SUTTON Bank was quiet, even the A170, and so was the North York Moors National Park visitor centre. The gents were frozen but one was encouraged to use the ladies.

So after a bit of chat, we set off in our new gaiters, much easier and cosier than the old ones. Snow fell for about a minute; one slow, wispy flake per cubic yard, then the air was empty. Below, on the plains, the fields were outlined hard, and a road pointed straight west towards Thirsk; Gormire Lake was a white platter and Hood Hill a forested dark cone, both a mile away.

Snow crunched under foot and was set for the duration; so was the sky that held a steady fan of sunbeams each illuminating an oval of land Cotswold way, to the south. Nothing moved, no walkers, nothing on foot, no bird but a single lapwing that landed on the Yorkshire Gliding Club’s airfield. The White Horse of Kilburn was invisible, though we passed within yards of its head, and kept above it, and stayed at nearly a thousand feet all day.

The cliffs here are high, steep and some vertical and the route, the Cleveland Way, is along the edge, with Knowlson’s Drop, the Devil’s Parlour, the big promontory of Roulston Scar, Ivy Scar, and the oddly named Low Town Brow, there being no town.

We were attracted to the Yorkshire Gliding Club’s clubhouse, glinting and circular on the flat of the airfield, and we were encouraged by a sign reading “Seven days a week”. But it was deserted so we didn’t have the pleasure of the panoramic restaurant but, in the curved sun- drenched porch, read how in the 1970s they flattened a portion of the Roulston Scar Iron Age Promontory Fort, the “largest and strongest prehistoric enclosure in Yorkshire”. This they did unknowing because, astonishingly, significant understanding of the fort is recent.

We pulled on our shades, my navigator her terrorist-style balaclava, and found ourselves on a new path through part of the fort site. Obviously the cliffs we had walked offer exceptional defence. Here we found ourselves above a deep cut stream gully. Then came the shortness of the day, with the chilling of the evening and the cooling of the light, although enough to see the Hawnby Hills. Instead of tracking directly for the park’s centre, we took a little twirl through the very end of Flassen Gill that, though boasting multi-colour-coded signposts, is nicely disorientating and was delicately lovely with the thinnest frills of snow balanced on matchstick branches of birch.


When in doubt look at the map. Check your position at each point. Keep straight on unless otherwise directed.

1. Path to side of Sutton Bank Visitor Centre, cross car park behind, cross main road to path (waymark/Sutton Bank Walk/White Horse fingerpost). Cliff top path, steep drops to side.

2. Above White Horse, fork left and maintain height. Two footbridges on twisting path.

3. Cross road, through car park to path (signs).

4. Path swings left by trees. At waymarked post (white arrow on black) on bank, right down bank ten yards, immediately left on path with steep valley to your right.

5. Either up bank to road and to Gliding Club, or continue on path (waymarked post, white arrow on black).

6. Straight on (ignore waymarked post), track beside wood.

7. Left to track (unsuitable for motor vehicles). Join narrow road. Cross A170 and right on path. Pass houses and pub and join metalled drive (fingerpost Cleveland Way/Cold Kirby). Downhill, uphill.

8. Path on left (three-way fingerpost Sutton Bank). Cross track (arrow white/green), path. Right to wide path (fingerpost), 100 yards, left to path beside road (fingerpost), odd footbridge on right, cross road to Sutton Bank Visitor Centre.


Distance: Four miles.

General location: North York Moors.

Start: Sutton Bank Visitor Centre.

Right of way: Public and permissive paths, and open access.

Dogs: Legal.

Date walked: December 2010.

Road route: Via Thirsk or Helmsley.

Car parking: Pay and Display at visitor centre.

Lavatories: Visitor centre.

Refreshments: Visitor centre, gliding club and inn.

Tourist and public transport information: Visitor centre 01845 597426.

Map: Drawn from OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors western.

Terrain: Cliff-top flats.

Difficulty: Quite easy.

• Please observe the Country Code and park sensibly. While every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers set out at their own risk.

View a map of the Sutton Bank country walk>>