North York Moors Walk - Rosedale

Enjoy some of the finest walking in the North York Moors National Park Words and photographs by Terry Fletcher


Picturesque Rosedale Abbey at the junction of Northdale and Rosedale itself is not most people’s idea of what a mining village ought to look like. Picture postcard cottages huddle round the tree-shaded village green and the surrounding hills are dotted with sheep. Today the community is firmly on the tourist trail but less than a century ago it presented a very different, aggressively industrial face to the world.

In the 1850s high quality ironstone was discovered beneath the hills and the population boomed from a few hundred to some 3,000 in less than 20 years. A now long-dismantled railway was driven across the moors to carry away the ore and at its peak there were almost 5,000 miners and their families in the dale.

The mines closed in 1920 and happily for today’s visitors at least, the village slumped back into rural tranquillity and now offers some of the finest walking in the North York Moors National Park.

But one mystery remains for many visitors – where’s the abbey? Strictly speaking there never was one. The ‘abbey’ was in fact a Cistercian priory inhabited by nuns for 400 years until Henry VIII ordered the Dissolution of the Monasteries. Over the centuries the buildings slowly disappeared as the stone was recycled to build today’s cottages and even the present day church. The vestiges of one of the priory’s towers can, however, still be seen at the rear of the church.

This walk quickly leaves the village to enjoy spectacular panoramas of the two dales as well as some delightful beck-side scenery and a brief exploration of more recent conifer plantations.

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From the village green head up the Castleton road past the car park and take a footpath on the right, signed to Northdale. As it follows the stream it curves leftwards, crossing several fields though never straying too far from the beck. This is an attractive route at any time of year but is particularly lovely in spring when swathes of daffodils are in bloom and flowering in such extravagant numbers that they rival their more famous neighbours in Farndale a few miles to the east.

After crossing a bridge a signpost points the permissive path to Northdale. Take this rather than the slightly higher public path which climbs the hillside. Eventually the path crosses a new wooden bridge and continues straight ahead towards Northdale beside a stone wall. The bridleway crosses a steep farm road and then continues in a steep rising traverse across a field to a gate with stunning views of Upper Northdale.

Carry on up a ghyll to emerge by a pond and ruined farm buildings. When the path reaches the plantation immediately behind the ruin do not enter the trees but double back leftwards up the steep dirt road. At the top turn look for a gate on the right which leads onto the main road.

Turn right along the road for 20 yards to take a gate on the left signed to Hill Cottages. A path drops down into the woodland and the wide stony track weaves through the trees for about half a mile with occasional tantalising views through the trees down into Rosedale itself. After a sharp bend and crossing a sometimes dry stream the track appears to end but a narrow footpath leads leftwards into the woods. After a couple of hundred yards at a stream crossing keep a sharp lookout for an unmarked path which plunges downhill into the trees and leads sketchily to a stile by Clough House Farm.

Follow the diversion signs to pass below the farm buildings to reach its access road which is followed to a t-junction. Turn left downhill to the hamlet of Rosedale East. At the road turn right past the Methodist Church and after another hundred yards take the path on the left marked To River Seven down the metalled road by Craven Garth Cottages.

Continue in a straight line past the cottages and farm buildings to drop down to cross a footbridge over the somewhat grandiosely-named ‘river’ and then climb the opposite bank to a gate and stile leading onto a farm track signed to Thorgill. Turn left along this and follow it through Thorgill, where it becomes metalled.

At the far side of the hamlet on a left hand bend by some allotments a path rises from the apex of the bend through a series of fields to regain the road. Here turn left for a hundred yards and then take the signposted path on the right to Dunn Carr Bridge. Cross the bridge back over the Seven and then turn right downstream.

The path soon climbs slightly to cross fields and pass above a caravan site. Where the path emerges onto the access track continue straight ahead to Rosedale Abbey.


Start/finish: Village green, Rosedale Abbey Distance: Six miles/9.5km

Time: 3-4 hours Terrain: Field paths and farm tracks, short woodland stretch

Parking: Small free car parks in Rosedale Abbey or on road parking near the green

Refreshments: Caf�s and hotel in Rosedale Abbey