Pages about EnglandPreviousNext Hawnby to Helmsley (15 km)
Lion Inn
Great Broughton
Rievaulx Abbey ruins from the River Rye
Rievaulx Abbey ruins from the green fields by the River Rye.

The hike climbs up from the hamlet of Hawnby onto a ridge above the River Rye and then down again into Rye Dale. A tiny bit of hiking along country lanes brings the beautiful remains of Rievaulx Abbey. Beyond the abbey, fields and woods lead to Helmsley. Take a packed lunch.

Hawnby Type Phone
Easterside Farm B&B 01439 798277
The Inn at Hawnby Hotel 01439 798202
Laskill Farm B&B 01439 798268

Leave the Hawnby Hotel and head down-hill to Hawnby's post office/shop. Cross over Hawnby Bridge (the River Rye again) and turn right over a stile just past the dog kennels. Angle across the field to the far left corner and another stile into the lane beyond. Turn right over a cattle-grid and up the lane, taking the left fork towards Daleside Farm not the branch to Sunnybank Farm. Up on Sunny Bank an excavated tumulus revealed that around 700 AD a young Anglian girl of high rank was buried with her rich collection of bronze, silver and gold ornaments and her favourite blue glass jewellery.

Take the signposted bridleway before the next cattle-grid to drop down through fields to the bottom of Gowerdale and a footbridge. Climb steeply from the footbridge onto the farm access road for Dale Town farm. Walk through the farmyard and climb to the right (the road goes left) past a tree and beside a sunken lane and fence on your right. The sunken lane is usually flooded. When the hedge on the right ends, head right to a track heading towards Peak Scar Wood but then go up a thin path that joins a wide, grassy track going from the woods. Turn left and soon come out onto a road with a marvellous view back to Hawnby over the secluded Gowerdale.

Looking back to Hawnby from above Dale Town farm
Looking back to Hawnby from above Dale Town farm

Cross the road and turn left into Ox Pasture Lane just past Murton Grange. The lane passes fields and then enters Deep Gill Wood where its often muddy surface may force you to beat a path alongside the wall. Once through the wood, continue ahead through a field with a fence on your left and past a barn (on the right) where the track divides at a gate. Take the right-hand fork and then turn right again where the track heads left to a cattle-grid. Follow an indistinct path to a stile and then follow the hedge and fence on your left to join a track from Hag Wood to Barnclose Farm. Drop down through the farm, bear right onto a road to cross a stream and climb to go through Tylas Farm. A gate gives access to a road.

Turn left down the road until the bottom where it crosses a stream. Cross a stile into meadows and follow the River Rye through the green (and often boggy) grass to the road across Bow Bridge. Ignore the stile immediately after the bridge and take the next one a few metres further which is signposted. Head towards the river where two quick stiles to your left give the first good view of Rievaulx Abbey. On the left is a fenced disused canal that was used by the monks to transport stone from the local quarries for the construction of their great abbey. It joined the river by the double stiles that you just crossed. Follow the canal through fields and by a barn onto a road and the village of Rievaulx - pronounced "Reevo".

The entrance to the abbey is along the road to your right. However a worthwhile diversion is to visit the Rievaulx Terrace. Head left and uphill past the church of St. Mary the Virgin where a steep signposted path zigzags up through trees to the National Trust office and shop. The terrace curves for 800 metres high above the abbey ruins to give superb and varied views over the surrounding countryside. It was landscaped in 1758 and includes two fine buildings- a Ionic Temple at the near end and a Doric rotunda at the far end. The temple has a magnificent ceiling which took the artist Guiseppe Borgnis 8 years to paint. Return the same way to the abbey entrance.

The abbey was founded in 1131 by Cistercian monks and grew into the largest and most splendid Cistercian abbey in England. At its peak there were 140 monks and 500 lay brothers at the abbey. The brothers were very successful farmers, owning over 14,000 sheep and were also involved in milling, beekeeping, fishing, charcoal production and even operated an iron furnace. But by the end of the thirteenth century, the abbey was heavily in debt and declining rapidly. There were only 22 monks by the time of Henry's Dissolution when the abbey was abandoned and the lead stripped from the roofs. The buildings soon collapsed. Strangely the lead was melted into ingots, buried and forgotten. Four hundred years later the lead was rediscovered and used in the restoration of the Five Sisters Window in York Minister.

Walk from the entrance down to Rievaulx Bridge and turn left with good views back to the abbey ruins. The road curves around and a Cleveland Way sign points the way to the right along a steep climb through Quarry Bank Wood with the old quarry walls on the left. Go through a gate into the field at the top of Whinney Bank. Follow the top of the woods to your right until you cross into the fields below the ornate Griff Lodge. There are splendid views to the right with the tree-lined River Rye 73 metres below in the valley. Drop down a little dip into Monday Howl and then up steps to a field path. The path follows the line of the Blackdale Howl Woods before a sharp turn to the left and then right leads it into a lane. The little lane goes straight into Helmsley, emerging next to the castle's carpark.

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