North York Moors
The eastern half of England is generally much flatter than the west. The North York Moors is a notable exception being the only place east of the Pennines that gains an altitude over 1,000ft. The moors themselves are surrounded by flat low lying ground to the north (Cleveland Plain), west (Vale of Mowbray) and south (Vale of Pickering) while to the east the moors fall abruptly into the sea. To protect this upland area the North York Moors National Park was formed in 1952. Covering 554 square miles the North York Moors is the fifth largest national park in England and only a fraction smaller than its Peak District equivalent.
The northern boundary of the national park is formed by the Cleveland Hills. Standing dramatically above the Cleveland plain the Cleveland Hills feature some of the highest and shapeliest hills in the North York Moors, including Urra Moor which at 454m (1490ft) is the highest point in the national park. Other notable tops in the Cleveland Hills include Carlton Bank, Cringle Moor, Hasty Bank and the remarkably shaped Roseberry Topping.
To the east of Osmotherley the Cleveland Hills merge into the Hambleton Hills, the range that runs from north-south along the western edge of the moors. Unlike the Cleveland Hills the Hambleton Hills are much less clearly defined as separate summits and in fact takes the form of a long escarpment which is at its highest at the northern end on Black Hambleton and which gradually loses height to the south until it merges with the Howardian Hills. On a good day the view westwards from the escarpment across the Vale of Mowbray towards the distant Pennine hills is simply stunning.
The most famous landmark on the Hambleton Hills is the White Horse of Kilburn. Over 300 feet long and originally carved out of the hillside by a local schoolmaster in 1857 it is visible from a great distance. One evening I could clearly make it out stood on Ilkley Moor over 33 miles away.
Running along the southern edge of the national are the Tabular Hills. Formed by limestone from the Upper Jurassic period they rise gently, almost imperceptibly from the Vale of Pickering. Their most notable feature is that they all have steep, often wooded, northern escarpments. Rarely over 300m in height this modest range provides shelter for numerous attractive villages, such as Hutton-le-Hole, while some villages, such as Gillamoor, are perched on the escarpment itself.
Between Scarborough to the south and Redcar to the north can be found some of the finest coastline in England and much of it falls within the boundary of the North York Moors National Park. There is some spectacular coastal walks to be had in this area and in Robin Hood's Bay and Staithes it has two of the most picturesque fishing villages in the country, nestled as they are amongst steep coastal cliffs. It is also worth noting that on Rockhole Hill, just north of Boulby, the east coast of England reaches its heighest point at 213m (699ft) above sea level.
Whilst the edges of the National Park are bounded by the sea, and the Cleveland, Hambleton and Tabular Hills the centre of the park is a large expanse of heather moorland separated by numerous attractive valleys including Ryedale, Eskdale, Bilsdale, Rosedale and Farndale, the latter famous for its spring showing of wild daffodils. Promotional pictures of the moors are nearly always taken in late summer when the heather blooms a magnificent purple.
I've only walked infrequently in the North York Moors. I don't know why this is. It is a truly beautiful part of the country. Perhaps it is because so few of the moorland tops make it on to any of the hill lists that I'm trying to complete. I feel though that it is time I started to pay the North York Moors more attention, especially as (somewhat incredibly) I've not yet gone out for walk there when the heather has been in bloom. Despite being a frequent visitor to Robin Hood's Bay throughout my life it was only in the summer of 2011 that I did my first proper walk on the east coast. It was a super little evening ramble and in addition to exploring more of the moors I'd definitely also like to do some more coastal walking as well.