This is a short walk taking you up and around the Kilburn White Horse in North Yorkshire, then back down through the woods.
I had been planning to come here, ever since walking to Sutton Bank a week ago. It’s quite common to do both of them together, however, I chose to skip out the White Horse that time (for various reasons).
Today, I had just been to Helmsley to do a walk, and the White Horse was on my route home, so figured that this would be the day to do it. I must say though, I wasn’t that excited heading into it. When I did the Sutton Bank route last week, I was blown away by the views. I didn’t think they could get any better. Plus, with the Kilburn White Horse being a touristy place, I knew I would be heading into a mass of people….
I was proved wrong in all aspects.
First of all, the views are incredible. You actually get a better cliff view than on the walk I did here last week.
Second, it wasn’t busy at all. Granted, I did do it on a Monday. It was a very sunny Monday though, and during the school holidays.
What I’m going to do in this guide, is first give you a bit of an overview of the circular Kilburn White Horse walk, with some useful tips, full logistics, and a map. Then I will go on to describe the route step by step with photos. At the end I will provide suggestions to other walks nearby, as well as some chalk figure walks.
What is the Kilburn White Horse?
The Kilburn White Horse is the largest and most northerly horse figure in England. Cut in 1857, it was designed and financed by a guy from Kilburn, named Thomas Taylor. Having seen all the white horses in the south (there are a lot down there) during his time working in London, he wanted to bring a pice of it back to his hometown.
Fun fact: Unlike the horse figures in South England which are cut into the chalk, and therefore self preserving, the Kilburn White Horse is not actually chalk. It has been cut into limestone, which is the wrong colour, so chalk has to be brought in to maintain it.
Want to see the oldest chalk figure horse in England? You will find it down south in Uffington. He (or she) is prehistoric.
My favourite chalk figure walk is along the Ivinghoe Beacon route. This one features the Whipsnade White Lion.
How long is the Kilburn White Horse walk?
This walk around the Kilburn White Horse is 1.6 miles long and took me about 30min to complete. I did go at a fairly quick pace without stops, however, the views at the top are so gorgeous, you may want to sit around for a bit up there.
How hard is the walk around the Kilburn White Horse?
Apart from the steps, the Kilburn White Horse walk is easy. Those steps did take me by surprise. I had read about them, and how tough they are. Although, when I started my way up, my thought process was ‘what are people on about, this isn’t that bad’. Then at some point, my legs turned to lead and my breathing got really heavy. They really are tougher than they look. The good news is, they don’t go on for that long.
Is the walk dog friendly?
Yes. This circular Kilburn White Horse route is a dog friendly walk. There is no livestock, and no stiles.
Where is the best place to see the Kilburn White Horse?
The best place to see the Kilburn White Horse is actually down in the village of Kilburn. On this walk, you are so close to it that you really just see a mass of white when at the top. From the car park, you see a headless horse.
Parking for the Kilburn White Horse
There are two main car parks that give you access to the Kilburn White Horse. One is free. One isn’t. You have the Sutton Bank National Park centre, which costs (at the time of writing) £4.80 for the day. This one has toilets and a cafe. The free parking is at the Kilburn Forest car park. Here you have an ice cream van.
I of course chose the free parking. Which is where this walk starts from. It is directly under the horse.
If you choose to park at Sutton Bank, then you can follow the ridge to reach the White Horse.
Tips for the walk
- I did the route anticlockwise, but I might even suggest doing it clockwise. The best part of the walk is along the path at the top (which is where you start if you walk anti-clockwise). I think it would be nicer to finish with that. Walking anticlockwise, you finish with the woods which I didn’t find that interesting.
- Before you decide to go clockwise, one thing to take into consideration, is the uphill will be a bit longer and more drawn out. However, you do get to go down the steps instead of up.
- It looked like it could be quite muddy at times. There was a lot of dried mud in the woods. So if it’s been raining recently, you would probably best wear hiking boots.
- If you decide to not include the woodland section of the walk, but instead, stay on the path at the top, trainers will be fine.
- If you want to make the walk longer, stay on the path at the top to walk to the Gormire Lake Viewpoint (a little bit past the visitors centre). You can take a look at it on my guide here. The view is fantastic.
- If you have come with a pram, then best start at the Sutton Bank visitors centre, and just stick to the path at the top. Otherwise, good luck navigating those steps.
- Start/Finish: Kilburn Forest car park
- Where is it: The Kilburn White Horse is located in the North York Moors, in North Yorkshire. The car park post code is YO61 4AN.
- Distance: 1.6 miles
- Time: 30min (without stops)
- Difficulty: Easy (apart from the steps)
- Terrain: Dirt trail, some tree roots and rocks, well maintained path, steps
- Amenities: Ice cream van and picnic benches at the car park. For toilets, you can stay on the ridge to walk to the Sutton Bank visitors centre.
- Time of year: I walked it in early spring
Map for the circular walk around the Kilburn White Horse
You can find my more detailed route map for the Kilburn White Horse walk on AllTrails
Read more: Best walks across the North York Moors
A guide to the circular Kilburn White Horse walk
As I did this walk anticlockwise, I will be describing the route that way.
From the Kilburn Forest car park, you will have the White Horse slap bang in front of you. A headless White Horse mind you.
You will see the steps to the right of it. They look quite innocent to start, especially as you don’t have to walk that far to get to the top. But trust. They get you good.
Once up the top, with a mass of white in front of you, you will have an incredible far far reaching view. The best views are to come though….
Walk along the escarpment
Keep walking along this path, past the Kilburn White Horse, and then someway along, you will get the most incredible view down and along the rocky cliff face into the valley.
This is the kind of place you might want to just sit. That’s why I think this route would be better clockwise, as it would be lovely to chill here near the end of the walk, before heading down to the car park.
If you keep walking, you will walk past the Yorkshire Gliding Club, and may see some flying above.
Fun fact: This gliding club is one of the oldest in the world, and has had some of the biggest names in Aviation as members.
Fun fact 2: Amy Johnson was a member. She is the first woman to fly solo from Britain to Australia.
Walk down into the woods
When you reach the junction in the photo below, turn left to walk down through the woods.
(If you want to continue on to Sutton Bank and the Gormire Lake viewpoint, stay up top and keep going straight).
To get down into the woods, it’s fairly steep on a narrow dirt trail, with some rocks and tree roots thrown in. Then once at the bottom, turn left.
Walk through the woods to get back to the Kilburn White Horse
From here, you just keep going straight. At various points, you will pass a wooden stump with red arrow. Keep following it. The whole route back looks something like this:
It’s not very eventful, and not as exciting as walking along the escarpment, which is why I think doing the route the other way would be better.
Other chalk figure walks in Britain
I mentioned earlier the Uffington White Horse. That’s a very old one, and you don’t see it as clearly as the Kilburn White Horse, otherwise, it’s a lovely walk.
One of my favourites is The Whipsnade White Lion, as part of the Ivinghoe Beacon route. This one is down south in the Chilterns.
Another one you could try is the Long Man of Wilmington. He is the largest human chalk figure in Europe. You will also see another surprise white horse figure on this one.
More easy walks nearby
The Goathland to Grosmont route is an easy one, taking you along the rail trail. It’s very cute with the old railway station.
Helmsey to Rievlaux is just 15 min away, and is also an easy route to follow. I walked it just before the Kilburn White Horse.
For more walking routes across the whole of the North York Moors, you can check out my guide on all the best walks I recommend here.
Pin it for later: An easy walk around the Kilburn White Horse
For more walks in the area, you could check out the North York Moors website.