Sheriff Hutton Castle is the highlight of the start of the walk. Privately-owned and not accessible, it was begun in 1382 by the Neville family. It originally had four huge corner towers, though only one remains to any great height. The castle was one of the power bases for the Earl of Warwick, known as 'the Kingmaker', whose daughter, Anne, married King Richard III. Elizabeth of York, later queen to Henry VII, was imprisoned here until her future husband beat King Richard at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485. Sheriff Hutton Castle was subsequently owned by the Earl of Surrey, who employed the poet John Skelton to provide flattering verses for his household. Skelton's Garlande of Laurell was written here at Christmas in 1522.
The humps and bumps after Point 3 are the remains of the deserted village of East Lilling. It can never have been very large – the Domesday Book recorded just three villagers and one plough. A survey in 1625 noted ‘ancient buildings and ancient ways for horse and cart visibly discerned and leading unto the place where the town stood within Sheriff Hutton park; it hath been a hamlet of some capacity, though now utterly demolished’. You can make out the rectangular platforms on which the houses were built, amid the typical ridge and furrow features that probably denote either early ploughing or drainage channels.
York Minster on the skyline
On the track up to Lodge Farm look south to see York Minster, almost 10 miles (16,1km) to the southwest. Planners have kept the city's skyline deliberately low to allow this huge building to make its full impact on the landscape. In the Middle Ages its bulk was matched by that of Sheriff Hutton Castle. A little further on, after the right turn, the impressive front of Sheriff Hutton Hall (private) is visible to the left, across the fields. It dates back to 1619, though most of what’s visible today is an 18th-century remodelling.
A sickly prince
In Sheriff Hutton Church, which was first built in the 11th century, is an alabaster figure that is said to be part of a monument to Edward of Middleham, the only son of Richard III. He was a sickly child who was born in Middleham Castle, probably in 1476. When his father became king he was made Prince of Wales in August 1483, but died at Middleham on 9 April 1484. A contemporary chronicler wrote ‘On hearing the news of this, at Nottingham, where they were then residing, you might have seen his father and mother in a state almost bordering on madness, by reason of their sudden grief’. His mother is supposed to have met his funeral procession at Sheriff Hutton.
From the crossroads in the village centre, near The Highwayman, walk down the hill to go left on a path between houses, signed ‘Centenary Way, Ebor Way’. Go through a kissing gate, then through another to your right. Follow the path as it skirts the castle, though a kissing gate and on through trees. After the next gate, go ahead on a concrete path. Go through a kissing gate and then right through another.
Follow the wire fence as it bears left. After the next gate, go straight ahead across the field; at the end bear right to a metal gate onto a track. Turn right and go over a stile by a gate. Cross the metalled track and head across the field, keeping left of the telegraph pole. Go over a stile in the crossing wire fence and straight on. Where the field narrows, go over a footbridge between two stiles.
Turn left after the second stile to go through a metal gate and follow the hedge, bending at the end to a gated footbridge in a crossing hedge. After the second gate, go half right across the field between humps in the ground. The path here is not defined, but continue in the same direction, crossing a small stream and eventually reaching a stile with a board bridge beyond. Bend right after it through two metal gates and bear right again to go onto a road at a metal gate.
Turn left, and left again at the crossroads, signed 'Bulmer'. About 0.25 miles (400m) beyond the tree-lined drive to Thornton Grange Farm, go left up a concrete track towards Lodge Farm. After 0.5 miles (800m), take the second turn right. Walk beside the farm buildings to go through two waymarked gates, on a narrow path beside a pond and through another gate.
Cross the field ahead (standing crops may require a deviation round the field) to a gate in the crossing hedge. Continue towards the farm buildings, passing through another two gates. Go straight ahead for about 50yds (46m), then turn left by a circular boarded enclosure to a stile in a crossing fence.
Continue down the field towards the castle, going over a stile and footbridge. Ascend the next field, turn right at the top and bear left up a hedged lane to enter the churchyard through a gate. Leave the churchyard by another gate onto the road and turn left back to village centre.
Field paths and tracks, some road walking, 6 stiles
Undulating farmland, with the castle set on a ridge
Dogs should be kept on lead
OS Explorer 300 Howardian Hills & Malton
Roadside parking in village
None on route
Walking in safety
Read our tips to look after yourself and the environment when following this walk.
Also in the area
About the area
Discover North Yorkshire
North Yorkshire, with its two National Parks and two designated Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, is England’s largest county and one of the most rural. This is prime walking country, from the heather-clad heights of the North York Moors to the limestone country that is so typical of the Yorkshire Dales – a place of contrasts and discoveries, of history and legend.
The coastline offers its own treasures, from the fishing villages of Staithes and Robin Hood Bay to Scarborough, one time Regency spa and Victorian bathing resort. In the 1890s, the quaint but bustling town of Whitby provided inspiration for Bram Stoker, who set much of his novel, Dracula, in the town. Wizarding enthusiasts head to the village of Goathland, which is the setting for the Hogwarts Express stop at Hogsmeade station in the Harry Potter films.
York is a city of immense historical significance. It was capital of the British province under the Romans in AD 71, a Viking settlement in the 10th century, and in the Middle Ages its prosperity depended on the wool trade. Its city walls date from the 14th century and are among the finest in Europe. However, the gothic Minster, built between 1220 and 1470, is York’s crowning glory.