Mulgrave Castle, or castles as there are three, are steeped in mystery, legend and great deeds at sea.

There are tales of Wada, a Saxon giant, and of his wife, Belle, a giantess who built and lived in the first castle in the woods sometime in the sixth century. Just a simple motte and bailey affair but high-tech in its day.

Legends tell of them building roads across the moors and a mysterious connection with Airedale and Wharfedale. Whatever they did, there are standing stones not far away which is reputed to be the site of Wada’s grave.

Many years later, in the 12th century, Peter de Mauley built a castle of Norman construction in the woods on the opposite hillside to Wada’s motte and bailey. This time it was built of stone and was garrisoned for Charles I during the civil war.

The castle was dismantled by order of Parliament in 1647 and left as a ruin, still standing proud, but defeated on the ridge overlooking the sea.

Over the years, the castle slipped gently into dereliction, then a few years ago, the ruin lost its garb of ivy and was respectfully restored by the Mulgrave Estate into the fine, but still ruined, castle we see today.

That is all the mystery and legend I am going to tell you about at the moment and move on in time about a hundred years or so to when we see a new Mulgrave Castle built on yet another ridge not far from either Wada’s castle or the de Mauley one.

This castle, more a beautiful house, stands today and is the residence of the Marquis of Normanby. But it is one of the first owners of the castle that I want to tell you about.

He was Constantine John Phipps, born in 1744, who eventually inherited Mulgrave Castle from his father. He made a career in the navy and in 1773 was commissioned to command two vessels, the Racehorse and Carcass, on an expedition to the Arctic.

His task was to find the elusive passage to the Pacific. They sailed to Spitzbergen then explored the frozen seas of immense ice fields towards the North Pole. They explored every channel where their ships could force a way through the frozen sea until they became trapped in impenetrable, thick ice.

How they escaped I have no record; but escape they did, and with “Herculean” efforts and perseverance the ships became mobile again with no obvious damage.

Not one to give up his command lightly, Phipps sailed on into the ice again but no passage through the hostile ice packs was apparent so the decision to return home was made.

The expedition was not a total failure, however, as it is recorded that “the astronomers on board had made many curious and interesting observations while in the vicinity of the North Pole region”.

There were other scientists on board and Phipps’ report of the exploration stressed the value of the scientific work they carried out while on the polar expedition.

Phipps returned to England safely and on the death of his father inherited the title of Lord Mulgrave. He continued his career in the Admiralty and politics then, rather late in life, became married to one of the Yorkshire Chomley girls from Howsham who was unfortunate to die on the birth of their daughter the following year. Phipps became Baron Mulgrave in 1790 and died in 1792. He was buried at Lythe.

Your route Leave your roadside car parking area and head off towards Sandsend village. Follow the roadside footpath across the bridge, then continue along to cross a second bridge at the bottom of Lythe Bank where there is a car park, café and public toilet.

Cross the road at the bus stop and take the footpath on the left leading along the side of Mickleby Beck towards the houses in the valley. Keep straight ahead above the beck, then walk past the church.

Continue along keeping to the left of a house called Woodlands, then bear right uphill between the houses to a large gate and a notice with conditions permitting access to Mulgrave Woods.

Enter the wood and start to climb a some times muddy path. When the path splits, keep right and continue uphill. The path varies from narrow to wide, then narrow again. Climb some rickety steps, then over a rotting bridge as you walk through the wood.

Eventually, you crest the hill, then take a short steep descent to a wider road. Go right here. Uphill again to soon meet a wider road. Go left here and soon start to descend. As you leave the trees into a clearing area, you will see the ruin of Mulgrave Castle on the ridge in front of you.

As you continue your descent, enjoy the fine old huge trees around here which reach for the sky until eventually you arrive at a bridge. Keep straight ahead to climb a little to a tunnel. Pass through the tunnel, then go right and soon you will see a sign for “The Old Castle”.

Go right as directed, then climb the steep, wooden stairs. At the top, go left to walk round the perimeter of the castle to the entrance around the corner. Climb more wooden steps to enter the castle grounds and imagine the fantastic view which there would have been from there before the wood existed.

Leave the castle by the way you came and walk back to the wooden stairs. This time descend, then go left at the wide path. Walk straight past the tunnel this time, then where the path splits, keep right. Continue to another fork in the path.

Enjoy a peer over the old bridge across Row Beck on your right, but do not cross it, your route goes left here, uphill to join another forest road. Go right now to enjoy this undulating road with pleasing views to eventually pass a cottage, then pass through the wood yard. Not far now to a large gate, then past the café to the road. Go right here across the bridge and follow the road back to your transport.

The facts

Distance – Four miles/6km
Time – Two hours
Grading – Easy
Start/grid ref – Sandsend, grid ref 860129
Best map – OS Outdoor Leisure 27
Parking – Free by roadside towards Whitby. There are two car parks, both have a small charge. One at the bottom of Lythe Bank, the other at the bridge across Row Beck at our exit from Mulgrave Woods
Refreshments – Tea rooms at the exit from Mulgrave Woods and adjacent to car park at the bottom of Lythe Bank. Wooden hut overlooking the sea near the roadside car parking on the Whitby side of Sandsend. Pub in the village.
Stiles – None
Public toilets – Bottom of Lythe Bank, near the wooden hut tea rooms across the road along the Whitby road