The distinctive conical summit of Roseberry Topping, whimsically dubbed the ‘Matterhorn of Yorkshire’, looks as if it belongs on a much loftier peak – at just 320m, it’s an achievable goal for most of us.
But the views from its pinnacle are as dramatic, and the hike up through broadleaf woods and heather moors as wild, as you’d expect with such a name. It’s said that 18th-century explorer James Cook, who spent boyhood years at Aireryholme Farm on its slopes, was inspired by his tramps across this mini-mountain.
As if by magic
Start with your back to the Cook statue on Great Ayton’s High Green, facing east towards the tourist information centre. Follow the High Street around to the left as it becomes Newton Road. After 300m, turn right at the mini-roundabout onto Roseberry Crescent.
Now for a Harry Potter moment: turn right into the passage opposite number 55 – after 10 paces or so, countryside magically materialises around you. Follow the path through fields to the railway, turning left to follow the line before crossinga stone bridge and following a wide track uphill.
Where the track veers right, take the narrow path straight ahead up into Newton Woods, and keep to the left-hand forks through the trees.
Birdlife is bountiful among the oak, sycamore and ash. As summer turns to autumn, blue and great tits have vacated the many nestboxes hidden among the branches, and the wild flowers are giving way to fascinating fungi: wax caps and brackets on damp tree trunks.
Listen for great spotted woodpeckers and the yaffle of green woodpeckers, and watch for the white rump of a roe deer among the bracken. You’ll catch glimpses of the sheer, rocky south-western face of Roseberry Topping, exposed by a 1912 landslip caused by many years of mining.
Join a bridleway and continue to the end of the woods, then turn right up a steeply stepped track where it meets a stone-lined path.
Follow it right to emerge in a clearing alongside a bench. Turn left through a gate and climb to the summit. From here, sweeping vistas take in Great Ayton to the south-west, the North Sea to the east, and the high moors and Captain Cook Monument – your next target – to the south-east.
Drop east along the hill’s ridge, following the Cleveland Way down and ahead alongside a dry-stone wall and up the right-hand flank of Little Roseberry. The path turns right and passes through a gate onto Newton Moor; continue with the wall on your right. The moor is bleakly beautiful here; you may see skylarks or (as I did) a kestrel hovering.
Rising from the moor
After a mile, descend steps to the car park and picnic area at Gribdale Gate; turn right along the road for 10m or so, then left through the gate and up to the monument.
Erected in 1827 by Robert Campion of Whitby, this 15m-high sandstone obelisk is striking on the bare, high Easby Moor, an ocean of heather to south and east. From here, the scar on Roseberry Topping resembles a sharks-fin.
Turn sharp right down a rutted track, aiming for a pair of old stone gateposts, then after 250m left at the fork and down into the pinewoods.
Back to the start
Crossing a track, emerge from the woods through a gate and turn right to follow a gorse-lined bridleway down to cross Dikes Lane and follow Aireyholme Lane as it turns uphill to the right.
Watch for the public footpath sign to the left, climbing a stile and crossing a field to delve into Cliff Ridge Wood. Where a rusty metal gate appears next to a sign for Cliff Ridge Quarry, turn left down a steeply stepped path, then right along a field edge. Cross the railway, and continue straight for 1km to emerge through a kissing gate onto Newton Road, turning left to return to the green.
MAIN IMAGE: Roseberry Topping. Credit: Getty Images
HOW TO GET THERE
Great Ayton is on the A173, eight miles south-east of Middlesbrough. There’s free car parking at the village tourist information centre. Even better, leave the car at home – Great Ayton station is on the picturesque Esk Valley Line between Middlesbrough (17 minutes) and Whitby (one hour), linking with the steam-powered North Yorkshire Moors Railway at Grosmont.
FIND OUT MORE
Great Ayton Tourist Information
High Green Car Park, Great Ayton, North Yorks TS9 6BJ
The North York Moors National Park Authority
STAY & EAT
Royal Oak Hotel
123 High St, Great Ayton, North Yorks TS9 6BW
18th-century inn with superior pub grub – much locally sourced, along with several ales – and comfortable accommodation.
OS Explorer OL26
Grid reference: NZ 52 106
Choose a subscription offer to suit you and benefit from generous savings on the shop price, free UK delivery and discounts off special editions and back issues.