Your Day Out: Ayton castle sits in lonely vigil

Ayton Castle viewed from Castle Lane.
Ayton Castle viewed from Castle Lane.

East and West Ayton are twin villages on the eastern edge of the National Park. They are situated about 4.5 and 5 miles south-west of Scarborough near the beautiful scenery of Forge Valley.

Ayton Castle, just outside West Ayton, is a pele tower (fortified tower house), dating from 1400, which can be viewed from a nearby footpath. Enjoy this easy, scenic route which includes the 
ruined castle, Forge Valley, and much more.

Access the starting point, by private or public transport along the A170 Scarborough to Pickering road as far as East and West Ayton’s public library near Ye Olde Forge Valley Inn. Either walk from here, or drive to the start of the country section.

You cross the stone bridge from East Ayton into West Ayton to reach the library. Cross the road to find Yedmandale Road opposite.

Ascend this road, passing Mill Lane off right. Then, at the next lane, named Castle Rise, you may choose to park here. Turn immediately right along Castle Rise, as signed ‘Public Footpath to Forge Valley’.

Walk in front of a row of cottages planted with spring flowers. At the far end, enter a kissing gate beside a metal farmgate. Please leash any dogs before following a track across a field of sheep.

Ahead is the late 14th century castle remains of its keep. It sits in lonely vigil amid grassland and grazing sheep. The River Derwent, clear and shallow, slips peacefully past the weeping willows. Stand and admire the silent scene across the River Derwent, and horses cropping grass close by. Read the information board regarding the castle’s history, before moving on. About 100m ahead, cut down the grassy slope to reach the hedge to your right. Follow the blackthorn hedging in the same direction. Amongst the vegetation and hugging the shade, you may find the unusual and quite rare flowers of the green hellebore. Please don’t pick!

Re-ascend to the track, and walk to the gate ahead. Enter, and enjoy a delightful level walk across a field.

Keep to the edge of Stonyflat Wood on your left, and in springtime listen to the monotonous call of ‘chiff-chaff-chiff-chaff’ from the treetops. Yes, it’s the little bird named a chiff chaff. Wild flowers are abundant, and the River Derwent is to your right.

At the far end of the field, enter a handgate opening onto a boardwalk. It’s a fantastic creation, guiding you across what used to be a bog! Ideal for wheelchair users, it provides level access to amazing scenery, wild flowers, birds, and an otter if you’re lucky!

Carpets of wood anemones, celandines, golden saxifrage, kingcups, butterbur, toothwort and ramsons are a joy. Seek a grayling in the clear water, and a grey wagtail seeking insects.

When the boardwalk sweeps right to a bridge, cross the River Derwent, and bear right to read an excellent information board.

Close by is a peaceful picnic area, and car park beyond. Here you may be re-united with your driver, if a friend has brought you.

You have a choice of return routes: 1) Retrace your steps to the castle and West Ayton; 2) Follow the adjacent Low Road into East Ayton, and cross the road bridge into West Ayton and your departure point, or choose route 3 returning through woodland. The latter is recommended if you enjoy wooded walks. Just ascend any path into Ruston Cliff Wood, just south of Osborne Lodge. Then head south, keeping more or less parallel with Low Road. You’ll pass a couple of dis-used quarries before ascending the hill into West Ayton with wonderful views across the valley to Ayton Castle.

Distance: Approximately 3.5 to 4 miles depending on return route.

Terrain: Good, apart from woodland when wet.

Refreshment: Take a picnic. Seats along the boardwalk. Also inns, fish and chips and shops in East and West Ayton.

Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL27. North York Moors Eastern Area. Scale 2.5 inches to 1 mile.

Access: No.128 Pickering/Helmsley bus to Ayton Library.

l Take binoculars for bird-watching etc.