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You can’t miss the White Horse of Kilburn

- 2 July 2019 -

Whether you are travelling through the area or staying in our new luxury Shepherd’s Hut or boutique Holiday Cottage, you cannot fail to spot the White Horse of Kilburn. Visible for many miles around it is the most striking landmark in the area. Majestically surveying our lovely North York Moors countryside with the Howardian Hills and the City of York in the distance, James Herriot famously described this as being “the finest view in England”. Pick a nice day and you will not be disappointed.

The Kilburn White Horse is the largest and most northerly hill figure in England. But it is not a remnant from our prehistoric past. It was actually designed much more recently by Thomas Taylor, a native of Kilburn, and was cut in 1857. Accounts state that the work was done by school master John Hodgson and his pupils, together with local volunteers. The result is an impressive equestrian form, more than 300 ft long and 220ft tall (approx. 90 x 67 metres). Unlike the horses in the South of England which are cut into chalk and are therefore naturally white, the Kilburn White Horse is cut into limestone and needs artificial whitening.

A tablet erected at the car park below it reads: “The Kilburn ‘White Horse’ – This figure was cut in 1857 on the initiative of Thomas Taylor, a native of Kilburn. In 1925 a restoration fund was subscribed by the readers of the Yorkshire Evening Post and the residue of £100 was invested to provide for the triennial grooming of the figure.”

During World War II the horse was reputedly covered over to prevent it from becoming a conspicuous navigation landmark for enemy bombers. It is said that the Kilburn White Horse can be seen from Julian’s Bower at Alkborough in North Lincolnshire, over 45 miles away.

In 2018, the Kilburn White Horse featured in the pages of local and national newspapers for all the wrong reasons. The Kilburn White Horse Association, the charity that oversees its upkeep, was apparently told that health and safety considerations meant its members were no longer allowed access to maintain and whiten the horse. The Forestry Commission, which owns the land, has said only its employees and contractors can now be used. The Environment Secretary then stepped to try and help resolve a dispute… watch this space as they say!

The Kilburn White Horse is located on the southern flank of Sutton Bank, near Roulston Scar (where Robert the Bruce’s army once attacked the English at the Battle of Byland but more of that in another blog!). It is about 1 mile north of Kilburn – famous for its Mouseman furniture. From Coxwold Cottages, access is off the Kilburn-Oldstead Road. A car park is located at the base of the horse on a steep minor road between Kilburn village and the Sutton Bank National Park Centre on the A170 road. There are also a limited number of parking spaces at the top near the Yorkshire Gliding Club.

Plaque at Kilburn White Horse near Coxwold Cottages
Plaque at Kilburn White Horse near Coxwold Cottages
The White Horse at Kilburn is near Coxwold
The White Horse at Kilburn is near Coxwold

Coxwold in Yorkshire – great for walking and cycling