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A Walk Up Roseberry Topping – A North Yorkshire Icon

For those that have seen Roseberry Topping will know what I mean when I describe it as iconic. Standing proudly, distinctive and somewhat isolated, this landmark of a peak in the North Yorkshire is a draw for ramblers and hikers of all standards. Standing at 1,049 feet (320 m) in height, it is a summit attainable by the many. It can be seen for miles around as a landmark with the distinctive shape and does indeed look so much higher than the facts say. I had a day out with Rusty and we were in the mood for an ascent and views. A perfect place to head to, Rusty loves it here too.

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When people say you can see Roseberry Topping from miles around, they really mean it. From many angles it is often compared in shape to the infamous Matterhorn of Switzerland. But this one is a climb that all the family can do. Hardened walkers can get up the direct path in 20 minutes or so, families or view lovers can take hours savouring it, or it can be combined with other classic walks and landmarks in the area like Captain Cook’s Monument.

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Car parking is easy, just North of Great Ayton (the boyhood home of Captain James Cook) on the A137 there is a Pay and Display car park beneath the hill itself (where the main image atop this post was taken). It was this hill that Cook used to escape to as a boy, his first taste of adventure and exploration. There is a longer walk from Great Ayton itself and very rewarding indeed for a days wandering. From the near car park I mentioned the walk is no more than a mile although, as you can see from the images and shape of the hill there will be natural steeper inclines that will get the heart and lungs going. That never bothered Rusty one bit though as he kept turning as if to say hurry up.

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The reward are plentiful and much more than a summit with superb views all across North Yorkshire. The beginning of the hill involves wandering up through glorious woodland. Today was the end of Winter so the trees were bare and a wonderful openness was felt. Come in Spring and colour transforms the area. Carpets of bluebells and colour on the trees, a wonderful sight.

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The pathways are managed by the National Trust and this is a very, very popular walk. Steps guide the way, and even here there are little diversions to help those that do not like the straight up the steps route through the woods. Plenty of pathways to take it all in whilst taking off some gradient. After so much rain and snow lately I thought me and Rusty were going to have a mud bath, but it wasn’t that bad to be honest, just please take it easy on the stone steps coming down as can get slippy.

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Once through the woods and through a gate the peak is suddenly up in front of you. Suddenly looking so close and makes you realise how small Roseberry Topping is compared to how high it looks. From here the path is so very straight forward. Upwards!

The views, even from here are so expansive. Looking out to the North East you can view the sea in the distance, out toward Saltburn and Redcar.

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Looking up you can see the silhouettes of figures, the people enjoying their time on the summit already. You get a sense of the commanding position of the summit already.

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The shape of Roseberry Topping is unique as I have said, and of course it wasn’t always so. Millions of years of geology has made the shape we see today. Even over just the last few hundred years has made a difference. In the 18th Century, pictures/painting show a huge tall, thinner, pyramid shaped hill, much much taller than today. Sandstone kept this pillar of land higher as the earth eroded around it. I remember something similar in a USA road trip at Chimney Rock, Nebraska. At some point the sandstone at Roseberry Topping was taken from the top, this made the a more sugarloaf shape. Then due to mining in the area, there was a big collapse about a hundred years ago, creating the one side straight down view we love today.

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Rusty got to the top first of course and went straight into ‘checking everything out’ mode. It had been a long time since I was last up here I must admit, too long. I was time to savour it all. The clouds had parted at the perfect time too, wonderful!

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Yes, the views are vast, one of the most expansive 360 views in North Yorkshire. I have already mentioned the East Coast but in other directions you all the way across to Middlesbrough and Hartlepool Headland, and westward on a sunny day like today you can see as far as the Yorkshire Dales. To the South you get a tremendous view of the Cleveland Hills, with Cook’s Monument standing tall atop the hill across the valley.

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Rusty eventually decided it was time to relax too. Taking a seat as if to peruse over the landscape and horizon. Or maybe looking down to the car park for his lunch? 🙂

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Where did the name Roseberry Topping come from? Well, it is quite convoluted and takes us back to the time of Vikings, who were in Cleveland during medieval times. There are not many places in England named after a Pagan God but here is one. The Vikings even went as far as using one of their great Gods name, Odin. Together with Old Norse for Rock ‘bjarg’ you get Odin’s Rock. First noted in the 12th Century in more Germanic language form as Othenesberg (Danish for Odin is Othon).

We all know how names of all kinds have changed down the Centuries as locals and dialects come and go. Well the hill name changed many times, little by little, eventually transforming to Ouseberry. The nearest village at the foot of the hill is called Newton-under-Roseberry, but was once called Newton-under-Ouseberry, the story goes that it was lastly changed because locals at the time connected the ‘r’ of under with Ouseberry in speach, forming Roseberry. The Topping? Easier, that came from the Norse/Old English Topp, meaning ‘top of the hill’.

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A short walk, a short climb, but invigorating all the same. Next time I come to these parts I will make sure I have the extra time to take in so much more that the area has to offer. Roseberry Topping shall be part of that great walk, that is for sure

Written by Paul Steele

Founder of and avid hiker, climber and trekker. Never liking to sit still and always seeking new adventures around the world. Sharing personal views here and tweeting live via @paul_steele


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  1. Thankyou for this super report. It brought back so many memories of climbing Roseberry Topping as a child as I grew up close by. Surely led to now being a keen walker in my 70s rambling in Lancashire.

    • Thanks Sheila, What a wonderful place to grow up in. I am vice versa. A Lancashire lad brought up climbing the hills there and now over this side in Yorkshire 🙂

  2. You can see much further north than Hartlepool from Roseberry topping in fact into Northumberland! The aluminium smelter to the north of Blyth is can also see cross fell in the Pennine chain.the tower blocks of Sunderland are also visible.

  3. Paul, it is fantastic to be able to follow your hikes on FB. The photography and information is greatly valued as I hail from York, via Pickering and now live in Swedish Lapland.
    I love to see the photos of your early morning walks, happy memories of York.

  4. Simply Stunning! I love the details and story that goes with it and the pictures are simply beautiful! I am glad to know places like this exist! Your blog is always like a respite and pure joy! Thank you for a millions smiles and brightening so many days!

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