Cleveland Way #8 – Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay

The sound I least want to hear when I surface in the morning before a walk is that of rain drops. Oh well. They were forecast for later on in the day and my plan was to leave early and complete a good section of the walk before the weather turned, but now there is no longer any hurry.

Front door view of the morning mizzle
Front door view of the morning mizzle

So far most of my breakfast experiences have been quiet ones with few if any other guests in the room. Not so today with 12 other guests, all non-walkers. One couple are visitors from Australia and the landlord engages them in banter which starts with a playful (but by now probably thinly worn) ribbing of the Aussie cricket team before heading off into a diatribe against whatever he read in the Daily Mail recently.

I almost choke on my toast when being forced to listen to “All these foreigners are benefit scroungers and due to them we have the highest population in Europe“. This from a man who was formerly in the building trade so probably benefited from foreign tradesmen prepared to the jobs some British people don’t want to do at lower wages. This from a self confessed property baron who doubtless rents out houses at an inflated rate knowing that the tax payer will pick up his tab via the housing benefits that some of his tenants will be forced to claim. One advantage of having to sit through a loud public bout of bigotry is that heading out into the rain becomes an attractive option.

A damp Whitby harbour
A damp Whitby harbour

If rain “suits” a place then Whitby is that place. The walk down to the harbour provides a visual feast in all weather. A party of school kids bearing clip-boards are supposed to be questioning people on the streets for some project but most of them are too shy to stop anyone until the teacher almost physically shoves them towards passers-by. I pick up some brazil nuts for the journey and set about tackling the famous 199 steps that lead up to the infamous Whitby Abbey, immortalised by Bram Stoker as a setting for Dracula. The steps have always bothered me, not because of the number but because they are spaced just a bit too close together to walk them one at a time but a bit too far to make two a comfortable proposition.

Those steps
Those steps

At the top a strong gusty wind is blowing the rain all over the place. Tourists are sheltering in the porch of gothic St Marys church apart from one delightful older couple serenely gazing out over the town below licking ice cream, oblivious to the squall. I salute them!

View from the Abbey
View from the Abbey

Amongst the sheltering mortals I bask in a misplaced sense of superiority as I march nonchalantly out of the Church with my rucksack into a storm that holds no fears for me. Fortunately I am out of sight of their admiring gaze when the wind catches my rucksack and slams me embarrassingly into a stone wall. This rucksack makes quite an effective sail, unfortunately. Another pit-stop to remove the flapping waterproof cover which I fear will be rendered ineffective in the north sea.

Whitby lighthouse and holiday lets
Whitby lighthouse and holiday lets

This will be my shortest walk of the trail and it’s one I’m familiar with. The wind is whipping the sea into a frothy soup on the rocks below. None of the cliff dwelling birds are venturing out in these conditions but a few fellow walkers cross my path. Whitby Lighthouse was built in 1858 and isn’t in operation today although I believe it is still active via an automated system. Some of the buildings are leased out as holiday rentals. This would make a fabulous place to stay, just so long as the fog horn on the roof is no longer in use.

Some sections of path are running out of time
Some sections of path are running out of time

The exposed cliff path winds along some slippery muddy sections, through a caravan site and then by farm land. It’s here that I realise that my glasses are no longer in the pocket I put them in. I check all of my other pockets, plus my face which is normally where they turn up, but to no avail. I don’t need them all of the time but the realisation that there’s an England match on TV tonight sends a chill down my spine. The chances of finding them seem slim but they must have fallen out when I took my camera out of the same pocket to take a photo.

Fossilised car at the caravan site
Will far-distant descendants be chipping fossilised cars out of the Whitby cliffs?

With a resigned air of inevitability I retrace my steps a quarter of a mile to the static caravan site where I last stopped to take a photo. I know exactly where I stood but the chances of finding my glasses are … 100%. There they are – what a stroke of luck! Tired of glasses I went for a contact lens fitting a few years ago but 45 minutes spent fruitlessly trying to fish them out of my eyes was enough to persuade my optician that they weren’t for me.

The picture that almost cost my glasses
The picture that almost cost my glasses

Back along the path and arable land gives way to pasture fields. On this trip I have developed a great deal of respect for cows. Whatever the weather there they are munching away without a moo of complaint. Even on Fridays subaquatic test of survival I staggered past cows floating in fields next to my path/river that exuded this air of calmness at odds with their ordeal. A lesson for the non-bovine amongst us…

Enjoying the bracing walk
Enjoying the bracing walk

Before I know it Robin Hoods Bay is upon me and it is only 1pm. What a grand building I am staying in tonight! This 19th century lodge was hewn out of stone for a sea-captain. A decorative tiled entrance porch leads through an original stained glassed door into a formal hallway with high ceiling, wood panelled walls and a grandfather clock. A heavy wooden staircase leads up to my room, known as the “Vicars Study” – though my unholy presence will doubtless cancel things out.

I do like my landlady – she is a lot of fun! We talk for quite some time and she shares various tales with me. My favourite concerns an influx of American tourists who turned up in numbers after the area was promoted by The Smithsonian as being good walking country. It seems that many of these visitors arrived lugging six suitcases and suspiciously brand-new unworn walking boots. These city types were expecting relatively level paved walking trails and when faced with miles of undulating muddy path took to catching taxis between their overnight stops, sometimes even leaving their once-used boots behind. All a far cry from the savvy and capable North Americans I have met so far this week.

The charm of Robin Hoods Bay
The charm of Robin Hoods Bay

Following the usual routine of shower, clean clothes and a cup of tea I head down the notoriously steep hill that leads to the bay. It’s hard to describe Robin Hoods Bay if you aren’t familiar with it but it is charming and charismatic in equal measure. The main road is lined with old stone buildings while quaint alleyways wind away past shoe-horned cottages, mostly available as holiday rentals.

Ultimate destination for C2C walkers
Ultimate destination for C2C walkers

The Bay Hotel overlooking the sea at the bottom of the hill bears a plaque marking the end of the Coast-to-Coast walk. This place is legendary amongst C2C walkers who will pose for photos with a pint at the end of their travails. Unfortunately the atmospheric lower bar is shut this afternoon while the upper bay is packed full of people, many of whom don’t appeared to have walked further than from the car park at the top of the hill.

Snug at the Laurel Inn
Snug at the Laurel Inn

What I really crave for is a seat and a cup of tea so it’s only with partial success that I find myself half way up the hill at the Laurel Inn nursing a beer. This pub, like so many stone buildings in Robin Hoods Bay looks like it has been carved out of the rocky hillside. There could be no more snug hideaway on a grizzly day, thick walls keeping out the elements, timber beamed ceiling, an open fire and sturdy ales. Refreshed by the “cup of tea” my early evening appointment is with the much vaunted Wayfarer Bistro which just about lives up to its hype. Halibut with crab, smoked haddock and samphire sauce is just great. My only complaint – a playlist of James Blunt, Coldplay and Phil Collins. Drone strikes have been ordered for less.

Back at the ranch I have time to reflect on my progress. Perhaps I was spoilt by the first 4 days that were so warm and dry. Friday’s wake-up call has left me wary of rain forecasts but there are just 2 remaining days of this adventure, whatever the heavens send. Enough reflection – I settle in for the evening and consume copious amounts of earl grey while watching an England performance that makes me wish I hadn’t found my glasses.


Here’s today’s walk in point form…

In a nutshell
A bracing but easy walk that perfectly typified the North Yorkshire coastline from start to finish.

High point
A gusty wind blowing salty rain into your face while the sea boils far below – can’t beat it!

Low point
The temporary loss of my visual apparatus

Looking ahead
The walk to Scarborough should be full of interest. I’m looking forward to seeing Ravenscar – the resort that never was.

Daily Stats
Stage  8 – Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay
Distance  7.5 miles Speed  3.2 mph
Lowest  295ft Highest  476ft
Ascent  138ft Descent  217ft

…and the route taken…

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…