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Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye

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Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye
Author: VisitRyedale, Published: 13 May 2016 Walk rating : Rating:star1 Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye Walking Guidestar1 Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye Walking Guidestar1 Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye Walking Guidestar1 Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye Walking Guidestar1 Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye Walking Guide
North Yorkshire, Ryedale
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye
Length: 4 miles,  Difficulty: boot Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye Walking Guide boot Visit Ryedale: Helmsley and River Rye Walking Guide
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A 4 mile (6.5km) circular walk from the market town of Helmsley in Ryedale. The route heads south along the banks of the River Rye, through pastures and crop fields, crossing the river via the footbridge alongside the fish farm and then returning on a higher farm track giving glorious long-reaching views. This walk is part of the Visit Ryedale Collection, published through a collaboration between iFootpath and Ryedale District Council. For more visitor information on the area including events and accommodation, go to

The walk is flat for the most part, with just a couple of steady climbs. The riverside grass paths can get muddy at times. You will need to negotiate several single gates, a couple of kissing gates, some footbridges and 4 stiles. The first stile has a very generous adjacent dog gate, but the following 3 have tighter wooden fence surrounds (suitable for small dogs to squeeze through but larger dogs may need a lift over). You will be sharing the riverside pastures with a mixture of horses, sheep and cattle, so take particular care with dogs. If you want to avoid the cattle and tight-surround stiles, a more dog-friendly option would be to follow just the first 1.5 miles, a 3 mile ‘there and back’ walk (with only sheep, horses and a generous dog gate to contend with). At the end of the walk you will need to cross the A170 river bridge (which does not have a pavement) so take particular care of traffic at this point. Allow 2 hours.

There are public toilets in Borogate (just south of Helmsley Market Place at the start and end of the walk). If you are looking for refreshments, you will be spoilt for choice with pubs, cafes and restaurants in Helmsley at the start or end of the walk. OS Map: Explorer OL26 North York Moors Western Area. This walk follows public footpaths and bridleways which cross private and public land. Please respect people’s privacy, keep dogs under control and remember the Countryside Code.

Helmsley is located on the River Rye, on the A170 between Thirsk and Pickering. The walk starts and finishes in the Market Place in the centre of Helmsley. If you are coming by car, long stay parking is available in the Cleveland Way Car Park. The fee for up to 6 hours is £4.30 (correct Apr 2016) or half price if you use a Ryedale Parking Smartcard. Approximate post code YO62 5AT. From the car park, simply follow the signs to the Market Place. If you are coming by public transport alight at the bus stops in Market Place. For help with planning your journey by public transport please visit

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Walk Sections

Start to National Park Depot
Start to National Park Depot

Start point: 54.2463 lat, -1.0616 long
End point: 54.2424 lat, -1.0531 long

The walk begins in the Market Place, directly outside the library and town hall. Standing with your back to the library, walk straight ahead across the centre of the Market Place to reach the road at the far side (A170 to Thirsk). Turn right along this and as you reach the corner of the Market Place use the pedestrian crossing to swap to the left-hand pavement. Continue along this road, passing the entrance to Helmsley Arts Centre on your left. Ignore the side road, Buckingham Square, on your right and just before you reach the river bridge, turn left into Ryegate.

As you draw level with the side road called Pottergate on your left, turn right into Sawmill Lane (signed as a public footpath and part of the Ebor Way). Follow this access lane ahead, passing some properties and then the premises of Thomas the Baker on your left. Continue for a stretch with the River Rye on your right and then on past a few more industrial units. An industrial area has existed here for several centuries, using the water to power a variety of mills and for tanning. Pass Duncombe Park sawmill on your right and you will reach the North York Moors National Park Depot also on your right.

National Park Depot to Railway Bridge
National Park Depot to Railway Bridge

Start point: 54.2424 lat, -1.0531 long
End point: 54.2356 lat, -1.0336 long

Keep ahead for a few more paces and then turn right onto the stone track leading you behind the depot (still signed as the Ebor Way). When the workshop walls on your right end, you will come to a fingerpost ahead. Turn right (still on the Ebor Way) and this stone track leads you to a field gate. NOTE: This next field is likely to be holding horses and sheep. Pass through the gate to enter the pasture and walk straight ahead on the track, following the line of fence and trees on your left.

Soon, when a low brick wall begins on your left, fork right across the grass to reach the fence immediately in front of the River Rye. Bear left and follow the grass riverside path with the river running on your right. Cross the stream inlet via the gated wooden bridge and then cross a second gated wooden bridge to enter a sheep pasture. Stay on the riverside path and, at the far end of the sheep pasture, cross the stile (with adjacent dog gate) to join the narrow path which leads you between the river on your right and the water treatment works on your left.

Further along, the path continues directly alongside a large crop field on your left. Just before the end of the crop field, fork right to continue on the path through the green margin. Pass through the next gateway, continue alongside a second crop field to reach a stile. NOTE: This next pasture is likely to be holding cattle (if you are following the more dog-friendly route, now is the time to turn round and re-trace your steps).

Cross the stile to enter the cattle pasture and turn immediately left, following the line of the fence on your left. At this point in its journey, the River Rye performs several meandering curves across to your right. Before the top of the field, bear right to re-join the riverside path and a little further along bear left to reach a gate in the top fence line. Pass through this gate and the next one to enter a sheep pasture. On your left you will see an old railway bridge.

Railway Bridge to River Bridge
Railway Bridge to River Bridge

Start point: 54.2356 lat, -1.0336 long
End point: 54.2301 lat, -1.032 long

The railway bridge here once carried the North Eastern Railway Line between Thirsk and Pickering. Turn left towards the bridge but do NOT pass under it. Instead, turn right immediately beforehand, following the line of the fence and old railway on your left (passing through a couple of gates within the sheep holding pens if necessary). Just a few metres along, fork right (at about 1 o’clock) across the pasture to reach a field gate set within the right-hand fence line (close to the corner where the fence steps back to the river).

Pass through this gate and walk ahead to join the pretty grass track with the river running on your right. At the end, pass through a gateway to reach a junction with a stone access lane. Turn right along this and it will lead you to the entrance for a fish farm. Immediately before the entrance, fork right through a gate to join the path running along the top of the embankment with the fish farm on your left. (NOTE: Take care with children and dogs as the grass bank on the left leads directly into the farm’s waterways). Towards the end of the farm, turn right over the footbridge across the River Rye.

River Bridge to Farm Track
River Bridge to Farm Track

Start point: 54.2301 lat, -1.032 long
End point: 54.2335 lat, -1.0454 long

At the far side of the bridge, a gate leads you into the next sheep pasture. At this point, glance to your right and you will see the kissing gate that you will use to exit this pasture. However, the line of the public right of way takes a slightly convoluted route to reach this. Walk ahead (for about 60 metres) to reach a line of trees and then turn sharp right (at about 4 o’clock) passing this tree line on your left and then a single (almost horizontal!) oak tree on your right. You will come to the kissing gate on your left.

Pass through this kissing gate and another gate soon afterwards to reach the edge of a crop field. Bear right, following the edge of the crop field or the green margin (whichever is most accessible), with the river running to your right. Where the field edge swings left away from the river, fork right across the green margin to reach a kissing gate. NOTE: This gate will lead you back into the cattle pasture that you crossed on the outward leg.

Go through the gate to enter the pasture and turn immediately left, staying fairly close to the line of the fence on your left. Part way along, you will pass through a fairly narrow section of field where the river (on your right) performs a curve running close to the fence on your left. After passing the next oak tree you will come to a small waymarker post, marking a fork in the path. Take the left-hand of the two options, at about 1 o'clock and bearing away from the river. Join a grass vehicle track which swings right then left to reach a gate. Pass through this gate (or use the stile alongside) and follow the stone track ahead, with grassy banks each side. Cross the next stile ahead to reach a T-junction with the main farm access track.

Farm Track to End
Farm Track to End

Start point: 54.2335 lat, -1.0454 long
End point: 54.2465 lat, -1.0615 long

Turn right along this track. The track rises steadily and at the brow of the slope, take time to enjoy the far-reaching views that have opened up ahead and to your right. Further along, the distinctive red rooftops of Helmsley are visible in the valley bottom. Pass through the makeshift gate alongside a vehicle gate and keep ahead on the track, passing old barns on your right. A final gate at the end of the track leads you out to a junction with the A170.

Cross over (taking particular care on this busy road) to reach the pavement at the far side. Turn right along this, heading downhill. At the bottom of the slope, you will come to the road bridge over the River Rye. Cross the bridge, taking great care as there is no pavement on this short stretch. At one time Helmsley Castle would have managed this river crossing, raising income from tolls.

Now simply keep straight ahead along Bridge Street which leads you directly back to the Market Place where the walk began. Helmsley has plenty on offer to while away the rest of your day, with everything you'd expect in a quintessentially English market town and more: a vibrant market square, independent, specialist shops, excellent places to eat and drink, an imposing castle, friendly locals, a babbling brook, a walled garden, bird of prey centre, microbrewery, open air swimming pool and more than 50 listed buildings. For more visitor information on the area including events and accommodation, go to

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2016 by the author visitryedale and may not be reproduced without permission.

The information in this guide has been provided in good faith and is intended only as a guide, not a statement of fact. You are advised to check the accuracy of the information provided and should not use this guide for navigational directions nor should you rely on the accuracy of the weather forecast. You are advised to take appropriate clothing, footwear, equipment and navigational materials with you according to the current and possible weather and nature of the terrain. Always follow the country code and follow any additional warnings or instructions that may be available. Some walks may be very strenuous and you are advised to seek medical advice if you have any doubts as to your capability to complete the walk.

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