Runswick Bay To Robin Hood’s Bay Yorkshire
It’s Tuesday 24th April 18 and after a good night’s rest at the Firs Guesthouse and a cracking meal at the Cliffemount Hotel, myself and Dave Evans are ready for day two of our Cleveland Way adventure from Runswick Bay to Robin Hood’s Bay. Having arrived late the short walk down into Runswick Bay in glorious sunshine is the perfect start to today’s walking. The wonderful coastal village is just stunning and I know from the locals they are immensely proud of their village. Two such locals, Lisa & Andy, regulars at the Cliffemount hotel, informing us that it was much better than Staithes along the coast, claiming that they had a far better beach. Well not to get caught up in a turf war :), I can say hand on heart that both villages are different and both very beautiful, although Runswick Bay does win the best beach award out of the two, due to its large sweeping bay. So dodging that diplomatic incident we start our walk from down on the front and head out into the sandy bay before the tide gets too high. A word of warning here, if the tide is high it would mean a slightly longer walk inland, so please set off before high tide giving yourself plenty of time to reach Hob Holes steps.
Behind Dave you can see that the beach is in front of the charming Runswick Bay village built into the steep hillside.
In Runswick Bay there are areas that you can clearly see large groups of fossilised Ammonite (including the common Dactylioceras tenuicostatum) from the Early to Late Liassic (Lower Jurassic) period. The entire coastline from Redcar down to Scarborough, consists of Jurassic rocks. It is now believed that some of these groups of Ammonites might actually be dinosaurs vomit. It seems that Ichthyosaurs would eat ammonites and after a while would need a clear out, honking up the partly digested ammonite shells. Ichthyosaurs (Greek for “fish lizard” – ichthys meaning “fish” and sauros meaning “lizard”) where large marine reptiles.
The famous Hobs Holes Runswick Bay are steeped in folklore, “Hobs, hobmen and hobbits (the latter term originating in Victorian times rather than in J R R Tolkien’s imagination) are all descriptions of the mischievous spirits which once populated Yorkshire, particularly the North York Moors and coast. Indeed, Westwood & Simpson in their book Lore of the Land comment that Yorkshire is “notable hob territory”. There was ‘Hodge Hob o’ Bransdale’, Lealholm Hob and ‘Hob o’ Hasty Bank’ to name just a few.
A few hobs haunted a particular neighbourhood, but most were more benign spirits, living with a family in exchange for helping out with the household tasks, or were more like guardian angels, such as the hob of Marske-by-the-Sea who rebuilt the village church when it was demolished.
At nearby Runswick Bay are natural caves in the cliffs known locally as Hob Holes (pictured). Here lived a hob who had the magical power of curing children of whooping cough, according to nineteenth-century historian John Walker Ord:
“The patient was carried into the cave, and the parent with a loud voice invoked its deity:
My bairn’s gettin’ t’ kink-cough,
Tak’t off, tak’t off!”
Sadly on our visit the Hob was not at home, but it wants to be careful when sticking its head out, due to coastal erosion the caves are being blocked and bombarded by falling mud and rocks.
In this photo the dark black slate like rock in the tide wash, is where you will find the Ammonites.
As mentioned already Hobs Hole is where you eventually climb back up the sea cliffs via steps up the side of a flowing beck onto the Cleveland Way path. Please note these wet steps are very slippery and handrails have been provided, so please take your time and don’t get hurt.
Further along the path near Kettleness I happen to notice a small path going off the edge of the cliff, spotting a defined path down the cliff, I decided to have a look. Once down I was surprised to find the south portal of the Kettleness railway tunnel which was built by the North Eastern Railway in 1883 and closed in 1958. It was situated on the Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union railway line and is a relatively short tunnel at 308 yds long.
Also I was interested to read on another post, that Kettleness is officially the remotest village in Yorkshire due to the distance it lies from the nearest form of public transport, which is unfortunate as there was a railway station here serving this remote community when the railway line was open.
On the cliffs above Loop Wyke, Goldsborough, I noticed this homemade sign post and could just imagine someone being all pleased with themselves that they had made such a wonderful sign and that it was going to give everyone an idea of how far they had walked on the Cleveland Way. Then that moment of horror when they realised they had missed an L in Helmsley, no worries, a small adjustment and all’s good in the world.
Sandsend Tunnel south entrance on the Cleveland Way. Like Kettleness tunnel, Sandsend tunnel is another tunnel on the former Whitby, Redcar and Middlesbrough Union railway line that was opened in 1883 and closed in 1958. The rail line that ran through it was originally intended to travel along the top of the cliffs, however some of the cliff fell into the sea whilst construction was taking place, so North Eastern Railway constructed two tunnels, the Sandsend tunnel and the Kettleness tunnel. Sandsend tunnel being the longer of the two tunnels at 1,652 yards (0.94 miles) in length. It is predominantly straight but the north-western 300 yards incorporates a curve to the north. For some great photos of the inside of these two tunnels, please follow this link.
Spotting a path, I could not resist walking out on the alum shale dump at the end of Sandsend Ness, which gave a fantastic view right across the bay to Whitby ahead. However a word of warning, I stayed away from the cliff edge, the height and proximity of this shale dump should not be underestimated.
As we entered Sandsend a crowd had gathered by the car park near the slipway concerned about this Grey Seal’s safety. However, having read somewhere that many Grey Seals turn up in strange places just to rest, I had no worries there was anything wrong with it. While everyone rung round to ask the local marine life rescue centers for advice, I was eventually proved right and everyone went on their way. However I have to say it is lovely to hear and see so many people concerned about our sea mammals and the conversations about plastic etc. in the sea. Bazaarly though and as sweet as they were concerned about the seals safety, two Goths from head to toe in black painted leather, platform shoes and make up who were down for the annual Goth weekend on the 28th April, seemed a bit surreal. What a great couple.
I also have to give a huge shout out to Geraldine Horton & Rufus her dog, who we met at Sandsend Beach clearing up plastic, rope and fishing net from the foreshore. Geraldine spends her spare time helping keep the beaches of North Yorkshire clean. After a brief chat, I did take a photo of us together, but sadly it was spoilt by my camera focus. However I did manage to find this lovely photo of Rufus her litter clearing sidekick with a selection of rubbish she managed to clear off the foreshore on the day we met her. Today it’s great to see so many people like Geraldine getting involved to help clean up both the beach and countryside, I salute them all.
Nearing Whitby the weather takes a turn for the worse and the rest of the day will be blighted by rain. So after putting on our waterproofs, we eventually arrive at the Whale Bone Arch and Captain Cook memorial monument on West Cliff, Whitby.
On Cook’s Memorial the plaques read on the front: To Strive, to seek to find and not to yield, to commemorate the men who built, the Whitby Ships and the men who sailed with him. On the North Side: In every situation he stood unrivalled and alone on him all eyes were turned. Interestingly all of Cook’s Ships, were built in Whitby at Thomas Fishburn’s shipyard, Endeavour – previously called the Earl of Pembroke, Resolution – previously called Drake, Adventure- – previously called Raleigh & Discovery. The Distinctive design of the Whitby Colliers “Cats” was perfectly suited for Cook’s famous exploration of the South Seas. The flat-bottomed design was developed to serve the alum trade, for which ships needed to “take the ground” safely. This feature made them ideal for cook’s adventures, when he landed in unknown waters, without harbours.
In the 18th and 19th centuries the whaling industry was thriving in the seaside town of Whitby. Dozens of ships braved the Arctic seas off Greenland to hunt these elusive leviathans for their lucrative whale oil. Many of the crews never came back. Whaling was a chance for great wealth for those who managed a successful catch, but incredibly dangerous. Many boats were capsized and men killed. On a fleet’s return to port, eager onlookers would watch for the telltale sign of good news: Crews would tie a whale’s jaw bone atop the ship’s mast as a sign that they had killed the animal and not the other way around. To recognize this tradition and the town’s important whaling history, a whale bone arch was erected on Whitby’s West Cliff in 1853. Picturesque though it be, the current whale bone arch in Whitby is not the original; it’s actually the third arch to stand in this spot. In 1963 the original whale arch was replaced by 20-foot jaw bones from a 113-ton Fin whale killed by a Norwegian whaling ship. After withstanding decades of East Coast storms and gales, by the 1990s the arch was so weathered it was at risk of crumbling, so was taken down and replaced in 2003 by the present-day whale bone arch, which came from a Bowhead whale killed legally by native Alaskan Inuits.
The Whitby Harbour Piers (East and West) can be found at the mouth of the River Esk. These piers are much loved by locals, visitors from across the UK and even worldwide. The grade II listed piers each have a lighthouse and beacon. There has been some form of harbour protection at the mouth of the River Esk since the early 1300’s. The outer piers at Whitby (Past the lighthouses after the stone piers) are known as the Pier Extensions. They were built between the years of 1908 and 1914 and stand pretty much as built right up to the present day, although a poor level of maintenance by their caretakers Scarborough Borough Council means the Extensions are currently in a very poor state of repair and closed to the public. The iconic West Lighthouse was built in 1831 and is the taller at 84 feet (25.5 m) and the East Lighthouse, built in 1855, is 54 feet (16.5 m) high. On the west pier extension is a foghorn that sounds a blast every 30 seconds during fog.
Whitby meaning “White Settlement” in Old Norse, has a huge history and is a place everyone should visit at least once in their lives. Tourism supported by fishing is the mainstay of Whitby’s economy and after a short coffee break it was time to continue onto Robin Hood’s Bay. After meandering through the new town and over the Whitby Harbour Swing Bridge into the old town quarter, it was time to climb the infamous flight of 199 steps up the east cliff to St Mary’s churchyard. At the very top you will see the Caedmon’s Cross raised in 1898, a late Victorian-style Celtic cross that commemorates the famous 7th century Anglo-Saxon poet, Caedmon. He lived for most of his life at St Hilda’s monastic community of Streonaeshalch (the 7th century name for Whitby), the predecessor to the present-day abbey, as a lay brother and herdsman. But Caedmon was to become an outstanding religious poet, and we have St Hilda to thank for that! The cross is richly decorated on all four sides and, although it’s not an ‘ancient’ cross as such – it’s still remarkably stunning.
Two views from the church graveyard looking back down over Whitby and the River Esk. From this height you can clearly see the Pier Extensions at the end of the harbours East & West Piers.
The Church of St Mary’s Whitby was founded around 1110, although its interior dates chiefly from the late 18th century. The church was designated a Grade I listed building on 23 February 1954. Now visitors flock to the church due to the fact that it is mentioned in Bram Stoker’s Dracula along with the ruins of Whitby Abbey.
From his book “For a moment or two I could see nothing, as the shadow of a cloud obscured St. Mary’s Church. Then as the cloud passed I could see the ruins of the Abbey coming into view; and as the edge of a narrow band of light as sharp as a sword-cut moved along, the church and churchyard became gradually visible… It seemed to me as though something dark stood behind the seat where the white figure shone, and bent over it. What it was, whether man or beast, I could not tell”.
Interestingly I have read that the Graveyard has suffered from erosion and human remains have fallen onto the street below and pathways on the cliff-side of the church have been closed. However it is thought that the church itself is safe at this time, being built on a solid rock foundation.
The Iconic ruins of Whitby Abbey are among the most celebrated sights of North Yorkshire. The first monastery here, founded in about 657, became one of the most important religious centres in the Anglo-Saxon world. In 664 it was the setting for the Synod of Whitby, a landmark in the history of the Church in England. The headland is now dominated by the shell of the 13th-century church of the Benedictine abbey founded after the Norman Conquest and destroyed by Henry VIII in 1540 during the “Dissolution of the Monasteries”.
Whilst staying in the West Cliff area overlooking the Abbey ruins, back in 1890, Bram Stoker became totally inspired by the Abbey’s Gothic splendour , and it assisted him with creating the world-famous novel “Dracula”, with noting the atmospheric backdrop and taking in many features of the town including the Abbey ruins, the Church and tombstones, “. Whitby’s rooftops, and bats occasionally seen flying around, all adding to the atmosphere.
In his book, the ships log charts the gradual disappearance of the entire crew during the journey to Whitby, until only the captain is left, tied to the wheel, as the ship runs aground below East Cliff on 8 August – (the date that marked Stoker’s discovery of the name ‘Dracula’ in Whitby library). A ‘large dog’ bounds from the wreck and runs up the 199 steps to the church, and from this moment, things begin to go horribly wrong. Dracula has arrived …
The distinctive Shark fin rock of Black Nab at Saltwick Bay. Saltwick Bay also contains the remains of Saltwick Nab alum quarries and the bay part of the “Saltwick Formation” is well known for the collection of fossils found there.
Whitby Lighthouse is a lighthouse operated by Trinity House. It is located on Ling Hill, on the coast south-east of Whitby, beyond Saltwick Bay. Originally, it was one of a pair of towers aligned north-south and known as the twin lights of Whitby North (also known as the High Light) and Whitby South their purpose was to show fixed lights over Whitby Rock. In 1890, a more efficient light was installed in the High Light, allowing the South Light to be deactivated. The lighthouse was electrified in 1976 and automated in 1992. The former lighthouse keepers’ cottages and the Whitby Fog Signal located adjacent to the lighthouse which has also been deactivated are now used as holiday accommodation available to hire by holidaymakers.
At Hawsker Bottom The famous Coast to Coast Path (C2C) joins the Cleveland Way on the stretch into Robin Hood’s Bay where it finishes near the Bay Hotel Inn. Having done it, I can strongly recommend the walk to anyone.
It never surprises me how industrious people can be, like this sign, I spotted it on my Coast to Coast walk some years earlier and it just tickled me. Someone took the time to draw a pee line from the gentleman warning people of the danger near the cliffs edge and it still remains to this day.
On the undulating path at Hawsker Bottoms above White Stone Hole is this stone gate post with markings on, despite my best efforts I could find nothing about it online. If anyone does find out more, please let me know.
The rain at this point is getting very heavy and head on, but we are nearing the end and the scenery is still outstanding above the sea cliffs.
At Bay Ness Farm not far from the path, there is a white Minewatch/Observation Post. The timber lookout is mounted upon the brick and concrete shelter that has observation ports. From 1906 there has been a Coast Guard (CG) lookout at this site, in 1911, 1917 and 1920 was a normal CG lookout. In 1937 it was designated as a peacetime Occasional Station and a wartime War Watch Station, in 1939 it was designated a War Watch Station III and in 1961 a Coast War Watch Station III.
Finally we get our first look at Robin Hood’s Bay from Ness Point and not before time. We are wet, hungry and ready for a break from the weather.
An old railway bridge that once carried the rails and trains of the Whitby to Scarborough railway line that closed in the 1960’s. The Scarborough & Whitby Railway opened on 16 July 1885 and served the fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay and to a lesser extent, the village of Fylingthorpe. It is now part of the Sustran Cycle Route No. 1, section 6 (The Cinder Track), which runs from my home county Kent at Dover to the Shetland Islands 1,695 miles.
We have just walked pass Ness Point, which has been the downfall of many a sailor and fisherman. So notorious was the headland, that Robin Hood’s Bay ran its own lifeboat service until a Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) station was set up in 1881. It operated until 1931 – rescuing a total of 91 people in its 50 years of service. Here the curiously named Rocket Post Field is a reminder of those days. In this field there was a post that was once used to practice cliff rescues. A rocket with a rope attached was fired from the post to a stranded ship, and the survivors would then return to safety via the ‘breeches buoy’ – a pair of large canvas shorts and a lifebuoy hanging from the rope. The crew of the steam cargo ship Heatherfield were rescued in this way in 1936 – including the captain, clutching his pet canary!
Now running a bit late the Rocket Field marks the last feature we will see today on this section of the walk. Having received a phone call from Steve and Bob to ask where we had got to and to inform us that they were already in the Victoria Hotel Inn waiting for us. It was a quick check in at the Streonshalh Bed & Breakfast right on the Cleveland Way path, a shower and back out into the rain for a hot meal and a few pints. It’s always great to catch up with friends we haven’t seen for a while and this night was no different. Lets hope its not so long before the next get together or walk. 17.03 miles.
Please remember I am walking the coast in aid of Demelza Children’s Hospice and any donation no matter how small would be very much appreciated. Please see the Donate link on the home page above. Thank you Shaun.