Nature nuts and history buffs walk
Stop for a halfway break in the market town of Helmsley, renowned for its pubs and tea shops. This circular walk is best when combined with a visit to our special place so why not explore our house on your walk too?
Rievaulx Terrace Visitor Centre
From Rievaulx Terrace Visitor Centre turn left through the gate and follow the permissive footpath down the bank through the woodland. Take care in wet weather as the bank can be muddy.
At the bottom of the bank, turn left along the road into Rievaulx village. On your left pass the church of St Mary the Virgin, originally the abbey's gateway ‘Slipper’ chapel.
At the bridge, turn left down the road, through the fields that were integral to the abbey’s sheep farming income. Pause to look behind you at the view of the ruined abbey. When the road goes up the hill, bear right and follow the footpath.
The abbey's name comes from the French word 'Rievalle' meaning Rye valley. It was founded in 1131 by twelve French monks, attracted by its sheltered position near the river Rye. The valley became an agricultural and industrial hub, transforming Rievaulx into one of the largest and richest Cistercian houses in England. After it was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1538, the villagers continued farming and smelting iron ore in the valley. It is now run by English Heritage.
Follow the Cleveland Way right into the woodland. Continue through Quarry Bank and Whinny Bank woods, with mixed oak, hazel and ash trees. Note the colourful foliage in the autumn and listen for jays collecting acorns. In the summer spot butterflies, nuthatches and blackcaps. Hear the distinctive 'yaffle' of the shy green woodpecker before you see them.
At the top of Whinny Bank, stop at the bench by Griff Lodge to enjoy the view. Follow the Cleveland Way towards Helmsley to the left through the meadow, do not follow the gravel roadway.
Follow the path through woodland and fields. Glimpse Helmsley Castle in the distance and stop in Helmsley for well-earned refreshments.
The original wooden Helmsley Castle was built in 1120 by Walter l’Espec, patron of Rievaulx Abbey. It was greatly extended in stone in the 13th century, and converted into a Tudor hall by Edward Manners, Earl of Rutland in the 1570s. The castle is particularly well-known for its part in the Civil War siege of Helmsley, when the Royalists managed to hold out for three months against Sir Thomas Fairfax before surrendering. It is now run by English Heritage.
Take some time to explore Helmsley, which has Viking and medieval origins. When you're ready to continue the walk, turn right down High Street and continue onto Castlegate. When you reach the entrance to Duncombe Park, turn right and walk up the drive.
As you pass Helmsley Castle on the right, you’ll see the Tudor extension. The walled garden was built by Thomas Duncombe in 1759 to provide fruit and vegetables for his new house, Duncombe Park. Continue up the drive and over the cattle grid, passing the Tuscan temple on the left.
When you reach the Bird of Prey centre, continue past it up the drive to the left. Walk past the front of Duncombe Park and pause to enjoy its baroque façade.
Banker Charles Duncombe bought Helmsley Castle and its surrounding land in 1694. Leaving the castle to decay, he built Duncombe Park nearby in 1713 as a grand Yorkshire seat for his family. Modelled on the designs of Sir John Vanbrugh, it was gutted by fire in 1879 and later rebuilt. The Duncombes, now Earls of Feversham, also built Rievaulx Terrace and Temples as a viewing platform and scenic retreat on their country drives out from the Park. The Park is still owned by the family; the gardens but not the house are open to the public.
Turn right over the cattle grid to continue up the drive and into the woods. When you reach a t-junction, take the right fork. Do not follow the footpath marked with a flower symbol. Continue up the roadway until it splits. Take the left turn towards a clearing, returning to Griff Lodge.
Turn right past the lodge through the gateway, signposted with black waymarkers. Follow the waymarkers through a field and past Griff Farm. The bumps in the ground are all that remain of the abbey's home grange. When you reach the road, cross it and walk through the field.
Turn left at the far fence to walk parallel to the road. Continue through the end gate to return to Rievaulx Terrace. Visit the Terrace and Temples for a view of the abbey from high above.
Rievaulx Terrace Visitor Centre
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