Map: L/R 94
Distance: about 10 miles
Difficulty: Moderate. Energetic cliff walking – a few steep climbs.
Terrain: mainly cliff paths, some pavements
Access: parking at both ends
Public transport: a few buses involving a change at Cloughton to Whitby from Ravenscar, or bus as last walk, Scarborough to Ravenscar. Check using Traveline website.
Leave Ravenscar following the Cleveland Way. There is a Coastal Centre to visit in the village and this is clearly marked if you wish to visit it. A little way along the path are good views of Robin Hood’s Bay. The bay has been severely eroded and is receding at the rate of about 20 feet every 100 years. Some of the large boulders that can be seen on the shore have come from as far away as Scandinavia during past ice ages. Fossils in the cliff are up to 150 million years old. One of the many legends concerning the name of the bay suggests that Robin Hood found refuge here disguised as a fisherman.
The walk passes Stoupe Beck Sands and Boggle Hole. Near here there were alum mines between the 17th and 19th centuries. The alum was used in the tanning and dyeing industries. Robin Hood’s Bay Village is a quaint attractive place. The area was known for smuggling in the 17th and 18th centuries and tunnels below some of the houses were used for getting contraband ashore secretly. Fishing has always been an important occupation here. Look out for the strange sculpture as you walk out of the village.
About a mile or so north of Robin Hood’s Bay Village is Ness Point or North Cheek. An information board near here gives details of how rescues were carried out by a rocket fired out to vessels in distress. This carried a thin rope (the whip) which was attached to the vessel in trouble and a thicker rope (a hawser) was then sent along the whip. A breeches buoy was then attached to the hawser and sent to the ship – the individual then sat in this and was hauled back to land. The layered rock formations revealed by the erosion are particularly interesting to look at along this stretch – an especially good view of them is at Saltwick Nab to the south of Whitby. Look out for the lighthouse at Black Nab near Saltwick Bay.
The first sign of Whitby is the harbour wall and entrance. It was the country’s leading whale port until in 1837 when the trade stopped. Captain William Scoresby who captured 533 whales and invented the crow’s nest is very famous in the town. Since then Whitby has become better known for its black jet usually worn as jewellery although it was once burnt by the Romans who believed its smoke relieved hysteria. The jet is the compressed remains of wood from 20 million years ago. It is for sale in several Whitby shops.
The path through Whitby enters via the churchyard with the abbey on your left. It is well worth a walk up to the ruins of the abbey founded by St Hilda in 657. This is where Brother Caedmon is credited with writing the first English hymns. The building was destroyed during the dissolution of the monasteries in 1539. Whitby is a bustling busy place with plenty to do and see. It was named as best holiday resort in 2006 by the magazine ‘Which’.
Further into the town is a swing bridge over the River Esk. This was built in 1908 to replace an earlier version in 1832 which in turn replaced an earlier one dating back before the 1400s. Bram Stoker set some of his famous story ‘Dracula’ in Whitby and there are conventions here to celebrate this. (You may wonder why there are people dressed as vampires!) Captain Cook went to sea for the first time from Whitby in 1746 as an apprentice seaman. Ten years later he joined the Royal Navy embarking on many voyages before meeting his end in Hawaii. Whitby was the 7th largest port in England when Cook first went to sea in 1746.
Photos show: a view from Ravenscar, Robin Hoods Bay, the sculpture at Robin Hoods Bay Village and Whitby Abbey