Walk: Cowlam, Cottam and Garton-on-the-Wolds, North Yorkshire

This figure-of-eight walk through the Yorkshire Wolds includes medieval villages and quiet wolds - the route can be cut in half for those looking for a half-day adventure

Cottam Church, North Yorkshire

This walk takes you to the home of Sir Tatton Sykes, who was a great benefactor to the people of the Yorkshire Wolds in the 19th century. You’ll also have the chance to visit the remains of two medieval villages, Cowlam and Cottam on the Sledmere Estate, a fitting end to the day in the Wolds.

This described walk is 14 miles, but there is the option to shorten the walk, cutting the overall distance by half.

Phillip's Slack, North Yorkshire
Phillip’s Slack, North Yorkshire/Credit: Jim Bradley

To reach the start of the walk, take the A166 from York just past the village of Fridaythorpe, before turning left at the bikers cafe on to the B1251. Pass the village of Fimber on the left, then, at the roundabout, continue straight to Sledmere. It is here that David Hockney passed through on his way to visit his friend in York. He painted the village, and with a little artistic licensing included the monument in the scene – it does exhist but wouldn’t have been visible from where he stood.

Once in Sledmere, turn left on the B1253 to Bridlington. After a little under two miles, turn right at Cowlam Cottages and park on the grass verge, 0.5 miles down the road at Church Farm.

Cowlam, Cottam and Garton-on-the-Wolds walk

14 miles/23km | 8 hours | moderate-challenging

1. Start

The walk starts through the farm, which is on the site of the old village of Cowlam with the old well still in the grounds. The medieval church of St Mary’s was restored in the 1850s. The building contains the original medieval font; if closed, keys can be obtained at the Manor.

Cowlam Well Dale entrance, North Yorkshire
Cowlam Well Dale entrance, North Yorkshire/Credit: Jim Bradley

Enjoy a short walk through the farm then turn right into Cowlam Well Dale. After a mile, the way joins Phillips Slack to the left; don’t take this, but instead turn right into Cottam Well Dale. An easy path leads down to the road. Turn left, sticking to the road for 0.5 miles to a gate on the left (you go through this later in the walk).

Margaritas in Cowlam Well Dale, North Yorkshire
Margaritas growing in Cowlam Well Dale, North Yorkshire/Credit: Jim Bradley

2. Sledmere Grange

For now, don’t go through the gate. Instead take the track on the right opposite, which is a wide track. A steady climb takes you beyond an unnamed dale to your right, past Sledmere Grange and on to tarmacked York Road.

3. Short or long?

If you’re feeling tired and only fancy a short walk, Warren Dale (on your left) is a good point to loop back to the start. Look out for two two gates and take the left-hand gate leading into Warren Dale. This lovely twisting walk (not private) is especially beautiful in spring when the gorse is in flower. A mile of walking leads to the road. Here, turn left and after a 0.5-mile walk you’ll reach the gate, now on your right, previously mentioned (point 2).

Warren Dale walk, North Yorkshire
Warren Dale walk (short route), North Yorkshire/Credit: Jim Bradley

For those keen to continue on the longer route, carry on along York Road past Warren Dale to reach a monument erected in 1865 in memory of Sir Tatton Sykes.  It is a huge monument, some 120-ft tall with stairs inside leading to a viewing gallery. Sledmere House (open to visitors) is a few minutes up the road, and remains in the Sykes family – the current occupant is also called Sir Tatton Sykes.

Sir Tatton Sykes monument, North Yorkshire
Sir Tatton Sykes monument, North Yorkshire/Credit: Jim Bradley

4. Garton-on-the-Wolds

Continue down the road for just short of two miles. At the end of the road, turn left onto the A166 and walk for 0.5 miles into the village of Garton-on-the-Wolds. If you haven’t been before, take a right to St Michaels church to view the famous wall paintings.

Return and continue on the A166 for 0.75 miles, then turn left onto Garton Balk track. Walk for just under two miles to the road, turn left, then continue for 1.5 miles to the gate mentioned earlier in the walk, now on your right (point 2).

St Michaels Church, North Yorkshire
St Michaels Church interior, North Yorkshire/Credit: Jim Bradley

Go through the gate and climb steadily ­– with a slight drop into Lambert Dale – for 1.75 miles. Eventually you’ll meet a crossroad of track signs; here turn left and walk for 0.5 miles, with farm buildings to your right and left, heading towards Cottam House and the site of the old village of Cottam.

Lambert Dale, North Yorkshire
Lambert Dale, North Yorkshire/Credit: Jim Bradley

The sign takes you around the house to a tarmac road; cross to a gate on the other side and enter Cottam Dale. You’ll see a derelict church, which stands on the site of the original medieval church, and the well-preserved cultivation terraces.

Carry on down the dale for about a mile then turn right back into Cowlam Well Dale for a steady climb back to Church Farm.

For refreshments there is a nice pub in Sledmere where Sledmere House is also open to the public on certain days.

Cowlam, Cottam and Garton-on-the-Wolds map

Cowlam, Cottam and Garton-on-the-Wolds walking route and map

Cowlam, Cottam and Garton-on-the-Wolds walking route and map
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