Byland Abbey Cam House Wass Round

Watch the video of this walk

Byland Abbey was founded as a Savigniac house in 1134, but was brought within the Cistercian family following the absorption of the Savigniac Congregation in 1147. Late in the 12th century Byland was described as one of the three shining lights of the North along with Fountains and Rievaulx abbeys. The community of Byland started as a colony of monks sent from Furness to Calder, moving to several locations, before settling at Byland. Byland then prospered in sheep-rearing and the export of wool. Today the abbey ruins houses one of the largest cloisters in England and excavation recovered 13th century floor tiles and the only stone lecturn base in England. The alter table is now at Ampleforth Abbey. The 17th century farmhouse at Oldstead Grange was founded by the monks of Byland Abbey, Grange meant the ownership of a working farm and Oldstead meant it was occupied by the monks while the Abbey was being built. In medieval times the valley below was a 30acre fishing lake with the largest earth dam in England. This lake has long since been drained, but the dam not to obvious is still there hidden by a line of trees. The monks also built a church in the small village of Oldstead itself, living there for 30 years before moving to Byland. The remains of the settlement lie under turf in a field near Chapel Garth. On the hill top above Oldstead is Scotch Corner, the site of a battle in 1322 between the English under Edward 2nd (who lost) and the Scots under Robert the Bruce. Also on the hill top is the Mount Snever Observatory, a stone tower built in 1838 to commemorate the Coronation of Queen Victoria. Wass formerly “Byland with Wass” is a small village very close to the ruins of Byland Abbey. This walk has beautiful views of the surrounding countryside.

We park in the lay by just before we reach Byland Abbey and walk on the road going up over the hill until we come to a footpath on the left. Taking this footpath we follow the signs to Oldstead Grange and then the tarmac track to the road. At the road we turn left towards The Black Swan then right going through the village of Oldstead. After leaving the village we take the second footpath on the right, a no through road by a seat, we then take the right fork going up steeply on a track. We pass a track on the left and go straight forward past a hut on the right and take the track going slightly left. We carry on following the track and the white arrow until we come to where the track bends to the left and right we take the right path to the top, here we turn right to Cam House. At Cam House we follow signs over the field to Cam Farm and then over the field following the signs to the left then right over a stile to Snever Wood.* On entering the wood we go straight ahead, slightly going to the left, and then take the second track on the left and then up a steep bank, that looks like a deer track, on the left sign posted Wass. At the top of the bank we turn right. We follow the path which after a short while has a steep drop on both sides, and then the path goes steeply downhill to a forest track. We go over a track, ignoring the path on the right, and follow the sign to Wass, still going downhill. We follow the sign going left through a gate, across a large field and through another gate in the corner onto a track here we go straight ahead down towards Wass. Just before Wass village there is a footpath on the right which we take after a quick detour into Wass for a look round. We then retrace our steps back to the footpath and we then cross two fields to Byland Abbey which we can see just ahead of us. At the road we turn right, take a look at the abbey and the pub before heading back to the lay by where the car is parked. *Detour. This part of the walk is optional. Here we turned right and follow the footpath to take a look at the camp holes on the left and then on to Mount Snever Observatory (disused) and then retraced our steps back to Snever Wood where we started the detour.

We follow the track then we go through a gate and follow the sheep track straight ahead to a bridge over a beck then turn right to meet the River Ure. We turn left and follow the river for approx 1.75 miles passing a footpath on the left until we come to a field where we can see the residential park at Lower Dunsford on the left. Here we turn left up the far side of the field and follow the hedge line and then walk through the residential park taking us to the pub in Lower Dunsforth. At the pub, The Angler, we turn right and follow the road until we come to a Y-Junction here we take the left fork at Mary Lane and after a short way we take the footpath over a stile on the left near the sign, Tom Lane. We go over two fields then in the next field we go slightly left to a bridge hidden by over growth. We go over the bridge then diagonally right over the field then in the next field turn left along the hedge to the road. We turn right at the road which takes us into Upper Dunsforth. We walk through the village until the road takes a sharp right and we go up the footpath opposite, into the field we come down, back to the cricket and football field in Great Ouseburn and make our way back to our parked car.

Map of Byland Abbey Cam House Wass Round


This is a moderate to hard walk. There are steep inclines on the track from Oldstead to Cam House and steep declines from Snever Scar to Blind Scar Gill.


Approx 6.25miles using map OS OL26


Byland Abbey – North Yorkshire


From York take the A19 to Easingwold and Thirsk. Carry on through Thormanby (30mph zone) and at the next crossroads turn right for Coxwold. Take the second left and at the end of the road turn right which takes you into Coxwold. In Coxwold turn left just after the big church then just before you reach Byland Abbey there are two large lay bys, one on either side of the road, for car parking.

Toilets and Refreshments

There are no public toilets. For refreshments there is the Abbey Inn opposite Byland Abbey, The Black Swan, pub/motel in Oldstead and the Wombwell Arms in Wass. Oldstead Grange is a 5 star B&B guest house.

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