Yesterday, on my way to walk from Goathland to Grosmont, I drove right by the Hole of Horcum and did a double take. It was one of those situations where I wanted to keep looking, but I was also driving along a winding road, with fast cars. I so desperately wanted to pull over, so I could look up what I just saw.
I couldn’t pull over, and spent the rest of the day thinking about it (where I went to had no internet signal). Once I got home later, the first thing I did was look up what this amazing thing was that I had seen. I found out, that it was the Hole of Horcum, which is actually on my list of walks to do out here.
Well, that decided what my next walk would be….
What I’m going to do in this guide, is give you a little bit of an overview of the Hole of Horcum circular walk, followed by the full logistics, a map, and useful tips. I will then describe the walk route step by step, with lots of photos. At the end I will provide a list of other walks I recommend in the area.
You can read more about Goathland to Grosmont here.
What is the Hole of Horcum?
The Hole of Horcum is a gigantic amphitheatre. It is 400ft deep and over half a mile across. It reminded me a little of Devils Punch Bowl down south, near London. Just a much bigger version.
I had a feeling that the Hole of Horcum had a story behind it, so I looked it up and found out this:
It was created by Wade the Giant, who scooped up a handful of earth (creating the hole) to throw at his wife.
How long is the Hole of Horcum circular walk?
The full circular walk from the Hole of Horcum and around Levisham, is about 7 miles. You do have the option to shorten the walk to 5 miles by skipping out Levisham.
Is the walk hard?
The Hole of Horcum is quite impressive to look at, and seemingly hard to walk. But it’s not. The only difficult bit I found was through the woods on the way to Levisham. Which is why I rate this as a moderate walk overall. Walking around the top of the Hole of Horcum is easy, walking through it is easy.
Parking to walk the Hole of Horcum
There is one car park called Saltargate, which gives you direct access to the start of the walk around the Hole of Horcum. It’s on the main road (A169). At the time of writing, it costs £3.80 for the whole day. I did the walk on a weekend, and it wasn’t that busy (granted, it was the off season).
The only difficult thing about the car park, is trying to get across the main road to start the walk into the Hole of Horcum. It’s a very busy road with fast cars.
- Start/Finish: Saltergate car park
- Where is it: Located in North Yorkshire, in the North York Moors
- Public transport: Yes. the 840 coastliner bus stops here, and runs from Leeds city centre to Whitby. It’s a long way from Leeds though. About 3h on the bus. From Whitby, it’s just under 1 hour.
- Distance: 7 miles
- Time: Just over 2h, with one short snack stop.
- Terrain: Grass, dirt, mud, bog, tree roots.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Time of year: I did this in early spring.
- Dog friendly: Dogs must be kept on a lead. No stiles. Well, there is one, but there is a gate alternative.
- Amenities: At the halfway mark in Levisham, there is a a pub called The Horseshoe Inn. I didn’t stop at it, but I have heard lots of good things about it. I have read that there is an ice cream van in the car park. It wasn’t there when I was there, so I suspect it’s more of a summer thing.
Map for the Hole of Horcum circular walk
You can find my more detailed route map for walking around the Hole of Horcum on Alltrails.
Tips for the walk
- Wear hiking boots. It was very muddy, and a bit boggy in parts.
- Do the walk in the same direction I did, clockwise. That way you get the tougher bit out of the way first, and you walk down rather than up the steep hill.
- Stop for a drink at the Horseshoe Inn at the halfway mark.
- If you don’t fancy stopping at the pub, then I would suggest skipping out Levisham. I found the section of the walk to reach Levisham, from the Hole of Horcum, to be quite tedious (more on that further down). There is a trail you can take to cut across and skip it out. I will show you when I describe the walk below.
- I found it to be very hot when down walking in the hole, and a lot cooler walking around the rim. It was a sunny (but still cold) day, so it seems like the hole is a heat trap. So make sure to take layers, so you can adjust for the temperature.
Read more about layering: What to wear on a cold day hike
A guide to the circular walk around the Hole of Horcum
From the car park, your first challenge is trying the cross over the road. You might be waiting for a few minutes.
Once across, onto the green on the other side, turn right to follow the trail around. If you come across any trail splits, keep to the right one to stay on top.
Just before you reach the gate, turn left to walk down into the Hole of Horcum. You will see what I mean about walking down this bit and not up.
Walk through the Hole of Horcum
At first you will be walking along an easy dirt trail. It was quite impressive walking down here, surrounded by the hills. Despite being down in a hole, I felt quite exposed. I really needed a wee, but there was no where to hide. No trees. I would have had a bit of an audience from anyone walking along the top.
Once through the gate, continue along the grass trail. The atmosphere down here was quite surreal. There was a type of peace I hadn’t heard in a while. Like the world was silenced, with the occasional sound of birds chirping. There was no one else about, as if I was the only person that existed.
The lost man and lonely shed
It wasn’t until I was a bit of a way in, that I saw my first person. He was lost, trying to find a way out of the hole.
I passed by a sort of abandoned shed, and imagined this being my home. I do this a lot. Imagine places on my walks are my home. What a peaceful place this would be to live. Well, that’s what I was thinking, until I thought about how there is no way this place doesn’t get more busy. It’s just too good. Maybe more people are here in the summer?
I then wondered if I owned the shed, would I also own the Hole of Horcum, and then I could stop any one else walking in it. Although, that wouldn’t be very nice. I wouldn’t want to deprive anyone of this place. Maybe it’s best that I don’t own the shed.
Continue to walk through the Hole of Horcum
A bit past the shed, the trail will split (see photo below). Take the right one across the side of the hill.
Walking through the hole is pretty easy, until it’s not. Out of no where, the grassy ground became really boggy and wet. With no option to walk around. Not just boggy and wet, but also on a slant. My legs were covered in mud by the end, from all the bog water splashing up.
You will at some point reach a gate. Don’t go through it, but instead, continue on the trail to the right of it. It was around here I passed a group of people walking their dogs. These dogs were on leads so I felt safe. Yesterday I had a very scary dog encounter. I was not enjoying dogs right now.
The trail will lead you to a potentially very very muddy section, and then to another gate. This one you do go through.
After a bit of plank walking, and along a narrow trail with the calming sound of the stream flowing below, you will reach the stream crossing.
Walk to Levisham or cut across to walk along the top of the Hole of Horcum
Once you have crossed over the stream, you need to decide where you want to go next. The right turning will take you up and out, to then walk back along the top of the Hole of Horcum. Straight will take you to Levisham.
If you take the right, I think you will reach this point in the photo below (but you will arrive on the other side of the gate):
If you walk to Levisham, you will reach this point later on.
To walk to Levisham, follow the grass trail up the hill, to reach the woodland and dirt trail.
This woodland section is my least favourite part of the walk. It went on for a little longer than is enjoyable. Imagine this, a winding, undulating, very narrow dirt trail, full of mud, so slippy in parts that there is a real risk of falling down the steep drop. The way the sun was shining down through the trees, didn’t create a fairytale glow like you would imagine, but rather, harsh and blinding.
This went on, and on, and on some more.
The good news is, that I was focusing so much on navigating the trail, and not slipping, that I hadn’t noticed the trail was taking me more uphill than it was down. By the time the trail levelled, and I could relax and take a moment to look around, I realised I was now high up. I had wondered what the hill would be like to get out of the hole. It was tough, but not the kind of tough you would have thought.
Walk to Levisham
After the trail levels off, you will soon get a view down to a valley ahead in the distance, and you should start to see the rooftops of (what I think is) Levisham ahead to the right. I was so happy to see the rooftops. The woods would be over soon…or so I thought.
Of course, it couldn’t be that easy. The trail will decide to take you down and up a bit more, with some steps thrown it.
Once you reach the second signpost, next to the viewpoint bench, turn right to walk up and through Levisham.
I found the street to be quite odd. It was all so immaculate. Two rows of stone houses, with large, bare lawns with neatly cut grass. I wonder if that’s a stipulation to live here. Have your front lawn maintained at all times, and no flowers allowed.
Quite nicely, this road leads you straight to the pub.
Leave Levisham to walk back towards the Hole of Horcum
At the pub, you can take the road on either side to walk back towards the Hole of Horcum. They will both lead to the trail.
I hesitated, as I wasn’t sure which road to take. Which was the better road?
I saw a group of people with their dogs leave the pub and take the road on the left. They looked like they knew what they were doing. So I decided not to follow them, and took the right road instead.
There isn’t much to say about the road, except I think it’s probably the better road to take for no cars. It’s a bit uphill to start, then levels off. You will get a view, when walking up here, to the big crater of the Hole of Horcum in the distance. I actually found it quite exciting, knowing I was heading to the big hole.
Walk across Levisham moor
Once you reach the gate entrance to Levisham Moor, continue straight along the grassy trail.
If you cut across earlier on, and skipped out Levisham, I think this is where you end up.
The grass trail leads to a junction, with multiple other trails. It was funny, as I was arriving at the junction, there were people also arriving each from the different trails. What’s also funny, is we all crossed the junction and left onto different trails.
To walk along the top of the Hole of Horcum, you want to take the trail straight across, following the sign to Saltergate. A short way along, there is a trail split. Stick to this main one.
From this point, right until near the very end, the trail looks something like this:
For quite a long time, the trail stayed the same, and my whole view was a mass of brown as far as the the eye could see, with a big hole visible in the distance. It was almost a vast nothingness. I quite enjoyed it though.
I passed by those dog walking people from earlier down in the hole, and then an elderly couple who I had also passed in the hole. There was something quite comforting and wholesome about it. We were all on the same mission. Just going about it the opposite way.
Walk around the top of Hole of Horcum
The landscape only changes once you reach the Hole of Horcum. It comes and goes quite quickly. As once you reach it, you are practically back at the start. I also found it to be much more crowded here.
For the whole route, right up until this point, I had only passed a few people here and there. Now I was passing everyone.
Whilst the view is pretty cool from up here, walking through the Hole of Horcum was definitely better than walking along the top.
More local walks to try
I have already mentioned Goathland to Grosmont, which is fairly nearby. On that one you follow the rail trail. It’s very easy, and is famous for Ironstone, Hearbeat and Harry Potter.
For more views, then I highly recommend you go and try Sutton Bank. The road leading up to it is so steep and winding, that caravans are banned from using it. Oh, and remember I mentioned earlier about being a bit nervous around dogs right now? Well, this walk took me over the edge…what with being chased by one.
My favourite walk up here, is the one to the Wainstones. It’s a proper good hike across the moors, with a bit of a scramble up some impressive rocks.
The walk up to Roseberry Topping is pretty cool. The name itself should make you want to do it. It’s a uniquely shaped drooping pointy peak. It looks a bit scary and like it would be tough, but it’s not. This one also takes you to Captain Cook’s Monument.
You can get a view to Roseberry Topping on this route from Osmotherley. It’s a wonderful walk, partly across a moor with really really impressive views.
Not too far from here is Robin Hood’s Bay, which is a cute little village on the coast. There is a great walk from there to Ravenscar, where you might get to see lots of seals.