Follow good paths and woodland tracks to discover wonderful panoramic vistas. Words and photographs by Terry Fletcher

Alf Wight, the Thirsk vet better known to millions of fans as James Herriot, believed that the view from the top of Sutton Bank was one of the finest in Yorkshire. He reckoned that over the years he had stopped off there on his rounds thousands of times to enjoy the extravagant vista. After doing this walk you’ll probably agree with him.


It starts from the Sutton Bank Visitor Centre at the top of the hill so the first and last miles have an edge-of-the-world feel as the ground drops away to give an eagle’s eye view over woodland, fields and pastures dotted with tiny red-roofed farms and villages stretching away across the Vale of York to the distant line of the Pennines.

From the visitor centre go back to the road and walk down the right hand side towards the brow of the hill to where a broad reinforced path, part of the Cleveland Way, makes its way round the edge of the escarpment. At first woodland blocks the view but soon the panorama is revealed with Gormire Lake below. After two miles (4km) a three-way finger post points to the bridleway to Boltby which descends a grassy notch to a gate leading into an area of cleared woodland. The path heads across this and then plunges downhill to cross a forest road and continues along the edge of the wood to another gate. An open section leads to a gate into another block of woodland.

Just as the path is about to leave the wood take a bridleway to Tang Hall heading leftwards just inside the woodland edge. Leave the wood by a gate and head down towards a farm but just before the buildings a signpost points the way past a large tree to a stile by an arrow in the far fence near the bottom corner. The path undulates through woodland, bracken and gorse before emerging in a field. Go straight ahead following marker posts to leave the field by a kissing gate to skirt round to the left of Southwoods Hall, hidden in its clump of ornamental trees.

At the end of the wooden boundary fence go through a kissing gate and turn right on a farm track for a few yards before taking a gate on the left to follow a bridleway sign. This swiftly leads through two more gates to follow the hedge to reach a reinforced track heading leftwards across the top of the field to join the main access track. At a cattle grid jink rightwards through a gate and follow the signs to Gormire Lake. After 100 yards it re-crosses the access road before forging ahead to enter woodland.

After about half a mile (1km) the track reaches a house. Just beyond turn left and at a junction of bridleways take the right hand one and follow it to the tree-shrouded banks of Gormire. Lakes are a rarity in Yorkshire where water usually seeps away through the limestone and this one had a dramatic birth when a huge landslip broke away from the escarpment leaving a clay bed to trap the water.

It is possible to cut short the walk by following the waymarked path to the visitor centre but our route continues along the main track following signs to the A170. At Gormire Farm turn right into the farmyard and then left beside a wooden outbuilding and through a gate to take an overgrown track marked by a discreet yellow arrow. This is tougher going than the bridleway but avoids a lengthy walk by the busy road. At the end of the relatively short overgrown section go through a gate and cross the field to a step stile opposite and down the next field to the A170.

Walk right, taking care with traffic, for 100 yards to where a gap in the opposite hedge indicates an easily-missed stile. Cross this and head down the field to pass to the right of the farm buildings, cross the access road and take the bridleway over a footbridge and turn in front of the farm as directed. At the other side turn right up the field to a wood, which the path enters to reach a forest road. Turn left along this and follow it as it weaves through the gap between Hood Hill and Roulston Scar. After a little over a mile (2km) it reaches a tarmac lane. Turn left to climb steeply uphill to the large car park at the foot of the White Horse.

From the car park take a flight of steps which climb beside the figure. Close up it is hard to grasp the shape of the horse but you can appreciate the work that goes into keeping it visible. The slope is so steep that the volunteers who periodically ‘groom’ the horse have to tether themselves with ropes. The path continues along the horse’s back, plain and clear all the way back to the visitor centre with the bonus of watching gliders taking off and landing on the grass airfield at the top of the hill.


Start/finish: Visitor centre at Sutton Bank, also served by the regular Moorsbus service

Distance: 9miles/14km

Time: 4-5 hours

Terrain: Reinforced paths and woodland tracks. Steep climb up beside White Horse

Refreshments: None en route. Cafe at visitor centre, pubs at Hambleton and Kilburn

Map: OS OL26 North York Moors Western