Cleveland Way #7 – Staithes to Whitby

I’m beginning to feel like Mr Benn. Every day I wake up in a different room and it takes a second to work out where I am and remember what I’m doing. Today I’m a sailor. At least I’m in a nautically themed bedroom in a harbour cottage built by a sea captain and seagulls are making a racket outside.

With another huge cooked breakfast under (and indeed over) my belt my landlady asks about today’s walk and when I tell her I’m off to Whitby she asks me whether the tide will allow me to traverse Runswick Bay. If only I had actually read my soggy guide book – it does actually say that you can’t complete this section of the walk if the tide is in. Fortunately it’s going to be out, but that’s just pure chance.

Victim of the elements on Friday's walk of misery
Victim of the elements on Friday’s walk of misery

During check-out the landlady once again stands passively by and watches her cat rub moulting hair all over my rucksack and attempting to lick my water supply mouthpiece, before I whip it out of kitty’s unhygienic grasp. She is a cat obsessive to the point that not only does she let them do what they want but they know that they are more important than her or any of her guests.

It can't be - or can it?
It can’t be – or can it?

Staithes harbour detains me for some more photos, not only of the natural scenery but also of the BBC camera unit filming Old Jacks Boat. What’s this? – CRIBBINS AHOY!!

Cribbins!
Cribbins!

Bernard Cribbins – the great old man himself – is there mulling around in the lead role of Old Jack. This is a man who has featured in Carry On films, worked with Alfred Hitchcock, appeared in a Bond film, narrated the Wombles and almost landed the Dr Who role ahead of Tom Baker.

Salty the dog
Salty the dog

From what I overheard last night in the Cod And Lobster he secured the Old Jack role ahead of Sir Ian McKellan, while his wage demands forced them to drop Angelina Jolie and Morgan Freeman from the original supporting cast. Just rumours mind. Apparently I’m not able to talk to him as he is “in character” but I do get to stroke Salty the dog – the real star of the show.

The REAL work still goes on in Staithes
The REAL work still goes on in Staithes

All of this is obviously a time-wasting scheme to delay my first hill of the day. In fact the hills are getting easier as is the walk itself.


Former quarrying site Port Mulgrave is soon upon me. A perplexed looking man asks me if there is a way down to the sea. I passed a sign to the cove just 30 yards back and I can see another sign ahead – he can’t have looked very hard. It’s only a tiny inlet and there won’t be much down there but since he pulled up in a Range Rover he probably just has a body to dump.

The top catch from Bully's prize board
The top catch from Bully’s prize board

Runswick Bay 40 minutes later is an altogether more impressive affair. A rotund fisherman dressed for all-weather action sits in his fishing vessel as a tractor tows it to the sea. Incongruously he sips tea from a dainty cup while his vessel is not some crusty old wooden junk but a flash speedboat. Maybe he’s just some amateur carp fisherman who won the star prize on Bullseye.

Low tide at Runswick Bay
Low tide at Runswick Bay

The panoramic bay is sandy until it meets the cliffs which explains why the walk cannot be completed at high tide. Time to write a post card and read the Cleveland Way guide book – something I haven’t been doing since it was borrowed by Davy Crockett. It says that there are caves in the cliffs known as Hob Holes and that according to legend whooping cough can be cured by the hob-goblins that live in them. I could be mistaken but I’m sure I heard this quoted somewhere before, perhaps from Gillian McKeith.

Into the valley of confusion
Into the valley of confusion

Did the hob goblins sense my scepticism and seek to punish me? All I know is that after passing the caves and entering a signposted gully I managed to miss the turn-off for the trail and continue walking up a steep path for some considerable distance, through a strange assortment of grouse enclosures littered with shotgun cartridges. The mistake cost me an hour and robbed me of my sanity. On the plus side I saw an otter that I would otherwise have missed, in a hillbilly valley that was just one banjo short of “Deliverence”.

From now on I will double check the signs
From now on I will double check the signs

Once normality is restored the journey to Sandsend is easy and rapid. The precipitous cliff path offers some dramatic views down to the sea with the horizon broken only by the odd container ship. There’s a hive of farming activity on the landside as purposeful growling machines plough and harvest. I envy the farm-hand that gets to drive the Claus Dominator. Their workload must diminish a little each year as landside succumbs to landslide.

A chance to put my feet up
A chance to put my feet up

Eventually I round the headland into Sandsend where I camp myself at a cafe overlooking the beach and order a coffee. There’s plenty to keep me entertained. Four cute ducks waddle in line across the sand until they reach a freshwater stream that feeds the sea. An ADHD kid runs around the sandy expanse shouting to nobody like a lunatic (I’m just jealous). Best of all, a flash-mob style gathering of people picking through the piles of storm blown driftwood for any samples that can be passed off as art or interior decoration. Habitat is dead. Long live Habitat.

Driftwood but no whisky
Driftwood but no whisky

There is just enough time to complete the walk to Whitby via the long sandy beach before the rising tide closes my window of opportunity.

Barely a soul on the beach
Barely a soul on the beach

I know Whitby well and my B&B on East Terrace is of classic build and in a great location.

View from outside my lodgings across the harbour to Whitby Abbey
View from outside my lodgings across the harbour to Whitby Abbey

I learn that it was built as a home for Captain Cook’s wife who presumably had the run of the place most of the time, what with Jimmy always swanning around places like Hawaii discovering new cocktails.

Bram Stokers Whitby - Goths, Ghouls and creatures that go Bite in the night
Bram Stokers Whitby – Goths, Ghouls and creatures that go Bite in the night

A light evening squall deposits just enough rain to clear the streets of casual tourists leaving silent Whitby at its most dramatic, as dusk approaches and the Abbey falls into shadow over the east cliff. I steal a window seat in the Duke Of York at the foot of those steps nursing a pint while watching the harbour lights flicker into life as the rain beats down. Whitby’s still got it.


Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
A day full of drama: a film set in Staithes, a personal melodrama in Runswick Bay, the setting of a literary classic in Whitby

High point
Meeting Salty the dog

Low point
Getting lost in redneck country

Looking ahead
A short walk to Robin Hoods Bay – another very special place

Daily Stats
Stage  7 – Staithes to Whitby
Distance  13.2 miles Speed  2.6 mph
Lowest  125ft Highest  512ft
Ascent  558ft Descent  794ft

…and the route taken…

Cleveland Way #6 – Skelton to Staithes

Back on the road again! There are no other guests at breakfast this morning so landlady Pat comes over for a chin wag. She is hosting an annual charity event at the pub in aid of the rescue helicopter and confides that she was once rescued herself after injuring herself on a nearby cliff path. In fact the path I will be taking today…

By the time I’m packed and leaving cakes and garden produce have materialised on the tables downstairs. Most exciting is the appearance of huge cardboard cheques to be held up in publicity photographs once the amount raised is known. It turns out you can just walk into a bank and they will give these to you!

Saltburn Pier near the start of the walk
Saltburn Pier near the start of the walk

Departure from the Wharton Arms feels somewhat strange. I arrived out of a storm an exhausted drowned rat but depart refreshed into clear blue sunny skies to the chimes of Sunday church bells. What a difference two days make, as the unimaginative B-side to a song once went.

The wooden footpath to Saltburn is littered with debris from Fridays flooding plus a few residual puddles. After a brief detour to pick up some lunch my abused “back” legs haul me up yet another hill, this time to Hunt Cliff with panoramic views south over Saltburn.

My face in the way of a good view
My face in the way of a good view

I have been looking forward to the coastal path and it was worth the wait, with endless sea to my left, perfect golden fields to my right and a gently undulating footpath in between.

Olympic funded art on the coastal trail
Olympic funded art on the coastal trail

It’s a surprise to see a railway track so close to the cliff edge and my Cleveland Way guide book explains that this belongs to a mining company. Iron stone has long been extracted here but now it is an unattractive steel works that dominated the landscape at Skinningrove. There have been far more walkers on this stretch than I have seen so far, plus a flick of bird watchers for good measure.

Iron-rich stone
Iron-rich stone

Skinningrove itself seems to be a Mecca for dog walkers with the beach alive with happy hairing hounds who are making the most of this giant play area.

Old boat at Skinningrove
Old boat at Skinningrove

A mile after lunch tiredness kicks in and a bench on the headland tempts me into a lie down under the cloudless blue sky. Without realising it I nod off and awake from a loud snoring doze just as some walkers pass by.

Alum heritage
Alum heritage

The following 4 miles to Staithes are characterised by former alum quarries and coastal erosion, as witnessed when my road simply ran out.

Road to nowhere
Road to nowhere

I have heard that Staithes is very quaint and so it proves to be, reminding me of a Cornish fishing village with its narrow quirky alleyways and old stone buildings. Finding my B&B is easy. My landlady tells me this is the newest cottages in old Staithes harbour, which still makes it over 100 years old. It’s a lovely cosy B&B with a nautical theme and a random low ceilinged layout as quirky as Staithes itself.

Staithes - click to enlarge
Staithes – click to enlarge

Out into Staithes for a few pictures before the light fails. There’s a film crew recording the CBBC kids programme Old Jack’s Boat. The producer and crew pile into the pub I’m in – the Cod And Lobster – to wind down and plan tomorrows filming schedule. It’s only after a while that I realise I’m drinking an ale called Old Jack’s Tipple. According to the producer there are other tie-ins around the village. It’s reminiscent of Balamory/Tobermory.

Bay at high tide - click to enlarge
Bay at high tide – click to enlarge

Tis a perishing cold night as I crawl back up the hill to my lodgings. Staithes has captured my imagination and I plan to take a more thorough look in daylight.


Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
After 5 days on the moors comes the coastal section of the walk

High point
Lovely Staithes living up to it’s reputation

Low point
Absolutely none

Looking ahead
Whitby – one of my favourite places

Daily Stats
Stage  6 – Skelton to Staithes
Distance  12.2 miles Speed  2.6 mph
Lowest  138ft Highest  843ft
Ascent  823ft Descent  1207ft

…and the route taken…