The walk was officially opened in 1969 and is one of the most varied and interesting footpaths in this country. It is just over 100 miles long and goes from Helmsley in the west to Filey in the east. Though this is indeed fact it is a gross over-simplification of what the walk is. The distance from Helmsley to Filey by road is just over 30 miles by the direct route so it is immediately apparent that the footpath is not aligned with this route. In fact from Helmsley instead of heading east the path first heads 10 miles west so that at the end of the first section of the walk you are further away from Filey than when you started.
The walk in fact basically follows three sides of the North Yorks Moors and a coastal footpath to arrive at Filey. Along the way you cover many different types of terrain, follow many different types of footpath, glory in varied and beautful array of scenery and for those with a historic bent explore nearly every facet of the historical development of North Yorkshire.
To cover every aspect of this walk would require alot of time and the end result would be a book and that is something I have neither the time, inclination nor the ability to undertake. Instead all I intend to cover on this page is the basic outline of the route itself. In places you have alternative routes; I shall only be covering one of the routes, not because of any reason of authenticity but because it is the route that I prefer. If you want to vary the route please feel free to do so, but please stick to recognised rights of way and show a proper respect for the countryside.
This route is not a step by step description. The Cleveland Way is very well signposted for most of its length but I recommend that you take with you the various OS maps that cover the area as conditions on the moors can change very quickly and route finding can become difficult. I also strongly recommend that you also take with you abook entitled 'The Cleveland Way' by Bill Cowley (published by Dalesman ISBN 0 85206 906 5). This book is available from booksellers or from The Lyke Wake Club at £4 inc. p&p. This book is excellent background reading about the history of the area and some of the authors reminissences are enlightening.
The Cleveland Way has no time limit and and there are no prizes for speed. In fact this walk is well worth taking your time over; enjoy the scenery, the history and the hostelries!
The walk starts on the opposite side of the stream from the church in Helmsley, keeping to the north of the castle. Follow the lane past the car park and after crossing or going through four stiles or gates turn right along the edge of Duncombe Park Woods. Presently the path drops into a steep valley and immediately up the steep bank at the opposite side, past a n old war-time camp to eventually come out at a small lodge and a long terrace overlooking the River Rye. Pass the lodge to the south and follow the path along the edge of the plantation. After climbing a stile the path drops steeply down past an old quarry to the road near Abbot Hag Farm near the ruins of Rievaulx Abbey. Follow the road towards Scawton and cross the Rye by the old hump-back bridge. Stay on the Scawton road and pass a cottage, Ashberry Farm and Hag Hall. About 300 yards past Hag Hall you come to a large forestry gate on your right. Go through this gate and follow the forest road which runs roughly due west and eventually you will come across a stream that runs close to the path. When you come to a valley on your left you will notice a small wooden bridge on your right over a little stream; cross over this bridge and go through the gate to join another forestry road. Follow this for about 400 yards then turn left at two big elm trees along a green track which goes up the side valley of Flassendale. After another 300 yards turn right up another side valley that climbs steeply to a grass field and a lane that leads to the village of Cold Kirby. Go through the village and turn left down a cart track just before the signpost for Old Byland. At the 2nd corner head south for ¼ mile until you reach a forest track. Turn left along this to pass south of Hambleton House; turn left here to the Hambleton Hotel on the main Helmsley to thirsk road. (a very hospitable little inn). Head towards Thirsk and after 200 yards you will see a sign for the Yorkshire Gliding Club. Behind this and bisecting the angle between the two roads is the Castern Dyke. Fol low this and it brings you out on the rim of Sutton Bank. If you are stopping at Kildale (recommended unless you are a strong walker and have plenty of time in hand) turnleft and follow the rim to the White Horse above Kildale about a mile away.
This section is an easy walking length with fine views. I won't go into great detail as the route is very easy to follow and well signposted
From the White Horse head north round the rim of Sutton Bank keeping the glider station on your right. Don't go too near the edge it is a long drop and you are not likely to survive the fall. Take care when you get to the road as it is very busy. Go straight across keeping west of the car park (there is an information centre and cafe on the car park) and follow the path along the cliff edge for about another 4½ miles until you reach Boltby Scar. In another few hundred yards you come to High Barn; the path now slants away from the rim across a long pasture to the Boltby Bank road just below the top of the bank. On reaching the road go straight across into a forest ride which brings you out just above Low Paradise. Go through the farmyard of High Paradise and 200 yards further on you come to the Drove Road. Head north along this ancient path, through Boltby forest, up a long gentle slope to the cross-roads at the Kepwick-Hawnby road and then to the ruins of Limekiln House. Half a mile past Limekiln House the road bears left at White Gill Head and becomes rougher and steeper round the side of Black Hambleton. Keep following the road until you reach the Ryedale - Osmotherley road. When you reach this road turn left over Jenny Brewsters Moor and past a spring which also bears her name. Aim for the junction of the two streams at the head of the reservoir and then your path is easy to find round the north side of it. A well defined grassy path goes down the next field to the ruins of Oakdale House, above a second reservoir. A cart track goes through a wood andthen across two fields to the road at Rose Cottage. A few yards down the road a sunken lane turns sharp right. Follow this for about 250 yards. Through the third field on the left a track goes down to White House Farm. The path passes to the north of the house and down another field to a bridge over the Cod Beck. From here the path goes up through Middlestye Wood, across two small fields and comes out into the centre of Osmotherley.
Osmotherley is a fine village providing the hiker with everything he could wish for at the end of a days walking, accommodation, food and refreshment. If you (like me) prefer your refreshment to be alcoholic then you have three fine inns to choose from but the finest, in my opinion, is the Three Tuns. It serves excellent beer and magnificent food. It isn't cheap, but there again none of the inns in Osmotherley are. If you do try this pub tell the barstaff where you saw the recommendation. One of these days I might, just might, get a drink out of them.
Leave Osmotherley to by the road leading north to Swainby and just before you reach the crest of the hill turn left into Rueberry Lane. Follow this path until it forks then take the left hand one towards Chapel Wood Farm continue along this path past Chapel Wood and follow the forestry track towards the ridge and the TV station. The path goes between the wall and the TV station and follows on round the rim of the hill. Presently, over the wall on the right, you will see an O.S. pillar this used to be the official start to the Lyke Wake Walk. Follow the well worn track down and you will come to the cattle grid at Scarth Nick. From here and for the next 12 miles you follow the same path as the L.W.W.;ie through Scugdale, over Live Moor, Carlton Moor, Cringle Moor, Cold Moor and Hasty Bank to Clay Bank. After Clay Bank you have the steep climb to Urra Moor, the highest point on the North Yorks. Moors. Shortly after this point the two walks split and go their own separate ways.
Just before you reach the railway track you drop into a slight dip just beyond Rudstone, at this point you turn left up the line of an old fire-break and then follow the old line towards incline top. Across the moor to your right can be seen two stones, 'Jenny Bradley', and you need to head towards this to pick up the road north towards Battersby. After a while you come to a track on your right hand side with a wicket gate besides it, just before the road drops down to Battersby. Take this new track and follow it towards Park Nab. This track starts to slope down between two springs, the ridge narrows and you come to a metalled road and a gate (' Juniper Gate'). You now follow this road all the way down into Kildale.
If it can be helped do not plan to spend the night in Kildale. All there is in Kildale is a shop cum post office, no cafe and sadly no pub.
From Kildale the path goes to the right under the railway and across the river. Follow the road to the top of the hill at Pale End Plantation. Here a forestry path goes off to your left along the ridge. Follow this track until you come to some gateposts. Here turn turn off the forestry track and follow the grass path through the woods and along the rim of the ridge all the way to Cook's monument. From the monument a broad track heads north above Hunter's Scar and down the side of Cockshaw Hill to Gribdale Gate. Cross the cattle grid and go up the slope opposite. At the top of the slope you have a slight detour to stick to the "proper " route. Turn west and climb to the summit of Roseberry Topping. After you've got to the top, had a look round and come to your senses turn round and retrace your steps as far as the well on the saddle below the peak and the gate at the corner of two walls through which you came earlier. Bisect the angle between the two walls and, heading slightly north of east, go up onto Hutton Moor. You will see several boundary stones. The path keeps to the north of these stones and as you descend towards the rough Hutton Gate - Percy Cross Rigg road keep to the south of a small clump of firs. Cross the road and keep to the heather just above the bracken, aiming for the boundary wall along the intakes south of Codhill Farm. Follow this route and you will soon pick up a good track The path crosses a wood-lined watercourse and follows on outside the intake wall. At the far end of the last intake past the farmhouse a gate goes through into a wood on your left. Turn into the wood and at the second wicket gate turn right and follow the path, cross a forestry road and climb up onto Highcliff. Make sure you climb up on the right hand side and you come out onto the forestry road . Follow the footpath, easily identified at this point, and after crossing the forestry road once more you will eventually arrive in Slapewath. There is not much to Slapewath; but the one thing it does have is the Fox and Hounds which serves good beer, good food, good beer and provides accommodation and good beer.
From the Fox and Hounds the Cleveland Way goes to the left of the white cottages you can see, and up the right hand side of a quarry. From here the path skirts a wood and climbs the ridge of Airy Hill past the farm of that name. From the top of Airy hill there is a well defined footpath all the way down to Skelton. At Skelton you go down two sets of steps and past the Post Office and library, past a bus stop and the path curves right back into fields once more. A steep descent through some woodland brings you to an old mill pond. Go up the lane to the left at this point and turn right into the woods. Take the lower path and this will bring you out into Saltburn onto the beach near the Ship Inn.
The Cleveland Way leaves Saltburn by a path that climbs steeply behind the Ship Inn and keeps to the left of the old coastguard cottages to bring you out on the cliff top. Route finding along the coast is reasonably simple; all you have to do is follow the line of the coast taking the path nearest the sea; but be warned, some of these cliffs are high and very dangerous and the chances of you surviving a fall from them is an extremely remote possibility.The cliff path is joined properly on the first promontory of Huntcliff where the path leaves the fields just before a second world war pill-box. Just beyond this point the path follows the line of the disused railway and begins the long descent into Skinningrove. A well made path comes down from the beginning of the industrial area to the shore near the old jetty and past the old iron workers cottages to climb the steep cliff path out of the bay and onto the headland of Hummersea. Just before the next bay you come to two ponds near the cliff edge and at this point you go inland one field by Warren cottages to the path over the summit of Boulby, the highest cliff in England. A green track goes on from the summit of Boulby and this leads into Cowper Lane and the village of Staithes. There is a very good pub in Staithes called the 'Cod & Lobster'. Go up Church St. behind the pub and the cliff path rises steeply from the end of it. The path goes over the fields to Brackenberry Wyke and then past the site of the old Hinderwell Beacon to reach the headland at Lingrow. A little further on is Cobble Dump and at this point the path turns sharp right away from the cliff to the top of Runswick Bank and through Runswick Bay. Follow the coast past Hob Holes and on to the headland of Kettleness and follow the path until you eventually come to Deepgrove Wyke. At this point you need to make a slight detour to join the disused railway line which can be followed all the way into Sandsend. From Sandsend if the tide is out you can walk along the beach to Whitby. If the tide is in then you can catch a bus; this is much more preferable to the trudge along the road past the victorian hotels and guest houses.
Leave Whitby by way of the 199 steps leading up to the church and the Abbey. The path keeps more or less to the edge of the cliffs by Saltwick Nab and Bay and another smugglers hole near Black Nab. At Whitestones Point you come to the "Whitby Bull" and just pray that it is not foggy when you arrive. This foghorn can be heard miles away but when you are close to it the noise is absolutely deafening. Beyond Hawsker Bottoms the whole panorama of Robin Hoods Bay opens out before you and it is an easy walk down into Bay Village. It is worth spending a little time here as this is arguably the last place of any scenic beauty and interest on the walk. The village boasts three pubs as well as several hotels, shops and a post office. Of the three pubs the 'Laurel' boasts the best beer, the 'Bay Hotel' has very good value for money food and the best views from the bar, and the 'Dolphin' has a very good folk club on a Friday night.
When the tide is out the best route to take to Ravenscar is via the beach; but beware, the tide comes in very quickly round here and it is very easy to get cut off, with very few ways of escape, if you dally.
If the tide is in, or coming in then the route to take is the path up an alley opposite the Bay Hotel along the cliff top to the youth hostel at Boggle Hole. Here you have a short but steep climb into and out of a gully before continuing along the cliff top to Ravenscar. This village is at the opposite end of the Lyke Wake Walk to Osmotherley. It is also the place where the Cleveland Way should either have finished or turned inland to head back to Helmsley to make it a circular walk. Beyond Ravenscar you start to come across increasing numbers of tourists and day trippers. You also seem to spend most of your time walking past caravan sites, especially the further south you go.
If you decide that you are going to continue the walk it is a simple matter of following the cliff path round the ensuing headlands. At Hayburn Wyke a waterfall comes down onto the shore and a wooden bridge crosses the gully. About a mile past here a lane goes into Cloughton Newlands and in another three miles, past Cloughton Wyke and Hundale Point you are at Scalby, the beginning of the conurbation of Scarborough with all the delights of the commercial seaside resort.
The last stage of the Cleveland Way begins at the end of the south bay promenade above the open air swimming pool. The cliffs are lower now and gently curve round three bays to reach Filey Brigg. The three bays are Cornelian, Cayton and Gristhorpe. The path is easy to follow and if the tide is out you could even walk part of the way along the beach. When you reach Filey's north cliff there is a route down through the rocks to the Brigg but be careful, accidents can happen, especially in wet weather.