What do a bunch of outdoors loving bloggers do when they get together for a camping weekend in North Yorkshire? Go hiking of course! More on the event as a whole another day, but here is a short piece on the fabulous hike we did as a group around the Hole of Horcum in the North York Moors.
The Hole of Horcum
Chosen by Jenni from The Thrifty Magpies Nest, the other half of the Outdoor Bloggers organising team, the Hole of Horcum is an absolute classic of a moorland adventure. Our scenic half-day loop, for which we had a surprisingly clear day (for North Yorkshire…), had views and terrain as you would expect from this part of the country. We started (and therefore finished) at the Saltergate car park on the A169 from Pickering to Whitby. It’s a popular one, and for good reason. The viewpoint from here is stunning it itself, no need to walk further than across the road for some great scenery. But as is most often the case, when you put in a bit of effort you are treated to something even more special – views away from cars and the noise of traffic.
In short, our walk took us from the Hole of Horcum viewpoint, across moorland and down to Dundale Pond, over to Skelton Tower, back to Dundale Pond, to Levisham, around to Levisham Beck, and then through the Hole and back out to the viewpoint again. In all we walked 9.5 miles or so – the circular bit was 7.5, with a two mile there-and-back diversion to check out the views from Skelton Tower.
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Heading towards Skelton Tower.
From the view point close to the car park, the route starts by looping up and around the top of the Hole of Horcum across Levisham Moor, taking in an array of Bronze Age and Iron Age remains (the majority of which are marked with small ground-level information stones), and through what is said to be some of the the UK’s best Grouse breeding grounds. One thing I love about Jenni is she is full of information about wildlife (including being willing to do impressions on request) and other things, and she did not disappoint on this day having come armed with a paper full of interesting information and facts to teach us something and prompt some healthy discussion as we walked.
Jenni sharing her research with us.
The Hole of Horcum, a crater like hollow, is 400 feet deep and just under a mile wide – very significant and noticeable on the landscape. Otherwise known as the “Devil’s Punchbowl”, local legend suggests the amphitheatre was formed suddenly when a Giant scooped up some earth to throw at his wife during an argument. The reality is that this is an example of spring-sapping, where water flowing inside the hill has eroded the landscape from the inside; the once narrow valley widened and deepened over thousands of years, and it is still getting bigger by the same process even now.
Path across the moor.
I love walking across moorland, it’s just so exposed and rugged, with thick heather on both sides, sheep grazing (with loads of spring lambs at this time of year), slightly bouncy grassy paths, and skies as far as the eyes can see. Once on the far side of the Hole, the well-defined path sweeps down the hill to Dundale Pond, where there is a finger board with several route options. This was the section where we deviated from the loop and took the diversion over to Skelton Tower – or rather the ruins of – for what turned out to be spectacular views over the North York Moors. It was a diversion recommended by one of the other bloggers who’d come along for the weekend; Jerome said that it was well worth the extra effort as the view was one of the best in the area. He certainly wasn’t wrong and I for one was very happy we took his advice.
The path to the Tower was most definitely downhill (meaning it was consequentially uphill on the way back…) but was as easy going as the rest of the route. I can see why someone would want to live here, or at least come here to write; the views in all directions are simply stunning, I imagine the seasonal changes would be enough to inspire anyone. As we left the Tower we heard the familiar sound of a train horn echo in the distance; we perhaps should have delayed our departure and waited for the train to come through for *that* shot of the North York Moors Railway, but alas we had a date with lunch and we wouldn’t have made it back to the view in time anyway.
Looking out over the valley.
Back at Dundale Pond, we re-joined our circular route up to Levisham village (so many lambs!), a beautifully preened little village inside the National Park. After our lunchtime stop at the walker-friendly Horseshoe Inn, where Jenni and I ate our sandwiches green with envy of those who’d ordered hot food, we made our way through the village to continue the loop. The path from here took us along a single-file woodland track, which was muddy and rooty at times (I’d carried my walking poles for this section on Jenni’s advice, but thankfully it was much firmer underfoot than when she did it a few weeks previous), winding down through the trees into the valley to meet Levisham Beck. This provided another beautiful spot with a different kind of view to those seen earlier in the hike, and who can resist a sit down by a pretty babbling brook? Just don’t sit in the stinging nettles…!
We crossed the stream (after the West Highland Way I will never complain about a water crossing again!) and followed the still well-defined path for the final couple of miles or so across meadow, passed a large derelict farmhouse which was strangely well kept and presented, and through the Hole of Horcum itself before climbing up and out onto the top to and back to the viewpoint to complete the loop. The last couple of miles undulates a fair bit, with the final ascent being one to make you pant, but it’s nothing that the promise of an ice cream when you get back to the car park won’t motivate you to scale with ease.
Watch my Hole of Horcum Video >
The Hole of Horcum walk, with our diversion to Skelton Tower, was a really excellent one. It was wonderful to spend time outdoors with friends both old and new, exploring somewhere so beautiful. Places like this, where in a short half-day hike you can walk over all kinds of terrain and see every kind of view, are very special, and should be added to everyone’s “to hike” list. I already knew the North York Moors was a great place to walk (the Lyke Wake Walk is pretty spectacular if you fancy a challenge), and this is a great option for anyone looking for a “best of the North York Moors” wander.
The whole team at Skelton Tower: Jenni, Me, Lyndon, Sue, Katy, Emma, Simon, Jerome and Shell (see us take the photo in the video!).