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Dales Trails

Bluebells in Riccaldale/photo by Arnold Underwood, May 2008

Woods above Riccaldale/from a photo by Arnold Underwood

NORTH YORKSHIRE - Helmsley


As featured in Country Walking Magazine, June 2003

'Bluebell Time'

The parallel valleys of Ashdale and Riccal Dale, near Helmsley on the southern fringe of the North York Moors, feature in this walk. Both valleys are richly endowed with flora and fauna. In May, Ash Dale boasts a mixture of spring flowers whilst Riccal Dale provides a stunning carpet of bluebells amid its many varieties of trees. Look and listen for numerous birds, from Chiff-chaff to woodpecker, and mammals, from stoats to deer.

Fact File

Distance 12.8km (8 miles)
Time 4 hours
Map OS Explorer OL26 North York Moors West
Start/Parking Street parking and pay & display car park in Helmsley
Terrain Woodland paths and bridleways and minor road
nearest Town Helmsley
Refreshments Plenty of choice in Helmsley
Toilets Helmsley
Public Transport Buses: 128 from Scarborough, 31 from York, Moorsbus on Summer Sundays & Bank Holidays
Suitable for all
Stiles 4


Route created using TrackLogs Digital Mapping

Image reproduced with kind permission of Ordnance Survey and Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland.

  1. (Start) From Helmsley Market Square walk up the narrow lane to the right of the Black Swan Hotel.At the top, turn right past the cemetery then left into a residential area. A footpath continues ahead with a cricket ground on the left. The path continues right, left, right, and left zig-zagging along field edges, finally entering the wooded valley of Ashdale. Look out for a variety of wild flowers in spring including primroses, bluebells, wood anenome, & wild garlic and later, orchids. Walk up this valley for nearly 2 miles (2.5km).

  2. (3.8km, 3 miles) Turn right at a signpost by a bench and walk up the bank, along a field side out onto the minor road just north of Carlton. Turn left and go up the road for about 800m ( mile). Where the road dips, take the bridleway to the right. This passes a disused quarry and skirts the edge of woodland, before finally entering woodland above Riccaldale. At a Tabular Hills Walk signpost, fork right and descend with increasing steepness down to a forest road. Cross over, passing a seat, to reach the valley floor and the River Riccal.

  3. (7.5km, 4 miles) Turn right to follow the river down the valley. Areas of the valley side are carpetted with bluebells in early spring. There are several paths and tracks leading down the valley - where there is a choice keep to the lower path in company with the river.After an open area, used for Scout and Guide camps. Beyond this, keep to the main stony track which undulates down the valley.Ignore any footpaths on either side of this track and it eventually forks right to climb diagonally out of the valley.

  4. (10km,6 miles) At the top, this track continues as a newly created bridleway. Walkers should take a path on the left through the trees. Follow this path past derelict farm equipment along the top of the wooded side of the valley. Once again blubells, garlic, anenome and primroses abound in spring. Look out for a new footpath gate on the right - this is the diverted r.o.w avoiding Raegarth Farm. Go through gate and walk along field side to a farm track. Turn left then as you approach farm buildings, take a new path at a signpost on the right into pasture to rejoin original path below the farm.
  5. (11km,7 miles) Continue downhill passing the edge of woodland, and bear left along a field side. Turn towards Helmsley, and cross a long narrow field to enter a lane next to a bungalow. Emerge on the Carlton road and turn left to reach the A170 and here turn right to return to the Market Square.

Along the Way

Helmsley is a major centre for the surrounding area. It has much to offer the visitor - shops, inns, cafes and restaurants, the Castle, and nearby Duncombe Park and Reivaulx Abbey. Delightful walks radiate from the town by the River Rye to Sproxton, above Duncombe Park to Reivaulx, and north up Beck Dale or Ashdale.

Arnold Underwood
2003, Updated 2008.
Updated May 2015 - Footpaths diverted to avoid Raegarth Farm

This page was created by
Arnold Underwood

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