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Captain Cook’s adventures on Roseberry Topping

Harvested fields at Little Ayton under gentle evening sunlight with Roseberry Topping on the horizon, North Yorkshire
Roseberry Topping from nearby farmland | © National Trust Images/Joe Cornish

Before he became a renowned explorer and navigator, Captain James Cook grew up on a farm close to Roseberry Topping. His trips to the summit instilled a spirit of exploration that would eventually lead to him becoming one of the world’s most famous seafarers.

James Cook was born in 1728 in the village of Marton, which is now a suburb of Middlesbrough. In 1736, when James was still a young boy, his family moved to Airey Holme Farm just south of Roseberry Topping.

For the first five years he attended the local school in Great Ayton. The school is now a museum where you can learn more about Cook and his early life.

Roseberry Topping expeditions

After he finished his schooling in 1741, Cook started to work for his father as a farm hand. It's during this time that he made regular expeditions to the summit of Roseberry Topping.

These early walks are said to have given James a taste for adventure that would stay with him for the rest of his life. You can certainly imagine that the views from the top might have inspired him to explore what lay beyond the horizon.

Print, engraving, Captain James Cook (1728-1779) after Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland RA (London 1735 -Winchester 1811). Three-quarter length portrait, dated 1780, published by Fielding and Walker, 2nd February 1780. Inscription on the back recording presentation now removed.
Captain James Cook by Sir Nathaniel Dance-Holland | © National Trust / Andrew Fetherston

World exploration and legacy

Cook left Airey Holme Farm in 1745, when he moved to the fishing village of Staithes to work as a grocer. But this clearly wasn't the career for him. After only 18 months, he left for Whitby to join the merchant navy, beginning his life at sea.

The young man would go on to command an expedition to explore the Pacific Ocean. He and the crew of the HMS Endeavour became the first recorded Europeans to land on Australia’s eastern coast.

He remains Teesside’s most famous son, and you can see Captain Cook's Monument – the 16 metre high obelisk erected in his honour on Easby Moor – from the summit of Roseberry Topping.

Harvested fields at Little Ayton under gentle evening sunlight with Roseberry Topping on the horizon, North Yorkshire

Discover more at Roseberry Topping

Find out how to get to Roseberry Topping, where to park, the things to see and do and more.

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A silver National Trust Roseberry Topping omega shaped sign with a green oakleaf logo stands in front of a drystone wall with the grassy hill of Roseberry Topping behind it. A path zig zags up the slope. The sky is blue with big fluffy white clouds. Fields and hedges stretch into the distance beyond the hill.

Things to see and do at Roseberry Topping 

Discover what you can do around Roseberry Topping, from climbing the hill itself to seeing geological formations at Cliff Rigg Quarry and spotting wildlife such as roe deer.