North York Moors

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Roseberry Topping and Cook Monument photo by Mike Nicholas

Roseberry Topping and Cook's Monument

An ascent of the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’, plus a reminder or two of the great navigator and explorer Captain Cook – just some of the delights of this classic 7-mile circular walk through dappled woodlands and across heather moorland. You’ll encounter two iconic North York Moors landmarks en route – Roseberry Topping and Cook’s Monument – so take your camera and fingers crossed for a clear day. Coming by train on the Esk Valley Railway? Start the walk from Great Ayton station, just outside the town of Great Ayton – simply cross the railway bridge, head up the road and pick up the walk at point 13. Or you can start the walk from the Newton-Under Roseberry car park (A173), in which case walk up Roseberry Lane and turn left at point 6.

Walk info

Great for:
list-tickers, more than a stroll, big-sky views, history buffs
7¼ miles (11.7km)
5 hours
High Green car park
Grid Ref:
NZ 563 106
OS Map:
Ordnance Survey OL26
Great Ayton and Newton-Under-Roseberry
Great Ayton
GPX file, MMO file

About this walk

WalkThe climb up Roseberry Topping (1,050 feet/320 metres) is a steep ascent up a stepped path and stone track – there's also another (gentler) ascent from Gribdale Gate to Cook's Monument. Otherwise the going is straightforward, along well-defined moorland tracks and obvious grass and woodland paths. Please take care where the path crosses the railway line.

DogsPlease keep dogs on a short lead or to heel at all times on both the moorland and woodland sections of this walk. In moorland areas, dogs should be kept on a short lead between 1 March and 31July when birds are nesting on the ground. Please also keep dogs on a short lead where livestock is present, including on the path through the fields at point 2.

Captain Cook country

During his early years, the young James Cook must have spent many hours walking in this area. Tantalising glimpses of the North Sea from the Topping doubtless set something racing in his heart, and within a few years Cook had started a journey that would take him around the world on his famous voyages of exploration. His initial steps, however, were closer to home – first to Staithes (where he was apprenticed to a local shopkeeper) and then to Whitby. Follow the trail, finding out about his schooldays in Great Ayton at the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum, before visiting the Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre and then Whitby's Captain Cook Memorial Museum, the latter housed in the building where apprentice seaman Cook first lodged.

Roseberry Topping

Roseberry Topping is an unusual landmark on the otherwise fairly level skyline of the North York Moors. A hard sandstone cap has protected the underlying soft shales and clays, so while the surrounding area was worn away by ice, wind and rain, the Topping survived. Its dramatically shaped summit – seemingly cut away on one side – has another explanation, at least in part. Alum, jet and ironstone have all been quarried and mined out of the hill over the centuries, and ironstone mine workings led to the collapse of the western face in 1912.

Newton Wood

Parts of Newton Wood, on the slopes of Roseberry Topping, have existed for at least 400 years. Indeed, woods like this once covered much of the North York Moors. It's broadleaved woodland, with sessile oaks, rowan, ash, alder and sycamore present – most of the oak trees are of similar size and were probably planted in the 1800s. Unsurprisingly, it's one of the richest woods in the area for birdlife, featuring great spotted woodpeckers, blue tits, woodcock, wood warblers and flycatchers.