Marvel at ‘rocky museum’!

The Bridestones are among the highlights of the North York Moors. Picture by Robin Denton
The Bridestones are among the highlights of the North York Moors. Picture by Robin Denton

Written by Maureen Robinson

One of the highlights of the North York Moors, especially if you enjoy walking, is a visit to the Bridestones. This week a scenic drive is certainly worth doing on its own merits, culminating in a ‘circular’ exploration of natural outcrops of rock which are often compared with those at Brimham Rocks near Ripon.

Some say the ‘stones’ were the scene of ancient marriage rites; others tell the story of a local farm lad and his bride.

The newly-weds spent their wedding night at Lockton, before departing for home over the lonely moors. When a violent storm raged, the wedding guests became anxious for their safety.

Thankfully they had nothing to fear, as the young couple took shelter by one of the massive stones. Since that day, they became known as the Bridestones!

Private transport is essential to reach the site. From Scarborough the 14-mile trip to the starting point is a joy!

Take the A171 Whitby road only as far as Scarborough’s Yorkshire Coast College, turning immediately left along Lady Edith’s Drive. Very shortly pass the lovely Throxenby Mere to your left – a paradise for botanists.

Always keeping to the ‘main’ road you’ll admire Ox Pasture Hall on the right. Beyond, drive alongside Raincliffe Woods, with several car parks and picnic areas. The woodland floor is carpeted with bluebells, wild garlic, anemones, and a galaxy of wild flowers in springtime.

Reaching the road junction, turn right to Hackness, two miles. Crossing Mowthorpe Bridge to Mowthorpe Farm, you may be lucky enough to glimpse a kingfisher!

Negotiating road bends, the Everley Country Cafe welcomes you when open from Wednesday to Sunday from 10am-5pm. Continue beyond a turn-off to Wrench Green, alongside sheep pasture, to reach Hackness Village Hall and public telephone. Here turn left as signed: Langdale End two miles.

Attractive, elevated cottages feature, and to your left you’ll find Hackness Grange Hotel. Ignoring any off-shoots, enter Langdale End, passing St Peter’s Church and the Moorcock Inn ahead. It’s a must for your return route, but check opening hours.

The Coptic Orthodox Monastery Athanasius is peacefully sited midst glorious scenery, as you proceed to Spring Farm. From Spring Farm, as you ascend, open views extend over the moorland beyond golden-yellow gorse bushes.

Turning left to Bickley, enter Dalby Forest with its toll bar, and an entrance of £7 per car. Veer right uphill through forestry, and pass Bickley Gate car park with trees of larch, pine, and silver birch etc. Keep to the main forest drive to a second toll bar and turn right to keep straight ahead, passing Dixon’s Hollow to reach Adderstone, seen to your right. Next is High Staindale. Ascend the hillside and view Staindale Lake below, allowing time to park and wander there upon return. Just ahead are public toilets, and Bridestones Car Park.

Leaving your private transport here, go prepared for a possible cold wind on the moor. From the car park, a gently-rising footpath heads towards woodland. The 
National Trust’s Bridestone marker welcomes you to “Bridestones Moor, known for its odd and knobbly sandstone outcrops formed 150 million years ago. Bridestones is Norse for brinkstones or edgestones, shaped by the elements over thousands of years.” Please read the 
information board for further details. Continue uphill to a second information board. Which way now? We took the left fork, and a steep climb led to the top. The wild, level moorland of heather and bracken was dominated by a huge stone. It’s an awesome sight, and but the start of more to come.

A good footpath leads 
directly to the Bridestones, so take time to wander around each one. Let your imagination do the rest!

You’re standing before a remarkable ‘open air museum’ of rocks. These natural outcrops are composed of sandstone and tough limestone that has resisted weathering, whilst the softer parts have been eroded. Some are free-standing shapes and others form craggy cliffs. Several seem to prove irresistible to climbers. One resembles a mushroom – or a pepper pot.

Remain on the stony path beside the natural sculptures and wander in a northerly direction until you wish to return. You’ll observe a return route in the valley bottom, or you may choose to retrace your footsteps to the car park.

Having explored this fascinating area, I suggest you return to Staindale Lake for an easy, level walk. Then halt at Adderstone to view in more detail, before leaving the forestry and returning home by your outward-going route.

Distance of return drive is 28 miles in all.

Refreshment: Ox Pasture Hall near Raincliffe Woods, the Everley Country Cafe near Hackness, Hackness Grange Hotel, the Moorcock Inn at Langdale End.

OS Explorer Map. North York Moors Eastern Area - 2½ inches to 1 mile.