The trail climbs steeply out of Staithes, following the cliff to reach a road in Port Mulgrave. More paths follow the cliff edge before a steep descent along a road leads down to Robin Hood's Bay.
The first stretch of beach-walking (which may be inaccessible at high tides) leads to Hob Holes, where the trail steeply climbs to regain the cliff edge. It remains high as it passes Kettleness and Goldsborouhg, before starting a long descent to meet the A174 at Sandsend.
The main road is followed for a mile and a half, before another path heads past a golf course to reach the cliffs. An easy walk then leads past West Cliff before descending down towards the River Esk in Whitby. A short stroll through this beautiful town leads to the bridge over the river.
5 hours 45 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 at the footbridge over Staithes Beck at NZ781188 in the little seaside village of Staithes.
Cross the footbridge over the beck and then follow a narrow house-lined road for a few yards until it ends at a T-junction with the High Street. Head straight on down the cobbled High Street; it soon curves to the left to reach a slipway. At the top of the slipway turn right to head past a pub on the left. Shortly afterwards turn right to head up Church Street; do not continue along High Street into a car park. Church Street climbs steeply uphill; when the road ends continue straight on along a stepped path. The path forks when the steps end; take the left-hand branch that slopes uphill towards a farm.
Pass a barn on the right and follow a path between fences. The fence on the right ends and the trail continues along a track for about a hundred yards to a field gate. The path skirts to the right of the gate and follows a fence on the left. At the end of the field, go through a pedestrian gate and turn slightly to the right to continue steeply uphill to reach a pedestrian gate in the top corner of the field. The cliffs are met on the other side; continue on with the cliffs on the left. After half a mile the path curves to the right to reach a field gate that leads onto a road beside houses in Port Mulgrave. Join the road and follow it south, initially passing houses on the right. After a couple of hundred yards the road curves to the right at NZ795174.
On the bend, turn left down another footpath. Take the footpath that continues along the top of the cliffs with a fence on the right, and not the one that plunges downhill towards the beach on the left. Go through a clapper gate and follow the path as it runs between fences, with houses away to the right. The fences end and the path continues between hedges. It curves to the left and starts falling downhill to enter a field, then descends down steps into a little dry valley and climbs up steps on the other side.
Follow the cliff edge around; 1.2 miles after the road in Port Mulgrave, the path curves to the right to head southwestwards inland, following a hedge on the left. Go through a clapper gate and continue along the path until it emerges into the car park of the Runswick Bay Hotel. Walk through the car park and pass the hotel on the right to reach a road at NZ806161. Carefully cross the road, turn left for a few yards and then right to follow another road signposted for Runswick Bay Beach. This road plunges downhill for a quarter of a mile until a roundabout is reached at NZ809159, just above the beach at Runswick Bay.
At the roundabout head straight on down a sloping road that curves to the right towards the beach. At the top of the slipway, turn right along a path that passes above some sea-defence rocks and descends to join the beach. The next stretch of the trail cannot be walked at high tides and care is needed. Follow the beach southeastwards for nearly half a mile until Hob Holes is reached on the right at NZ815154.
Turn right to head inland along a little streambed that squeezes between the cliffs at Hob Holes; the path heads up some steps with the stream on the left to reach a rock-cut platform. Ford the stream to reach some steps on the eastern side. A series of steps and slopes lead steeply up the cliffs. When the steps end, the path continues east along the cliff edge with a fence on the right. An old railway line approaches on the right; the path does not join this and instead angles away. The path reaches a pedestrian gate; go through this and follow a fence on the left.
At the corner of the field go through a second pedestrian gate and follow the edge of a field to a third pedestrian gate. The path slopes into a dip and climbs up steps on the other side. After a while, turn left across a stile beside a field gate to join a track that immediately curves to the left. As the track approaches Kettleness Farm, turn left along another track. Leave the track and keep a fence on the right. This path curves around the northern side of the farm before joining a track at the eastern side at NZ830156.
Turn left and follow the track past some cottages on the right; almost immediately turn left along another footpath. It goes through a gateway and follows a fence on the left. Cross a stile beside a field gate and continue following a fence on the left along the cliff edge. The old railway trackbed approaches from the right; cross a stile and climbs some steps, then continue climbing past a railway portal down to the right at NZ838154.
The path continues to climb as it follows the cliff edge. Cross a stile and continue uphill; eventually the path goes through a gap in a stone wall and continues with a stone wall on the right as it heads southeastwards inland. At the end of the field it drops down some steep steps (including step-ladders) through a wooded area to reach the old railway line near an old tunnel mouth at NZ854141, Turn left to follow the railway trackbed southeastwards and then south; the going is relatively level.
After 0.9 miles Sandsend is approached; when the end of the old station platform is visible on the right, and just before a fence blocks the trackbed ahead, turn left to follow a path that heads downhill along steps to reach a car park. Turn right through the car park, passing some sheds on the right to reach the A174 road. Turn left to follow the main road as it crosses a bridge over Sandsend Beck and heads southeastwards along the coast; the road soon curves to the right once more to reach a bridge over East Row Beck at NZ862125.
Cross the bridge and follow the road as it curves to the right to parallel the shore. It slowly starts to rise and head inland past a golf course on the left. After 1.2 miles at NZ878116 turn left down a surfaced path. This curves to the right and then the left, passing under an elegant wooden bridge that links two parts of the golf course. Immediately after the bridge, turn right up a surfaced path. This curves to the right and climbs uphill to reach the cliff top. From here continue straight on along the top of the cliffs, taking care not to take any paths leading down to the promenade below. Sometimes the surfaced path ends and you need to cut across grass; simply follow the cliff edge. A mile after joining the clifftop, the whale bone arch and statue of Captain Cook are reached at NZ897114.
From the whalebone arch, turn right to follow a path that runs alongside East Terrace on the right. As the road curves to the right, the official route carries straight on, soon curves sharply to the left and then right in two big hairpins, descending down to reach the harbourside. Continue south along this road; buildings on the left mostly hide the water. The road curves to the left and then right to run alongside the riverbank before a lift bridge over the river is reached in the centre of Whitby at NZ899110.
Places of interest
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
Runswick Bay is a small village, nestling by a long sandy beach at the base of cliffs facing into the North Sea. It is a pleasant place, although perhaps suffers from the proximity of the sublime Staithes and the larger Whitby. The original village was nearly destroyed in a landslide in 1682, which thankfully caused no fatalities. It was rebuilt, slightly south along the cliffs.
It is a very tourist-oriented village, and has a cafe, a couple of hotels., several B&B’s and a caravan and camping park – although as some of these are at the top of the cliffs, expect a steep climb to reach them!
location UID #350
Goldsborough Roman Signal Station
The Roman Empire was rarely a peaceful place: it was either attacking neighbours to gain treasure or territory, or defending itself from the heathen hordes. Such a military situation demanded not just forts and roads, but also coastal defence.
The Goldsborough signal station was one station in a chain of five along this stretch of Yorkshire coast. It is situated about 130 metres above sea level, and was a series of posts – the final one being a stone tower up to 30 metres in height, surrounded by a curtain wall and ditch.
It appears to have been destroyed at the end of the 4th Century AD, and now remains as a square mound, up to 30 metres across
location UID #351
Sandsend is a pleasant little fishing village, at the western end of a beach that, at low tides, stretches all the way to Whitby. It has a pub, a cafe, and some accommodation. It was originally two villages, East Row and Sandsend, that merged over time; tourism is now a major industry.
Buses tun from Sandsend to Whitby and Middlesborough.
location UID #352
The Whitby to Saltburn railway line
The Whitby to Saltburn railway line was built by two railway companies; the Cleveland Railway built a line from Redcar to Loftus in 1875, and the Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union Railway continued it south to Whitby in 1883. The latter line proved problematic, and construction was stopped for a couple of years until the North Eastern Railway took over. The line had several tunnels and viaducts, including a couple over the becks leading down to Sandsend.
The line took an indirect route along the coast. It closed to passenger traffic in 1960 and freight four years later; however the northern few miles were relaid in 1974 to serve Boulby Mine, and still operate today. Part of the route between Runswick Bay and Kettleness is now a footpath, paralleling the Cleveland way and English Coast Paths.
location UID #353
Whitby is a seaside town in North Yorkshire, with a splendid harbour and many attractive buildings. It offers a good range of shops and accommodation, and is served by a railway station, which is the terminus of the Esk Valley Railway from Middlesborough.
The town was a small fishing village until the alum industry started in earnest in the 17th Century. Importation of coal needed to process the alum turned the fishing village into a port, and shipbuilding soon became a major industry: at one stage it was the third-largest shipbuilder in Britain. Similar industry followed, and the town’s historic links with whaling is marked by a whalebone arch on the cliffs. The discovery of mineral springs led to the development of a spa, and the fashioning of the stone jet, found in the area, became another industry in what must have been a very diverse town.
Perhaps unsurpisingly given the town’s links with the sea, itts most famous resident was a sailor: Captain James Cook, he discoverer of Australia, who learnt his seacraft when sailing from the town.
There is plenty to see and do in the town, including a museum dedicated to Captain Cook and an art gallery.
location UID #354
The ruins of Whitby Abbey would be dramatic enough, without its spectacular location on the clifftop above the harbour, the famous 199 steps that lead up to it, or its rather famous literary connection.
The first abbey on the site was founded in 657 by Oswy, then King of Northumbria, as a double monastery for nuns and monks. In 664 the famous Synod of Whitby was held at the abbey, during which it was decided that the Northumbria church would follow Roman practice rather than traditional Celtic Ionan traditions. This led to the eventual conversion of England to the Roman traditions. Hence a debate on the proper date of Easter and tonsures changed British history.
The first abbey was destroyed by marauding Danes (was there any other kind at the time?) between 867 and 870, and lay derelict for two centuries until a Benedictine abbey was founded by Reinfrid, one of William the Conqueror’s soldiers. This thrived until it succumbed to the dissolution in 1540. The ruins became a landmark for local soldiers, which helped preserve them – at least until German sailors caused considerable damage by shelling them in 1914!
But for many people, the abbey is best known through a literary connection: Bram Stoker’s novel ‘Dracula’ features the creature landing at Whitby and climbing the steps to the ruins. Rumours that I have been mistaken for the creature whilst climbing the steps are, sadly, false.
location UID #355
A bus stop on the A174, half a mile to the south of the coast from Staithes, is served by regular half-hourly services that run between Whitby and Loftus. The same service calls at Whitby, Runswick Bay, and Sandsend, as well as several villages a short way inland from the trail.
Whitby also has a railway station, as a terminus of the Esk Valley Line to Middlesborough (the same line also serves Kildale station on the trail). See the National railway enquiries website for more information.
There are also regular bus services to Scarborough from the bus station, which is right outside the railway station.