picnic in and a cafe with outside tables. No one will mind if you doze off over your teacake. For more information call 01439 772737.
  7. Turn right and follow the road into Danby village. At the Duke of Wellington Inn, turn left down the main street. Cross the railway and the River Esk and take a very short bridleway on the left as a cut-through to join Easton Lane. Turn left and follow the lane to Duck Bridge, a single-arched packhorse bridge dating from the 14th century.
  8. Cross the river again and turn right at the road junction. For the home stretch, simply follow the road you're on for about 2 miles, whizzing through the hamlet of Houlsyke and crossing the railway four times before arriving back in the village of Lealholm.

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