Kirkham Priory and the River Derwent
Author: DogWalksYorkshire, Published: 27 Feb 2017 Rating:
North Yorkshire, Howardian Hills
Walk Type: River or lakeside
Length: 5 miles,  Difficulty:
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A 5 mile circular walk from Kirkham Priory in North Yorkshire. If you want a picturesque start to a walk, you can’t get much better than this one! Starting at the majestic ruins of Kirkham Priory next to the River Derwent, the route follows woodland and open paths through the pretty Howardian Hills before returning along the riverbank. The walk offers you and your pooch a bit of a climb to get the blood pumping, as well as the chance for a paddle and a good romp in the fields and along the path by the river. Views are plentiful amid the peace and quiet.

The terrain is moderate with several climbs and descents. The outward leg follows green paths through fields or quiet farm tracks and roads. The return leg is along the riverside which is more challenging. Duckboards are provided on some of the riverside sections, but the majority of this stretch can be quite muddy and boggy, especially following wet weather. The riverside paths are also narrow and prone to being overgrown in the height of the summer growing season. You will need to negotiate some gates and footbridges but there are no stiles on route. You may come across cattle in a couple of the fields. Allow 2.5 hours.

Turn off the A64 York to Scarborough road at Whitwell-on-the-Hill, and follow the road downhill to the railway level crossing. After crossing the tracks and the river, park in the small car park (free) next to Kirkham Priory. Approximate post code YO60 7JS.

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Walk Sections

Start to Green Track

Start point: 54.0831 lat, -0.8784 long
End point: 54.0794 lat, -0.8821 long

The walk starts from the car park alongside Kirkham Priory. The Augustinian Kirkham Priory was founded in the 1120s by the same man that built Rievaulx Abbey – Walter l’Espec, Lord of Helmsley. The Priory is now a Grade-1 listed building and is maintained and promoted by English Heritage.

From the car park, head back along the road towards the bridge over the river and the railway level crossing. After crossing the line, continue along the road for a short distance before turning left through a wooden gate at a public footpath sign. Keep to the obvious path uphill through the woods before bearing right following two yellow waymarker arrows. The path continues uphill with a wire and post fence to the left.

On leaving the tree line, head right along a short and level path to a road. Turn left onto the quiet road for a very short distance before turning left again – this time following a public footpath sign by a wide metal gate leading to a clear green track.

Green Track to Riders Lane

Start point: 54.0794 lat, -0.8821 long
End point: 54.0715 lat, -0.8737 long

Pass through (or around) the gate and follow the track along the edge of a field while taking in the great views of the Howardian Hills. Passing a disused old waymarked stile to the left, keep ahead as the path enters a wooded area – where even with trees on either side, it remains wide and clear. At another large metal gate, enter a field and immediately follow the waymarkers 90-degrees to the right before following the perimeter of the field to the left – there maybe cattle in this area so be prepared with your dog lead.

The grassy path heads downhill through the open field, making its way to the access lane running to Oakcliffe Farm – visible on the left. All around are splendid views of the surrounding countryside with the river in the distance. Continue along the lane away from the farm, passing over a cattle grid, which can easily be walked around. At the end of the lane, cross another cattle grid and turn left onto Riders Lane – a quiet tarmac road that heads towards the railway line.

Riders Lane to Riverside

Start point: 54.0715 lat, -0.8737 long
End point: 54.0607 lat, -0.8777 long

Follow Riders Lane ahead. At Howsham Gates, use the two metal kissing gates on the right to cross the railway line and pass by the signal box on the left. Continue ahead past the old station house and a couple of stone cottages, to a public footpath sign (on your right), pointing left across the field towards some trees. Turn left to take this path (marked by a row of white-topped wooden posts) passing through two wooden gates, and then continuing ahead using a footbridge to cross a beck.

(NOTE: In 2016 the footbridge over this beck was washed away in a flood. If it is still missing, you have two choices. You may be able to jump the beck. Alternatively, return to Riders Lane, turn left to continue along it for 500m and then take the next footpath on the left, which also leads you to the riverside. Turn left along the riverside path then skip to the next section).

If you are following the main route, beyond the footbridge pass to the right of a telegraph pole towards a waymarked wooden gate. The ground in this area can be boggy but it is easily avoided by taking a slight detour left or right after crossing the footbridge. Pass through the gate and turn left onto the path alongside the River Derwent – where most dogs will be perfectly fine off the lead.

Riverside to End

Start point: 54.0607 lat, -0.8777 long
End point: 54.0834 lat, -0.8784 long

The path follows the river all the way back to Kirkham over a mixture of woodland and green paths. There are several footbridges and parts of the path are along wooden duckboards. The river is very close at times so be careful of your footing and some dogs may fancy a paddle or a swim! The path can be very muddy and boggy in parts and can also be overgrown in the late summer months.

Eventually the ruins of Kirkham Priory come into view again on the opposite bank of the river near a weir. After passing through a small wooded area, the path leads through a gate into a field with the stone bridge over the river in sight ahead. At the far end of the field, pass through a gate back onto the road and head back across the river to the car park.

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Text and images for this walk are Copyright © 2017 by the author DogWalksYorkshire and may not be reproduced without permission.

9 responses to "Kirkham Priory and the River Derwent"

A very enjoyable walk and excellent directions. The footbridge mentioned in the walk is still missing and the dyke is just a little too wide to risk trying to jump over. We took the alternative footpath which added exactly 15 mins to the original route but is easy to follow. The last 1 mile of the walk is particularly boggy at the moment so correct footwear is essential.

By spgam on 09 Mar 2017

Lovely walk on a fantastic late spring day

By robcooper46 on 08 Apr 2017

This is definitely a winter walk, we did it in June and the fields are exceptionally overgrown which makes it very difficult if the footpaths have not had a lot of use.
Very beautiful scenery though.

By angrob on 20 Jun 2017

Footbridge still down April 2018. Lovely walk at this time of year but can see how it would get more difficult in summer. Very muddy in parts, boots needed.

By Hyposharon12 on 22 Apr 2018

When you get to the missing footbridge you can turn right and follow the beck a short while to a tree that is sprawled across the beck and cross if you can. When you get to the gate to the river you could also take a detour right to howsham and explore around this area before either continuing back to kirkham via howsham or returning back as instructed above.

By Vanilla78 on 01 May 2018

Great walk, very quiet, we were the only ones around except when leaving/arriving at Kirkham Priory. The footbridge noted as missing, was definitely missing when we walked (19-05-2018), brook is too wide for leaping over, so would suggest the diversion mentioned.

By pauleapo on 20 May 2018

Lovely walk. Very overgrown down the river path, long trousers recommended. The bridge is missing, however a nice farmer has put a hay bale in the beck so you can jump onto it and onto the other side

By hwalker12 on 15 Jul 2018

1st walk with the family and puppy using this APP. Great directions with map. Little one loved running up and down all the hills. Some fab photo oppertunities! Footbridge still missing as per info, so alternative route taken which added extra steps. Once down the riverbank it was very overgrown in places so pup led the way! Lovely finishing the walk by seeing Kirkham Abbey in all its glory! Fab walk which we would do again. The Chesterherds are worn out!

By Chesterherd on 12 Aug 2018

Quite a nice walk. Paths were exceptionally well maintained with good bridges and boardwalks over marshy area. One reasonable hill. Good pub at the end of the walk. Downsides: one fairly long stretch on a road (very quiet road) and a the route back by the river feels a bit "long", not much changing scenery. Great walk overall though.

By ianb1469 on 23 Sep 2018

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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8 images to "Kirkham Priory and the River Derwent"

Image by: spgman
Uploaded: 18 Mar 2017
Image by: Chesterherd
Uploaded: 12 Aug 2018
Last Leg Of Walk
Image by: Chesterherd
Uploaded: 12 Aug 2018
Arriving Back In Kirkham
Image by: Chesterherd
Uploaded: 12 Aug 2018
Final View
Image by: Chesterherd
Uploaded: 12 Aug 2018
Middle Of Walk - Fab Views
Image by: Chesterherd
Uploaded: 12 Aug 2018
Through A Farmer Field
Image by: Grooms
Uploaded: 27 Aug 2018
Looking back at spillway
Image by: Grooms
Uploaded: 27 Aug 2018
River Derwent