Visit Ryedale - North Yorkshire

Walking Routes - Pickering

Pickering is a popular tourist centre, reputedly founded in 270bc by King Peredurus and is a wonderful centre for walking and is proud to welcome strollers, ramblers and hikers.  It is also proud to become a "Walkers are Welcome Town", one of 70 such towns across Britain.  The Pickering Walkers are Welcome group organises regular walks throughout the season and, in spring of each year, stages a walking festival in the town.  The festival takes place during a weekend and there are a dozen or so walks planned, ranging from an easy 5 mile local walk to a more challenging 13 miler.

Pick up a town map from the Tourist Information Centre and enjoy a stroll around the town. We have highlighted some interesting facts and things to look out for. 

From the Tourist Information Centre on The Ropery, turn left towards the railway station and take your first right turn onto the Market Place.

Market Place
Starting at the bottom, where the Market Place joins Bridge Street, go up the left side of the main street. Pass the Bay Horse Inn, a hostelry for Cromwellian troops in the 17th century. Next is the White Swan, a former farmers' inn from which the "England Rejoice" stagecoach once ran across the moors to Whitby. Both hostelries carry hanging signs, one topped by a bunch of grapes. At the corner shop, an old building full of timber beams, turn left into Burgate and walk up it towards Pickering Castle.

This was the ‘borough' founded in King John's time on land between the settlement and the Norman castle. Notice a Victorian building inscribed "Savings Bank". Burgate narrows where two old stone inns stood opposite each other. The White Horse on the West side (now No 55) only lately closed, is full of old timbers and an ingle nook. The outside footings of both houses look older than the rest. Some nice Georgian and Victorian houses stand beyond. A small pathside stone at No 31 marks the spot where a Primitive Methodist preacher read the Bible and started a revival 150 years ago.

At the junction of Burgate with Castlegate look left down Brant Hill, which descends steeply to Park Street. Here also the old Whitby road branches off to the right. Further along Castlegate, on the left behind an old white cottage, with a stone horse-mounting block, is a Friends Meeting House of 1793. Go through the side gate to see the quiet burial ground of Priestmans and Rowntrees, two well-known local Quaker families. From here there is a fine view of the valley. Across Castlegate there once stood the Elizabethan and later Victorian Pickering Hall. Only a huge stone gatepost remains. Here was fought the Civil War battle of Castlegate between cavalry units led by a Constable and a Cholmely and the street ran red with blood.

Pickering Castle
Built by William the Conqueror, Pickering Castle makes a fascinating visit for all ages and offers wonderful views over the North York Moors. You can also see the trees of the castle's old deerpark to the North, at Blandsby. To the West is Lady Lumleys School with an earthwork on its left. This is Beacon Hill thought once to have been a siege castle. The Castle is owned by English Heritage and a charge will be made to have a look around. On leaving the castle, walk down the left side of Castlegate. Take your second turn left onto Hatcase Lane and your first right for Willowgate.

John Wesley first preached here at No 9 Willowgate (note the old arch). Most of the old cottages have been carefully restored and improved. A yard further down contains a restored cruck timber and stone house, once an inn, with a dated Assembly Rooms where farm lads once held their quadrille dances. A stone wall opposite carries curious heads, carved by stonemason Ernest Greenheld, and putting your hand in the open mouth is said to bring good luck.

Pickering Church
This is essential viewing. The Parish Church of St Peter and St Paul is reached by a sharp turn left from Willowgate up the steps into the churchyard. Note how the old church alehouse was reached directly from it on the North side. Your best guide to the church will be found in pamphlets available inside at a small charge. Don't miss the fragments of Viking crosses from an earlier church, the fine woodwork and the Brus and Rawcliffe effigies. A memorial topped with a horn of plenty recalls pioneer farmers William and John Marshall; another remembers the King family, surveyors of the City of Washington DC. The greatest treasures of the Church are the 15th Century wall paintings, depicting scenes from the lives of the Saints.

This is found by continuing along the lower of the churchyard paths. Church Lane (as it is called) runs alongside an attractive Georgian brick-built house, a former vicarage, facing Hallgarth. Next above this is the Parish Hall, previously a National School, founded 1857. At the crest of this rise is a large house, previously another and later vicarage but now a private house. This is on the site of the original Hall which King Henry I gave to the Deans of York when the Castle had replaced it. Several Deans lived there. The houses on the left side going down are attractive and well cared for. On the right hand side at the bottom is the Lumley Rest Garden, once the old cattle market. The drinking fountain and several seats commemorate John Wilson, a local Labour pioneer. Turn right at the bottom of the hill, onto Hungate.

Once a dumping ground for butcher's offal, it took its name from the hounds, which it attracted. Walk along the road to see the plaque on the large house jutting into the road where Dr A J Kirk lived and gathered the nucleus of the collection of bygones now at the Castle Museum, York, which he founded. Many properties nearby have a wide covered access for farm wagons. Further along a former Wesleyan Chapel and graveyard, now a private garden, still contains the memorial to dialect poet John Castillo. The Chapel has been converted by the Pickering Musical Society into the Kirk Theatre. Old tanyards were sited by the stream, where a close of attractive sheltered houses now stands.

Continue over the footbridge and cross the traffic lights to return along the north side of Hungate. (An attractive riverside walk alongside the Ropery car park leads back to the bottom of the Market Place.) The ducks are a feature of Pickering Beck. The Over 60's Club has an old sundial and further along is the 18th Century building housing the United Reform Church. Ignore the long alley called Straight Lane, which runs through to the Market Place and passes the old Central Cinema, now an auction room, and go through the short alley further along into Smiddy Hill.

Smiddy Hill
Or Old Cattle Market, has the Horseshoe Inn and the Lettered Board, once lively with the trade of blacksmiths and butchers, especially on market days. The road continues up onto Birdgate.

To the left has old 17th Century houses tucked under the church wall and a fine Georgian town house (now an office) in the corner. Amid the old shops the Black Swan Hotel is prominent, a great old Georgian stage-coach inn visited by Charles Dickens and many folk posting to Whitby. Cockfights and theatricals were held in its large yard. A plaque on the hotel records the re-opening of the railway by HRH the Duchess of Kent. Note also the badge of the Cyclist's Touring Club. Continuing over the brow of the hill and walking down the left side into the Market Place again.

Market Place 
Many Georgian and Victorian buildings make up the Market Place, marred by a few modern facades behind which are some buildings of very great age. Taylor's greengrocery conceals a 15th Century house - an old fireplace has been preserved in the shop. The Conservative Club and its neighbour were built for a whaling captain called Scoresby. Paddisons has a Victorian door complete with the former pharmacy's advertisements. The Old Post Office (now Boots) and its neighbour were once the Blue Bell Inn. St George's House was the George Inn. Further down, the long King's Row below Champley's Yard was built by the family who laid out Washington in America. Walking straight on at the crossroads brings you into Bridge Street.

Bridge Street
This lies across the junction at the bottom of the Market Place. The Rose Inn is probably the oldest ale-house in the town. Just over the old bridge (partly medieval) Beck Isle Museum offers a chance to learn all about the folk history of the district and to picnic on the stream-side lawn. The Regency buildings and yards are full of treasures gathered and maintained by the voluntary efforts of local people who run it themselves. An old printing press is housed here now and is one of the largest hand-operated models ever made. Souvenir prints are on sale. William Marshall, who started farm education, altered the building to become the first farm college in England. Opposite is the town's Memorial Hall, once a stream-powered corn mill. Potter Hill, just beyond, has an Italianate Methodist Chapel and a Roman Catholic Church with a piece of sculptured work by Eric Gill. Retracing your steps will bring you back to the crossroads and a right turn here will lead you back to the Tourist Information Centre. A detour turning left at the crossroads will bring you onto Park Street.

Park Street
This leads to the railway station designed by G T Andrews in 1846. Opposite is the Station Hotel were the navvies once made such a noise that they turned a prominent townsman to temperance. Further along from the station you will find the Trout Lake where fun fishing can be enjoyed. Beyond there is the Trout Farm which houses a series of trout beds where trout are bred for the local fisheries. Both sites are open to the general public.

A Legendary Tale of How Pickering Got It's Name
Pickering was once a town by-passed by people on their way to the Yorkshire coast or the North York Moors. Now visitors bide their time in the ancient market town, which according to legend was given its name by King Peredurus in 270 B.C.

We are told that the king lost his ring in the River Costa and accused a maiden of stealing it. When a cook found the ring in the belly of a pike caught in the river, the king married the maiden and called the town ‘Pike-ring'


The next recorded visit by a king was in 1106, when King Henry I visited Pickering Castle and founded the Royal Forest of Pickering, a vast hunting domain which stretched from near the coast to Rosedale and from the River Derwent to the River Esk.

The Borough of Pickering was established in 1201 when King John visited the castle.

Queen Elizabeth II visited Pickering Castle in 1975 to meet tenants of the Duchy of Lancaster estates.

The last royal visit to Pickering was in 2000 when Prince Charles arrived in the town on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway to inspect the restoration work done to the station during the winter of 1999/2000 and to visit the town's Memorial Hall, which has also undergone extensive restoration.

In 1668 a survey of the town listed 195 houses, the population today is about 6,000.

The 18th and 19th centuries saw the building of a Congregational Chapel, a Wesleyan Methodist Chapel and a Primitive Methodist Church, followed by a new Primitive Methodist Chapel on Potter Hill, as well as the building of the grammar school in Kirkham Lane.

Today the town, which still holds its open air market on Mondays, boasts three schools Infant, Junior and Comprehensive taking students to A levels. There are many attractions in the town including the parish church with its famous medieval wall paintings, a museum of rural life depicting life in and around Pickering over the last two hundred years, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway and of course the ruined Castle which was founded by William the Conqueror.

We look forward to welcoming you back to Pickering
Telephone: 0800 854 047
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