- Start: Levisham village
- End: Levisham village
- Country: England
- County: NorthYorkshire
- Type: Country
- Nearest pub: Horseshoe Inn at Levisham, cafés and pubs in Pickering
- Ordnance Survey:
- Difficulty: Medium
Take your time on this walk with its spectacular views, guided by Terry Fletcher
Geologists, in their dusty way, will try to tell you that the vast Hole of Horcum was carved out of North Yorkshires Tabular Hills by the action of glaciers and rushing water. Others know that the huge defile, some 400ft deep and three quarters of a mile across, was actually created when a local giant was having a spat with his wife.
He scooped up a handful of earth to throw at her though fortunately for her, he missed and the resulting clod of soil and rock is said to have settled as Blakey Hill across the moors. Whether you prefer to believe science or legend there is no denying this is one of the countys spectacular sights and one easily viewed from the main Pickering to Whitby road which skirts the rim. A better way to appreciate its size and setting, however, is by this walk which follows Levisham Beck into the heart of the hollow and then scales the valley sides.
It starts at Levisham, one of those delightful villages that hide themselves away shyly among the folds of the moor unsuspected by those who flash past on the main roads. It is reached either by narrow switchback lanes with one in five gradients and hairpin bends or, even more memorably, on the preserved North Yorkshire Moors steam railway, though the station is a little way out of the village.
However you arrive, start with your back to the Horseshoe Inn and walk down through the village with its mellow stone cottages standing well back across broad verges. As the road leaves the village take a signposted path down on the left and almost immediately take a left hand fork heading across the slope. This is the start of a long woodland stretch as the path undulates through the trees with occasional views across the valley and the neighbouring village of Lockton.
After a few hundred yards and a flight of well-engineered steps ignore the right hand fork to Lockton and continue along the main path signed to Horcum. Eventually the path emerges from the wood at a gate and continues up the valley with a stream below. Drop down the slope to where a signpost points the way to the Hole of Horcum.
A small stream must be forded but after rain it is slightly narrower a few yards below the obvious crossing point.
A few yards further on the main beck is crossed by a small footbridge and at the other side immediately turn left to follow the beck upstream, as directed by a discreet yellow arrow on one of the bridge posts. The path goes through a couple of wooden gates and a boardwalk avoids the worst of the mud before it emerges onto the open hillside below the wooded slopes of this intimate little valley.
The path eventually curls rounds below the solitary building of Low Horcum. Ignore an elaborate stile by a gate and instead drop a few feet to the valley bottom and got through a gate and climb a heather slope beyond, which marks the start of the ascent to the rim of the Hole.
The steep slope provides plenty of excuse for stops to admire the views of the great hollow before it eventually reaches a ladder stile which signals the arrival at the lip and the main Pickering to Whitby road with views northwards towards Fylingdales.
There is a large car park away up the hill to the right which sometimes though not always - boasts an ice cream van if refreshments are needed but the walk itself turns left to follow a broad track through a gate. The track curls round the head of the Hole before striking out across the moor. Even though the moor is largely featureless the way is obvious in all but deep snow.
It is enlivened by occasional iron plaques provided by the Levisham Estate and pointing out places of interest such as a 2,000-year-old Iron Age dyke and ponds dug for livestock by early farmers.
Eventually the path drops down to the tiny Dundale Pond where a five-armed signpost points the way along the main track to Levisham.
Or if you have arrived by train there is a signed shortcut to the station.
Those parked in the village or feeling the call of the Horseshoe should follow the main route to where it leaves the moorland at a gate.
Now confined by walls, it eventually becomes Tarmac and leads easily back into the village.
Start/Finish: Levisham village, reached from the A169 Pickering to Whitby road or via the North Yorkshire Moors Railway
Time: 3 hours
Terrain: Woodland paths and moorland tracks. Steep climb out of the Hole of Horcum
Parking: Limited parking at Levisham. If full the walk could be started from the main car park by the Hole of Horcum
Refreshments: Horseshoe Inn at Levisham, cafs and pubs in Pickering