Gormire and the finest view in England
- 29 March 2021 -
Our corner of the North York Moors National Park is steeped in history and folklore. Just five miles away from us at the top of Sutton Bank can be found what James Herriot famously described as “the finest view in England”. Pop into the Sutton Bank visitor’s centre car park and you will see footpath signs so you too can admire that very view just a short stroll away. There is a viewing platform that points out various landmarks with spectacular views across to Roulston Scar, Hood Hill – and the fabled Lake Gormire below. Surrounded by forest in the valley bottom, Gormire was formed by glacial erosion over 20,000 years ago and has been shrouded in mystery ever since. With no visible inflow or outflow of water, for hundreds (maybe thousands) of years, Gormire’s very existence has seemed both magical and mythical.
Gormire is a natural lowland lake that lies at the foot of Whitestone Cliff, the western escarpment of the Hambleton Hills inside the North York Moors National Park. The lake is actually thought to be fed by an underground spring and drained by a limestone channel. The lake, one of the largest in Yorkshire, is also known as the White Mere. The name Gormire actually translates as filthy swamp! Although if you visit today, you will actually find a tranquil haven.
The lake is the setting of several myths. The most famous tells of a knight, Sir Harry Scriven of Helmsley Castle, who apparently raced the Abbot of Rievaulx Abbey on horseback across the moors towards Whitestone Cliff. The abbot then turned into the devil, which caused such panic in the knight that he could not stop his horse from plunging over the cliffs into Gormire Lake. 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 include that: the lake is bottomless; the bottom of the lake is the entrance to Hell; there is submerged village under the water; and that a goose once disappeared in the lake only to emerge, stripped of all feathers, in a well at Kirbymoorside, 15 miles away!
We recommend a bracing walk along the cliff tops walking north from the “finest view in England” – with horse gallops to your right and a sheer drop to your left. If you feel more adventurous you can then descend to Hell… although we are confident that the nearest thing to Hell you will encounter is actually the steep walk back up to the top of the cliffs! Definitely not one to attempt unless you are quite fit… And, if you walk south from the “finest view in England” you will quickly reach the wonderful Kilburn White Horse, just past the Gliding Club. Just one of many fascinating walks to enjoy if you stay in our luxury holiday cottage or boutique Shepherd’s Hut in the charming village of Coxwold.