Robin Hood’s Bay To Scarborough Yorkshire
It’s Wednesday 25th April 18 and after a great night’s rest and a breakfast fit for a walking king, at the wonderful Streonshalh Bed & Breakfast, it’s time for me and Dave Evans to say goodbye to Steve & Bob, before heading out on our next coastal adventure to Scarborough. Today the weather is stunning with bright sunshine and we are really looking forward to today’s walk, especially through Robin Hood’s Bay.
Quoting online sources, Robin Hood’s Bay is one of the most picturesque coastal villages in England, a timeless place of narrow, cobbled lanes and fishermen’s cottages crammed together near a secluded harbour once haunted by smugglers. Forget the deckchairs and dodgems; this is Yorkshire’s coastline at its most raw and elemental. Here, brooding cliffs tower over a huddle of red roofed former fishing cottages that spill right down to the edge of the sea, creating a ‘lost in time’ getaway for anyone who loves breathtaking scenery. The village has become exceptionally popular as a holiday destination, lined with lovely cottages, shops, cafes and tea rooms. From near the Victoria Hotel the steep street (New Road) snakes down from the clifftop to the beach (known as the Wayfoot) at the bottom. Visitors vehicles are banned in part from the harbour area, so if driving you need to park at the top and walk down, which means a steep climb back up.
The maze of tiny streets, have a tradition of smuggling and there is reputed to be a network of subterranean passageways linking some of these houses. During the late 18th century smuggling was rife on the Yorkshire coast. Vessels from the Continent brought contraband which was distributed by contacts on land and the operations were financed by syndicates who made profits without the risks taken by the seamen and the villagers. Tea, gin, rum, brandy and tobacco were among the contraband smuggled into Yorkshire from the Netherlands and France to avoid the duty. It was said that a bale of silk could pass from the bottom of the village to the top without leaving the houses.
I was interested to read that the threat of the excise men was not the only danger to Bayfolk in Bay Town (Bay being the local name for Robin hood’s Bay). In the late 18th century and early 19th century, the Press Gangs were feared and hated. Sailors and fishermen were supposed to be exempt but, in reality, rarely were. Once ‘pressed’, their chances of returning to their homes were not high. Village women would beat a drum to warn the men folk that the Press Gangs had arrived and it was not unusual for the Press Gang to be attacked and beaten off.
The famous Bay Hotel, which today signifies the end of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk. Inside there is a register for anyone who has completed the walk, to write down their name to be recorded in posterity. It also allows you to buy a well earned drink to celebrate your personal achievement or reminisce about the walk with others.
The origin of the name Robin Hood’s Bay is uncertain, and it is doubtful if Robin Hood was ever in the vicinity. But English Folklore tells a story of Robin Hood encountering French pirates who came to pillage the fisherman’s boats and the northeast coast. The pirates surrendered and Robin Hood returned the loot to the poor people in the village that is now called Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s a wonderful spot and with the tide being out, it gives us the chance to walk through the bay rather than around it.
Here at Boggle Hole, Fylingthorpe, Mill Beck flows into Robin Hood’s Bay. The mill just ahead, is now a very good (YHA) youth hostel, which underwent a £1.2million renovation in 2015. After the eight month refurbishment, you can now stay in this highly rated youth hostel, which is known locally for its quirky use of reclaimed timbers, upcycled furniture, flotsam and jetsam from the beach. There is also a cafe/bar, which is walker and dog friendly.
Boggle Hole cave at the entrance to Mill Beck. Boggle is the local name for a hobgoblin or hob, the mischievous ‘little people’ that were thought to live in caves along the coast as well as the more remote corners of the Moors. Boggle Hole was also where smugglers used to land their contraband.
At Boggle Hole we met a Farmer who had bought his Border Collie down to the beach for a swim. I asked him if we were to continue around the bay on the beach, whether there were other escape routes back up the cliffs onto the Cleveland Way path. After a brief discussion and the checking of the tides on his phone, he confirmed that we had three hours before high tide and advised us that we should be able to make the last escape route easily in three hours, plus we would get to see the Seal colony at Old Peak, Ravenscar. For me this chance encounter was to be one of the best we would make over the four days walking the Cleveland Way. However it did come with a slight risk in several ways, but thanks to this man we got to see some of the best features of Robin Hood’s Bay.
This is another escape route back up at Stoupe Beck Sands, which is halfway around Robin hood’s Bay and right on the Cleveland Way path. A word of warning, this is the last escape until Old Peak and there is no way up between these two points. Please note the fact that I am writing this meant I had enough time to make Old Peak, but thirty minutes more and it would have been tight, so probably best to walk through this area at low water only.
As we walked around the bay we noticed two white lines in the sea cliffs ahead and as we got closer they turned out be two stunning waterfalls. This is the first.
Looking back at Robin Hood’s Bay, it’s such a lovely day for walking.
The green bank ahead is Old Peak or South Cheek, on the map. This the point we can get back up the cliff at Ravenscar, however if you look closer the tide is coming in and we still have a little way to go. So it’s something we need to be aware of and keep a close eye on.
The second larger waterfall at Robin Hood’s Bay which is featured on my title picture. These waterfalls are formed from water running out of Brow Moor high above on the hill.
After passing both waterfalls and keeping up the pace due to the tide closing in, we could start to relax a little bit now due to the fact that we knew we could make the grass bank at Old Peak and the path back up to Ravenscar easily. However as I have said already I would not attempt this walk again unless it was low water or I knew that the tide was falling. The Farmer was right, but I would want a bit more time, just for safety.
Now the same Farmer also said if we went this way we would get to see the Seal colony on the headland. What I didn’t realise was that we would not only see the Seal colony, but we would find ourselves in it! Thinking we had found one resting Seal, we soon suddenly realised we had quite a few around us. So we carefully picked our route through the rocks, trying to avoid where possible groups of Seals, stopping only for a few photos. There were Seals everywhere we turned, including baby Seals, but hopefully we did not cause them too much stress. One larger Seal did bark at us and several made for the safety of the water, but we were soon past them and out of their way when we reached the grass bank. After a small scramble up the bank we found the signed footpath back to the top, but as we climbed up the slope, we realised that we had only gone through a tiny section of the seals and we could see a larger herd and they were dotted everywhere. For me this event will live long in the memory and I am just so glad we walked this way. In my life I have seen seals, but to see them this close up in their natural habitat, made our day. If you ever visit Ravenscar pop down to the viewing point at Old Peak, you can actually see the Seals quite safely from above, at a safe distance without disturbing them, it’s worth seeing.
At Old Peak you get to see the whole of Robin Hood’s Bay and the view is quite breathtaking! It is a spot loved by Photographers, Artists and Geologists alike. The Peak Fault here is a major break in the layers of rock. The path descends roughly down the line of this fault. North to Robin Hood’s Bay the rocks are Lower Jurassic formed from sands and silts deposited 200 million years ago when the whole area was below sea level and dinosaurs roamed. South, to Scarborough, there are younger Middle Jurassic rocks at this level. Seismic forces caused the fault to occur about 70 million years ago.
Dave heading up Old Peak.
The battlements of Raven Hall Ravenscar (formally Peak House). In 1540, a farm known as Peak House owned by the Beswick family occupied the site of a 5th-century Roman fort. In 1774 Raven Hall was built on the site for Captain William Childs of London, a captain in the King’s Regiment of Light Dragoons, who came to Yorkshire with the army and became the owner of the Alum Works at Ravenscar. On his death in 1829 the hall passed to his daughter Ann Willis, whose family (headed by Dr Francis Willis) had become wealthy from treating George III and other royalty for their medical conditions. Ann’s son, the eccentric Rev Dr Richard Willis, built the gardens and battlements which surround the house today. In 1845 the property passed into the hands of William Hammond of London.
Hammond became a prominent local benefactor, building the village church and the windmill. He became a director of the Scarborough to Whitby railway line, insisting that it passed through his property via a tunnel and that Ravenscar should have a station.
On his widow’s death in 1890 the estate was sold to the Peak Estate Company for development as a holiday resort. The house was extended for use as a hotel from 1895, and its golf course opened in 1898. It was sold by auction in 1911 after the company went bankrupt, and after several changes of ownership and use as a billet in wartime, it was acquired by the present owners.
Ravenscar Chain Home Low Radar Station lies in a field on a cliff top just to the south of the village of Ravenscar near Scarborough, an area known as Bent Rigg. Constructed as part of a coastal defence radar system in 1941, the station continued in use until after the Second World War. Today you can still see the intact remains of four brick buildings: a transmitter/receiver block, fuel store, engine house and a communications hut with a distinctive barrel shaped corrugated roof. In the corner of the same field, the footings of a complex of about a dozen barrack blocks and other domestic buildings are visible, though it takes a little more imagination to picture them in their heyday.
Following the end of the war, the buildings were sadly neglected for many years. It seems likely that most of the domestic/barracks structures were demolished when the station was decommissioned although one or two were kept, possibly for agricultural use. In this exposed and windswept spot livestock certainly appreciate any form of shelter, as proved by the several inches of muck found covering the floors of the remaining structures.
After a brief stop at the Ravenscar Radar Station to put on our waterproofs due to a heavy isolated rain shower, within 15 minutes, we are taking them back off again due to no further sign of rain clouds. The view ahead is over Hayburn Wyke and a notice on the path tells us there is a diversion from the path inland, due to a landslide. However while in the tearoom at Ravenscar a woman had said that the cliff path diversion had caused some debate with local and visiting walkers. Some walkers were walking it without issues and others had said it was passable, but was a bit challenging around some collapsed steps. So after a brief chat with Dave we decided to stick with the cliff top walk and not divert. My reasoning for this was that I have found that after landslides paths eventually recover. Sometimes it’s up to us walkers to find and help make a new route with footfall around an obstacle, if safe to do so. If we were to wait for some local authorities to sort these paths out, it could take a long time due to costs. I know that they sometimes divert a footpath because it is definitely unsafe and I am glad they have our backs, but for me personally I would like to take a look and if it’s unsafe I would simply backtrack and use the diversion. I know this is controversial, but with footpaths now coming under the umbrella of the local highways agencies, I believe our footpaths will start to suffer due to costs, with these same agencies prioritising road works over footpath maintenance. The worry for me being, that many paths may not reopen at all.
Now, having said that, on this occasion I was proved right. The path steps had indeed moved, but it was an easy fix and a temporary path snaking around the steps could have been put in place within a few hours by two people. However left like this it would not have been passable by those with walking difficulties, so I do see the reason for the diversion. I can see both sides of this debate, but I am glad I went this way, because the coastal views through that section were beautiful and not to be missed. Although I do feel a bit naughty.
After the excitement of the diversion it was time for a cold drink and right on the path at Hayburn Wyke is the Hayburn Wyke Hotel. This stunning traditional English country pub has got to be in my opinion one of the nicest pubs that I have ever been to. I could have sat there in the sunshine all day and it’s only five minutes off the footpath. It is one I will return to again as soon as I can for a spot of lunch. Hayburn Wyke is one of the many jewels on the Yorkshire coast and the unusual name reflects the history of the area’s many inhabitants over the centuries. Hayburn is an Anglo-Saxon name meaning ‘hunting enclosure in a stream’ and Wyke is a Norse word for ‘sea inlet or creek’.
After Hayburn Wyke the path undulates and becomes a little bit featureless, but it’s still beautiful in the sunshine along the stunning sea cliffs. I am left wondering about some of the place names on my map like, Rodger Trod, Hundale Point, Long Nab and Sailors Grave. This coastline is synonymous with shipwrecks and Sailors Grave gets its name from stories of dead shipwrecked sailors bodies being washed by the tide into Sailor’s Grave, a lonely rock pool below the cliffs at Cromer Point. Just imagine the prospect of shipwreck survivors along this coast: climb the cliffs or die. In the past many have been found, half dead, at the top, too exhausted to even crawl to the nearest house.
From Long Nab we get the first view of Scalby Ness Rocks and Castle Cliff Scarborough. At this point we also meet Lisa McCoy who in 2018 is attempting to walk all 19 UK National Trails (3029 miles) in a calendar year. So far on her Twitter feed she has done 4.9 out of 19. Not only is she attempting this great feat, but for most of it she is camping carrying all her gear. We wish her every success and will continue to monitor your progress.
This section of coastline near Scalby Ness Rocks is another very good location for collecting fossils, especially fossilised plant remains. The cliffs and intertidal reefs at Scalby Ness provide an almost complete section through the rocks of the Lower and Middle Jurassic Aalenian, Bajocian and Bathonian stages. The exposures here are of national importance according to this paper.
“The coast section between Hundale Point and Scalby Ness exposes the best and most important sections of the Scalby Formation. In the vicinity of Hundale Point the Moor Grit is well-displayed and is interpreted as the depositional product of a braided river system. Between Long Nab and Scalby Ness an exhumed meander belt is clearly seen in the cliff and foreshore exposures of the Long Nab Member. Numerous fossil dinosaur footprints occur in the Scalby Formation at Burniston Wyke. The whole section from Hundale to Scalby is of high sedimentological importance and is the subject of continuing research. As a model for aiding the interpretation of some Middle Jurassic oil reservoir formations of the northern North Sea (e.g. the Brent Sands), the section is of considerable interest to, and is frequently visited by, geologists in the oil industry. At Scalby ness plant beds within the Scalby Formation contain an important fossil flora, well known for its outstanding examples of numerous Ginkgoales. The most significant, Ginkgo huttoni, here at its type locality, closely resembles the only extant species, Ginkgo biloba. This site encompasses four locations identified as of national importance in the Geological Conservation Review, viz Iron Scar-Hundale (Aalenian-Bajocian); Cloughton Wyke Palaeobotany); Hundale Point-Scalby Ness (Bathonian) and Scalby Ness (Palaeobotany)”.
At Long Nab there is a former Coastguard lookout station, built in 1927. It was one of several along the Yorkshire Coast which were regularly manned in bad weather. During World War II Long Nab was manned 24 hours a day by two coastguards. The lookout continued in use after the war but closed in 1992 as a result of the increased use of radar and a reorganisation of the Coastguard Service. It had a brick-built Bomb Shelter built beside it during WWII to offer some protection in the event of enemy action. In 1993 the lookout was taken over and renovated by Scalby Nabs Ornithology Group. It is now used as a birdwatching station to study coastal migration.
These two stones inscribed “BY FOOT OF CLIFF” are on the clifftop near Scalby, I have no idea what they are here for and can not find anything about them online. If anyone does know please let me know, thank you.
From Scalby Ness Rocks you get a clear view across North Bay to Castle Hill, Scarborough.
On arrival into North Bay we popped into the Old Scalby Mill public house for a quick pint. Lisa soon caught up with us again and joined us to talk about everything walking, but soon it was time to say our goodbyes and to wish her well. After a nice walk across the North Bay sands, we had one last push up the hill to our lovely hotel The Leeway on Queens Parade.