Middleham Castle Provides the backdrop for this circular walk which will take you down to the river Cover and up across the famous racing gallops of Middleham before heading back into the village.
Middleham is famed for its race horsing stables and anywhere you walk around the village you are likely to see horses and jockeys going about their business which makes for an enjoyable experience.
Starting off from the village you will head to the castle before taking the left-hand side around it, which will lead you up a country lane onto the Six Dales Trail. Crossing fields by a well-marked path you will head down towards the banks of the river Cover. At the river follow the path right until you come to Hullo Bridge. This is a great spot to chill out and have a bite to eat or let the children play if you are on a family walk, it is very picturesque indeed.
After Hullo Bridge you will head up hill on a diagonal right until you come to Pinker’s Pond. Follow the path to the right which will take you uphill for a short distance until you come back out on the main road adjacent the gallops. You will then follow the path back to the village.
This is a great short walk that can be done when you have a few hours to spare, especially during a summers evening.
There have been racehorses trained in this area for over 200 years but the Cistercian monks of nearby Jervaulx Abbey were breeding horses long before this. The first documented reference to racehorses in Middleham was the establishment of Isaac Cape as a jockey in 1733 and he eventually became the first specialist racehorse trainer here. Racing was established on the High Moor as early as 1739 and meetings were held regularly during the 18th century.
The last race to be held on the Moor was in June 1873 after disputes between trainers and local gait owners (landowners with grazing rights on the moorland). From then on wards the High Moor has been used only for training. By then though racing was an important part of Middleham’s life and so began the history of famous trainers settling here and sending out winners at all of the leading meetings in the country.
At this moment in time there are some fifteen training establishments. With good modern facilities it continues to prosper as a leading training centre. There was a time in the late 70’s and 80’s when Middleham suffered a downturn in fortunes and there were some empty yards during that period. However, the training facilities were improved and Middleham now boasts its own grass and all-weather gallops on the Low and High Moors.
Middleham was built by Robert Fitzrandolph the 3rd lord of Middleham and Spennithorne, commencing in 1190.
It was built near the site of an earlier Motte and Bailey Castle. In 1270 it came into the hands of the Neville family, the most notable member of which was Richard Neville, 16th Earl of Warwick, known to history as the “Kingmaker”, a leading figure in the Wars of the Roses.
Following the death of Richard, Duke of York, at Wakefield in December 1460, his younger sons, George, Duke of Clarence, and Richard, Duke of Gloucester, came into Warwick’s care, and both lived at Middleham with Warwick’s own family. Their brother King Edward IV was imprisoned at Middleham for a short time, having been captured by Warwick in 1469.
Following Warwick’s death at Barnet in 1471 and Edward’s restoration to the throne, his brother Richard married Anne Neville, Warwick’s younger daughter, and made Middleham his main home. Their son Edward was also born at Middleham and later also died there.
Richard ascended to the throne as King Richard III, but spent little or no time at Middleham in his two-year reign. After Richard’s death at Bosworth in 1485 the castle remained in royal hands until the reign of James I, when it was sold. It fell into disuse and disrepair during the 17th century. It was garrisoned during the Civil War, but saw no action. The ruins are now in the care of English Heritage.