I have a new second-favourite viewpoint on the North York Moors. My favourite is still Danby Beacon (which has become a sort of place of pilgrimage any time I’m in the general vicinity), but soaring to the number two spot is the glorious 360-degree panorama from the bronze age stone circle at Simon Howe.
It’s right on the ridge that runs north to south between Howl (which I’m willing to bet is a corruption of ‘howe’) Moor and Goathland Moor, and you can spot it from miles around by its tall cairn. Admittedly the cairn is a contemporary one, created by walkers who have perhaps not thought ever so carefully about the implications of picking up stones from the area of an ancient monument just to stick them on a big pile in the middle, but at least it makes it difficult to miss. Around the cairn and sheepfold there’s a genuinely ancient circle of standing stones, with a row of further standing stones stretching north towards Goathland.
There are a couple of round barrows up there too, and as you stand up there watching the moors sweep away from you in all directions in their brooding vastness, with the hazy outline of Blakey Topping cresting out of the forest about four kilometres to the south east, it’s an intriguing thought that you’re standing not only among the remnants of a place where people once worshipped, but also above the remains of the greatest men of their day, their names and deeds forgotten thousands of years ago. It’s good to feel small sometimes.
There are a few ways of getting there. Simplest would probably be to park in Goathland (or get the train) and potter up, but there are so many other interesting things in the area that I reckon it’s worth trying to link some of them up. In the valley to the east you’ve got the marshy nature reserve at Fen Bogs, while over to the west on Wheeldale Moor there’s the ancient road known as Wade’s Causeway, built by the Romans, the Saxons or an amorous Norse giant, depending on who you believe.
If you fancy following my route, you can find it on OS Getamap. I parked in a layby on the A169 just above Eller Beck, and took in all the sights above, returning from Wheeldale via a loop through the nearby Forestry Commission plantation (where I found bilberries) and climbing back onto Simon Howe Rigg past the ruined farmstead at Wardle Green.
The trouble with walking on the moors is that you set off with one goal in mind, but by the time you’ve finished for the day you’ve already found half a dozen paths or sights that merit further investigation. At Wade’s Causeway, there was a national park information board mentioning not one but two Roman forts in the vicinity, and as autumn closes in I wonder whether they might be my next targets. Then again, Blakey Topping is mighty tempting, and I’m intrigued by a standing stone I’ve spotted on the map above Black Moor Rigg called ‘Blue Man i’ th’ Moss’…