Yorkshire Coastal Walk - Runswick Bay and Staithes
With spring in the air Terry Fletcher heads to the seaside for a bracing cliff top walk
Yorkshire’s rugged coastline is studded with dramatic headlands and beautiful bays. This walk links two of our most attractive coastal villages in an outing of two very distinct halves, the first passing through bird-filled woodland and the second a breezy tiptoe along the very rim of the county. The directions follow.
The walk starts in the centre of Runswick Bay but to really appreciate the village’s character it is best to use the beach car park, though this does mean a fearsome pull back up to the top of the village. For an easier, but less picturesque start, use the cliff top car park by the Cliffmount Hotel. Whichever is used return to the Runswick Bay Hotel in the village centre and head past it up Hinderwell Lane. Traffic is usually light along this brief section of road walking and it is blessed with a footpath for its full length.
As soon as Hinderwell is reached take a signed footpath on the left by a bus stop. At the road turn right for 100 yards and then left at the garage into Brown’s Terrace, which quickly becomes a dirt track. Follow it as it bends sharply to the right to pass behind the village with the buildings of Boulby potash mine ahead.
Here, more than 3,000ft underground is Yorkshire’s own version of the giant hadron collider where scientists are trying to identify the mysterious Dark Matter particles that theories suggest make up much of the universe.
After about 600 yards at another sharp right hand bend take the stile on the left. Press on down the farm track to another stile and then more steeply downhill to enter the woods. The path crosses a footbridge and climbs a flight of steps. At the top of the hill go through a gate and turn right along the edge of the trees for about 100 yards before another stile leads back into the woods. Turn left along a narrow trod through the deciduous woodlands until the path gains a faint ridge with wooded slopes falling away on either side.
At a crossroads of paths look for a yellow painted sign that says Oakridge Nature Reserve partially hidden behind a tree, which indicates the route.
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Pass the sign and continue along the now clearer path as it winds through the trees to reach a metal gate. Continue ahead along the broad grassy track which is enlivened by wooden sculptures and a splendidly archaic sign promising good pub grub in six furlongs (younger readers Google it!).
At the caravan site cross the bridge and ignore the signed path to Staithes but instead carry on ahead following the sign to Dalehouse. Where the track ends at a tarmac road turn right to pass the Fox and Hounds. Turn left by the pub along an old road which leads over a graceful bridge before climbing to the main road.
Turn left taking care to walk on the verge as it crests a brow and keep any children or pets under close control. After 50 yards, turn right onto the access track of Cowbar Farm. Just before the farm the path is signed in front of the buildings and then round to the right to pass under the arch of an old railway bridge and then go straight ahead to the cliff top. Here the character of the walk changes completely as the sea, so far barely hinted at since leaving Runswick Bay, bursts into view and will be a constant companion for rest of the route. This is the junction with the Cleveland Way which drops down into Staithes.
This is perhaps the village with the most character on the coast with a long history of fishing and was the haunt of smugglers and artists. Its cottages are jammed closely together with the narrowest of alleyways between them as they cling to steep sides of the inlet like coloured blocks from a child’s toy box. On a sunny day it is a peaceful spot but with a big sea running and waves pounding against the defences it is easy to appreciate the natural harbour.
Drop down to cross the narrow bridge into the main part of the village and pass the Cod and Lobster to turn right into Church Street passing the unassuming Captain Cook’s Cottage. The explorer spent 18 months in Staithes as a grocer’s apprentice before heading the call of the sea and sailing off to discover Australia.
At the top of the hill continue straight up the stone flagged path which leads unerringly along the cliff tops. When it eventually reaches tarmac immediately take the footpath downhill to the left and continue on until it eventually emerges in the car park of the Runswick Bay Hotel.
Distance: 7 miles/11.5km Time: 4 hours Start/finish: Runswick Bay
Terrain: Woodland tracks and cliff top paths. Some road walking at start
Parking: Pay and display car parks by the beach or next to the Cliffmount Hotel.
Refreshments: Pubs and caf�s in Runswick Bay and Staithes
Map: OS OL 27 North York Moors (Eastern