North Yorkshire walk - Hawnby

Hawnby Hill, North York Moors National Park Photo: Alamy

Hawnby Hill, North York Moors National Park Photo: Alamy - Credit: Alamy Stock Photo

Step out on a walk with impressive views and a piece of Wesleyan history

Beware adders Photo: Terry Fletcher

Beware adders Photo: Terry Fletcher - Credit: Archant

For such a small village Hawnby packs in a lot of history. This small Ryedale community, which seems to stand aloof from the busier bits of the North York Moors National Park, was mentioned in the Domesday Book and its tiny church dates back to at least the 12th century.

Arden Hall, passed on this walk, is now the home of the Earls of Mexborough but its most famous resident was Mary, Queen of Scots, who stayed here briefly on the way to her execution in 1567. Another famous visitor was the indefatigable John Wesley, founder of Methodism who preached here, leading to the construction of the large Wesleyan chapel in 1770, which seems far too big for the present population.


1. From the church turn left up the road to the junction and then right signed to Hawnby. Carry on up the hill until opposite Manor Farm on the outskirts of the village and turn left up a signed footpath, which leads up a cart track traversing the hillside. In front and slightly to the left is the wooded pudding basin of Comb Hill which the walk encircles.

When the track turns uphill fork left through a metal gate with a yellow footpath arrow. The path skirts the top of a wood before crossing a pasture and leaving by a gate to join the access track of Carr House. Pass below the house and go through a gate to follow a grassy track downhill to enter woodland by a gate. This is a delightful section filled with deciduous trees, mainly oaks, which make a pleasant change form the serried ranks of conifers which cloak so much of the national park.

2. When the track comes to a gate leaving the wood it meets a bridleway. Ignore the gate and instead turn downhill. At the foot of the slope the bridleway crosses a surprisingly sturdy wooden bridge spanning the River Rye and then immediately turns left down the bank and climbs to a gate. Immediately beyond it turn right to cross another footbridge and go through a gate. On the far side turn right over a third footbridge and follow the clear track up through the wood. It escapes the trees by a gate and continues ahead across one more field to reach the access track of Mount Pleasant Farm. Turn left along this. Once free of the trees the views open up, particularly towards Hawnby Hill across the valley which looks much more impressive than its 978ft/278m would suggest.

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3. Follow the track past the farm and downhill for a couple of hundred yards to take a gate on the right by a group of trees on a slight bend. Cross two more fields and at the far side go through a gate and take a rough forestry road downhill. It eventually reaches farm buildings, cottages and a road. Turn left along this to swiftly reach the impressive 17th century Arden Hall. In front of it turn right uphill to a road and go right again, signed to Kepwick although the ‘Unsuitable for motors’ warning seems like good advice. The next half mile is a stiff pull, initially through woodland and then passing old quarry workings with fine views down into Thorodale below.

4. Almost immediately past these take a cart track on the left which climbs onto the open moor. In complete contrast to the earlier wooded sections, the track now strikes out across the plateau with extensive views in every direction. The walking is now easy and it is possible to stride out along the wide clear track.

5. When it reaches a stand of trees take a bridleway on the left with a helpful bridleway sign and a slightly less encouraging warning to beware of adders. This is another clear open section of very easy walking where it is possible to gobble up the distance. It passes the isolated farmstead of High Buildings before beginning a rougher, gradual descent down a stony track to reach Sunnybank Farm.

6. Opposite this a finger post points the way downhill. The path is hard to follow on the ground but head diagonally leftwards down the pasture aiming for a gate leading into the woods. Just before reaching it take a path down the side of the fence across a stile down the next rough field aiming for a yellow arrow at the bottom. Cross another field following arrows to arrive at the riverbank and take the Dallicar footbridge to recross the Rye to find yourself back at the car.

Compass points

Start/finish: Hawnby Church

Distance: 7 miles/11km

Terrain: Woodland and field paths, green lanes. Some steep uphill sections

Time: 3-4 hours

Parking: Roadside by the church. Please show consideration to church-goers on days of worship

Refreshment: Tea shop and pub in Hawnby

Map: OS OL26 North York Moors Westerns Area