18 incredible North York Moors walks

Days out, Walking, The Great British Outdoors

Posted by Courtney on 22nd July 2021

Roseberry Topping and Newton WoodNewton Woods, Roseberry Topping

Showcasing one of the vastest heather moorlands in the UK, you’ll not need to work hard to find the best walks on the North York Moors, as they are ample and easy to access. Featuring forestry, coasts, moors and dales, the landscape here offers a smorgasbord of sublime saunters in Yorkshire.

All the North York Moors National Park walks begin from established car parks or from settlements within the national park. Do not fret if you are without wheels as they can be accessed via public transport too, being proximal to the Esk Valley Railway and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Dogs are welcome on the majority of the Yorkshire Moors walks, although we advise you to check beforehand as some routes do have restrictions.

Covering classic walks, easy access ambles, river rambles and more, keep reading our guide to North Yorkshire Moors walks and choose your favourite. And if you need somewhere to stay after a weary day of moorland walking, browse our cottages in and around the national park:

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Classic North York Moors walks

Daffodils galore in FarndalePhotos courtesy of @somewhere__outdoors (top left); @star_shiney01 (top right); @bridgetmellor (bottom)

Farndale daffodil walk

Although best visited between March and mid-April to see the flowers in full bloom, the ‘Daffodil Dale’ walk is pleasant all year round. This beautiful valley at the heart of the Moors becomes carpeted in a glorious natural yellow and makes for a wonderful sight as you stroll along, and if you wish, you can follow the 7-mile section of the River Dove as it cuts through the meadows. This walk is mostly level with large parts of the path surfaced.

Distance: 3.5 miles, linear

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Fern Retreat | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

The crater-like Hole of Horcum

The Hole of Horcum

Created when Wade the Giant scooped up a fistful of soil to hurl at his better half during a commotion (honest!), the Hole of Horcum is a colossal, natural amphitheatre over 120 metres deep and half a mile wide. Known locally as the Devil’s Punchbowl, it’s an impressive sight and is deservedly a classic with its moody panoramas over Levisham Moor and its archaeological remains. To add a slice of difficulty, divert to Skelton Tower to see unrivalled views of the moors, as well as steam trains on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway.

Distance: 5 miles when travelling the circular route from Saltergate

Difficulty: moderate

Stay nearby: A Nest - Kirkbymoorside | sleeps 2 + 1 dog

Crag heaven at the Wainstones

Wainstones Walk

Forming the largest group of sandstone crags in the North York Moors, the Wainstones is an impressive rock formation that holds rewarding views over Cold Moor. Watch the climbers tackle the twin pillars of the needle and the steeple, before continuing on the famous Cleveland Way National Trail and making your way up to the summit of Urra Moor, the highest point of the North York Moors. If you’re visiting on a windy day, listen to the breeze carefully and you may be hearing the howling concerto as the wind buffets the rocks.

Distance: 8 miles, circular

Difficulty: challenging

Stay nearby: Hare House | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Easy access walks on the North York Moors

 Views of the Esk Valley

Esk Valley to Beck Hole

Starting in the rural hamlet of Esk Valley, this walk has a hard surface all the way along and is mostly level – ideal for wheelchairs and buggies. Follow the old railway line, known as the ‘Rail Trail’, and you’ll pass through a wooded area rich with bluebells. Continue alongside the Murk Esk river and you’ll reach the pretty hamlet of Beck Hole, having crossed the river twice to get there. By one of the bridges is a pub to rest and replenish, although you will find numerous benches to rest along the route too.

Distance: 3-mile linear route (6 miles if travelling back again)

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Egton Cottage | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

Shimmering waters at Staindale LakePhoto courtesy of @marklewis35

Staindale Lake

Although one of the shorter walks in the North York Moors, Staindale Lake, which is found at the heart of Dalby Forest, is a beautiful walk and is a crowd-pleaser for those with mobility issues. Featuring either hardened, compacted surfaces or non-slip boardwalks all the way around the circular walk, as well as multiple seating spots from which to view the lake, this is a great way to enjoy the national park without having to go too far afield. You might even spot Canada geese, herons and great spotted woodpeckers flying over the water.

Distance: 0.5 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Lock Cottage | sleeps 6

Peaceful and pleasant Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay

We’ll finish off the easy access walks with one by the beautiful Yorkshire coast. Following the Cleveland Way towards Staithes, you’ll encounter incredible views across Runswick Bay, and before you turn back, you’ll catch sight of the abandoned harbour at Port Mulgrave. A largely level walk made up of grass and earth pathways, you can descend into Runswick Bay itself if you wish, a village which, in 1664, actually slipped into the sea!

Distance: 2 miles, linear

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Waverley House | sleeps 6 + 2 dogs

Historic North York Moors walks

Rievaulx ruins and Helmsley Castle

Helmsley and Rievaulx Abbey

This walk is very much on the beaten track, but for good reason, and if you don’t mind bumping into a few other avid walkers along the way, you’re sure to be happy with what you find. You start in the market town of Helmsley and leave on a steady incline to garner profitable views of the town and Helmsley Castle. After sighing with contentment, descend through a wooded area scattered with bluebells to arrive in the tranquil village of Rievaulx and the Abbey ruins it houses.

Distance: 7 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy-moderate

Stay nearby: Ferne Cottage - Helmsley | sleeps 3

Mount Grace and part of the Cleveland Way National Trail

Osmotherley and Mount Grace

If staying in Osmotherley, you’ll be right on the Cleveland Way National Trail and at the start of the Lyke Wake Walk, so you’ll have no shortage of walking options. However, we recommend stopping by the remarkable ruins of Mount Grace Priory, House and Gardens. You’ll get to pass through pleasant fields and woodland paths to get there, and when you do, you’ll see why it’s the best-preserved Carthusian remains in the country. Keep an eye out for the priory stoats too, who have made their home beneath the priory.

Distance: 3.25 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Clover Cottage Osmotherley | sleeps 4 + 1 dog

Rosedale village and roasting kilns


A walk for the industrial historians amongst you, this hike will take you from Rosedale Abbey over fields and through a valley, into Rosedale village itself. Formerly a major cog in Yorkshire’s industrial emergence, this village is now merely a peaceful dale that welcomes visitors all year round. Follow the old railway track towards the ruins of the long since neglected roasting kilns and breathe in the sights of Rosedale and its impressive valley.

Distance: 7.5 miles, circular

Difficulty: moderate

Stay nearbyPenzola Cottage | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Nature walks on the North York Moors

The boardwalk and nature of Forge Valley WoodsPhotos courtesy of @cherieleanne (top); @alisontubbs (bottom left); @megsward_ (bottom right)

Forge Valley Woods

A great walk for the family due to the wide boardwalk throughout, viewing platforms along the River Derwent and seating dotted here and there, this stroll through a National Nature Reserve brings a different delight every season. In spring, the air is filled with the aromas of wild garlic and the sound of deer in the thicker vegetation off the beaten track, whereas in the autumn the colours produce a kaleidoscope of beauty. Crayfish occupy the water all year round and you may even spot otter and nuthatches in the reeds and branches respectively.

Distance: 2 miles, linear 

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Maze Cottage | sleeps 4

Nature on Howdale Moor and Brow Moor

Howdale Moor and Brow Moor

This walk takes place on open access land, meaning there’s no need to stick to footpaths so you can go off-piste, so to speak, and either head inland to the far-reaching heathland of the national park or travel in the other direction to the striking coastal views of Robin Hood’s Bay. Choose a clear day if you can and try and spot the Fylingdales Moor birds of prey, including Britain’s smallest falcon, the merlin, as well as the short-eared owl. Other wildlife to spot may include the common lizard, adders and green tiger beetles.

Distance: 4 miles, circular 

Difficulty: easy-moderate

Stay nearby: Swallow Cottage - Robins Hoods Bay | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Fragrant lavender and wildlife at Terrington


Sitting in the Howardian Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the countryside of this walk is studded with wildflowers at every turn. Head north out of the village and glimpse the historic Estate of Wiganthorpe before passing over to Rose Cottage Farm Meadow which has been assigned the status of Site of Importance for Nature Conservation. If you find yourself on Mowthorpe Dale you might spot grazing Exmoor ponies, and in most places, you are likely to see barn owls soaring over the fields and tree sparrows and yellowhammers occupying the hedgerows.

Distance: 2.5 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy 

Stay nearby: Gingerlily | sleeps 2 + 2 dogs

Coastal walks on the North York Moors

 An amalgamation of coast and woodland

Cloughton and Hayburn Wyke

A beautiful amalgamation of a wooded valley and a rocky cove produces this wonderful walk which is a jewel in the Heritage Coast crown. After exploring the dense woodland of Hayburn Wyke, pass over the pebble beach to discover the quaint waterfall tumbling into the small pool. This is a great spot for a picnic. You can continue along the Cleveland Way footpath and find yourself on the cliffs of the Wyke before following the Scarborough to Whitby railway line back to the start.

Distance: 5 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy 

Stay nearby: Victoria Garden Flat | sleeps 5 + 2 dogs

Robin Hood's Bay, a kittiwake and the Cinder Track

Robin Hood's Bay and Maw Wyke

This section of the North York Moors National Park coastline is great for a walk, not so great if you’re in a sea vessel! The jagged rocks at Ness Point, which you’ll be able to view from your clifftop walk, are notorious for providing trouble for fishing boats and many have met their end at this hazardous headland. Witness various types of gulls, as well as the rarer fulmars and kittiwakes, as you head inland and make your way back to Robin Hood’s Bay along the old Cinder Track railway line.

Distance: 6 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy-moderate

Stay nearby: Wykewood | sleeps 4

Robin Hood's Bay from Ravenscar

Ravenscar to Robin Hood's Bay

This all-encompassing walk could have slotted easily into any number of our categories, being the microcosm of the national park that it is. You get to see the rugged clifftop landscape of Ravenscar as well as the exposed and beautiful desolation of Howdale Moor. Visit the quaint Yorkshire village of Robin Hood’s Bay and choose either here or neighbouring Boggle Hole to explore the rock pools or hunt a fossil. With expansive seas views, open moorland and cobblestoned village streets, this really is a great way to see a lot of what the North York Moors has to offer in one day.

Distance: 11 miles, circular

Difficulty: moderate - challenging

Stay nearby: Lenwood | sleeps 4 + 2 dogs

River walks

 Steeping stones and bridges encompass this walk

Lealholm to Grosmont

With the Esk Valley Railway track offering companionable silence as it mirrors the route of the River Esk, you’ll pass through village after village on this pleasant linear walk, including Glaisdale and Egton Bridge. There are several bridges and sets of stepping stones to cross along the way, showing you the trade routes used dating back to the Victorian era. Find passage through the ancient wood near Glaisdale and spot some native tree varieties including alder, downy birch, oak and hazel. Follow the salmon symbol and waymarks representing the Esk Valley Walk.

Distance: 6 miles, linear

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Curlew Cottage - Goathland | sleeps 8 + 2 dogs

The calming beck that runs through Thornton le Dale

Thornton le Dale and Ellerburn

We couldn’t create a walking guide in the North York Moors and not include what many people consider to be Britain’s prettiest village (Ellerburn’s nice too!). This gentle stroll takes you alongside the Thornton Beck, a small and mellow river, through fields and to the hamlet of Ellerburn and its church which dates back to 850AD. Come back the same way or follow a minor road back to Thornton le Dale to complete the circuit. Take the time to appreciate the village, with its masterfully thatched rooves and charming village square.

Distance: 2 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy

Stay nearby: Forge Cottage | sleeps 3

Woodland, waterfalls and the HermitagePhoto courtesy of @brew85 (bottom right)

Falling Foss

Another Yorkshire river walk that offers different rewards depending on the time of year you visit; this river and woodland walk starts off in May Beck Car Park and traverses through the trees before arriving at the towering 9-metre Falling Foss waterfall. In the summer, the shallow pools are perfect for a quick dip and in autumn the vibrant woodland hues just beg to be admired. Continue along the May Beck back to your starting point or wander a little past Falling Foss to find ‘The Hermitage’, a cave hollowed out of an immense boulder, which once provided lodgings for a solitary and now unknown soul.

Distance: 2 miles, circular

Difficulty: easy-moderate

Stay nearby: Rose & Crown | sleeps 4

Stay with us in the North York Moors

No matter what type of walk you’re looking to do in this diverse and wide-ranging national park, we have a comprehensive collection of cottages that you can settle into, clean muddy paws and rest weary legs. Stay by the craggy coastline and breathe in the sea views, cosy up in the rural Howardian Hills, or create a home away from home in a captivating Yorkshire town. Click the button below and see our full range.

North York Moors cottages

Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing, please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.