A Stroll With Stu - scenic seven-miler around Ainthorpe, Danby and Castleton that starts and ends at the pub!

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I did much of this walk a year or two back, but in the opposite direction.

It’s a lovely seven-miler – full of contrasting scenery – starting and ending at the very lovely Fox and Hounds Inn, Ainthorpe.

Ten of us stayed for a couple of nights on our annual ‘lads’ (average age is pushing 70) weekend away.

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We’ve been doing this since my 40th birthday in 1995, so this was our 29th such adventure (we missed one during Covid), where we recycle lots of old stories, behave like teenagers, and now enjoy comparing prescription tablets at the breakfast table.

Horses near Castleton.Horses near Castleton.
Horses near Castleton.

Remarkably, more than half of the group went to school together, but have scattered across the country to Dorset, Scotland, West Yorkshire and,

er, Redcar.

Leaving the Fox, head across the road past the quoits pitches, turning downhill alongside a wall on a grassy path.

Away in the distance on the top of the moors, is a tiny tree which looks a million miles away but is directly on this route.

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The River Esk near Danby.The River Esk near Danby.
The River Esk near Danby.

Turn left along a thin road, following it back uphill through a gate to join the main road through Ainthorpe.

Turn left, and after half a mile look out for a footpath sign taking you into a grassy field on your right.

Edge slightly right, to reach the Castleton-Danby road, following it right to cross the River Esk.

One hundred yards further on, cross the railway bridge and look out for a path going left alongside the tracks.

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Sheep at Box Hall.Sheep at Box Hall.
Sheep at Box Hall.

Very quickly, turn sharp right up the slope then soon bear left going more steeply uphill to reach a cross path where you need to turn left on a flat grassy path heading up the valley.

This enters birch woodland through a gate, and after a short mile reaches Park Nook houses (steadily being renovated) just above Castleton Station.

Just after a second set of buildings, take a path sharp right that snakes steeply uphill, soon through a gate.

Soon, an obvious pin-straight path needs to be followed uphill.

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View of Castleton.View of Castleton.
View of Castleton.

This is the remains of a railway incline that carried silica rocks down from several quarries to a crushing plant in the valley.

Much of the mining in these parts is for Ironstone, but this was an unusual rock formation that produced silica in a form that could be made into refractory bricks – very handy for the various furnaces dotting Northern England 100 years ago.

With lapwings screeching at us to watch where we put our feet – and that little tree close by on your right - we had a rest and took in the stunning view back up Danbydale and Castleton Rigg, before bearing left through a rocky gulley, to emerge on a clearer track amongst long abandoned quarries.

By now, we were reduced to a party of nine (one of us conceded defeat in an unequal contest with gravity), as we huffed and puffed past a pretty pond to reach the road heading up from Castleton.

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Cross the Tarmac, and follow a fairly distinct track that meanders downhill to Box Hall farm.

Go left for a short distance before following a sign taking you right through a gate, across the railway and over a footbridge across Commondale Beck.

Sign for the Fox and Hounds pub at Ainthorpe.Sign for the Fox and Hounds pub at Ainthorpe.
Sign for the Fox and Hounds pub at Ainthorpe.

We were down to eight-and-a-half now, with Whickham John unable to negotiate stiles due to the restricted angle available to his worn out knees.

The first stile after the footbridge was a complete fail and he ended up squashing through a gap to use a gate that hadn’t been opened since about 1927.

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Go straight uphill, heading left alongside the wall at the top, then soon right over a stile to turn left along the gravel track leading into Scale Foot Farm and its various barn conversions.

Take a straight line through the buildings to enter a field, then it is downhill, left at the bottom, negotiating several more fun-and-games stiles.

My own knees were now functioning like the Tin Man from the Wizard of Oz, and I reckon you couldn’t now make five good ‘uns out of the remaining nine.

Follow the path over a footbridge crossing the infant River Esk, then soon right and uphill to a final stile before bearing left alongside a fence to reach the lower road in Castleton.

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A diagonal path leads uphill to the upper road where our numbers rose to 14 with the addition of gravity boy, Tommo from Grosmont and three more who had arrived by train having been unwilling to share a room at the Fox due to a severe snoring forecast.

We walked back along the road to the Fox & Hounds at Ainthorpe, and it would be remiss of me not to give a thumbs-up to this great little country pub – spiffing cask ales, top food, comfortable rooms and really lovely staff.

What a fab weekend!

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