This first coastal leg of the trail starts at the end of the promenade in Saltburn. The trail crosses the Skelton Beck via the road bridge and then begins a steady climb uphill along the edge of the cliff. It squeezes between the cliff edge and a freight railway line before starting an easy descent into Skinningrove.
After crossing the Kilton Beck in the village, the path starts climbing once more, initially along the cliff edge. After a mile it diverts inland and continues to climb before rejoining the cliff edge. It passes the cliffs at Boulby - at 203 metres, the highest cliffs on the east coast of England. A steep descent leads to a road in Boulby, after which a paths lead to another road that completes the descent down into the picturesque fishing village of Staithes.
4 hours 25 minutes
Map of the leg
Maps courtesy of Google Maps. Route for indicative purposes only, and may have been plotted after the walk. Please let me have comments on what you think of this new format.
This leg starts off on the seafront in Saltburn at NZ667216.
Follow the road southeastwards. It immediately crosses the Skelton Beck on a bridge and then curves to the left to head towards The Ship pub. The road curves to the right just before the pub; follow it for a few yards past the pub car park and then turn left up a path. When this forks after a few yards, head up a series of steps on the left that head uphill to reach the top of the cliffs. The steps end and a path slopes uphill along the edge of the cliffs. Go through a gap in a fence and continue along the edge of the cliffs.
1.3 miles after The Ship, the path goes through a fence at NZ688218 and becomes increasingly squeezed by the cliff edge on the left and a railway line on the right. The latter eventually curves away and the path continues on along the cliff edge. It passes a large metal sculpture and heads on; after a while it curves to the right away from the sea, then left through a hedge, and left once more to rejoin the cliff edge.
At NZ707204 the path turns to the left and heads down a series of steps that lead down towards the beach. Join the beach and turn right to start following it eastwards as it approaches Skinningrove Jetty. Climb up onto the jetty using a ramp, and then pass between the abutments of an old bridge and then turn right to follow a track alongside the shore. This passes a car park on the right and then joins a road called Marine Terrace. Turn left along this, passing houses on the right, and when the road ends squeeze past the end of the houses to reach another road. Turn left to reach a bridge over the river in Skinningrove at NZ714200.
Cross the bridge and follow the road as it curves to the right. On the bend, turn left up some steps that lead up the hillside to the east, soon joining the clifftop. The path squeezes between the cliffs on the left and a fence on the right. A mile after Skinningrove at NZ729197, the path turns right to head inland. The path climbs as it follows a hedge on the left and ends at a junction with a track. Turn left to follow this track as it heads eastwards; it goes through a clapper gate beside a farm gate and after 150 yards enters a farmyard.
When the track ends in the farmyard, head diagonally across some grass to reach a stile. Cross the stile and head up a path to reach a second stile. The path climbs through bracken; a couple of stretches of boardwalk are crossed before the path follows a stone wall on the right. The wall becomes a fence; follow the cliffs as the path generally climbs, although there are some minor descents. Go through a clapper gate and continue on.
The path then passes Boulby Cliffs at NZ750195, the highest point on the east coast of England. From this high point, follow the cliff edge southeastwards as it slowly falls past a series of fields on the right. After nearly half a mile it curves sharply to the left to start descending down a steep slope. After a short distance it curves to the right to continue along the (now lower) cliff edge. Go through a clapper gate at NZ759191 and continue on to reach the end of a road in Boulby beside a house on the right.
Follow this road as it heads downhill; it passes Boulby Lodge on the right and then immediately curves to the right; as it does so continue straight on along a grassy path, sometimes between fences. This path continues across a field to rejoin the cliff edge. Here turn right and then left to join a surfaced road that was once called Cowbar Lane. Follow the lane as it skirts the cliff edge eastwards for half a mile; at one point a diversionary unsurfaced track has been created on the right to avoid a cliff fall on the original road. A totally new road has been built further inland to avoid this road, which is now closed to traffic.
After half a mile the track ends at a T-junction with the new road. Turn left along another road that skirts the cliffs on the left. This road passed houses on the right and then curves sharply to the right as it plunges downhill past Cowbar Nab. Keep an eye-out for a gnomish mountain rescue team on a rockface on the left as the road descends a hairpin to the reach the bottom of the valley. At the bottom, immediately turn right to cross a footbridge over Staithes Beck at NZ781188.
Places of interest
Saltburn is a welcome relief for anyone walking the coast clockwise, and who has therefore just negotiated the grimy, industrial Tees valley. It’s pleasant sandy beach and pier grant it a genteel air after the metal, oil and pollution of Teeside. This is somewhat of a surprise, as the same industry that caused Middlesborough to become an industrial behemoth also expanded Saltburn from a tiny fishing and smuggling hamlet in the mid-1850s into a town a few decades later.
The rise of Middlesborough and Saltburn was down to the Pease family, who owned the local railway and extensive mineral (mainly ironstone) holdings. One family member was walking the cliffs in 1859 and had a vision of a town and gardens – and hence Saltburn sprang up.
"seated on the hillside he had seen, in a sort of prophetic vision, on the edge of the cliff before him, a town arise and the quiet unfrequented glen turned into a lovely garden.” Many Victorian visionaries had such thoughts, and relatively few of their visions amounted to anything. I’m glad Saltburn is amongst the exceptions.
location UID #344
Saltburn Pier is a picture-perfect promenading pier, with few of the sometimes-gaudy attractions that have ruined some other piers. It was completed in 1869 to a 1,500-foot length. Within six years a gale had reduced its length to 1,250 feet. It was struck by a ship in 1924, leaving a gap that was rebuilt. It was sectioned during the war, but unlike some piers it was rebuilt afterwards. Storm damage in 1974 left it at 1,100 feet, after which the council applied to have it demolished. A local campaign led to it being reduced to its current 681 feet.
Hence the pier survived all bar one of the traditional fates of piers: gales, collision, war, and political indifference. The exception is fire, and I can only hope that it never suffers that indignity.
location UID #345
Saltburn cliff lift
When Henry Pease had a vision of a seaside town during a walk in 1859, he chose a fine place with one small problem: the wonderful beach sits 200 feet below the clifftops. There was a road access down to the original tiny settlement of Old Saltburn, but town and beach were – and still are - somewhat separate. This was the problem facing the operators of the 1869-built Saltburn Pier at the base of the cliffs. Initially a hoist was put in place where passengers were lowered in a wooden cage, but in 1884 a more permanent solution was put in place.
The Saltburn cliff lift (or funicular) descends 207 feet down from the cliffs, ending at a superb timbered lower station directly in front of the pier. It is a fairly standard funicular: there are two cars connected by a cable; a tank in the top-most one is filled with water, until its mass exceed that of the the one at the bottom. It therefore descends, pulling the bottom one up. Once at the bottom, the water is released and pumped back to the top, whilst the top one is loaded.
Much of the current cliff lift mechanism is original, although the passenger cars have been replaced.
The pier and cliff lift are both superlative examples of their types, and sit very well together in the landscape.
location UID #346
The Boulby Mine
When I think of mines, my mind always turns to burly coal miners heaving the black gold out of the Earth. Yet many other types of mines exist: from the deep salt mines of Cheshire, to the tin and copper mines of Cornwall.
Yet potash mining must be much lower on people’s awareness. Potash has several industrial uses, but is mainly used in fertiliser – and the Boulby Mine, high up on the cliffs in the North York Moors, produces half of the UK’s output.
The mine started in 1968, when ICI started digging a shaft. Production was not started for five years, as it is a deep mine - the reserves are between 1.2 and 1.5km underground, making it the second-deepest of any mine in Europe, and its workings now extend over five miles out to sea. It also mines Polyhalite, which is a rare mineral – Boulby is the only place in the world that it is mined. The mine employs about 500 people and is a major local employer, although plans for expansion have been attacked by environmentalists.
The hundreds of thousands of tonnes of output each year are mainly taken away by train, on a looping branch of the long-closed Whitby to Middlesborough railway line.
The mine’s extreme depth means that it is the site of an underground laboratory, where research is done into extremophiles and detecting dark matter.
A competitor, Woodsmith Mine, has recently been set up further south in Yorkshire: this will be deeper (1.5km deep). Because of environmental concerns, the product will be delivered from the mine in a 23-mile tunnel, at 16 feet in diameter and at an average of 250 metres deep!
location UID #347
Skinningrove and mining
Skinningrove has the air of a slightly down-at-heel fishing village, and one which has kept a certain sparkle and honesty due to a lack of tourism. This is perhaps because it owes its existence to ironstone mining, which started in 1848 and continued until 1958 – with iron production continuing until the 1970s. Skiningrove Steelworks still produces specialised steel at a clifftop works, and Caterpillar have a plant in the village producing track components.
The village is a linear village, arranged around a steep-sided back that runs from the A174 inland down to the sea.
The Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum is situated in the village, of brings back to life a now largely-forgotten industry.
location UID #348
Staithes must have a good claim at being one of Britain’s most perfect seaside villages – although my son knows it as the place where Old Jack and Salty the Dog tell tales of their voyages on the Rainbow. I now cannot see it without thinking of Bernard Cribbins with his red jumper and black cap! (For those without young children, this is referring to a program on the CBeebies TV channel).
Whoever chose to set Old Jack’s Boat in Staithes deserves a payrise, as there is something almost unearthly perfect about the place. If you were to go around the coast and pick the best elements of each place, you would end up with something like Staithes.
The village comprises two sections: a perfect seafront of narrow cobbled streets, with two harbour arms reaching out into the North Sea. This part of the village clambers uphill along the Staithes Beck towards a larger part on the flatter clifftop beside the main road.
Although a few old-style fishing cobles can still be seen in the harbour or moored in the beck, tourism has overtaken fishing as the village’s main industry – sadly half the houses are now holiday homes.
location UID #349
Saltburn has a railway station on the Tees Valley Line, fro which run regular services to Middlesborough and Darlington. See the National railway enquiries website for more information.
Saltburn also has regular bus services to various villages and towns in the area, including Redcar and Easington.
Half-hourly bus services run along the A174 in Staithes, about half a mile inland from teh coast. These run between Whitby and Loftus.