The Hole of Horcum is a 400ft deep circular valley in the North York Moors. And it looks amazing. Just driving past it you’re blown away by the sheer size of it. Before we start talking about the route, here’s a very brief history/geology lesson about the landmark.
Hole of Horcum and Levisham Moor
The Hole of Horcum sits in the middle of the North York Moors surrounded by Levisham Moor. According to the North York Moors website, its huge bowl was created by something called spring-sapping. This is where springs coming up from the ground slowly lower the integrity of the rocks and soil and it starts to collapse in on itself. Over thousands of years, this has created this massive valley.
Levisham Moor that surrounds the valley is filled with historical artefacts dating as far back as the Bronze Age and Iron Age. In fact, something you’ll see quite easily are the dykes that seem to run along some of the paths. These are late Iron Age boundary lines, meaning they could be over 2,000 years old.
Parking at the Hole of Horcum
Now that our history is lesson is over, let’s get to the important thing. Getting parked. This is really easy compared to other walks because there is a pay and display car park called Saltergate Car Park. It’s only £2.50 so thankfully we have enough change (for a change).
We used the route on the North York Moors website, something we have done quite often. They offer lots of good guidance and a handy embedded OS map with the route on.
This route took us from Saltergate Car Park, along the edge of the bowl on Levisham Moor, then finally coming down into the valley, walking through the Hole of Horcum and back up the other side to return to the car park.
They offer an additional detour, which we highly recommend you take. This takes you out to the west where you’ll find yourself at Skelton Tower, an old ruined hunting retreat. There are stunning woodland views, as well as a view of the North Yorkshire Moors Railway line.
The main route is 5-miles. If you decide to take the detour (seriously, we recommend you do) then that takes it up to 7-miles.
Getting to the route
Car parking paid, picnic on our backs and off we go. Coming out of the car park, there’s a pretty busy main road. We get across and start the walk around to the right until we start a very small decline down to a gate. Passing through here, we’re now officially on the route.
Now we’ve got a pretty easy route. We followed the marked path all the way along the top of the Hole of Horcum. With constant panoramic views of the valley, we were amazed. You can see all the way across to the other side of the valley, all the way to where we would soon be walking.
The first half of the route is super simple. Just stay on the track. It’s pretty hard to get lost and we manage to stay on the route and make good time. We knew before we set off that we wanted to do the optional detour. I’d read that it was a good place for a picnic.
After around an hour of walking from the car park, we came across a pond and signpost. Referring back to the North York Moors map and directions, we knew we had to take a right, marked for Levisham Station on the signpost.
This walk is great if you’re an amateur map reader or hiker like we are. Even with this detour, we only had to keep on a track. The instructions from the North York Moors map were really easy for us to follow and before we knew it, we were looking down at Skelton Tower.
We still had a hill to walk down, but our rest was in sight. In total, it’s about one-mile to Skelton Tower (a two-mile roundtrip). In our opinion, it’s totally worth adding this to the route.
Before we made it to the Tower, we had one small bit of excitement. As we walked along the track, we placed our foot down and just in front of us, a snake darted away to the right, back into the long grass! It must have been sunbathing. We hadn’t really thought about seeing snakes, so that’s something to be aware of. There might be some snakes hiding in the long grass. Luckily, there’s a good area of short, maintained grass around the tower.
Once we arrived, we cracked out the picnic and sat down to enjoy the views over the woodland. From here there’s quite a drop, so you can get some really nice views of the surrounding area. We saw the train tracks and decided we’d stay until we saw a train go past. I even scouted out a good place to get a couple of pictures.
Picnic eaten, tower explored and still no sign of a train. I admitted defeat and decided to start the walk back to the main route. A minute or so after setting off, we hear the unmistakable whistle of a train. We look at each other. I drop my bag, grab my camera and ran back to the tower. Getting there just in time to catch a few shots, I leave pretty pleased with myself.
Back on Track
Getting back to the main route was really easy. It’s just a matter of turning around and walking the way we came until we reach the pond and signpost. Watching for snakes this time (unsuccessfully) we get to the signpost.
We follow the track straight on (signposted for Hole of Horcum) and shortly come to a stream. It’s quite a pretty stream as it trickles down the hill with us. We walk along with the stream to our left. Slowly heading down into the Hole of Horcum. The stream gets a little bit bigger as the descent slows. Eventually, we have to cross the stream on a footbridge.
This is another nice area and would make a lovely place to stop off. It’s slightly sheltered by trees and the stream would be lovely to wade in on a hot day. However, we were fully rested from Skelton Tower, so we pressed on.
Soon, we came out of the shelter on the trees and onto a gorgeous open field. With the walls of the valley to the left and the wooded valley walls to the right, it looked stunning. We decided to take advantage of the grass by taking our shoes off and walking in our socks. That was a nice treat after so much walking. With what was about to come, its definitely something I recommend.
The final stretch
There isn’t much further to go now. The final stretch of the walk took us right along the bottom of the Hole of Horcum. As we look up, we can see the car park where we started. We can follow the first half of the route with our eyes along the top of the bowl.
Despite the fact that the final section is pretty much a straight line, we get slightly confused and try and take a right through an open gate. Don’t do that… It’s just a dead end. After a short course correction, we pass a farm building and, keeping it on our right, we could see the yellow brick road leading home.
Okay, it’s not brick. But the yellow-hued stoney path is very prominent aside the green of the grass. We see it weaving its way to the top of the valley in front of us and suddenly we realised something…
If we just walked all the way down into the valley, that must mean we have walk back… up? Yep. In front of us, much steeper than the delightful stroll along the bank of the stream we took to come down, is our final ascent. Quick drink, deep breath and off we go.
What a day
That final push took a lot more out of us than we thought. But once at the top, it’s an easy walk back around to the car park taking the same route as we took in.
Sat in the car park, waiting to reward us for our efforts, is an ice cream van. We wasted no time in rewarding ourselves with a good old fashioned Mr Whippy (with sauce, obviously).
The Hole of Horcum was a great day out. It took us the best part of 4-hours including the stops. The views were amazing and it was just difficult enough to make us feel like we’d done a workout. It’s definitely a walk we’d recommend to anybody.