NZ7108/01: Little and Great Fryup Dales

The Moors Centre at Danby is one of two official visitor centres run by the National Park Authority and is well worth a visit (the other is at Sutton Bank). This walk starts from the car park at the Moors Centre and explores the two Fryup Dales. It crosses Duck Bridge, one of several impressive old bridges across the River Esk, passes the ruins of Danby Castle, and goes through the Fairy Cross Plain between the two dales. Fryup is an Old English name, meaning Friga's Valley. This walk sticks to the roads for most of its length, finishing with a short walk through the woods.

Ascent: 700 feet/ 220 metres
Length: 7 miles/ 11 km
Map: OS Explorer Map OL 27
Last Walked: 30 August 2006

The Moors Centre is east of Danby, and can be reached from the A171 (the turn is just over one mile west of Scaling Reservoir). If approaching from this direction, take the first left turn in Danby to find the Moors Centre (it is well signposted).

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From the visitor centre car park turn left onto the road. This section of road is quite busy, but does have verges suitable for walking. Follow the road as it curves gently to the right, following the lines of the River Esk.
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After about half a mile, the road passes under a railway bridge. Just past the bridge, turn right onto a smaller lane, leading to Duck Bridge. This is a fourteenth century pack horse bridge, now closed to traffic, but open to walkers. Cross the bridge, then turn left at the next junction and head uphill towards Danby Castle.
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As you climb up the hill, Danby Castle will be clearly visible just to the left of the road. Close to the castle, the road swings to the right before turning back left to pass behind the castle. Follow this road, ignoring the right turn just before the castle.

The curve in the road means that you get good views of Danby castle from almost every angle. The castle is in private hands so please don't disturb the privacy of the owners.

Once you have passed the castle, follow the road as it curves right into Little Fryup Dale.

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From Danby Castle we follow the road along Little Fryup Dale for a mile. For most of this mile the road forms the boundary between the open moorland, to the right, and the valley bottom fields to the left.

Just before the end of the dale, turn left and follow the road towards the gap that leads into Great Fryup Dale. Part of this gap is know as Fairy Cross Plain (the name is now marked on a field close to the road, although on older maps it is clearly linked to the farm house that sits in the gap).

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As the road enters Great Fryup Dale, it descends quite steeply in a wooded ravine. At the road junction in the woods, turn left and follow the road as it climbs back up the side of the Heads, the hill between the two Fryup Dales. Ignore the right hand turn a quarter of a mile down the road.

Our road runs along the western side of Great Fryup Dale. At first it stays high up the side of the valley, giving great views back towards the high moors and north towards the Esk Valley. About half way along the dale, the road moves down to the valley bottom, and gently meanders amongst the fields.

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At this point you have a choice of routes. After wet weather, or if you simply prefer to keep to the roads, then follow the sharp right hand turn in the road. At the next farm, turn left onto the slightly wider road. Continue along this road as it crosses the Esk, then turn left again. Three quarters of a mile after that turn, you will return to the railway bridge we last saw in step 2. Follow the main road under the bridge and back to the car park.

Our map shows a more interesting route back, through the woods at the foot of Danby Crag. Part of this path can get very wet, so don't use this route unless you are wearing suitable boots. Just before the road through Great Fryup Dale turns sharply to the right, a small farm lanes leads off the to the left. A gate leads into the field north of this farm lane.

Pass though this gate. In the field a faint track follows the level ground to the right of the trees (see picture). Follow this track. As you follow it, it will become increasingly clear. Just around the corner, our track crosses another much clearer one that joins from the left. Ignore this track as it heads off down the hill, and keep to our grassy track as it heads into the trees. Just inside the trees, turn right onto what can be a wet path, running level along the edge of the hill and follow this track through the woods.

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At the edge of the woods you will pass through a heavy gate into a field dotted with trees. Follow the track out of the woods across this field to the opposite edge. Here a gate leads onto a farm track. Follow this farm track. This time we cross the Esk on a modern farm bridge. At the end of the lane, turn left onto the road. This is the same road we started on, so stick to the verges when possible.

Our road runs parallel to the railway line. About a third of a mile after joining the road, follow it as it swings right under the railway (ignore the first bridge under the railway on a small lane). From here return to the car park using the same road we started on.