It was a fatal evening in 1786 that Kitty Garthwaite, coming home from a mop fair at Kirkbymoorside, met Willie Dixon from Hutton-le-Hole. Follow in her footsteps and relive her tragic story.
A Doomed from the start
Take the downhill path right of Gillamoor church, signed Hutton-le-Hole. At a track turn sharp right, then follow waymarks to the left of the mill. It was here in Douthwaite Dale that Kitty met Willie – he took a splinter out of her hand. Her gratitude led, it seems, to her pregnancy, and she was keen to marry Willy.
B Willie’s home
Cross the footbridge and go uphill, through a gate, then cross a stile in the hedge and continue uphill. Go right of the farm buildings, through a gate and bear half right to a footbridge and steps. At the top, turn left on a track, and after 20 yards fork right on a path. Follow the waymarks to a gate and continue between hedge and fence. Bear right through a gate towards the houses, then through two more gates to the road. To visit Hutton-le-Hole, where Willie lived, turn right; the walk continues to the left, uphill. Willie kept putting off the wedding, though he continued to meet Kitty – but he also courted the daughter of a wealthy farmer.
C Lowna Bridge
After 300 yards, take the road to the left, signed Gillamoor, which drops into the valley to Lowna Bridge. It was at Lowna, then a ford, that the final tragedy took place. On Whit Sunday 1787, the pair quarrelled and Willie rode off. Next morning, Kitty’s body, clad only in her shift or sark, was seen floating in the river. But Willie had ridden to York for a marriage licence. Upon his return he heard of Kitty’s death and went in search of her body. The following day his body was discovered in the same dark pool. Three weeks later, local children saw Kitty’s naked apparition sitting in a tree, waving her sark. Over the next 20 years she lured 16 young men to a watery grave, so it is said.
D Kitty’s burial ground
Continue uphill, and after a bend, turn right on a track, with a ‘Welcome to Lowna’ board. Just beyond a footbridge, bear left at a ‘Quaker Burial Ground’ sign – the cemetery is near the next waymark. Kitty’s body is said to have been secretly buried in the graveyard by a local Quaker who took pity on her. But the hauntings and deaths at Lowna did not stop until 1908, when a clergyman laid her spirit by bell, book and candle at the ford.
E Back to Gillamoor
At a gate beyond the burial ground, turn right, downhill. At the next waymark at a junction of paths, turn left, up the valley. You’ll come to a footbridge; do not cross, but turn left, uphill, through woodland. Cross a track and go over two stiles to a grassy track. Turn left, and left again at a gravelled track. At the road turn left. At a T-junction at the bottom of the hill, turn right, signed Gillamoor. Follow the road as it bends and goes uphill. After the 11 percent hill sign take the second track on the left. Turn right, taking the path uphill back to the church.
HOW TO GET THERE
Gillamoor is on a minor road north of Kirbymoorside, off the A170 between Helmsley and Pickering.
FIND OUT MORE
Helmsley Tourist Information Centre
Helmsley Castle Visitor Centre, Castlegate
Helmsley YO62 5AB
The Royal Oak Inn
Gillamoor, York YO62 7HX
Traditional pub with log fire and a good selection of food in its restaurant – rooms, too.
Gillamoor, York YO62 7HX
Comfortable B&B on a village farm – dogs and horses welcome.
Ryedale Folk Museum
Hutton le Hole
York YO62 6UA