239. Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby

May 2012

This was another wonderful walk along the stunning North Yorkshire Coast (even if the views were a little bit reduced due to a persistent sea mist) linking two of the most beautiful coastal towns in Britain.

For this walk I was staying locally. I had driven up from home the previous day and walked north from Whitby (the next post I will write up). Today I was filling the gap that left between Robin Hood’s Bay and Whitby.

I had spent the night at the Hook House Farm campsite just outside Robin Hood’s Bay and awoke to this beautiful view up to Ravenscar.

Robin Hood's Bay

I had breakfast at the campsite and then left to begin my walk. There was no need to drive because it was only a half mile walk to Robin Hood’s Bay from the campsite via a footpath over the fields (and it was also downhill all the way).

Robin Hood's Bay

The footpath took me down over fields full of sheep to reach the permissive bridlepath that follows the former railway line that once served Robin Hood’s Bay. I joined this track right by the old railway station.

Robin Hood's Bay old station

It did not much look different from how I imagined it would have looked when in use – apart from the fact there were no tracks, obviously! In fact it was for sale.

I followed the route of the old railway line to reach the main road down into Robin Hood’s Bay, now known as the Cinder Track. On reaching the road I followed this down to the harbour to reach the point where I ended the last walk.

Robin Hood's Bay

It was still before 9am and it was Sunday so the streets of Robin Hood’s Bay were largely deserted.

Robin Hood's Bay

I’m sure it would be heaving later (it was a bank holiday weekend) but I was glad that I got to see it whilst it was still peaceful and free of crowds!

Robin Hood's Bay

It is an extremely pretty (and hilly) town and so the road only stopped descending when I reached the harbour. On reaching the sea it was clear that the tide was well in because the waves were touching the sea walls.

Robin Hood's Bay

Now I had reached the point I got to on my last walk, it was time to begin this walk. That meant walking back exactly where I’d just come – up the main street!

Robin Hood's Bay

So now I was back where I was half an hour earlier! This time I turned right, initially along the road but soon reaching the cliff top, following the route of the Cleveland Way (it is also now part of the England Coast Path, but that didn’t exist when I walked here).

Robin Hood's Bay

The road soon end and I joined the footpath, soon passing an information sign that said I was now on the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast and also in the North Yorkshire Moors National Park, so I was expecting good things from this walk.

The path climbed gently west from the town and soon I had a fine view back to the village. You can see the difference in height here between the lower part of the village (the houses near the centre), down by the harbour and the houses at the top of the village, near the top right below. Judging by the stream of light colour in the sea, the sea was also eroding the cliffs at a fairly rapid rate!

The coast south of Robin Hood's Bay

The path soon descended into a short and shallow valley with gorse bushes beside the path.

The coast south of Robin Hood's Bay

Inland, the land climbed away from the path and the top of the hill had some odd patterns on it. I wondered what caused this. A later check on the map confirmed it is the “North Yorkshire Moors Off Road Centre”. I was glad I was too early for anyone to be using that, as it was nice and peaceful up here, without the roar of engines, which would likely follow later in the day.

The path continued to climb gently with the cliffs getting higher. Unfortunately I could see ahead a sea-mist was blowing in. I hate this stuff. When everywhere else is basking in the warm sunshine and you decide to visit the coast, you end up with the coastline covered in a line of cloud and mist for miles. It is very disappointing, especially after the day had started so well.

Far Jetticks near Robin Hood's Bay

The mist blew in and out a bit so it was not a complete white-out. Below was now a large and very spectacular bay backed by high cliffs that were near vertical.

Far Jetticks near Robin Hood's Bay

As I approached this bay the path descended again into a small valley and then began to climb up the cliffs of this bay. As I did so the mist showed signs of lifting.

Far Jetticks near Robin Hood's Bay

The path was now very steep but the height gained meant I got a good view back where I had come – with the mist drifting in over part, but not all, of the coast and I was pleased to note that ahead, it seemed to be clearing.

Oakhem Beck near Robin Hood's Bay

The coast path had some blue bells growing in the open right beside it too, which surprised me (they tend to grow in shady woodland, rather than out in the open).

Near Maw Wyke Hole, North Yorkshire

I was soon rounding this bay (Far Jetticks), with what should be a fine ahead but with much of it obscured by mist. As I continued around this larger bay (which seems unnamed on the map), the mist cleared again a bit.

The coast south of Whitby, North Yorkshire

In half a mile or so I had another steep descent down a valley at Maw Wyke Hole where the path went down steps and back up the other side, though it was not down as far as sea level.

The coast south of Whitby, North Yorkshire

The coast south of Whitby, North Yorkshire

Just beyond this steep valley were two more small valleys, though they were less steep, and did give a good view.

The coast south of Whitby, North Yorkshire

After this the path levelled out again, though I was still going in and out of the mist.

The coast south of Whitby, North Yorkshire

Soon, to my surprise, I had another hill ahead and then a lighthouse. I had somehow missed the lighthouse on the map, so I wasn’t expecting it.

Whitby south lighthouse

Sadly, it was not open to the public, though I gather the former lighthouse keepers cottages are now holiday accommodation.

Whitby south lighthouse

The tower on this lighthouse was rather low and squat, presumably because it is already on the top of a high cliff.

Just below the lighthouse where sheer cliffs which again were packed with sea birds, as I had seen further south on the North Yorkshire coast, though it does not seem to be a designated nature reserve.

Whitestone Point, near Whitby

The coast on from the lighthouse was now fairly flat and soon I had a fine view down to the sandy beach at Saltwick Bay. This was a lovely unspoilt beach but unfortunately the same could not be said for the cliff top, which was now lined by rows and rows of ugly caravans, you can see them below, all along the cliff top.

Saltwick Bay near Whitby

As I walked around the southern end of this beach again the mist showed signs of lifting, with the sun briefly coming out.

Saltwick Bay near Whitby

Just over half way around the bay I was pleased to find a path heading down to the beach. The mist had cleared and I had plenty of time, so it was an opportunity I could not miss.

It was a long way down, but it was certainly worth it. The beach was beautiful, with a slightly red coloured sand reminiscent of the beaches in South Devon.

Saltwick Bay near Whitby

The cliffs, too, showed all sorts of different rocks. Given the fact it was the late May bank-holiday and the large caravan park I was surprised how quiet it was on the beach.

Saltwick Bay near Whitby

It was a lovely beach and I also stopped for a quick paddle, before making my way back up to the cliff top. Sadly the sun had not lasted long and the mist was soon back with a vengeance.

Saltwick Bay near Whitby

I followed the path along the north side of the beach where there is a narrow low headland, Saltwick Nab. However with no path along it, I continued on the main coast path.

Saltwick Nab, near Whitby

Below, now barely visible through the mist was another small sandy beach, unmarked on the map, so I’m not sure if it has a name. There was no way down to it from the cliffs.

The coast south of Whitby

Inland I was now seeing buildings across a recently cut field (presumably the grass was to become straw) which formed some nice patterns. Beside this was the ruins of the abbey.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

They looked quite spooky, the lower parts visible, the upper parts disappeared into the mist. I continued now to get a front view of the spectacular ruins.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

The Abbey dates from the 7th Century but was ruined during the Dissolution of the Monasteries by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1545. This means the ruins have stood on this exposed cliff top for almost 500 years.

Whitby Abbey

Having got closer to the Abbey, I decided I wanted to see more. With no train to hurry and my destination for the day of Whitby only a few hundred metres ahead, I had plenty of time. There is an admission fee, and you can see much of the Abbey from a distance for free, but I was interested to see it closer up and find out more about it, so I paid the fee to enter.

On the ground the foundations of some of the walls gave me a hint of the Abbeys original layout and scale. It is clear only part of it remains. Despite the exposed location and the age of the structure, much of the stone work and carving was still clearly visible.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

It must have been quiet beautiful when it was complete and in a spectacular location on the cliff top, rather than in the town as you might expect.

Whitby Abbey

The cloisters internally were the most complete, with part of the roof still intact over part of it.

Whitby Abbey

I found it very interesting and enjoyed it very much. I then walked around to get some photos of it from different angles.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey

Ahead, I could see Whitby below. Despite the mist I soon got a view of the harbour and the Esk valley below. The town looked very pretty with the red-tiled roofs I have become rather fond of.

Whitby Abbey

I passed this rather grand building, now a Youth Hostel, but I’m not sure what it’s previous use was (the Youth Hostel website doesn’t mention it either, other than it’s a Grade I listed mansion). One of the grandest youth hostels in Britain, I would imagine.

Whitby Youth Hostel

Whitby Youth Hostel

Before descending, I also took in the large church, which unlike the Abbey was still intact and in use.

Whitby

Below I could now see the harbour walls, with the east beach beneath it. This part of the harbour was oddly empty of boats.

Whitby

The town was very pretty, with the houses climbing away from the steep hill behind the harbour.

Whitby

I now took the famous 199 steps down from the cliff top to the town below. Here I passed through narrow cobbled streets likely little changed in several hundred years.

Whitby

Whitby

Whitby

Whitby

Whitby

Soon I was down at the harbour and impressed with the geology on show of the face of the cliffs I had just been standing on. It reminded me a bit of Kimmeridge.

Whitby

I walked along to the end of the harbour wall, where I could enjoy a view back to Saltwick Nab.

Whitby

Whitby

Heading back into town it was now very busy, and the crowds were quite a shook after the peace and quiet of the cliff tops!

Whitby

Whitby

I stopped for an ice cream then followed the eastern side of the harbour to the bridge over the harbour. Whitby is at the mouth of the Esk valley, so this is the closest to the coast you can cross this river.

Whitby harbour

Funnily enough this reminded me of my former job in London. The company I worked for also had an office in Sunderland and many of the servers were located here and they were named after local rivers, including one called Esk. So the name of the river was quite familiar to me, even if I had no idea what it looked like until now.

This boat was I think steam powered and operating trips along the river and I think a bit out to sea.

The town was very picturesque, and having crossed the river I could now look back to the buildings on the cliff tops I had been exploring earlier.

Whitby from the harbour

Whitby harbour

Heading back to the coast on the west side of the harbour I thought I might look at the beach. My original plan had been to spend the rest of the afternoon here. It is a much better beach on the west side of the harbour, all sand. However the sea mist had now come in so thick again, I could barely see it!

Whitby Sands

It was too cold in the mist to spend long sitting on the beach. I also found the famous whale bone on the cliff tops here, though it is now a replica I believe.

Whale Bone, Whitby

I’d explored Whitby a bit the previous day and loved it. However with the mist and the crowds I decided I’d seen most of the sights and my plans to spend the afternoon on the beach had been thwarted by the mist and I was a bit disappointed that this mist was spoiling what should be a fine spring day. Just a bit inland it was glorious with clear skies and sunshine, but here I was in a blanket of cold mist and dampness.

It was only very early afternoon. I looked at the map for inspiration and found that there was long-distance footpath alongside the River Esk, the Esk Valley Walk. That might be a nice way to fill the rest of the afternoon and I hoped it would be sunny inland. A railway line ran alongside the river too, which should make getting back easy.

Except however that although Whitby does have a railway station, the service is utterly appalling! In fact this was the reason I had travelled to this part of the coast by car rather than train. Only 4 trains per day operate to Whitby, on a slow, twisty and tortuous route over the North Yorkshire Moors from Middlesbrough (which itself is not served by any trains from London). This means the very earliest I could get to Whitby from home by train was 11:51 – but that would require me to catch a train departing my local station at 5:30am, which I did not want to do! If I waited for the next train, I would not get to Whitby until 15:37. In fact, even the National Rail website suggests it is quicker to get a bus from York to Whitby (which itself takes over 2 hours!) rather than use the train. The reason for this is I believe the faster route (via Scarborough) was closed under the Beeching cuts of the 1960s, but the slower more rural route over the North Yorkshire Moors was kept open because the roads were not suitable for a replacement bus (it being a requirement I believe on closure to provide a replacement bus, though most did not last long). So then end result is that the slowest rail route to Whitby is the only one left.

However despite the significant shortcomings of the service I had worked out a plan that meant I should be able to get as far as Sleights station in the time I had in order to catch the train back to Whitby at a reasonable time.

So having made my plan, I set off. As I hoped, as soon as I was a couple of hundred metres from the coast, the mist was gone.

The River Esk, Whitby

I headed out of Whitby and soon was reminded of the previous rail route, as I reached “The Cinder Track” again, the route of the old (now closed) railway to Scarborough via Robin Hood’s Bay.

The Cinder Track

This was now a pleasant leafy tunnel!

The Cinder Track

My path however soon opened out into the valley, which was filled with wild flowers at this time of year. It was nice to be in the warm sunshine and away from the mist.

The Esk Valley near Ruswarp

In around 40 minutes I reached the village of Ruswarp. It was a very pretty village with attractive stone built cottages lining the street.

Ruswarp

The route took me along the street in this small village, past the railway station and then over the Esk, to continue on the south side. The bridge over the Esk is a surprisingly large affair.

Bridge over the Esk at Ruswarp

It offered wonderful views of the river itself, which looked to be running quite low.

The River Esk at Ruswarp, North Yorkshire

Looking the other way I could see the railway bridge, which allowed the railway to cross the river just downstream of the road.

The River Esk at Ruswarp, North Yorkshire

The onward route was briefly along the road (the B1416) but when this turned left away from the river the path continued ahead to cross the railway line.

The Esk Valley Line

Not long after I had the rare siting of a train actually travelling along the line!

The Esk Valley Line

Soon I had to cross back over the railway line and now the Esk Valley Walk climbs up out of the valley a bit, which is now quite a deep valley.

The Esk valley near Sleights

The views were good now, with the rolling hills of the North Yorkshire Moors beside the river.

The Esk valley near Sleights

A short wile later, the path was now descending gradually into Sleights, which I could see ahead.

The Esk valley near Sleights

The Esk valley near Sleights

The path then crossed the pretty Iburndale Beck which flows into the Esk just ahead.

Iburndale, Sleights

The River Esk, Sleights

I soon reached the railway station, with about 10 minutes to spare before my train.

Sleights station

The train arrived on time and I enjoyed the views of the river Esk again on the way back. I was soon back in Whitby.

Here I had dinner, then headed back to the campsite by bus. When I arrived I could see the mist was clearing at the top of the hills near Ravenscar, but lower down it was still misty. I decided to drive up to hope I could then see the mist in the valley below. Whilst not quite as spectacular as it had been when I left I still got close to the view I hoped for, with the mist in the valley over Robin Hood’s Bay, but the rest of the coast now largely clear of the mist.

Robin's Hoods Bay from Ravenscar

Robin's Hoods Bay from Ravenscar

I sat up there and watched it swirling around the valley for a while, and over the sea far below me.

Robin's Hoods Bay from Ravenscar

It was quite interesting to watch.

Sea mist from Ravenscar

Sea mist from Ravenscar

Robin Hood's Bay from Ravenscar

Robin Hood's Bay from Ravenscar

Having spent some time up here I drove back to my campsite near Robin Hood’s Bay to rest for a while before bed.

It had been a wonderful and varied walk today with some beautiful scenery. It had been a shame about the sea mist however particularly as it lasted almost all day. However it did add something to the atmosphere as I wandered the ruins of the old Abbey. Whitby was a lovely town I had really enjoyed visiting, and could quite understand why it is as popular as it is. My afternoon walk along the Esk Valley had also turned out to be a good choice, as it was a lovely walk, and got me out of the mist!

Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-

Arriva bus route X93 : Middlesbrough – Ormesby – Guisborough -Scaling Dam – Aislaby – Whitby – Hawsker – Robin Hood’s Bay – Fylingthorpe – Cloughton – Scarborough. Buses run hourly seven days per week (but the service starts later and ends earlier on Sundays). Additional buses run in the summer months. It takes around 20 minutes to travel between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay.

Here are the complete set of photos for this walk : Main Link | Slideshow

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4 Responses to 239. Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby

  1. owdjockey says:

    Hi Jon, that looked to be a very interesting walk with lovely weather. I could see that the Cleveland way bit was very dry, unlike the time I walked it when it was a muddy mess, so much so that i had to transfer onto the “Cindertrack” to ensure I got back to Scarbrough in time. The photos of the Harr/Haar/Sea Fret look really good.
    I don’t know if you knew but the 2017 film Phantom Thread which was nominated for an Oscar for best film, starring Daniel Day Lewis, was filmed in Robins Hood Bay. I remember watching it and knew I had seen some of the coastal views before.

    • jcombe says:

      Thanks for the compliments on the photos. The mist/fret certainly added some atmosphere. I know what you mean about programs and films. Now if I see a bit of coast and it’s British I can usually work out where it is pretty quickly (though it bugs me on the rare occasions that I can’t!)

  2. What a gorgeous walk – even with the mist, though I can see that must’ve been a bit frustrating.

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