The Kilburn White Horse and Sutton Bank walk in the North York Moors

North-west from the lower of the two Kilburn White Horse car parks through woodland to Hood Grange and north to Gormire Lake. Further north to the village of Boltby using paths and tracks across the countryside and passing Southwoods Lodge, Tang Hall and Greendale. After exploring the village, east and a sharp climb to High Barn at the top of the inland cliff near Boltby Scar. The walk is completed by following the Cleveland Way national trail in a southerly direction above South Woods, Whitestone Cliff and Sutton Bank until reaching the Kilburn White Horse hill figure, then dropping back down to the car park. A 12-mile walk in the North York Moors.


The best map to use on this walk is the Ordnance Survey map of the North York Moors Western Area, reference OS Explorer OL26, scale 1:25,000. It clearly displays footpaths, rights of way, open access land and vegetation on the ground, making it ideal for walking, running and hiking. The map can be purchased from Amazon in either a standard, paper version or a weatherproof, laminated version, as shown below.

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The bridleway through Hoodhill Field Plantation.


A well-defined path across the farmer’s field leading to Hood Grange.


Hood Beck flowing through the farm at Hood Grange.


The view south from the A170 towards Hood Hill.


Memorial to John Brown and Christine Mary Brown near the entrance of Hood Grange.


Private drive leading to High Cleaves.


Our route into the woodlands of Gormire Rigg on the west side of Gormire Lake.


Gormire Lake

A natural lowland lake below Whitestone Cliff on the west side of Garbutt Wood. The lake has no inflow or major outflow of water, and is thought to be filled by an underground spring and drained by a limestone channel at the base of the cliff face to the east. The lake is also known as White Mere, Lake Gormire or just Gormire, and the name Gormire means ‘filthy swamp’.

Gormire Lake was formed over 20,000 years ago by glacial erosion. When an ice sheet pushed its way between the Pennines and the North York Moors it bulldozed the soft earth away and carved the cliffs at Whitestone, and the left-over mud stopped the water’s escape and formed the glacial lake. It is the fourth largest of the natural lakes in Yorkshire (the other three being Hornsea Mere, Malham Tarn and Semerwater), and was designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) in 1954. In 1985 the area surrounding the lake was incorporated into the SSSI status with the new area including Garbutt Wood.

The lake is the setting of several myths. One is that of a knight known as Sir Harry Scriven who conned the Abbot of Rievaulx Abbey into letting him ride his horse, a white mare. The knight and the abbot rode on from an inn and as they did so, it turned into a race. The abbot then changed into the devil, which caused such panic in the knight that he couldn’t stop the horse and himself plunging into Gormire Lake from the top of the cliff. The ‘devil’ was then seen to jump into the lake after them and the boiling effect of the devil in the water is what is said to have caused the darkness of the lake to this day. Other myths are that the lake is bottomless, that the bottom of the lake is the entrance to hell, that there is a submerged village underneath the water and that a goose once disappeared in the lake to emerge in a well at Kirkbymoorside stripped of all its feathers.

Gormire Lake is popular with wild swimmers as it has no streams feeding it so there is very little current and the waters are described as being ‘warm’. Swimmers have also reported that it is seething with leeches. The Times named the lake as one of the 20 best lakes and rivers in Britain for wild swimming.

Information from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gormire_Lake


The bridleway just north of Southwoods Lodge.


The gated entrance of Southwoods Hall.


Heading north from Midge Holm Gate towards Huggon Howl.


A small pond near Midge Holm Gate.


Woodland path north-east of Greendale.

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The view down to the farm at Greendale.


Emerging from Cow Pasture Wood and looking across farmland towards the village of Boltby.


Holy Trinity Church in Boltby, founded in 1409 and rebuilt in 1802.


The beautiful and very peaceful village of Boltby, nestled beneath the Hambleton Hills about a mile to the east.


Enjoying the view of Boltby Forest and the surrounding countryside.


The soil has been washed away to reveal the roots of these lovely trees.


Signpost on the Cleveland Way above Boltby Scar. Sneck Yate to the north, Sutton Bank to the south and Hambleton Road to the east.


The view west from Boltby Scar towards Boltby.


Looking north over to Boltby Forest from the top of Whitestone Cliff.


Amazing views of Gormire Lake and the sprawling flatland of the Vale of Mowbray, as seen from the Cleveland Way above Whitestone Cliff.


Whitestone Cliff with South Woods below and Boltby Forest in the distance.

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Toposcope on Sutton Bank, 981 feet above sea level.

  • York 20 miles
  • The Hawk Hills 9 miles
  • Knaresborough Castle 19 miles
  • Harrogate 22 miles
  • Dishforth Aerodrome 10 miles
  • Fountains Abbey 17 miles
  • Ripon 15 miles
  • Great Whernside 32 miles
  • Thirsk 5 miles
  • Jervaulx Abbey 20 miles
  • Bedale 16 miles
  • Richmond 24 miles
  • Northallerton 11 miles
  • Lake Gormire ¾ mile

The view over to Sutton Bank and Whitestone Cliff from Roulston Scar near the Yorkshire Gliding Club.


The White Horse of Kilburn

Seen here from Carr Lane north of Kilburn village. The famous landmark is the most northerly turf-cut hill figure in England. At just over half an acre in area, 318 feet long and 220 feet high, it must have taken a huge effort to make.

The White Horse is the handiwork of a Victorian businessman and village schoolmaster.

Thomas Taylor, a native of Kilburn, worked for a London merchant. He had seen the famous chalk hill figures of southern England and wanted to create something similar for his home village.

In 1857 the master of the local school took up his inspiration. He and his pupils marked out the figure of a horse on the hillside high above the village. A team of 31 volunteers did the actual cutting. When the shape of the horse was complete, they deposited six tons of lime on the naturally greyish rock beneath to whiten it. The horse still has to be whitened at regular intervals.

Its conspicuousness hasn’t always been considered a benefit – during World War II the horse had to be covered to stop it becoming a target for German bombers.


The head and ears of the White Horse.


The bridleway across the top of the White Horse.


The hind legs of the White Horse.


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