Cleveland Way #9 – Robin Hoods Bay to Scarborough

The finish line may be in sight but the question is whether I can stay motived to complete the walk. Overnights like Fern Leigh B&B present a challenge to my mental stamina because they are so very comfortable. Breakfast in the panelled dining room is a massive treat as my host makes her own bread, preserves and yoghurt. It is getting increasingly hard to rouse myself from this comfort, to leave for a half day walk in mixed weather while carrying a rucksack up and down the hills.

I’m starting to come down with a cold which may explain any lethargy. Lucky that today’s walk to Scarborough starts off with an easy roll down the hill to the foot of Robin Hoods Bay. My problems come quickly to the fore this morning. The damp feeling on my back hasn’t been a trick of my imagination as I realise the cheap water bladder bought off eBay prior to the walk is leaking. I suspected as much a couple of days ago but what had started off with dampness has now progressed to a portable waterfall.

Lack of bladder control
Lack of bladder control

Abandoning my water supply is not an option but I only have a half litre bottle in which I could decant the water, which would be too little for five hours on the hills. I take the decision to attach the bladder to the rear of my rucksack with the acceptance that this 2.5l weight will throw out my balance. So long as I walk carefully things should be fine…

Within 90 seconds I slip backwards while walking down some wet stairs, the leveraged weight pulling me off balance. I get up gingerly and take stock – it’s OK, nobody saw me.

I'm about to slip down the wooden stairs...
I’m about to slip down the wooden stairs…

The path follows some steps and then levels off before descending again down to the delightfully named Boggle Hole which appears to be nothing more than a minor inlet where a stream meets the sea. The only construction I can see here is a Youth Hostel which I imagine must be very popular with coastal walkers.

After another brief encounter with an inlet at Stoupe Beck the path heads off up again through the trees, emerging on the cliff edge from which I would apparently be able to make out Scarborough Castle and even Filey Brigg were it not for a slight sea haze that is limiting the horizon and flattening my photos.

Good views in the right conditions
Good views in the right conditions

One feature that does loom large from a distance is Ravenscar, a village set high on a cliff-top that I already know about having seen it featured on BBC’s Coast programme.

Ravenscar, the resort that never was
Ravenscar, the resort that never was

In the late 19th century plans were drawn up to construct a holiday resort to attract visitors away from existing resorts like Scarborough via the new railway line. A road system was constructed and basic amenities provisioned but the scheme was prematurely brought to an end through bankruptcy. A handful of houses were built but you have to wonder how popular the destination would have been high on a hill, exposed to strong winds and with no access to the sea shore.

Curbed ambitions
Curbed ambitions

I had hoped to spend awhile here exploring the remnants of this ghost town but cold nagging rain put paid to my enthusiasm. An original street curb is all that I can make out as the Cleveland Way path returns to the cliff edge. It is cliff walking all the way from here and while I never tire of the rugged beauty of this coastline it does feel increasingly like Autumn is on the way.

A path for all seasons
A path for all seasons

A curious huddle of buildings in a field south of Ravenscar arouses my curiosity and a sign next to a small brick Coastguard lookout shelter by the path explains that they formed part of a radar station during the war. Constructed in late 1940 as part of a chain of coastal stations a radar dish was mounted on top of the barrel shaped building (left) while staff occupied a building further up the hill. These unlikely shells are now listed as Ancient Monuments and afforded protection as such. My photo is rubbish but some photos by Rich Cooper are much more illuminating.

Former radar station near Ravenscar
Former radar station near Ravenscar

The path remains high except for a dip down to Hayburn Wyke which makes an attractive rocky stopping off point. It’s very peaceful here, just the hypnotic sounds of the waves crashing against the shoreline punctuated by bird calls carried on the wind. It’s here that I finally give up on my badly suspended water bladder which has been throwing me off balance, and decant what I can into a hand-held water bottle.

Dramatic cliffs
Dramatic cliffs

Further down the coast there is yet more evidence of the never-ending battle between land and sea. Of course, the sea always wins in the end, but not before generations of sea-birds have exploited the crags and crannies of the rock face for breeding and shelter.

The sea always wins in the end
The sea always wins in the end

I’m not far north of Scarborough when I draw near to a flock of bird-watchers (what is the collective term for bird-watchers? flock, gaggle, brood, nerd?). They are pointing an array of optical devices towards a spot in the gorse overlooking the sea – there must be something dramatic or exotic to see! Taking care not to make any sudden moves or create a noise I whisper in reverence to a woolly hatted bearded twitcher (common garden variety), asking what they have in their sights. “Oh, nothing special today – mostly gulls and plovers”. Oh, right then.

Northern approaches to Scarborough - click to expand
Northern approaches to Scarborough – click to expand

Underwhelmed by this news I listen to a podcast for the next few easy miles until Scarborough castle materialises and before long the entire North Bay opens up over a headland. It has been years since I visited Scarborough and so, despite being close to the end of the Cleveland Way, I have booked an extra night here to allow some exploration and rest.

My pleasant B&B is easy to locate on the cliff above this bay and I turn myself around before heading out again to make the most of the days remaining light. There are so many Hotels and B&Bs here which makes for competitive rates but also for struggling businesses according to my landlady.

View from the Castle Road - click to expand
View from the Castle Road – click to expand

The high coastal road leading towards the castle is lined with imposing B&Bs that hark back to a time when “architecture” wasn’t some optional extra on new-builds. They exude a faded grandeur, some optimistically clinging onto the label of Hotel like some English Sunset Boulevard. And what names – The Malborough, Balmoral, Belmont – yet with plastic signs, flaking paint and I imagine wall-to-wall faded carpet imbued with the lingering essence of full English Breakfast. Yet these businesses persist and there is a genuine warmth about them that I’m so fond of.

Beyond the castle the path winds down to the old harbour. In these times of hardship for traditional industries I have been heartened to come across seemingly successful fishing businesses operating from harbours like Staithes, Runswick Bay, Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay so it’s pleasing to see plenty of signs of life also here in Scarborough.

Still farming the seas
Still farming the seas

The harbour is crowded with vessels of all types and purpose, from crab and fishing boats to sailing boats and sea cruise vessels. A school party is rumbustiously boarding an ageing tour boat, the strains of Celine Dion’s Titanic theme tune drifting out of the PA in an attempt at humour the kids will probably be too young to get.

Salty old sea dog
Salty old sea dog

There’s a lot here to see and enjoy, a view that that plenty of benched chip-consuming onlookers agree with. I particularly like the swimmer statue facing south across the bay. It has not just grace but humour, unlike the over-hyped Damien Hirst statue I saw in Ilfracombe recently that reminded me of Terminator.

Ready for a dip
Ready for a dip

Considering the long embedded status of Scarborough as a tourist resort it is refreshing to find that the sea-front has not been allowed to be gobbled up by amusement arcades. Of course there are a few but this is not some Blackpool of the North East. There has to be a balance between tack and taste, new and old in order to keep a place like this alive without destroying its heritage. I note a side-road from a different age and wonder which direction it will pushed in. For me it is an asset to be retained.

Old harbour warehouses
Old harbour warehouses

There’s just about time for a stroll down the South Bay before evening plans take precedence. How wonderful to sea traditional donkey rides on the beach! Despite the gusty weather a few little people are lifted onto the mules by their parents and they totally love it! If only I were less than 13 years old and no more than 7 stone…

Your games console is no match for this
Your games console is no match for this

My tour of the south bay ends shy of the famous Spa which I will visit tomorrow on my day off. Just time to catch the moment before heading off for sustenance.

Birds eye view of the old harbour
Birds eye view of the old harbour

One of the huge benefits of the Cleveland Way as opposed to some other long distance walks is that at the end of a most days walking you get to spend time in inspiring places like Scarborough. I intend to explore more thoroughly on my day off.

In a fair and just world there would be a fabulous pub just yards away from my digs. Just yards away from my digs I come across a fabulous pub. The North Riding Brew Pub is an old hotel that has been re-purposed as a brewery/pub. They keep it so simple and traditional here with no frills, just divine ales. The world is a fair and just place for me tonight.


Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
A blowy walk over high cliffs interspersed with points of historical interest

High point
A tough call, but Scarborough old harbour takes some beating

Low point
Battling with my failed water bladder

Looking ahead
A day of leisure in Scarborough and then the final days walk to Filey!

Daily Stats
Stage  9 – Robin Hoods Bay to Scarborough
Distance  14.4 miles Speed  2.7 mph
Lowest  154ft Highest  791ft
Ascent  764ft Descent  1017ft

…and the route taken…