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10 of the Best Circular Walks in North Yorkshire

· Emma Cooke · Culture

Have you ticked these circular walks off your list?

Brimham Rocks

These circular routes will take you over babbling becks and through breathtaking moorland, before dropping you back off at the start.

God’s Own County is just waiting to be explored and these easy-to-follow circular walks will take you on a swooping trip around its best bits before bringing you right back where you began. From serene moorland treks across the North York Moors to countryside rambles in the Yorkshire Dales, these are 10 of the best circular walks in North Yorkshire.

Roseberry Topping and Cook’s Monument

Roseberry Topping, North York Moors

The 7-mile Great Ayton Circular is one of the most picture-perfect circular walks in North Yorkshire. Starting from the village of Great Ayton, you’ll make your way up a stone track to the top of Roseberry Topping, which promises one of the most expansive panoramic views in the region – you can even see the North Sea on a clear day. From here, you’ll follow a clear track through heather moorland to Cook’s Monument, dedicated to the world-famous captain, before passing through dappled woodland back down to the village, where you can refuel with a pint at the Royal Oak.

Start at The Royal Oak, 123 High Street, Great Ayton, Middlesbrough, North Yorkshire, TS9 6BW. Check out the route.

Kettlewell and Starbottom

Kettlewell

Copyright Keith Laverack licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.

Set in the heart of the North Yorkshire Dales, this 5-mile circular is one of the most popular walks in the region. It starts in the village of Kettlewell with a few hills at the start, before flattening out along the River Wharfe. You’ll pass through lush countryside until you cross a bridge to get to the village of Starbottom – you’ll find The Fox and Hounds Inn and its picturesque outdoor seating area at this halfway point. The second part of the walk heads back to Kettlewell and is a little higher up the valley, so you’ll get spectacular views of drystone walls and the river cutting through swathes of open countryside below.

Start at Kettlewell, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 5RW. Check out the route.

Robin Hood’s Bay and Boggle Hole

Robin Hood's Bay, Whitby, North Yorkshire

With breathtaking sea views along the coastline, this 4-mile circular is easily one of the best walks in North Yorkshire. It starts from the Station Car Park, just above the fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay, and continues along the disused Scarborough to Whitby railway line. After around two miles, you’ll head down the steps into the tiny Boggle Hole, an impressive little cove. Then it’s onto the last stretch, which follows a section of the famous Cleveland Way and offers stunning sea views until you return to the village for a well-deserved pitstop at 17th-century pub Ye Dolphin.

Start at Station Road, Robin Hood’s Bay, North Yorkshire, YO22 4RE. Check out the route.

Hole of Horcum and Levisham Moor

Levisham Moor, Newtondale, North York Moors

One of the region’s most picturesque walks, this circular walk cuts right through the North York Moors and passes one of the area’s most famous landmarks. The 6.5-mile route starts in the sleepy village of Levisham and continues along the high side of a steep valley. Following Levisham Beck, you’ll head upstream for around two miles until you reach the famous Hole of Horcum – it’s a deep gorge nicknamed the ‘Devil’s Punchbowl’. From here, you can also spot the RAF Fylingdales radar station. To round off the walk, you’ll trek across the heather-filled Levisham Moor before heading back down into the village to refuel at The Horseshoe Inn.

Start at Saltergate Car Park, Lockton, Pickering, North Yorkshire, YO18 7NR. Check out the route.

May Beck and Falling Foss

Falling Foss waterfall

If you want an easygoing wander through a pretty, enchanted woodland, this is the circular walk for you. Starting from the Forestry Commission car park, the route winds through glorious oak trees and has a hidden 18th-century tea garden cafe that looks out over the May Beck stream. After stopping for a slice of cake, follow the path to the Falling Foss, a beautiful waterfall that cascades over a 30-foot drop. Stop to take in the natural drama, the chances are you’ll hear it before you even see it. After this halfway point, you’ll snake back through the trees beside the brimming beck to come full circle back to the car park.

Start at Forestry Commission Car Park, Sneaton, Whitby, North Yorkshire, YO22 5JE. Check out the route.

Ripley and Hampsthwaite

This picturesque walk might be 9-miles long, but it’s wonderfully easygoing and is packed with historical landmarks. It starts in the quaint village of Ripley, home to the famous Ripley Castle, and follows part of the popular Nidderdale Way. After passing through endless countryside that stretches out for miles, you’ll reach the River Nidd down in Hampsthwaite. From here, it’s a riverside walk through to Birstwith, where you’ll cross the fairytale-like New Bridge, before you curve back round through swathes of green countryside with moss-covered dry-stone walls to reach Ripley.

Start at Main Street, Ripley, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 3AX. Check out the route.

Horton-in-Ribblesdale and Pen-y-ghent

Pen-y-ghent, Three Peaks

This 9-mile route is a great shout for walkers who love a challenge, as you’ll clamber up Pen-y-ghent, one of the most physically demanding of the Three Peaks. You’ll start in the picturesque Horton-in-Ribblesdale, before heading to the base of the peak, where you’ll meet a steep ascent to the summit, with plenty of scrambling and clambering opportunities. When you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views and on a clear day, you can see the other two peaks, Whernside and Inglebrorough. To complete the circuit, head down the Pennine Way path and stop by the famous Pen-y-ghent Cafe.

Start at Horton-in-Ribblesdale Yorkshire Dales National Car Park, Yorkshire Dales National Park Centre, Horton-in-Ribblesdale, North Yorkshire, BD24 0HF. Check out the route.

Brimham Rocks and Pateley Bridge

Brimham Rocks

This 8.4-mile walk will take you out into the open countryside that surrounds Brimham Rocks, so you can explore the intriguing boulders before or after you’ve completed the route. You’ll venture along country paths littered with tiny cottages and green meadows before reaching the serene Glasshouses Dam. Next, it’s onwards to Pateley Bridge, where cosy pubs like The Crown await. From there, you’ll follow the Panorama Walk up to a striking viewpoint with a bench to rest your legs. Look out for llamas in the fields as you continue on back to Brimham Rocks.

Start at Brimham Rocks, Summerbridge, Harrogate, North Yorkshire, HG3 4DW. Check out the route.

Helmsley and Rievaulx Abbey

Rievaulx Abbey

Copyright Michael D Beckwith licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.

With striking abbey ruins en route, this 7-mile circular walk offers historical pitstops and some of the best views in North Yorkshire. Officially the start of the Cleveland Way, the first section has a few steep pathways and views of Helmsley Castle if you look behind you. You’ll continue through a patch of woodland filled with wild garlic and bluebells on your way to Rievaullx Abbey ruins, where you can take a breather at the tearooms onsite. From here, you’ll continue towards Griff Farm, with more glimpses of the abbey from afar, before retracing the first section of the walk back to Helmsley.

Start at Cleveland Way Car Park, Helmsley, North Yorkshire, YO62 5AT. Check out the route.

Hubberholme and Birks Fell

Langstrothdale and Hubberholme, Wharfedale, Birk's Fell

Want to escape it all? This tranquil 9.6-mile circular walk is one of the best in North Yorkshire. You’ll tackle 400-metre-high ascents, but the breathtaking views of the North York Moors are well worth it. The varied route starts in Hubberholme and takes you up Birks Fell to the moor tops. From there, it’s a high moor walk with awe-inspiring views. You’ll pass over famous hills like Moss Top, Sugar Loaf and Horse Head, each with endless panoramic vistas that can offer views of the three peaks on clear days. The end of this moorland stretch is marked with a trig of pillars, from which you’ll head back down to Hubberholme, following the course of the River Wharf.

Start at Hubberholme, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 5JE. Check out the route.

Cover image © Copyright Tony Coates licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.