Blazing the (Rail) Trail

When I was younger, Sunday was the worst day of the week – my parents would pack a picnic and drag me & my brother out for a walk…….I hated it. We would walk 7-10 miles, round in a big circle to admire the view or the scenery. It was torture!
When I had my kids, I vowed I would never force them to go for a walk……and even now they are teenagers, I still stay true to my vow.
Which is why, writing about a walk on the North York Moors, may seem a bit odd. This walk is just over 3 miles, taking in ‘Heartbeat’ country from Goathland to Grosmont.
Following the route of the original railway and running alongside the North Yorkshire Moors Railway (NYMR), this trail is stunning and interesting.

Photo Credit: www.northyorkmoors.org.uk
Photo Credit: www.northyorkmoors.org.uk

When I walk this route with my family, we start at Goathland and walk to Grosmont…..the main reason is that whereas there are uphill sections, the walk feels mainly downhill. We tried going the other way when the kids were little – believe me, pulling a buggy and a child in a papoose up the drag towards Goathland was no fun……
We park at Goathland Station, the NYMR has a smallish car park to the right of the station. Parking is available in the village and is clearly signposted.
Walking over the bridge that crosses the River Esk, you walk up the hill into Goathland – you pass Scripps Garage and the Aidensfield Inn. Even though Heartbeat hasn’t been filmed since 2009, a lot of the set remains on show for the coach loads of Heartbeat loyal fans who wander around the village still enchanted by the era of Heartbeat.
Turning right at the car park (past the toilets – just in case) you turn left into a field with a kissing gate and an obvious path. The beauty of this walk is that it is clearly signposted and has easy to walk on paths. Crossing the road at the end of the field is where the ‘proper walk’ begins.
Going past the water treatment works on your left, isn’t the most scenic part of this walk, but you are now walking down a path towards Beck Hole. The walk is fabulous for families and dog walkers as there is minimal risk from traffic – but there is plenty of water…….
At the bottom of the path is the idyllic Incline Cottage. Walking past the side of this beautiful house, you come to your 1st ‘crossroads’ and decision……You can turn right and walk into the hamlet of Beck Hole with its honey coloured stone houses and welcoming pub (check the opening hours) with a sweet shop attached, or carry on and cross the river by the stepping stones (if you’re brave) or the bridge (my choice). Even if you choose this option, you can still turn right on the other side of the river and head for the pub.
Once back on the trail after a pint of something proper Yorkshire and a bag of sweets (for the kids, obviously…) you follow a well walked track into woodland. Again, if you keep a close eye on where you are walking, just before you walk fully into the woods, you can turn off the path and head onto the other side of the river and walk higher up into the tree level. Again, as a wimp, my preference is to admire the beautiful wooded scenery and follow the path……
A little further on, you cross the river again and carry on through the woodland. This is the point where you will meet up with the more adventurous members of your party as the higher track joins the woodland path. Walking along here, you can hear the trains, but not see them. However, you can go down by the river and skim stones – it’s quite muddy in the winter and the river level can get quite high – so check before letting kids down to the water’s edge.
Once out of the woods, you come into open fields and grazing area. We tend to put Benny (dog, not child) onto his lead here as there are often sheep. This is a spectacular point of the walk to see the trains going past, you are close enough to hear them and to see them clearly in the surroundings of the North York Moors.
At the end of this open area, you cross the river once again and head into more woodland. This path has the river running on your right and spectacular forest to the left. At the end of this path, you walk through a gate and into Esk Valley Cottages. These cottages run up to the railway line and are a mixture of holiday and private homes. They are fabulous cottages, having stayed in one a few years ago, would happily go back anytime. Our windows overlooked the railway and the kids loved running to the fence to wave at the steam and diesel engines as they passed by.
The path now follows the railway, with ample opportunity for photographers to take pictures of the engines. The path goes off to the left and to the uphill section…….you are now walking over the top of the tunnel before descending into Grosmont. Even though it is steep(ish), it is worth persevering to get to the viewing point. This overlooks the engine sheds where the volunteers work to maintain the engines. On a really good day, I have seen the iconic A4 Sir Nigel Gresley – this engine is the same class as Mallard and its distinctive shape makes it an easily recognisable mascot of the steam era.
The last bit of the path is the drop into Grosmont – but before you follow the path down, stop at the top of the hill (sitting on the bench is the best bit) and look down onto Grosmont Station. This is probably the best view on the whole walk!

Photo Credit: blog.travelmarx.com
Photo Credit: blog.travelmarx.com

Once in Grosmont, take time to explore this charming village. The pub serves great food and there are dog friendly tearooms to visit.
Walk back through the tunnel to see the workings of the engine sheds and if you get there at the right time, you can see the engines being worked on.
Now, you could walk back to Goathland, get the train, or head into Whitby for well-deserved fish and chips…..
Before doing this walk, if you are planning to walk one way and get the train back, please check the North York Moors Railway timetable at http://www.nymr.co.uk/
Trains run during the summer and the main holiday times, but not through the winter.

Written by Jenni Mchahey