Ravenscar North Yorkshire



Walking helps process feelings of grief, and that’s why I decided to do this walk. Sometimes you just need to walk and think, or feel.

Ravenscar is an interesting village with such an evocative name. It’s full of history and at the end of a coffin trail.

There was a Roman beacon near the cliff north of the village, part of an early warning network across the north, as the Picts mounted excursions over the border of Hadrian’s wall.

The village was called Peak and had a large alum works – a chemical that softened animal hide. The manor house Peak Hall was built in 1774 by the works owner Captain William Childs. His grandson Rev Dr Richard Willis squandered his inheritance on gambling. Apparently that included louse racing.

A gentleman called William Hammond took over and he built the church St Hilda’s, windmill and even had the railway brought to the village. The manor became a hotel in 1895 and was renamed Raven Hall, the village becoming Ravenscar. I was disappointed at that, having built this romantic notion that it was originally a Viking settlement, and ravens nested in the eaves. There were a lot of crows circling the sky…or were they ravens?

St Hilda’s Church Door. See the honeycomb weathering on the stone


Because of my interest in the past, and also how people dealt with death, I’ve been looking at ancient coffin paths in the North. There are a few in North Yorkshire and The Lake District. Some are paths that mourners took, carrying the coffin to the nearest church, walking with their grief.

This one is a route past ancient burials high on the moors. The Lyke Wake Walk runs from Osmotherly to Ravenscar, across the North Yorks Moors. It’s a challenge. 42 miles in 24 hours and you can join the exclusive club of finishers. You are entitled to wear the official coffin badge.

Not for me today. I was just doing the very last part of the walk, out and back across Brow and Howdale Moors at just under 6 miles.

Moors are high and windy. It’s best to wear a hat and suitable clothing. Take a drink and snacks; and a mobile phone. The reception (02) was OK.

The village is well set up for visitors. You can park on the street. There’s a toilet (donations), visitor centre and tea rooms ¼ mile on from Raven Hall.

There’s also a walk to Robin Hood’s Bay along the coast that starts near the visitor centre, and passes the old alum works (and Roman Beacon).

The phone mast above the village is the official finish of the Lyke Wake Walk, with a small car park but no toilets, so if you want that nice empty bladder feel, park in the village and walk back up the road out of the village.

We took Robin Hood Road on the right. It gave nice views of the Hall and sea.

Robin Hood Road
View to Raven Hall (right)

At the road end, as it turns into a bridleway, there’s a stile on the left. It had wire over the lower part, so I had to lift Pickle over.

It was quite a steep climb up the field but the path is well-defined and there were no bulls, which was a bonus for a relaxing walk. Another stile and another lifting of the dog after she tried to batter through with her nose.

We were at the mast, and could see the long straight path which is part of the Cleveland Way. I was glad it wasn’t boggy, but I guess it depends what time of year you walk up there.

On The Lyke Wake Walk

It was very windy but warm, and the way was well defined. There are other paths that criss-cross, and in hindsight I should have taken the bridleway at the start as that leads you nearer the tumuli, but then you’d have to double back to walk across the moors. Still, I had a good distant view and took some photos which looked just like moorland – the graves are there, honest!

Walking high in the moors gave me time to think about my memories of the walking I did with my husband. One thing I’ve noticed is grief isn’t all about hurt, it’s also remembering the happy times: things you may have forgotten suddenly pop up, and yes it is bittersweet but still worthy of a smile.

View across Brow Moor to Robin Hood’s Bay

Just over half way there is a fork. We took the right as this was part of the Lyke Wake Walk. We stopped at Cook House, near the A171. I knew if I got to the road I’d want to continue to see the next tumulus, then I’d halfway across Fylingdales Moor and I didn’t want this to be too much of a challenge. It was the first long journey since Richard’s illness, and I wanted it to be a gentle walk, which it was.

The nice thing about walking on your own or with family/friends is that you meet people and have chats that you might not necessarily have nearer home. I like to think it’s the chill atmosphere of doing something you enjoy, and finding someone else doing exactly the same. We met a gentleman with three dogs and had a very pleasant talk about rescues. Pickle is a rescue and he had also had two. Brilliant.

We didn’t go back over the stiles, but walked down Scarborough Road to where it met Raven Hall Road, and found the old mill, now a holiday home.

Ravenscar Mill

We went through the village, past the hotel to the cliff, and savoured the atmosphere. What is it about seeing the sea from the top of a cliff? I could have stayed there until it got dark.

A tranquil North Sea

On the way back, I found the foundations of a great town, planned in Edwardian times. It was going to be a seaside resort to rival Scarborough, but never got built. Strange to see pavement edges running into fields of sheep. Nature has reclaimed the land.

Edwardian infrastructure around a field of sheep. Pickle: ‘Did you just say sheep? Where sheep?’

Overall, a gentle walk over moorland, and it’s worthwhile going that bit further into the village to look at that beautiful blue ocean. I did get sad, thinking Richard had missed this, but I think the way to navigate through loss is to just go with it. This walk helped me process some of my grief feelings, and made me realise that I can do things on my own that we did together, and smile.

I want to thank Richard for giving me strength to be able to do this. We never really lose our loved ones. They are always in our hearts.

Julie is a writer and has worked in mental health for 34 years. Richard her husband received a diagnosis of an aggressive cancer in 2021 and died in June 2023. He raised money for Teenage Cancer Trust through his Motorcycle Church Challenge. Julie continues this with the Church Walk Challenge as she navigates her way through grief.