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Staithes to Whitby walk - as recommended in The Times

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

Whilst in lockdown with the Corona Virus pandemic raging outside, I read an article in The Times on 7th April 2020 entitled “Ramblers reveal their wild side” about the creation of an online walking map of the UK. Within the article they listed the 5 Best walks to look forward to once the pandemic was over.

Top of the list was one of my favourite walks – the 11 mile stretch along the Cleveland way from Staithes to Whitby.

As I have done this walk many times and last year took my camera, I thought that I would produce a short blog article about the walk….

We started the walk in the harbour in Staithes, just outside The Cod and Lobster pub. They do a good bacon buttie in here if you need some sustenance before you start.

Staithes owes its existence to the fishing industry which was important to the village which employed 300 + men and supported 120 boats in the past. The railway came to Staithes in 1885 and allowed Staithes fish to be transported around the UK. There are still a few fishing boats in Staithes harbour but these tend to be fishing for lobster and crab these days.

From the Cod and Lobster we headed up Church Street and picked up the path signed Cleveland Way – Port Mulgrave 1 mile. It is worth a stop here on the cliff edge as there is a fantastic view back of the whole of Staithes village which is one of the classic views. We followed the coastal path along the edge of the cliffs arriving at Port Mulgrave.

Port Mulgrave’s origins relate to the ironstone mining industry which transformed the coast in the mid nineteenth century. Ironstone found in local coastal seams and at Grinkle a short drive inland, was mined locally and then transported by boat to Jarrow to be smelted. A pier once exited where a railway line ran down it to carry ore to awaiting boats.

The harbour was blown up by the British army before World War 2 to stop the Germans from using it for landing. Nowadays it contains many fisherman’s huts where local fishermen mend their nets and moor their boats. It is also a top place for fossil hunting.

The path continues along the coast still following signs for Cleveland way and Runswick Bay. Upon coming out onto the road near The Runswick Bay Hotel, follow the steep road down to the beach.

Runswick Bay is a small village with its red roofed cottages overlooking a crescent shaped bay. Like Staithes it was originally a thriving fishing village but with a history of smugglers too. In 1682 most of the village was washed away and also in 1858 a storm washed away the local ironworks which was in the village. In 1970 a sea wall was put in place to protect the cottages and now there is a small sailing club.

If you have forgotten your flask, there is a small café overlooking the sea where you can get refreshments as well as The Royal Hotel Pub.

It is always worth checking the tide times as there is a stretch of beach walking along the sandy panoramic bay before reaching a small gulley with a beck running onto the beach. We entered the gulley and climbed the stepping stones to progress along the beck.

We took the steep climb back up to the cliff top from here, with steps up the cliffside and in some cases ropes to pull yourself up on. Once back on the cliff top we picked up the Cleveland Way signs again to Sandsend. There are some fantastic coastal views from the cliffs along this stretch as well as on the landward side prime agricultural land.

Just before reaching Sandsend – we pass through Sandsend Alum works once a thriving industry processing local rocks to make a valuable dye fixant for the textile industry. The works was set up in 1605 by the 1st Earl of Mulgrave and lasted until 1871 when cheap imports meant the industry was no longer viable in the UK. There is a trail with interpretive boards along this stretch of cliff.

In Sandsend there are some great little café’s including the Wits End Café next to the car park - we stopped for a cup of Yorkshire tea and a slice of Victoria Sponge before the last stretch up to Whitby Town.

Sandsend is a gorgeous little village which stretches along a sweep of beach, divided by a stream running into the sea, you can get your first clear views of historic Whitby Abbey from here . Sandsend is great for families with a long sandy beach, with its iconic groynes (wooden posts which help stop erosion of the beach from longshore drift) and ducks swimming in the beck. I have to admit we did crack here, being so close to the finish line we decided to have a cheeky beer in The Hart Inn – a great little stop.

From here we walked on the footpath along the road passing the signs on the right to Raithwaite Hall – an upmarket Hotel and Spa. We walked past Whitby golf course before reaching a path on the left which took us around onto West Cliff. We walked past the crazy golf, Whitby Pavilion to the Captain Cook Statue and the Whale bone arch. Monuments to Britain’s most famous explorer and a nod to Whitby’s past whaling heritage.

After this 11 mile walk – there was time to explore a few local haunts before a heart fish and chip supper at The Magpie. Needless to say we caught a taxi back to Staithes rather than walk back!

Distance: 11 miles 

Difficulty: moderate overall with some challenging cliff descents/ascents

Terrain: mainly cliff paths


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