STANDING on the summit of Roseberry Topping it is easy to see why young James Cook was drawn to a life at sea.

For this is where Captain Cook - as he was to become - would have stood in the mid-18th century, looking out across the countryside towards the sea, sparkling on the horizon.

Born in the village of Marton, North Yorkshire, Cook’s family moved to Aireyholme farm at Great Ayton, where his father's employer paid for him to attend the local school. It is likely that a cottage was provided with the job.

In 1741, after five years' schooling, he began work for his father, who had was then farm manager. In his free time he would climb Roseberry Topping, which offers breathtaking views across the North York Moors in one direction, and the North Sea in the other.

He was later to head for the sea, to Staithes, where he began his maritime life.

Overlooking the village of Great Ayton, Roseberry Topping has a distinctive half-cone shaped top, with a jagged cliff at one side - leading to comparisons with the majestic Matterhorn in Switzerland.

We walked up the 1,049ft (320m ) hill - which is managed by the National Trust - from Great Ayton, where a bronze statue of Cook as a 16-year-old boy, by the sculptor Nicholas Dimbleby, stands on the village’s High Green.

Following muddy footpaths, we crossed the railway line that links the urban North East to Whitby, and entered mature oak woods skirting the hill.

Beyond, a series of larch trees stand at a spot thought to have been where the Cook family cottage stood. Old photographs from the early 20th century show a tenant farmer standing on a cultivated plot, with larch trees beyond.

After gaining a Heritage Lottery grant the captain Cook and Great Ayton history societies explored this site. With the National Trust’s consent, in spring 2015 three trenches were excavated. Fragments of handmade bricks and roof tiles were found and large quantities of lime mortar unearthed, suggesting that there had been a building on the site at that time. It may or may not have housed the Cook family.

A handful of information boards at different points as you ascend give a history of the hill and its links to Captain Cook, as well as information about the former Roseberry Ironstone Mine which extended under the hill and beyond.

Founded in the 19th century, the mine produced hundreds of thousands of tons of ore, and employed hundreds of people. Ironstone can still be found and as we walked my dad found a heavy lump, about the size of a tennis ball.

There was also a tramway on the hill in days gone by, taking ironstone from the mine to the blast furnaces on the coast.

We passed a stone-built 18th century folly, which has over the years been the subject of much speculation as to its use.

As we climbed, views towards the Cleveland Hills were magnificent, as they are in all directions. To the south, Easby Moor can be seen, with Captain Cook’s Monument (1,063ft, 324m) on its summit.

I have never been to the top of Roseberry Topping without a fierce wind blowing and the day we climbed was no exception.

Coming down, we passed through Aireyholme Farm, which has not changed much since Cook’s day. Geese pecked about and free range hen’s eggs were on sale.

If you can wait a couple of months, spring is a wonderful time to visit Roseberry Topping, with carpets of bluebells filling the woodland.

The pretty village of Great Ayton is also home to the Captain Cook Schoolroom Museum - a popular attraction which tells the story of Cook’s early life and education in the charity school, the village he grew up in and his adventures on the high seas.

A short walk away there is a stone obelisk to mark the site of a cottage on Bridge Street built by James' father in 1755. The building was dismantled in 1934 to be shipped to Australia. Each stone was numbered so that the cottage could be accurately reconstructed in its new home in the Fitzroy Gardens in Melbourne. The obelisk is constructed from granite taken from Point Hicks, the first land sighted by Cook as he approached Australia.

For refreshments, Great Ayton offers welcoming pubs and, a stone’s throw from the Cook museum, Suggitts is a marvellous café and shop, famous for its own distinctive ice cream.

*Roseberry Topping is one mile from Great Ayton, next to Newton-Under-Roseberry village (TS9 6QR) on the A173 Great Ayton to Guisborough road. It is accessible all year round.

You can park in Great Ayton, as well, but most visitors use a car park at Newton under Roseberry, with a fee payable. There are also toilets. Dogs are welcome.