What a cracking moorland circuit this is.
One of life’s great delights is to sample the wild, majestic beauty of the North York Moors on a summer’s day with the sun beating down out of a clear-blue sky. This adventure across Danby Low Moor - should you arrive on such a sunny day - will put a spring in your step and a smile on your face. So time your visit perfectly. One thing to remember – this is a grouse moor, so dogs must be kept on a lead at all times.
Danby was styled Danebi – settlement of the Danes – in the Domesday Book of 1086. Hugh Fitzbaldric was given the manor at the Conquest, but it soon came into the possession of the mighty de Brus (Bruce) clan, great landowners throughout the north, founders of Guisborough Priory and who, 200 years later, produced the hero king, Robert the Bruce, who seized the Scottish throne through his mother’s line in 1307.
On the death of Peter de Brus in 1271, the manor of Danby passed to the Thwengs of Kilton and then to the Latimers. It was the Latimers who replaced the old Bruce castle at Danby – it lies a mile south-east of the village - with the structure in place today, which dates from about 1340.
The Latimers remained at Danby until William Latimer died in 1380 without male issue. His heiress daughter, Elizabeth, married John Neville of Raby Castle in Westmorland, thus bringing yet another wealthy estate into the hands of that illustrious dynasty.
In 1425, on the death of Ralph Neville, 1st Earl of Westmorland, the Neville estates, which were spread throughout 24 counties of England, were split up. Danby went to a younger son, George, who was created Baron Latimer of Danby in 1431. In the 16th century, John Neville, Baron Latimer, achieved fame when, at the age of 64, he married Catherine Parr, future wife of Henry VIII, and brought her to Danby Castle.
On the death of her husband in 1542, Catherine married Henry Tudor and managed to hang on to her head and survive the king, who died in 1547. In 1655, the Danby estate was sold to John Dawnay, of Cowick, who was created Viscount Downe in 1680. The family still retains the estate.
Danby is now best known for the popular Moors National Park Centre situated just beyond the eastern edge of the village.
PARKING: Danby lies near the northern limits of the North York Moors National Park, some 14 miles north of Hutton-le-Hole. On arriving at the crossroads in the centre of Danby, go up Briar Hill - the road to Lealholm and the Moors National Park Centre - and park on the left within 100 yards.
DANBY AND THREE HOWES RIGG
6 ½ miles: Allow 3 – 4 hours. Map: OL 26 North York Moors Western area. Dogs on a lead.
Return to the crossroads in the centre of Danby and turn right along the road signposted Scaling and Whitby, passing the Duke of Wellington on your right. Climb the slope to leave the village to approach a red sign on your right reading: Caution sheep on road .
Just before this red sign, turn right to a gate with bridleway arrow (ignore the two box-top footpath signs in close proximity). Go through the gate and up the grass track to strike a vehicle track with house up to your left. Cross the vehicle track and go up the sandy banking to gable end of house and turn right along vehicle track and follow it to the Danby-Whitby road at the Danby nameplate.
Take the grass track opposite on to Danby Low Moor (box-top sign). Within a few yards, spot the wider grass track just to your left – ignore it! Just as our path almost touches the wider track, our path bears right up the moor. Soon, you will cross a line of flagstones – the ancient Pannierman’s Causeway, a trade route across the moor going back to the 17th century.
Press on along the good path to arrive, eventually – have patience! - at a point where the path passes through an area of white clay (cycle tyre tracks, on out visit). STOP! Go forward a few paces through the white clay and then spot a wider clay path just to your left and step left into this path and follow it up the moor, soon passing a prominent stone with yellow paint.
As you wander up Danby Low Moor – this path is an old packhorse trail known as the Siss Cross Road – spot the Siss Cross itself on the skyline. The path leads past grouse butts and onward to the cross which is decorated with yellow paint.
The original medieval cross has been replaced by a weathered stone. The cross acted as a waymark on the Siss Cross Road pack trail which ran north to south, past the cross, to join the Pannierman’s Causeway which we crossed just outside Danby.
On passing the Siss Cross, sweep right up the moor towards a wind turbine in the distance, the path soon becoming vehicle tracks through the heather before narrowing once more to single file. Never leave this path, however sketchy it might become. Press on with the North Sea above Whitby popping into view.
1: Finally, you will arrive at a marker post, cairn and a wide vehicle track. Turn left for the journey along the northern edge of Danby Low Moor. After one-and-a-half miles, you will emerge in the Castleton-Guisborough road at Three Howes Rigg. Turn left, immediately spotting White Cross on your right.
This medieval stone marker lies at the meeting point of five centuries-old trade routes. The base of the cross is original, but the shaft is an 18th-century dressed stone. The original cross is in Whitby Museum.
Walk along the unfenced road – Three Howes Rigg - using the grass verges on either side. The Three Howes burial mound lies on the moor to the left of the road after about 400 yards. Just a bit further, on right side of road, is a tumulus.
These tumuli (burial mounds) date back to the Bronze Age, but many of them were re-used by the Vikings of the 8th-10th centuries – the name howe derives from the Old Norse haugr, a barrow.
Just beyond the tumulus, the road dips for an easy, free-wheeling descent. After a short half mile, spot the road sign for “S” bend on left side of road. Just beyond, there is a padlocked gate on your left with a prominent vehicle track behind it – go round the right side of the gate to gain the vehicle track and follow it through Crow Act Access Land where you have freedom to roam.
Go past old quarries and then a quarry pond on you right with the green and fertile Danby Dale ahead. Follow the main track with no diversions – it becomes a narrow path passing a sandstone outcrop on your left and then it passes through an obvious narrow defile to emerge at a tiny green area overlooking the valley.
2: Bear right down hill past old wooden sleepers. Go straight down a fine ridge towards the road in the valley. Half way down this ridge, the path becomes close-cropped grass – now stay alert! At end of the cropped grass, do NOT go straight ahead into the reeds – instead, bypass them on the left, down the grass, to spot a wooden fence to your front right and with the chimneys of a house popping into view.
Follow the fence down towards the red roofs. When you arrive at bracken just above buildings, either go straight down – very carefully! - to gain a grass bridleway at the properties or, better, turn left across top of the bracken, past a tree, to gain two trees side by side and turn right down the grass to a stone Georgian house.
On gaining grass track, turn left. This lovely path leads to a wood (Danby Park), pass through and continue on the excellent path (part of the 37-mile Esk Valley Walk linking Castleton to Whitby).
At a marker post with twin blue arrows, go straight ahead. Soon, Danby appears ahead with the Esk Valley Line down to your right (this scenic railway links Middlesbrough to Whitby via the moors villages of Great Ayton, Castleton, Danby, Grosmont and Ruswarp).
At end of this fine path, enter the Castleton-Danby road and go straight ahead. Follow road to a fingerpost on your right, cross the stone stile, drop down field to a waymarked walkers’ gate and follow the enclosed path to its end to enter Danby.
Cross a stone stile and turn right, past houses, and then turn left, past the Methodist church, to the main road (toilet block). Turn left up to the village green and go half right up the grass to enter Briar Hill. Regain your vehicle.