Thursday, May 15, 2008

Discovering Whitby (Part III)

Many roads lead to Whitby, a coastal town in North Yorkshire, but I think it's a shame that many skirt across to Scarborough and up the not so scenic pseudo-coastal drive up to Whitby. By hurriedly rushing to Whitby, many bypass the stark and scenic beauty of one of Britain's outstanding national parks - the North York Moors.

Our scenic drive tour begins in Great Ayton, which is in the north west corner of the park. Great Ayton is a pleasant village in its own right, but visitors usually stop by to check out its association with Yorkshire's son, Captain Cook, the great explorer. There's a monument marking his childhood spent here, and you can check out the school that he attended, which is now a museum.

Leaving on the A173, you'll start to see the beautiful Cleveland Hills, and the unmissable Roseberry Topping, which is a hill. This is best viewed at the lay-by near Newton under Roseberry. There are paths up Roseberry Topping if you fancy a climb. It's not as easy as it looks though!

Continue on and meet the A171. This road is a bit busier, but has some lovely views of the Cleveland Hills, and gives you a first taste of moors. Along the way, on the left, you'll see a P indicating a scenic stop. Get out and admire the coast (you can just see the sea from here) and have a little ramble on the moors from the paths if you like. Do NOT head out on the moors far without a good map and suitable equipment. Moors can be very tricky walking and it's quite easy to get lost.

Watch for a right turn to Castleton. Now we are on unclassified roads, so you will have to keep your eyes peeled and navigate by town names. Now you are really going to get a taste for the park and its desolate isolated beauty. You'll see ancient burial mounds from the road, although you may get them confused with grouse butts. Once you pass a railway, turn left into Castleton, and then left into the village. Castleton itself is a very pretty village with some beautiful views down into some surprisingly green valleys.

From Castleton, follow signs to Danby. Danby is a lovely place to gather your thoughts, and have a cup of tea and a snack, as it's the home of the North York Moors National Park Information Centre. Head for the centre, and if you like, have a drink and a bite at the cafe, and take a gander at the shop and some of the walks on offer if you have the time. They can help you with accommodation if you'd like to stay in the moors over night as well.

Continue along the road and head to Leaholm, which is a another picturesque village. Turn right in the village, and then left shortly, and head towards Glaisdale. Once you pass through Glaisdale, you'll climb a hill that has a 1 in 3 gradient, but you'll be well rewarded by the views from the top. Where the road divides, take the right and head to Egton Bridge.

At Egton Bridge, turn right at the junction and head for Grosmont. You will start to see some woodlands as you've now entered the stunning Esk Valley. You'll find the North York Moors Railway at Grosmont, and may enjoy a steam train ride.

From Grosmont, head to Sleights, where you'll turn left on to the A169, and keep driving until you join the A171. Turn right and head to Whitby! Whitby itself is a top destination in its own right.

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