Saltburn to Staithes – a walk along the Cleveland Way on the iron coast
Updated: Aug 11, 2020
This is a great 9 mile walk between two of my favourite coastal locations and follows a stretch of the Cleveland Way. As well as stunning coastal views the walk is rich with areas of industrial heritage from ironstone mining to alum workings.
But I hear you say Saltburn isn’t in Yorkshire? Well it maybe a seaside town in Redcar & Cleveland but it does lie within the historic boundaries of the North Riding of Yorkshire so I feel I can justify having this walk on my blog!
The Cleveland Way is an 109 mile national trail running from Helmsley over heather moorland before meeting the coast at Saltburn. The walk continues along the coast along dramatic coastline before finishing on Filey Brigg, south of Scarborough. The walk I completed with my wife during our weeks staycation in Staithes covered the first stretch of the coastal section.
We were dropped off in Saltburn just before lunchtime with blue skies and the sun shining. From our drop off point we could see Saltburn Pier – stretching out into the North Sea by 681 ft (originally built in 1869 it was 1500ft long but has been re-built a number of times over the years).
The Saltburn Cliff Lift could also be seen - a funicular which descends 207 feet down from the cliffs to the lower station in front of the pier. It is a stunning piece of engineering and actually uses water to power the two cars up and down the cliff.
Interestingly, the rise of Saltburn was down to a local family in the 1850’s. The Pease family owned areas of ironstone holdings along the coast, and one day when walking along the cliffs - Henry Pease had a vision of “a town arise and the quiet unfrequented glen turned into a lovely garden”. From this vision he turned the sleepy fishing village into a thriving Victorian seaside town within just a decade.
I have a soft spot for Saltburn as I used to surf there many years ago after having to stop playing rugby. There are great waves and it was recently voted as one of the UK’s top 10 surf spots.
Back to the walk, we headed along the beach towards the Ship Inn, but just before we followed a path through a fence onto some steps up the cliffside signed The Cleveland Way. There are some great views back of Saltburn town if you stop and look back.
Not far along the clifftop path there is a sign for Huntcliff. There is a great view point here and it was once the home of a Roman signal station, which acted as an early warning should there be attacks from the pesky Vikings or Saxons.
The path gradually gets narrower as you are hemmed into the cliff edge by the coastal railway which carries pot ash from Boulby Mine as the track follows the contours of Warsett Hill.
In the distance we saw a large circular iron ring on the cliff top at Brotton. As we got closer we could see it was a giant piece of land art – a giant charm bracelet with iron figures of horses, starfish and mermaids as charms – this was a nod to the ironstone production which thrived in this area in days gone by.
Close to the sculpture you can see evidence of the now closed Huntcliffe Mine, opened in 1860 . It was an ironstone mine employing 109 men and boys which closed in 1906 when the mine was exhausted. There is not much evidence of the actual mine but the ruins of the old Fan House which ventilated the mine is now a prominent landmark on the coast and is a listed building.
From here you can see the town of Skinningrove with its steel works and start to get some great views of Skinningrove Beach. We continued on the coastal path which started to descend to Cattersty View Point with even better views of the beach with its jetty. From here there are steps down to the sand dunes which we made our way down onto the beach.
As it was a hot day we walked down to the sea to let our black lab Bronte have a quick dip to cool down (it was quite a walk down as it was low tide). We knew that we had a steep climb out of Skinningrove back up onto the cliff top so we decided to stop and drink our flask of tea and eat the slices of Grandma's tiffin we had brought with us to give us the energy to help with our next steep yomp.
At Skinningrove there is a long stone jetty which used to contain a railway to allow waiting ships to be filled with iron and steel that had been smelted in the local iron and steel works in Skinningrove. There is a gap now in the jetty which we walk through into the town. It’s very quiet apart from a few fishermen pulling a boat down to the beach with a tractor.
There are a couple of interesting sculptures in the town – firstly – The Repus – a replica of an original fishing cobble and then next to the public loos there is the Skinningrove Homing Society HQ in a wooden hut with a sculpture dedicated the local Pigeon Fancing Club. Pigeon Fancing was an important pastime on the North East coast in mining communities, many miners having their own pigeon lofts and the pastime helped bring whole communities together.
After a quick toilet stop we crossed a small bridge and climbed up the steep steps back onto the top of the cliffs and past Hummersea bank. The path goes inland past a farm steadily climbing.
The wheat fields were basking in the sun and many wild poppies had seeded and were in bloom which was an absolutely stunning background to this stretch of the walk.
We next saw a National Trust sign for Loftus Alum Works – this old industry was very much native to the Yorkshire Coast and if you want to read more about this I have previously blogged about this – click on this link to find out more:
The remnants of the Alum works can be seen on flat areas of land on terraces built into the cliffs where the rocks were quarried, burnt and then processed to produce the valuable Alum – a die fixant used by the textile industry.
Just past here we reach the highest point on the Yorkshire Coast at Boulby Cliffs at 607ft above sea level. With the blue skies there are great views even though I didn't want to get too close to the edge.
The path descends down across some moorland where the heather was in bloom to Boulby and across fields down to Cowbar. We then continued along the edge of the cliff (along a new path next to where the other had eroded and fallen down the cliff!) past Cowbar Nab.
Here you get the classic view of Staithes Beck with its moored cobbles with the harbour and Cowbar Nab in the background. After taking some photos we walked down into the village and across the bridge onto Staithes High street.
After the 9 miles with some big climbs – a pint of Theakston’s Lightfoot in The Royal George seemed like a suitable reward. It took us 4 hours with a 20 minute tea break, there were some big climbs but once on the tops there were some long stretches of flattish terrain where you could take in the stunning views and get a pace up.
A great walk.