NZ 6807/01 Westerdale and the Esk

This walk takes us along the full length of Westerdale, from its start close to Castleton to the source of the Esk in the streams that run out of Esklets Crag at the upper end of the valley. We then cut across the top of the moors and return along Castleton Rigg, a good high-level route with extensive views.

Ascent: 1,400ft
Length: 12 miles
Map: Explorer 026 North York Moors west
Last Walked: 26 July 2008

We start from a roadside car park just to the west of Castleton, on the side road that branches off from the main road down Castleton Rigg just as that road turns sharply to the right to enter the village.

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Our first path runs parallel to the road, and passes within a few feet of the northern edge of the car park - face away from the road and cut across the heather to reach this path, then turn left and follow it as it runs across the heather, slowly getting further away from the road. After about a third of a mile the path begins to run alongside a stone wall. After a short distance the wall turns away to the left - turn left, and follow the path alongside the wall as it drops down the hillside and joins a minor road.
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Turn left onto this road. After a short distance we reach a T-junction - turn right and follow this road as it climbs gently up towards Westerdale Village.
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Stay on this road until it reaches a T-junction at the northern edge of Westerdale. At this junction turn left, and head up the main street in Westerdale. Just before reaching the church, turn right onto a side street. This road drops down to cross a stream, then turns sharply to the right, runs alongside the stream, then turns sharply to the left, and runs up the valley of Westerdale.
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This road eventually drops down to cross the Esk, climbs back up onto the western side of Westerdale, turns sharply to the right and climbs up across two fields, before ending at a gate at the edge of the open moors. Pass through this gate, and turn left onto a track that runs just behind the stone wall. Follow the track as it curves around to the right
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We follow this track until we reach the second of two signposted footpaths that leave to the left, just before New House Farm. Our path is marked with the leaping salmon symbol of the Esk Valley Walk. Take this path as it cuts across the middle of the next two fields to come close to the River Esk, then as it runs through a series of fields bordered on the left by the river.
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Our path runs to the right of the stone buildings at Wood End, then passes through a line of trees in the next field. Ignore the track that runs across this field and continue along the path into the next field. This time turn left onto the lane that runs across this field. Follow the lane as it crosses the Esk, and then immediately turn right onto a footpath that runs alongside the river. Follow this path, running to the left of the Esk, for the next mile, as it runs through the last few fields in Westerdale and into the wild upper reaches of the valley. A footbridge then takes us across the Esk. On the far side of the river our path continues to head up the valley, while climbing gently away from the river. Our path soon reaches a group of enclosed fields, and at the far end of the first field merges with a track. Continue to follow this track up the valley.

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This track runs through a series of fields, drops down to cross a small stream, before turning turning sharply to the right and climbing steeply up the hillside. At the top of this climb the track turns left, and climbs more gently up to the old Rosedale Railway as it crosses the top of Farndale.
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Turn left onto the railway, and follow it for about a fifth of a mile.
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For most of the time the railway is lined by heather, but after a fifth of a mile we reach a small grassy patch to the left of the track. This marks the start of our path across the heather, so leave the railway, cross the grassy patch, and follow the narrow but clear path that runs across the open moor, with Westerdale to the left.

There is only one indistinct patch on this path. Just over 600 feet after leaving the railway the path reaches a wide patch of eroded peat, which runs across the hillside in the same general direction of the path. Keep on the right-hand side of this area and follow it as it runs level across the side of the hill. At the far end of this section, which is just over 400ft long, a clear path re-emerges. After this little patch, the path remains clear all the way to the road that runs along Blakey Ridge towards Castleton.

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Turn left and follow this road as it runs up to Young Ralph Cross, one of the best viewpoints on the Moors. On a clear day this section of road offers dramatic views down Rosedale, Danby Dale and toward the sea. From Young Ralph Cross we follow the main road along Castleton Rigg for just over a mile and a half,
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We follow the main road until we reach a side road that branches off to the left, just before a rise in the ridge called Brown Hill. We have a choice of two routes here. The best one climbs up Brown Hill and follows the top of Castleton Rigg, but the paths are rough here. If you don't want to scramble across the heather (over Access Land), then take the side road, and follow it as it runs around the western slopes of Brown Hill. Follow this road until it reaches a T-Junction, then turn right and follow this road back to the car park.

If you do want to take the route across Brown Hill, then look for a line of white painted boundary stones that run up the hillside. Follow this line of stones as it climbs up onto the top of the hill. This area of access land lacks major paths, but there are plenty of smaller tracks that run across the top, and the views are very impressive. From the top of Brown Hill a path can be seen running along the western edge of the ridge - make for this path, and follow it as it runs toward the northern end of Castleton Rigg.

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As we continue along Castleton Rigg the top of the ridge becoming increasingly narrow, and we come very close to the road. A fence runs across the rigg just before the underground reservoir at its northern end - once this fence comes into sight, head right and return to the road. Turn left onto the road and follow it as it runs across a cattle grid. Just past the cattle grid the main road turns sharply to the right and enters Castleton. At this point turn left onto the side road that leads back to our car park.