Cleveland Way: Helmsley to Cold Kirby


General Data

The Cleveland Way starts off in the pretty market town of Helmsley. After leaving the stone bench that marks the start point it heads west, passing close to the ruins of the twelfth-century Helmsley Castle. The trail skirts some woodland before descending to cross the River Rye at Rievaulx Bridge, with the magnificent ruins of Rievaulx Abbey a short distance to the north. Although the abbey is not on the route, it is well worth planning an additional couple of hours in your schedule to allow a visit.

The trail then follows a stream valley upstream before starting to climb uphill through woodland. After emerging from the trees it joins a track that runs between fields to reach the small village of Cold Kirby.

Distance  5.4 miles
Ascent  1148 feet
Descent  558 feet
Est. time  2 hours 39 minutes
Difficulty  easy

Map of the leg

Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.


The Cleveland Way starts at a simple stone seat in the village of Helmsley at SE609838. This is next to the village's long-stay car park and toilet block, and is only a short walk from the market place in the centre of the village.

Pass the car park and continue westwards uphill along a track. As the track forks, take the right hand branch to continue uphill. The track ends at a clapper gate beside a field gate; go through this into a field and follow a hedge on the left. Go through a second clappergate / field gate combination and continue following the hedge on the left. At the corner of this field go through a clapper gate and turn left to follow an obvious path with a hedge on the left. This heads straight downhill towards some woodland ahead.

The path does not enter the trees, and instead turns right to head westwards with a broken-down wall and a steep tree-lined slope to the left. It passes a couple of fields on the right; at the end of the second the path enters the trees and descends steeply down steps before climbing up steps on the other side. At the top the path emerges from the trees into another field. It follows the edge of the trees on the left; when the trees end the path skirts a stone wall on the right and curves slightly to the left to cross an unsurfaced track near Griff Lodge at SE590834.

Cross the track and on the other side follow a good path that heads westwards. This passes an area of woodland on the left before entering the trees and curving to the right to take a more northwesterly course, descending to reach a road. Turn left to follow this road as it curves sharply to the right; there is an off-road footpath on the left that allows you to safely negotiate the bend. When this path ends, join the road and follow it westwards until it reaches Rievaulx Bridge over the River Rye at SE574842.

Continue along the road; when another road comes in from the right after a quarter of a mile head straight on. After nearly another half a mile the road curves to the left; shortly after the bend turn right down a track that soon reaches a bridleway gate beside a field gate. Go through this and continue along the track as it swings to the left to take a westerly course, passing a series of ponds on the right. Just before a gate is reached, turn right across grass for a few yards to reach some stepping stones over a stream. On the other side go through a bridleway gate and turn left to join a track that immediately ends at a bend in a larger track.

Follow this good track westwards. After a quarter of a mile the track curves to the right; here turn left along another track that heads southwestwards along the grassy bottom of a valley. After a third of a mile turn right off the track and take a footpath that heads steeply uphill. Initially this is along a gap in the trees, but soon the trees enclose the path. It becomes a rocky sunken lane; cross a stile to the right of a field gate and continue uphill as the path emerges into a field. Continue straight on, following a fence on the left. In the corner of the field cross a stile beside a field gate and continue along a track. This slowly climbs, following a fence and then a hedge on the left.

The track becomes the unsurfaced Low Field Lane. Three-quarters of a mile after leaving the trees the track passes two barns on the right and then curves to the left. On this bend, turn right down a footpath that curves to the right as it falls steeply. At the bottom turn left along a vague track that climbs uphill with Cold Kirby church away to the left; the gradient slackens and it joins a road in the hamlet of Cold Kirby. Turn right and follow this road westwards for a few yards until it reaches a junction with another road at SE532845.


Places of interest


Helmsley is a picturesque market town, nestled in the valley of the River Rye. It is a charming place, with the Borough Beck running through the centre of the town, occasionally crossed by elegant stone bridges. The market square is dominated by a Gilbert-Scott designed spire-topped monument to Lord Faversham, who helped bring in factory reform, and is surrounded by some superb stone buildings. As the main town for many miles around, ii is a central hub for the local area and has many useful shops and conveniences for a town of its size. Helmsley is the inland trailhead of the Cleveland Way National trail, and also the northern trailhead of the Ebor Way, which head south through York and then west to Ilkley.
location UID #327

Helmsley Castle

Helmsley Castle sits just outside the village of Helmsley in North Yorkshire. The first wooden castle on the site was first built by Walter l'Espec in 1120, in a commanding position above the town. Over the next century it was slowly rebuilt in stone. Like many castles, it suffered during the English civil war, being besieged by Parliamentary forces for three months; it was then ordered that the castle was to be slighted. This left the half-keep that we see today, although the adjacent mansion was kept intact. The castle is now in the care of English Heritage.
location UID #328

Rievaulx Abbey

At one time, Rievaulx Abbey was one of England’s most powerful Cistercian monasteries. It was founded in 1132 by 12 monks who preferred this remote and wonderfully bleak part of Yorkshire to their old home in central France. The abbey grew fat and rich on the proceeds of sheep and mining, and their wool sold all over Europe. As more monks and brothers joined, they twice diverted the River Rye to create space to extend their home.

The Black Death hit the abbey hard, reducing the number of monks and brothers. It had somewhat recovered by the time of the dissolution in 1538, but the buildings were rendered uninhabitable.

There is a postscript, however: the abbey was sold to the Earl of Rutland, who dismantled much of the abbey. However the abbey had its own small ironworks to make objects for its own use, and Rutland extended this. A blast furnace was added in 1577, and ironworking continued on the site until the 1640s. So the quiet monastic life was replaced with heavy industry, and that in turn decayed to form the quiet ruins visitors see today.

The spectacular ruins are now in the care of English Heritage.

location UID #330

Duncombe Park

Duncombe Park is a country estate nestled about the River Rye near Helmsley in North Yorkshire. The estate is based around a fine stately home, originally built in 1713 for Thomas Duncombe, although much altered over the years as taste and fire intervened. It suffered the same problems faced by many of its contemporaries after the First World War, with the building being converted to a girls’ school for 65 years, before it was restored as a family home.

location UID #332

Cold Kirby

‘Cold’ seems an unnecessary appellation for a tiny village high on the Hambleton Hills in the North Yorkshire Moors, but on a sunny day the village can seem rather magical, with some superb views. Until the early 1300s the village was owned by the Order of the Knight’s Templar; after their suppression, it was given to the Knights Hospitallers. Its church, St Michael’s, was originally built in the 12th century, but the current building dates from 1841. The village has no pub, the nearest of which are at Scawton, a mile and a half to the southeast, and Hambleton, about the same distance southwest along the Cleveland Way.

location UID #333


Helmsley has good, if sometimes infrequent, bus services from the market square to various villages in the area, including York, Pickering and Malton. The nearest railway station is at Malton, although York may be more convenient for many travellers.

Cold Kirby has little, if no, public transport at the current time (2012).

For more public transport information, see the Travelline website.

Map information

Landranger (1:50,000)   Outdoor Leisure (1:25,000)
Landranger 100 (Malton & Pickering, Helmsley & Easingwold)
Outdoor Leisure 26 (North York Moors - Western Area)

Photos of this leg

The statue of William Duncombe in Helmsley Market Place.Helmsley church.The stone seat marking the start of the Cleveland Way.Looking back towards Helmsley Castle.A wall beside the path.Griff Lodge.The Rye at Rievaulx Bridge.A lake in Nettle Dale.Stepping stones over the stream in Nettle Dale.A view down Nettle Dale.Following a track up Flassen Dale. The track leading to Cold Kirby.Cold Kirby church.

Accommodation information

No 54 Bondgate
North Yorkshire
YO62 5EZ
P: 01439 771533

Grid ref: SE615839 (54.247271,-1.058)
The Carlton Lodge
North Yorkshire
YO62 5EY
P: 01439 770557

Grid ref: SE615840 (54.247602,-1.057048)
Red Roofs
3 Carlton Road
North Yorkshire
YO62 5HD
P: 01439 771596

Grid ref: SE616842 (54.249572,-1.055728)
Stilworth House
1 Church Street
North Yorkshire
YO62 5AD
P: 01439 771072

Grid ref: SE612838 (54.246256,-1.062927)
The Black Swan Hotel
Market Place
North Yorkshire
YO62 5BJ
P: 01439 770466

Grid ref: SE612839 (54.246745,-1.061549)
Feversham Arms Hotel
North Yorkshire
YO62 5AG
P: 01439 770 766

Grid ref: SE611839 (54.247409,-1.063335)
The Feathers Hotel
Market Place
North Yorkshire
YO62 5BH
P: 01439 770275

Grid ref: SE613838 (54.246254,-1.060725)
Helmsley YHA
Carlton Lane
North Yorkshire
YO62 5HB
P: 0845 3719638

Grid ref: SE616840 (54.248237,-1.056431)
Bungdale Head Farm
near Thirsk
North Yorkshire
P: 01439 770589

Grid ref: SE559837 (54.245818,-1.144252)
Forward to  Cold Kirby to Sutton Bank

Trails Index  Back to 'Cleveland Way' index
Trails Index  Back to Trails index