This was a wonderful walk along one of the most picturesque stretches of coast in England and I was also very luck to have perfect weather conditions, too.
For this walk I was travelling by car. Although Whitby has a railway station, the service is terrible with only 4 trains operating each day along a very slow route, with none conveniently timed to get me to Whitby at a sensible time. So instead I opted to drive and make a long weekend of it (this was the second May bank holiday weekend). My plan for the weekend was to spend two days walking the coast (as I did) and one day exploring inland on the North Yorkshire Moors, a National Park that I have never before visited (and which I’d be driving through to reach Whitby) . Of course, being a bank holiday weekend I was expecting there to be a lot of traffic so I made an early start (leaving a little after 6:30am).
This paid dividends, since I had no real hold ups any of the way up the A1. I turned off onto the A64 and it was only when I reached the eastern edge of York I began to experience delays. The A64 east from here varies between dual carrigeway and single carriageway and so each time the road narrowed, and at each roundabout, there was a queue of traffic. The A64 goes to Scarborough and it seemed most of the population of York had decided to go there. Each roundabout added about 5 minutes onto my journey. I was glad to turn off onto the A169 at Malton. After this I was travelling over the sparsely populated North Yorkshire Moors. As I hoped the traffic now eased and it was a lovely drive over the open moorland on fairly quiet roads, with only Pickering and a few small villages to pass through.
Overall the journey had been better than expected considering it was a bank holiday and the weather was good. However as I entered Whitby I had some problems. It was now around 11:30am. The car parks were all full. The roads were crammed with parked cars. I had to head some distance west from the town centre where I was able to find space to park in an un-restricted road near the sea front about half a mile west from the town centre. I parked making sure I was not obstructing any driveways and made my way down to the sea front. I was relieved the long drive was behind me and I had the next few days to enjoy the beautiful scenery of this part of Yorkshire.
Soon I was looking down over the lovely beach of Whitby Sands. Given how busy the town had been and that the car parks were all full I was surprised how few people were on the beach. Although I had planned to begin from the centre of Whitby, I was keen to get cracking and so rather than walk into Whitby and back again I made a minor change. I’d walk from here to Staithes, my destination. Then I’d take a bus back to Whitby town centre and walk from there back to my car, ensuring I didn’t leave any gaps.
So I headed initially along the cliff top promenade, which was very pleasant and gave me good views both back to Whitby and ahead to the headland of Sandsend Ness.
Below there was a lower path nearer the shore. Soon I had reached the end of the cliff path at the western end of the town. The official route of the Cleveland Way, which I was following, was to continue ahead along a path descending from the cliffs, which I followed. However here it turned left along a track beside the golf course to the A174 road which it then followed for over a mile. This was very unsatisfactory, as I didn’t want to be walking along main roads away from the coast.
So instead I turned right here and followed a slipway down onto the beach. The tide was well out, though even if it wasn’t the map shows the high tide line to be below the cliff face, so it should be possible most of the time. So instead I headed down onto the beach and turned left. I followed the firm sands near the shore for about half a mile or so.
I soon found a quiet spot at the back of the beach to have my lunch. However this was rudely interrupted by a man with his dog off the lead who was walking near the shore, but as he headed west nearer to me the dog came running up to me and wouldn’t leave me alone. The owner was calling the dog away, which took no notice. The dog kept trying to get into my rucksack too, so I had to stand up, pick my bag up and put my lunch away to avoid having it stolen by the dog. The man did eventually come and grab the dog when it wouldn’t leave me alone but rather than apologise told me it was “because you have food”. So of course, it was apparently my fault for having food and wanting to eat it that my lunch was disturbed by his dog being a pain. I wish people would keep their dogs on a lead if they are unable to control them.
Thankfully once he had gone I was not disturbed by any more dogs and could have the rest of my lunch in peace. Having done that, I continued along the beach.
What a stunning beach it was, too. It stretches for around 2 miles and after the first mile or so when the promenade (and town) ends, it is backed by beautiful (and clearly very soft) cliffs. The beach itself is a fine slightly reddish sand.
As I headed west the sand gradually started to have more pebbles and shingle, though not enough to cause me any problems walking along it.
At the western end of the beach is the aptly named village of Sandsend. This was very pretty, with nice stone houses, mostly with red roofs.
I continued along the beach passing most of the village centre. Two small rivers flow into the sea here, though they are enough to have cut some quite deep valleys. Since it had been a warm few days the first of these, East Row Beck caused me no real bother. The river bed was mostly made up of larger pebbles and small rocks but as the stream reached the coast, it spread out quite wide. This meant the water was low enough between the stones and pebbles I could simply step over and keep dry feet. This avoided the need to head inland and cross via the road bridge, which was 100 metres or so inland.
Having dispensed with the first valley, the beach returned to find sand. A sea wall now protected the village behind and at high tide it was clear that the waves would reach the wall. However the tide was still low enough it caused me no bother.
The second valley, Sandsend Beck wasn’t much wider. I could get across it on the beach but there was a way up to the road just before it. Since I was not sure if there were any other ways off the beach further up I took this and emerged onto the road in front of what looked like it was once a hotel.
This time the road bridge was right at the coast, so I didn’t have to head inland at all.
I crossed the stream via the road and the view inland was also extremely pretty, with more houses nestled on the eastern side of the valley. This was a peaceful and secluded little village that looked really nice.
Once over I was now back on the Cleveland Way. As the A174 turned inland, the Cleveland Way continued beside the coast now leaving the road and following the route of an old railway line that also once served Whitby. This was the former Whitby to Loftus line, which closed in 1958.
The railway must have been a great ride, right along the coast, but now it was closed it also made a good footpath as it was flat and wide.
The old line did not always hug the coast as in places there were areas of heathland between me and the coast.
The line had gradually been gaining height and I soon reached Sandsend Ness. Here there were once extensive quarries, for alum and the remains could be seen a bit near the base of the cliffs. There were “bald” areas of the cliffs where no vegetation was growing. I suspect the acidity of the soil had been changed so much by the mining and it’s waste that nothing will grow, or perhaps it has been poisoned in some way.
Still despite the odd bald bit of cliff, it was a lovely view. Continuing around the corner there was a huge area of bald cliff below me, again presumably caused in some way by the former mines.
Ahead the line soon turned a bit inland. Just off to the right was a steep, deep and narrow little valley.
I was amazed to find a path led down the eastern side of it to the shore (it is not marked on the map). This was too much temptation and I followed it down.
The path crossed the stream at one point, but as it went over firm rocks it was possible to step across and keep dry feet. At the bottom a metal stair case lead down to the beach. It was a pretty beach.
To the right a mixture of shingle, rocks and pebbles. To the left there was a flat shelf of cliffs, presumably the base of the cliffs that have since eroded away, and this was dotted with large rocks, presumably having fallen from the cliffs.
The cliffs behind were high and sheer. This was a quite spectacular location and I was extremely pleased I opted to come down to it. After exploring the beach I took a picture of the little waterfall at the base of the stream and set off for the long climb back up.
Now back on the route of the old railway line I could only follow it for another 100 metres or so. There were large hills ahead and so the railway line then went into a tunnel under the hills. Unfortunately, this was not maintained after the railway line closed and so is now blocked off. This meant the Cleveland Way now turned right to head up steps through the woodland to the cliff tops (you can see it below).
This took me across fields planted with the rape seed plant, making for a beautiful carpet of yellow on either side of me. As I reached the shore there was more yellow, this time gorse.
The path was now right along the cliff top and very spectacular. The cliffs now gently sloped down to the sea and the cliff face was a mixture of woodland and heath, so it looked to be a bit more stable.
The path continued to hug the cliff top and I soon passed a sign saying I was now 37 miles from Filey and 75 from Hemsley wherever that was (I later realised this is the northern end of the Cleveland Way, the path I was following, which later turns inland).
I passed another field of rape seed and soon and was soon approaching the headland of Kettle Ness.
Below were the remains of more extensive Alum mines and again, the area was scarred with areas of “baldness”, where vegetation did not grow.
The path continued on the cliff top avoiding heading down into this area of former mines, I suspect it might be dangerous.
Rounding the corner, there were soon more areas of stunning gorse on the cliff top.
Ahead I had a stunning view around Runswick Bay to the village of the same name.
Interestingly, there was now a lower path. I could see some people on it but hadn’t noticed the start of it or the way down, so I stuck with the official Cleveland Way along the cliff top.
Another walker here commented that the view ahead looked a bit like the Mediterranean! It was now mid afternoon and very warm for last May. Under a cloudless sky and with the red-roofs of the houses of Runswick Bay hugging the cliff, it was hard to disagree. This really is a stunning part of the coast.
I now passed through the hamlet of Kettleness. The buildings were stone with red roofs again and it was quite pretty.
Beyond the village I had the small valley to negotiate, meaning a descent and heading a bit inland then returning to the cliff tops. Beyond this the path hugged the cliff tops again and soon the route of the former railway line was also close beside me, just inland, having emerged from it’s tunnel. This is now a permissive bridleway.
Runswick Bay looked very beautiful ahead, with the buildings built into the steep cliffs at the north end of the beach and tumbling down to the shore.
Soon I too was tumbling down to the shore (well, not literally) since the path soon descended down a steep flight of stairs into a valley at place called Hob Holes. I’d put the map away and hadn’t expected this (though it is clearly marked). The Cleveland Way does indeed descend into the valley where you step across the stream and emerge onto the beach.
The onwards route is along the beach. It looked like at high tide the waves could reach the back of the beach so I’m not sure what you are meant to do if you want to follow the Cleveland Way then – head inland to the old railway line and then the road, I suppose. Thankfully it wasn’t in for me, so I could head down onto the beach.
The geology of the rocks had changed again. They seemed a bit firmer than at Whitby, but still made of some sort of soft rock, which had numerous little caves cut into it by the waves.
I followed the sands and soon was approaching Runswick Bay. What a stunning village this is.
I was pleased to get this photo with the village reflected in a pool of water in the sands.
What a beautiful place to live, it reminded me of some of the fishing ports in the south west, but with it’s own distinctive architecture style, with the sandy coloured stone and the red roofs. It was a real delight.
At the far end was a little harbour wall and life boat station and at the end of the beach I headed up onto this.
Now I head a long climb up back to the cliff tops. Initially this was along the road, beside the car park. At the main road at the top of the hill I could turn right along a track between fields and back to the cliff top. I had really enjoyed Runswick Bay and was sad to be seeing my last glimpse of this pretty and secluded bay.
Interestingly here I spotted another sign for the “North Sea Trail“. This was (is?) a European Project to create a coast path alongside the North Sea, in the various countries that surround it. It showed the completed sections. It was incomplete, but covered most of the east coast from here to the north eastern corner of Scotland.
I was very pleased by this as I wasn’t aware of this and hoped it meant I’d find a good path most of the way north to north eastern Scotland. Sadly I was later to find my optimism was sadly misplaced and it seems most of the route shown was never completed or has been abandonded.
I soon rounded the corner at Lingrow Cliffs and was now looking down to the rocky beach at Port Mulgrave.
As the name suggests, this was once a port, but as you can see it is disused now. The harbour here was constructed in 1874 to deal with iron ore that was bought via tunnels from Grinkle Mines, around a mile inland. The disused tunnel is still marked on the map. The iron ore was then shipped to Tyneside However this only lasted for around 40 years when the mines closed, so the harbour was abandonded. The harbour then fell into disrepair and much of it was deliberately removed during World War II to prevent it being used by invading forces.
The path soon descended down steps and continued on the now lower cliff tops.
I had stunning views in both directions.
Soon I reached the road into Port Mulgrave. Here a path would take me down to the harbour, which now seemed to be a few boat houses and boats at the back of the beach. This time I decided to stick to the cliff top as I was getting tired.
This was initially along a minor road to a few isolated houses, separate from the village. From here the track ended and a footpath continued right along the cliff tops again.
I soon had a fine view to Brackenberry Wyke below, a rocky and sheltered beach.
I am not sure there is any access to it (except by boat or canoe, perhaps). Beyond the beach, the Cleveland Way briefly left the the cliff top to head on a parallel route about 200 metres inland. Since I did this walk, the England Coast Path has opened along this stretch of coast and a new permissive path opened right along the cliff tops, adding about 3/4 of a mile of new coast path. It is good to see this path slowly progressing and opening up new areas of the coast, even if I wasn’t able to walk it at the time!
As the England Coast path opened after my walk I stuck to the route of the Cleveland Way and soon had a view of Staithes, laid out before me.
What a stunning place it was. I had never even heard of Staithes until I walked here (though this walk was not the first time, as I’d done the section of coast north from here earlier). Robin Hood’s Bay is fairly well known and exceptionally pretty. Staithes is to my eye just as pretty but seems very much less well known, but I’m not sure why.
The path soon descended down to the pretty harbour where there was sand to the right and rock to the west.
It was clear this was once a busy port too. This time the main industry was fishing rather than mining. At one time around 80 boats were based here. Now there are just a couple. At low tide, as it now must be (though it had seemed to be low tide, all day) there was little water in the harbour.
The village itself is stunning. Narrow steep cobbled streets have pretty stone buildings on either side with bright red roofs adding more colour.
The harbour itself was built around a steep river (Staithes Beck) which still cuts through the village, with houses on either side.
It is an extremely pretty village.
As this was not my first visit and I had explored more first time, I headed up the road in search of the bus stop. Narrow cobbled streets are no place for a bus and so the bus only runs along the main road (the A174) around half a mile from the harbour. So I followed the road up the steep hill. At the top the road levelled out and I continued on it, stopping for a last glimpse of the village.
I passed this rather fun village store, which looked like a private house where the front room had been turned into a shop, complete with hand-painted sign. It is nice to see places like this still exist!
I reached the main road in fact a minute after the bus should have come. That would have been annoying but another passenger was waiting and confirmed the bus had not yet come. My luck was in, and the bus arrived a few minutes later.
I got off the bus in the centre of Whitby, near the railway station. Now it was time to complete the section of coast I missed earlier, to get back to my car. I headed down to the harbour which was a real delight on this beautiful day as more red-roofed houses tumbled down the hills to the edge of the harbour. Most houses here must get a sea view!
I headed down to Bridge Street to reach the lowest bridge over the Esk, which I had crossed on my last walk.
I continued to the harbour mouth where I got a fine view over the eastern side of the town and the hill behind.
I now headed west along the promenade, as the views behind me got ever better.
On reaching the mouth of the harbour, I headed down onto the beach.
As I said earlier, the tides had been odd, since it seemed to have been low tide all day! Though now coming in, there was still a lot of firm sand I could walk on.
As I headed west I soon caught sight of the ruined abbey on top of the cliffs, one of the more famous sights of Whitby.
When I reached what I thought was the point near where I had parked I headed up onto the cliff top. I soon reached the point I had reached the cliff top earlier and headed inland to the road where I had parked.
Earlier, when I had arrived, few cars were parked here. Now it was packed full, with no spaces at all. I guess even more people must have arrived in Whitby, after I had left.
Now to get to my accommodation. A few days previously I had identified a campsite where I wanted to stay for this trip. This was in Robin Hood’s Bay, called Hooks House Farm. I telephoned to enquire if I could book but was told that they don’t take bookings for tents unless you require electrical hookup (I don’t) and that space was allocated on a first-come, first serve basis. I explained I was travelling from far away and didn’t want to be turned away and was assured that they were not expecting the site to be busy and there would be plenty of space, so not to worry.
However having seen the crowds at Whitby, I was worried. The weather forecast for the weekend when I had telephoned a few days earlier was for cloud and overcast conditions. Since then the forecast had improved, and now it was glorious with clear sunshine. My fear was that the campsite would now be full leaving me nowhere to sleep. I decided to telephone again to check. My fears were confirmed and I was told that all the pitches were taken and the site was now full.
This was not what I wanted to hear. Whitby was packed and I now had nowhere to stay for the night. I explained I had called earlier in the week and was assured there would be space, so had not looked into other options. I asked if they knew anywhere else. At this point the man I was speaking to seemed to remember me calling and then asked how many it was for. When I explained it was only me, the news was better”Oh I’m sure we can find room for one more, just call in at reception when you get here and we’ll find you somewhere”.
That was a relief. So I drove around the coast to the site at Robin’s Hoods Bay where I paid my fees and met the owner who directed me to a fairly sizeable empty area. I had feared after my call that I’d be crammed into a corner or between other tents, but in fact it was a good sized space and there was plenty of room, I was glad they had found room for me. I did wonder if it was a space booked for a caravan that had cancelled at the last minute or something. Either way I was pleased with my space, and that the owners had accommodated me.
After pitching my tent, I walked down into Robin Hood’s Bay in search of food and soon found a takeaway at the bottom of the road. I sat on seats overlooking the harbour to eat my food, watching the waves breaking along the sea wall (I guess the tide must have come in at last!).
I hung around until the sun was low in the sky, preferring to spend the evening by the sea than in my tent.
Before it got dark I headed back up the hill for a last glimpse over Robin Hood’s Bay before heading back to the campsite.
Despite my fears of the site being noisy, given it was full I actually had a good nights sleep.
This was a truly wonderful walk. One of the best ones I have done on all the coast. The scenery was stunning throughout, and very varied. The villages and towns were exceptionally pretty in all cases. There was a good path throughout and the weather was perfect. What more could I ask?
Here are details of the public transport needed for this walk:-
Arriva bus service X4: Whitby – Sandsend – Runswick Bay – Staithes – Loftus – Carlin How – Brotton – Saltburn – Marske – Redcar – Coatham – Middlesbrough. Buses run every 30 minutes Monday – Saturday. On Sundays the service is hourly during the winter and every 30 minutes in summer. It takes around 30 minutes to travel between Staithes and Whitby.