Harrogate walk: Ramble where Romans once marched and settled

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This fascinating riverside and village walk takes you from Boroughbridge to a 14th century battle site, past Victorian and Elizabethan architecture and on to a real Roman settlement before bringing you back to your starting point.

Before or after your walk, it’s worth taking some time to explore more of Boroughbridge itself. In his 1908 book The Enchanting North, JS Fletcher wrote: “Anyone who loves the sight of old English towns should visit Boroughbridge”.

Walk Information

The walk is three-and-a-half miles (5.5km) long and should take around an hour-and-a-half at a steady pace. Park in Boroughbridge’s main car park off Fishergate. Start at the walk interpretation panel on the Library in St James Square.

OS Map Explorer 299 covers the area.

Buses serve Boroughbridge see www.northyorkstravel.info for details.

The Route

The fountain in St James Square was built in 1875 over an artesian well – which, with a depth of 256 feet, is said to be one of the deepest in the country.

Take theYork road out of the square and turn left towards Aldborough.

A footpath on your left takes you to the flood banks of the River Ure. Milby Lock, once a ford, marks a strategic point in the 1322 Battle of Boroughbridge. Defending the ford and what was a wooden bridge upstream from here with pikemen and archers, Sir Andrew Harcla, supporter of King Edward II, defeated the rebellious Thomas, Earl of Lancaster.

Aldborough Mayday

Aldborough Mayday

As you continue along the river bank, sand martins and a kingfisher might be spotted and, you may catch sight of an otter.

Across the water you will see the Victorian Ellenthorpe Hall before you reach a dramatic bend in the river called Hall Arm. There was once a Roman jetty here and, occasionally, the staithes (timber supports) can still be seen.

We leave the Ure behind heading up Hall Arm Lane towards Aldborough, meeting first the Elizabethan Aldborough Hall across the field on your right. Regular ridges and hollows (furrows) in the ground in front of the Hall are signs of a steam ploughing method where two engines, placed on either side of the field, drew a 12-furrow plough backwards and forwards on long steel ropes.

Turn right onto an old Roman road which brings you to the former Roman settlement of Aldborough, a centre of local government and administration founded in the 2nd century AD and called Isurium Brigantium. There is a fascinating museum containing artefacts and a mosaic pavement – check with tourist information for opening dates and times.

Turn left up towards the village green. The maypole you pass on the green is still used every year, and close by are the restored stocks which were moved from St James Square in Boroughbridge in 1851. The stocks stand in front of the old courthouse, where a plaque can also be seen commemorating the deaths of a World War II bomber crew. After a slight detour uphill to the museum, the route retraces its steps to then take you left past St Andrew’s Church. Thought to have been built on the site of the Roman forum and basilica, and with its origins in the 14th century, St Andrew’s is the third church to stand here.

The Ship Inn is so named because the River Ure was once used by large boats, something that is hard to imagine today. You’ll then see the cross which commemorates the Battle of Boroughbridge, and stood in the town for 500 years before being relocated here in 1852. You will pass Aldborough Manor, currently the organisational hub and centre for the celebrated Northern Aldborough Music Festival, on the return to Boroughbridge.