Some great walks near Coxwold in North Yorkshire

- 25 September 2019 -

The recent weather has provided the ideal opportunity for walking in the Autumn sunshine, finding all sorts of hidden gems in the majestic countryside around Coxwold in the North York Moors national park. In this blog I am sharing just three of the places we have enjoyed in the last few days. There are so many more to enjoy… stay in our luxury holiday cottage or shepherd’s hut to make the most of North Yorkshire!

To the top of Hood Hill… full of legend, history and tragedy

Just opposite Roulston Scar (near the Kilburn White Horse) is Hood Hill. Now thickly forested, there are the indistinct remains of a motte and bailey castle on the summit dating from William the Conqueror’s time. Local legend has it that on the hill there was also a stone dropped by the devil when he was flying over. Angry that he had dropped the stone, it is said that he flew down and stood on the stone, leaving his footprint behind. Alternative legends claim the stone was marked with a dinosaur footprint and had been an ancient druid’s sacrificial stone. Sadly, the stone is now smashed as Hood Hill was also the scene of tragedy some 65 years ago. For, on 21 September 1954, a Sabre XD733 military jet smashed the into the stone, creating a massive blaze, and leaving a large crater on the hill’s ridge. Apparently, the pilot of the aircraft was returning to base at RAF Linton on Ouse after a high altitude night cross-country training flight. He radioed to say he was near base, then that he was over the airfield. Just two minutes later the aircraft crashed into Hood Hill at a near vertical angle of descent, killing the pilot outright and completely destroying the plane.

We parked off Osgodby Bank just north west of Kilburn before circumnavigating Hood Hill to the west and north via easy woodland paths before ascending to the top up quite a steep incline. This brings you to what must have been the motte. Beyond is quite a level area which was presumably the bailey. Although overgrown there are some great views to be had before taking a more gentle descent down the southern slope of the hill.

Finding Mount Snever Observatory… an abandoned Victorian tower

The grandly named Mount Snever Observatory, also sometimes known as Oldstead Tower, stands on the edge of an escarpment, high above the villages of Oldstead and Wass. The tower was built at Snever Point, the highest spot on the Oldstead estate. Work was underway in October 1837, and there was great excitement locally when a human skeleton was discovered as the foundations were being dug. The observatory was complete by the following summer and a party was thrown to celebrate the coronation of Queen Victoria on 28 June 1838. All of the village was invited, loyal toasts were drunk, a band played and a royal salute of 21 guns was fired from the terrace of the tower. The primary inscription is on the south elevation and contains several lines of poetry adapted from ‘Windsor Forest’ by Alexander Pope. The tower sits on a high platform, forming a terrace. Sadly the building is redundant and abandoned – and its role as a belvedere has been lost. There is no means to ascend the tower as it is securely locked. Today, trees block the views of the rolling landscape beyond.

There is a choice of routes to reach the Observatory. You can either ascend the steep Hambleton Lane from the Stapylton Arms at the crossroads in Wass – or you can walk on the pubic footpaths from the A170. Whichever route you take, it is a fascinating place to find with the tower appearing through the trees just when you are beginning to think you’ve lost your way!

For more information, please look at the excellent Folly Flâneuse website


John Bunting’s Memorial Chapel… fabulous views from a tranquil place

John Bunting (1927-2002) may not be universally known outside the artistic world, but he has strong associations with Coxwold, Kilburn and, in particular, Ampleforth where he was the art teacher and inspiration for one of our most famous contemporary sculptors, Antony Gormley – probably most famous for his Angel of the North. The main body of Bunting’s work was in the North of England, much of it commissioned by the monastery and school at Ampleforth.  His most enduring monument, however, is the multi denominational Memorial Chapel on the edge of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park.  In 1957, Bunting converted a derelict barn into a memorial dedicated to four Old Amplefordians, three of whom were killed in the Second World War and one of whom died in Northern Ireland. For the chapel’s arched doorway, resting upon an oak lintel, Bunting carved the head and shoulders of a man stretching up towards a dove with a sprig of olive in its beak. For the niche above the door a Madonna and Child. The chapel commemorates all those who died in the war, the site of the chapel being where the Battle of Byland took place between the English, led by Edward II, and the Scots in 1322 – a battle in which the English were routed. Tradition has recorded this event by referring to the site as Scots Corner. Nearby there are two burial mounds of the Bronze Age. The position of the chapel could not be bettered. In front, the hillside drops away sharply to a wooded valley and in the distance can be seen York Minster. It can be reached by walking up a steep gradient from Oldstead village or my walking on flatter ground from the direction of the Yorkshire Gliding Club adjacent to the Kilburn White Horse.

For more information, please look at the fascinating John Bunting website. For more on the Battle of Byland, read this Coxwold blog

Near Mount Snever
Near Mount Snever – great walking country
The top of Hood Hill - did the devil set foot here?
The top of Hood Hill – did the devil set foot here?
Mount Snever Observatory
Mount Snever Observatory – worth finding!
John Bunting's Chapel
John Bunting’s Chapel – wonderful views