Castleton and Danby: Two North Yorkshire Moors Villages

Castleton and Danby villages guide

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Castleton and Danby are two villages that are just 1.4 miles apart and are both well worth a visit.

Both villages are picturesque and have a lot to offer the passer-by or day tripper.

You can even walk between the two so you can visit them both and take in the stunning scenery of the North York Moors National Park.

Castleton

Castleton is our first port of call in this dual village adventure.

First up, make sure you’re not confusing it with the Castleton in Derbyshire – that’d be a bit more of walk!

Castleton sits near the River Esk and is part of the Civil Parish of Danby (more on Danby later!) The village lies 7.1 miles east of the market town of Guisborough.

River Esk view
River Esk

Legend has it that there was once a castle on Castle Hill (and I suppose that’s how the village came by its name!) that was thought to have been abandoned when the nearby Danby Castle was built.

The Clapper Bridge in Castleton that spans Danby Beck was listed as Grade II back in 2016.

Although it is small, Castle used to be the main industrial and market town that served Upper Eskdale.

There were annual cattle, cheese and wool fairs, a silk mill, and a cheese market. Castleton still holds an annual show on the second Saturday in September each year.

Getting to Castleton

Aside from walking from Danby (as we’ll describe later!), Castleton has its own quaint little railway station running on the Esk Valley Line.

It is about halfway between the bigger towns of Whitby and Middlesbrough.

Booking.com

There are some bus services too, but these are not especially reliable, particularly in the winter months.

Having said that, on Sundays and Bank Holidays from spring through to fall, the Moorsbus visits.

Weird Fact about Castleton

Did you know that the Danby Hand of Glory, a severed dried and pickled hand, was found in Castleton in 1935, hidden in the wall of a thatched cottage?

This hand is on display at Whitby Museum!

Things to Do in Castleton
Facts about Castleton

A hand of glory is the severed hand of a hanged man, usually the left hand because in Latin, the word for left is ‘sinistra,’ meaning ‘sinister’ (it’s true, we all have a sinister side!).

However, if the person was hanged for murder, they would take whichever hand carried out the act.

The one found in Castleton is thought to be the only remaining example of a Hand of Glory.

Things to Do in Castleton

Castleton has a fair few village amenities, if that’s what you’re looking for.

There’s a primary school, church, and The Downe Arms pub.

There’s also a Co-op convenience store, public toilets, and a delightful tearoom.

Booking.com

However, most people come to Castleton to admire the beautiful moorland views, do a bit of nature spotting, shooting and go for country walks. owHowev

The Esk Valley Walk

As mentioned, many people come to Castleton to go for walks.

One such trail is the Esk Valley Walk, a 35-mile long-distance bath.

The route leads from Castle and takes in Danby Dale, Rosedale Head and then Blakey Ridge – where there’s a great pub called the Lion Inn.

Walking Esk Valley
Esk Valley walk

Next, it goes through what remains of Esklets, an old sheep farm from medieval times, through Westerdale and passes Castleton again.

The path continues to Danby and goes right up to Danby Beacon before leading to Lealholm, Glaisdale, Egton Bridge, and Grosmont before passing through Ruswarp on to its final stop at Whitby.

Walk to Danby

This short little walk takes you to our next stop.

Views North Yorkshire Moors Villages
North Yorkshire Moors Villages

Here’s how you get from Castleton to Danby:

  1. From outside the Downe Arms Inn, head up the High Street and pass Station Road going off to your left. Continue up Church Street.
  1. Walk along Church Street until you come to a junction. Take the lane going off to the left past some farm buildings on your left.
  1. Follow the road along. It will go over the railway line via a bridge and you’ll continue, passing another couple of lanes and farms along the way.
  1. You’ll come to the junction with Hollin Top Lane with another farm building on your right. Keep walking straight ahead and you’ll join the junction where West Lane meets Dale End and Briar Hill, near to the Duke of Wellington Inn. This is Danby!
  1. If you fancy doing another half mile or so, our walk can continue to take you to the Danby Lodge National Park Centre. To get there, continue straight ahead up Briar Hill.
  1. Keep right and walk along Lodge Lane which will eventually curve to the right. Here you’ll find the Danby Lodge National Park Centre with a car park nearby.

Danby

Let’s journey 1.4 miles up the road to Danby, an equally beautiful village in the North Yorkshire Moors.

Danby village facts
Danby village

According to 2011 census data, Danby Parish has a population of 1,411 people, a slight reduction of around 100 people since the census ten years previously.

Getting to Danby

You can travel to Danby on foot from Castleton (as we described!) as well as via car and public transport.

Danby has a train station and is on the line between Middlesbrough and Whitby.

Booking.com

There’s also an Arriva Yorkshire bus service and, in the spring and summer months, a seasonal Moors Bus.

Things to See and Do in Danby

Danby has a few things to do and on fine days it can be quite busy with visitors and day-trippers.

It has a castle, a church the Moors Centre, Danby Beacon and even an agricultural show.

Danby Castle

The remains of Danby Castle lie about a mile south-east of the village.

Its position was a commanding one on the slopes of Danby Rigg. The Castle was built in the 1300s for Lord Latimer to show off his great wealth.

In the 16th century, the castle was home to John Neville, a descendant of the original Latimer family, who married Catherine Parr as his third wife.

Danby Castle became their marital home. Catherine Parr later became the 6th wife of Henry VIII.

It was actually pioneering in its architectural design at the time as it combined comfortable living with strong defenses.

Three of the castle’s four towers remain in part. The south wing still remains intact. The castle now functions as a wedding venue.

Danby Show

Danby Show has run for over 150 years!

The inaugural show took place in 1848 and was launched by the vicar of Danby at the time.

The show attracts over 6,000 visitors each August.

There are traditional events and entertainment including sheepdog trials, show jumping, farm machinery and animal exhibitions and even craft, produce and horticultural competitions.

Danby Beacon

The Danby beacon is one in a line of beacons set about 20 miles apart.

They date back to the 17th century when France was threatening to invade England.

The beacon was lit every time there was sight of a foreign fleet by a stationed soldier.

It’s now used as a waymarker for many walkers who pass by the village each year.

Danby North Yorkshire cross
Danby North Yorkshire

The original wooden beacon was weathered and fell down. A new beacon was built and unveiled by Lord Downe in 2008.

The basket is shaped like flames and is made out of blued stainless steel so that it blends in with the sky.

The flames are placed around a bronze-decorated cup to commemorate the Bronze Age burial mound which lies under part of the beacon.

In WWII – Danby Beacon became home to one of the first radar stations that were guarding the coastline.

It continued as a radar station until 1957 and was then taken over by RAF Fylingdales early warning station, which is 15 miles away.

The Moors Centre/Danby Lodge National Park Centre

The reason for the two names above is that the Danby Moors Centre has not long changed its name to Danby Lodge National Park Centre – and many of the locals still call it by its former name.

Visit Danby Lodge National park centre
Danby Lodge National park centre

The lodge is a historic center that sits in a beautiful spot near the riverbank of the River Esk.

From here you can see:

  • moorland
  • farmland
  • woodland
  • and miles of drystone walls

The center is an official Dark Sky Discovery Site of which there are three in the national park.

Many groups attend the center to take in the dark skies and do a bit of star gazing.

Inside the center are exhibition spaces and galleries. There’s also a children’s climbing cave and shop.

Throughout the Year – There are many creative workshops too. For children, there’s an outdoor adventure playground as well as the woodland with a mud kitchen to make mud pies.

There is a short circular walk to follow, geocaching, sculptures (including some that talk!), a compass field to practice navigation, space to play a traditional game of quoits, and a Salmon Labyrinth where you can learn all about the journey of a salmon.

The center is free to enter and there’s a gorgeous café which has an amazing choice of cake!

Final Thoughts on Castleton and Danby

If you want to experience real, rural moorland life in the North York Moors National Park, Castleton and Danby give you great experiences.

Danby arguably has more to do for active and younger people, but both villages are some of the most picturesque in the UK. Which will your favorite be?

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