There are some that say Sutton Bank offers the finest view in all of England. Now that’s just subject to opinion however, what we know for a fact is that Yorkshire is home to some of the most beautiful and picturesque vistas in this wonderful nation and from Sutton Bank you can see for miles across the Vale of York and to the Dales. Which means on paper it’s got a pretty sound case for the finest view.
We here at Rolling Refills thought that we would help our fellow Yorkshiremen as well as any adventurers from all walks of life that might want to know about the best nature spots in what is often referred to as God’s own country. Now before we get started it must be said that while these spots make for fantastic opportunities to light up and relax, we don’t condone doing anything illegal at these locations, or at all for that matter. So here is our list of the best natural locations in Yorkshire to get high (on life) and go for a dip.
First we must explore what makes a great natural spot. Britain’s rivers, lakes and waterfalls are cleaner, safer and more accessible than at any time in living memory and the health benefits of a natural dip are increasingly well known. Because of this we decided that this list should concentrate on spots with access to water suitable for a dip, clothed or otherwise. Another essential aspect of a good spot is it being secluded, you don’t want tons of tourists or families stinking up the place, leave that to the bag of devils lettuce in your pocket. A little bit of wind coverage or shelter will also go a long way towards making a good spot and obviously there has to be a fantastic view. These are all factors we included when thinking about the best spots in Yorkshire and we managed to narrow it down to just five locations, each one with its own uniqueness and each one being quintessentially Yorkshire.
We’ve also factored in how hard it is to travel to the spot, will you be dragging yourself and your gear across mountains and rivers or traipsing through swamps to get to the spot. While some spots are easy to access and enjoy, you’ll often find that the best spots are ones that are off the beaten track a little, it adds to the seclusion as well as meaning there’ll be less noise and/or light pollution. We gave each spot a handy rating out of 5 for difficulty, 5 being like trying to climb kilimanjaro and 1 being a breezy walk through a park.
One last thing before we get started; these spots are beautiful for a reason, because people respect them, and have done for millenia. That’s why us here at Rolling Refills ask that you make sure to leave no trace of you being at these spots and take anything that you bring with you back to your home or throw it away in a bin somewhere, if you litter then you’re ruining it for everyone else. Please L.N.T (Leave No trace) whenever out and about enjoying our nation's magnificent rural areas.
Now, without any further adieu; the Rolling Refills Best Nature Spots In Yorkshire To Get High (On Life) And Go For A Dip…
Gormire Lake - Sutton Bank
First off is Gormire lake. Situated in the North York Moors, Gormire Lake is a natural lowland lake that lies at the foot of Whitestone Cliff. The lake was formed over 20,000 years ago by glacial erosion and is the setting of several myths; one being that of a knight, Sir Harry Scriven who conned the Abbot of Rievaulx Abbey into letting him ride his horse (a white mare, the so called derivation of White Mare Cliff, another name for Whitestonecliff). The knight and the abbot rode on from an inn and as they did so, it turned into a race. The abbot then changed into the devil, which caused such panic in the knight that he couldn't stop the horse and himself plunging into Gormire Lake from the clifftop. The 'devil' was then seen to jump into the lake after them and the boiling effect of the devil in the water is what is said to have caused the darkness of the lake to this day.
A large, warm and little-visited lake set in woodland beneath the spectacular Sutton Bank escarpment. Squidgy leaf mulch at first but the water shelves quickly, deepening at about 5m offshore. Beautiful views back up to escarpment. Surrounded by beautiful greenery for miles, you can easily spend a whole day exploring around the lake. Try to head off the trail a little though as to avoid the crowds.
6 miles from Thirsk (E from A170), at the top of a long climb, park and pay at the main Sutton Bank car park. Walk along the escarpment and after 300m follow signs to the nature reserve, descending via track on the left into woods. After 500m find the lake shore among trees. There are public footpaths around the whole lake and a permanent right of way on the south side.
Lealholm Esk River - Whitby
The attractive village of Lealholm is situated 9 miles west of Whitby. During the last ice age, a huge wall of ice moved across the landscape, and carved out the Esk Valley. At its head, a huge dam was formed. Over time, a river carved a ravine now known as ‘Crunkly Ghyll’. This steep wooded ravine leads down to Lealholm. - The name alone earned it’s place on this list but also the Esk river itself is among one of the best in the country for clean, hydrating and free fun.
Pretty paddling and dipping pool by the village green with a nearby train station, traditional old pub, excellent bakery and a coffee shop! Satiate them munchies! There are three crossing points in Lealholm for the River Esk. The main stone bridge, a fording point and famous stepping stones, near the Wesleyan chapel.
Head to Lealholm and get exploring!
Thomason Foss - Eller Beck
Thomason Foss is a picturesque waterfall between the villages of Goathland and Beck Hole in the heart of the North York Moors National Park. The waterfall is set in a pretty woodland ravine on Eller Beck. The North Yorkshire Moors heritage railway runs just to the north of the waterfall at the top of the ravine.
Thomason Foss is not quite as spectacular as the Mallyan Spout a few miles away at Goathland, but the setting is picturesque and it is one of the easiest waterfalls to reach in the National Park.
A large rocky plunge pool set beneath an impressive waterfall perfect for swimming with large rocks surrounding it. Depending on when you go and recent rainfall the depth of the pool can change but nevertheless when you get to enjoy the ‘fall with no one around but you, a bunch of good pals and a large (legal) zoot to pass amongst you as you paddle in the brisk water, you’ll wish you could live here, though I hear Goathland is rather expensive.
Beck Hole is a pub you’ll find down narrow lanes a mile North of Goathland station from here follow signs and the well-trodden path to find Thomason Foss as well as Mallayan Spout just a mile downstream. Wear good boots as the path can be very muddy and ends short of the waterfall, you’ll be required to do a little bit of a scramble to get there, shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes, but that’s all part of the fun!
Falling Foss - Ruswarp
If ever there was a magical woodland walk, this is it. Take the trail through the trees on a 2-mile circular route that passes a fairytale woodland tea garden and the 30-foot Falling Foss waterfall, then return alongside babbling May Beck. It’s a lovely shaded stroll for the summertime, made all the more majestic by sporting a RAWthentic paper cone stuffed full of high grade (legal) herbsssss, just make sure to take your litter with you! With shallow waters to paddle in and a bridge to play pooh-sticks from, it is a fantastic spot in Autumn when the woodland colours are at their best. If you don’t intend to stray far from the tea garden and waterfall, you can use an alternative car park near Falling Foss instead, making this one of the easier but also possibly busier spots on this list.
A tall plume and small but deep plunge pool at the head of a wooded gorge, equipped with a rock beach perfect for uncomfortably relaxing (bring some sort of pillow or fluffy towel to sit on). This spot is surrounded by tall hills and trees giving a good amount of shade, wind coverage and a beautiful sense of nature.
Follow the B1416 from Whitcy South and take the ‘middle’ Right after 3 miles, signed Newton House/ Falling Foss. Follow the lane for a mile to a car park then continue down the woods on foot to reach the base of the falls, walk downstream, scrambling down into a gorge then follow the stream back up! Barely a 10 min walk.
Cod Beck - Osmotherley
Cod Beck Reservoir, completed in 1953, sits above the picturesque town of Osmotherley in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. Engulfed by thick, coniferous woodland and moorland, this reservoir is apparently known to be a vital area for common toads that hibernate in the moorland. It also supports lots of other wildlife including eels, bullhead, grayling and trout to name a few so make sure to be cautious and respectful while swimming here, there are some no swimming signs but many still do, after all what were rules made for if not to be broken?
Pretty stream for paddling that leads down to a lovely roadside lake with shoreside footpath and picnic parking. The circular path is wide and well surfaced in entirety and only has one gradual small incline and decline in the northeast corner. The car park has a public toilets and even a small shop, lovely.
Come off the A19 for the A684 Northallerton but follow signs to Osmotherley, turn left into the Village and continue for another one and a half miles and voila, you should find yourself, arrived.
Quiet and calm atmosphere surrounds this area of the country and the river here is perfect for summer swimming, enjoying the lack of tourists and traditional local aesthetic.
Take the aislaby road from Egglescliffe South of Stockton-on-Tees and bear left for Newsham Hall, drop down a river path on open access land after half a mile and explore downstream.
There you have it, now you find yourself equipped with the knowledge to enjoy Yorkshire’s natural beauty to its fullest, but don’t just rotate visiting these spots, go out, enjoy these sports and find new ones. Remember that the best spot is the one you haven’t found yet and always make sure to respect others and at all times stay safe while enjoying the water.
Source: Years of experience wild swimming in the waters of Britain.
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