Hole of Horcum
The Hole of Horcum is a massive natural amphitheatre 120m deep and 1.2km across. A popular legend tells the story of Wade the Giant who scooped up a handful of earth to throw at his wife in an argument. The lump of earth left a large hole (Horcum) and landed nearby creating the small hill of Blakey Topping.
The scientific explanation for the hole’s formation is just as dramatic and lays the blame on a process called “Spring Sapping”.
This is a geomorphic process found in areas with high water tables and permeable sandstones underlain by an impermeable layer. Water springing out from the hillside gradually erodes the rocks above little by little. Over thousands of years, what was once a narrow valley has widened and deepened into the enormous cauldron you see now. The process is still at work today. Hard to believe that such a slow, tiny process can create something as big as Horcum.
The Ordnance Survey Explorer OL27 covers the Eastern area of the North York Moors which includes the Tabular Hills Walk, the Cleveland Hills, Esk Valley Walk, the Cleveland Way, and the Northern end of the Ebor Way. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The OS Explorer Map is available in both the standard paper version and weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
The track across Levisham Moor goes across a unique landscape that has been occupied for thousands of years. On the way to Dundale Pond, you’ll pass Bronze Age Barrows, Iron Age Boundary Dykes and the ruins of a Medieval Sheep Farm. The walk has an optional detour to a more recent ruin, Skelton Tower an old shooting lodge from the 19th Century.
Hole of Horcum – Walk Summary
This is a classic walk and very popular. If you want solitude I suggest you go mid-week and avoid the weekends. The walk is 8km long (11km with the Skelton Tower diversion).
The walk has much to recommend it, starting with the dramatic panorama of the Hole of Horcum from Saltergate. This has to be one of Yorkshire’s finest views. The view is stunning all year round, but if you catch it in July or August when the heather is flowering, it is truly amazing.
I have described the walk in an anti-clockwise direction, but it’s just as good in the other direction. From Saltergate it follows a well-defined track over Levisham Moor, past a number of archaeological remains. The path leads eventually to Dundale Pond. This was dug in Medieval times as a watering hole for livestock. From here there is a diversion to Skelton Tower. This adds about 3km to the 8km of the circular walk. From Dundale Pond the path drops down along the rocky ravine that is Dundale Griff. The return is along the valley bottom to the Hole of Horcum with a final climb up to Saltergate (this is steep).
You should have no navigation problems as the walk is on well-defined paths. These can be a bit muddy in places. The walk along Levisham Moor to Dundale Pond is part of the Tabular Hills Walk.
If you’re bringing your dog be aware that there are plenty of sheep, cattle at Dundale Pond and ground-nesting birds along the way.
There are plenty of grouse on the moors, and if you are lucky you might see a curlew, lapwing or merlin.
Finding Saltergate Car Park
The walk starts and finishes at Saltergate Car Park on the A169 Pickering to Whitby Road (YO18 7NR). This is a “pay and display” car park. If you are walking the complete route including Skelton Tower, I’d give yourself four hours at the car park.
There is a bus stop at the car park which is serviced by four buses a day on the Coastliner Leeds to Whitby service.
Step by Step Walk Guide
Saltergate Car Park to Dundale Pond
From the car park cross over the road to the path that runs around the Hole of Horcum. Take care crossing, not everyone takes notice of the SLOW signs!
Turn right onto the path and follow it around for about 500m until you come to a gate. The road goes around a sharp right-hand bend here.
Go through the gate and continue onto Levisham Moor on the obvious track. Ignore the downhill path on the left, this goes to the bottom of the valley and is used on way back. The path across Levisham Moor is followed for about 3.5km. Along the way lookout for a stone with a metal sign. This indicates the site of a 2000-year-old Iron Age Dyke. Continue to follow the path until you reach Dundale Pond. Highland Cattle seem to congregate around the pond (I gave these a wide berth! although they seemed to be docile enough) and it is also home to several Dragonfly spies.
Diversion to Skelton Tower
At the pond turn right (Signposted Levisham Station). The foundations of a medieval, monastic sheep farm can be seen here.
At another signpost, at the corner of a stone wall turn right to follow the track across the moor. When you reach the escarpment edge, head down the path through a hollow. You’ll see the tower directly in front now. The ruins of Skelton Tower sit on the edge of Newtondale with commanding views over the valley and the track of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Every now and then a train journeys along the track offering the perfect photo opportunity. As you can see from my photo I had no such luck, I heard a train whistling as I was approaching the tower. Despite my sudden fast turn of pace, it was just disappearing around the bend as I arrived. If you were planning on having a picnic, this would be the perfect spot.
Return to Dundale Pond by the same route.
Dundale Pond to Saltergate Bank
Once back at Dundale Pond continue straight ahead following the sign “Dundale Griff to Hole of Horcum”. Continue along the path, above the deep-cut ravine of Dundale Griff. At the bottom of the valley is a fingerpost, pointing left towards the Hole of Horcum. Follow this path into the woodland and cross the stream over the wooden bridge.
The path now climbs higher up the right side of the valley. In about 1km cross a style into open pasture.
At the fork take the right-hand path and follow it to meet a field path from the right. Follow the field path to an old farm building at the start of the Hole of Horcum. This building is now a nature reserve and home to bats, swallows and barn owls.
Walk along the left of the fam’s wall and follow the fenceline to a field gate. Go through the gate and follow the path as it now climbs (Steeply) out of the Hole of Horcum back to Saltergate Bank.
Turn right and follow the path back to the car park.
Whilst I take every care to ensure the accuracy of the route descriptions, I cannot accept responsibility for errors or omissions. The route described may be pleasant for walking in fine weather but can become slippery, boggy and dangerous in wintry or wet weather. On days when visibility is impaired by fog, rain, cloud or mist, some landmarks used as direction aids in the route descriptions may not be visible.
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