We were looking for a shortish walk from the North York Moors National Park visitor centre as my wife was recovering from a nasty cold. After buying the leaflet Walks from the Moors Centre – we saw it detailed a 4 mile walk which included a castle and a stroll up onto a Moor top which sounded perfect. I quickly plotted the route on my OS Maps App and found out it was actually 5.24 miles, but we had all day so decided to give it a go.
Parking up at the Danby North York Moors Centre, we grabbed a quick coffee at the Od Danby Lodge a former shooting lodge, then headed out through the grounds of the centre crossing a little footbridge over the River Esk.
There is a great statue of a water Bailiff next to the Bridge – the facial expression looks so realistic.
We continued along a path and over a railway crossing until we met a road where we turned left.
The next stage of the walk is along a road. We kept the dog on a lead but were only passed by about 3 cars over the next half an hour.
It was not long before we reached Duck Bridge. This narrow humpback bridge bears the coat of arms of the Neville family who owned the manor of Danby in the 15th century. The original bridge was built in 1396, but the one which remains was re-built in the 18th Century by George Duck – hence its name!
As we continued down the road, Danby Castle starts to come into view on the hillside. We continued to get closer and saw that there was actually a wedding on so I couldn’t get any closer for more pictures.
The history behind the castle is that it was part of Lord Latimer’s estate in the 14th century. Whilst the castle has a commanding view down the Esk Valley, it was always really a fortified manor house as opposed to a castle. It was basically Lord Latimer showing off his wealth and importance in the area.
When the castle was built - the phrase “master of all he surveys” would have stood for Lord Latimer as his lands did stretch as far as the eye could see and further.
The castle was set around an inner courtyard, the castle had strong outer walls and angled towers at each of its four corners. There is a farmhouse built as an extension to the South West Tower and today the building is part of a working farm which can be hired out for functions. There is a banqueting hall and the Danby Court Leet still meet there.
The Lady of the Manor in the 16th century was a certain Katherine Parr – you may have heard of her as she became the 6th wife of King Henry VIII (one who survived!). Apparently when King Henry came a courting he was caught in a storm in Danby and had to shelter at a local farm which became known as Stormy Hall.
After leaving the castle we walked for another mile along the road, past Crossley Gate Farm, Crossley Side Farm until we reached Slade Hill House. The road gently rises and there are great views to the left.
Where the road starts to climb up over to Rosedale, a public footpath heads off to the right for a short steep climb up the moor side onto Danby Rigg.
As we started to ascend the path proceeded between two banks which were lined with heather. The heather was in bloom and again it made for some great photographs back down the valley.
Once we reached the Moor top – the path over Danby Rigg was a real treat with the bell heather just about still in bloom, but the ling and cross leafed heather now fully out.
The path follows and old medieval pathway and the area would have been habited from the bronze age up to the 1300’s. In fact the OS Map shows a lot of evidence of ancient settlement.
We passed more recent boundary stones, ancient field boundaries and dykes. But part way across we came across a ring cairn and standing stone dating to the bronze age. The ring cairn was excavated a number of years ago and two cremation urns were found. The stone is roughly carved and nearly 6 ft tall, but sadly has been defaced with some recent carvings.
We dropped down off the Moor past some old quarries, rowan trees and then two more recent tennis courts!
We came into the village of Ainsthorpe.
It was about 1pm when we arrived and whilst we had planned to have lunch back at Danby, the call for a pint was too much and as the sun was out we grabbed a table outside.
I had a cracking BLT and a pint of Timmy Taylors Landlord and my wife Liz, something far more healthy involving humous and beetroot!
The pub is an old inn which dates to 1555. Outside there are some quoits courts which is a traditional game involving throwing metal or rope rings over a set distance to land on a spike or pin (sometimes also known as a hob). The land lady explained how the games can sometimes get very competitive!
From Ainsthorpe, we walked back through the village past Kadelands House and a field full of Highland cattle until we reached the path back on the left back to the Moors Centre, over the railway. We re-crossed the footbridge and headed back to the car park.
This was a great walk of just over 5 miles with great scenery and a good dose of history, made even more special by the heather being in bloom. See below for the map if you want to try it….