Walking with the Dalesman
Robin Hood’s Bay with Rodger Matthews
Walking route: Robin Hood’s Bay
Distance: 5¾ miles (9.25km)
Time: Allow 3 hours
Start: Former Railway Station Car Park – OS ref 950055
How to get there: Robin Hood’s Bay is signed off the A171 Whitby-Scarborough road
Parking: Station Car Park
Terrain: Field paths, 14 stiles and a stiff climb in parts back through the village
Refreshments: Numerous spots in the village
Toilets: In the car park
Map: OS Explorer OL27 (North York Moors – Eastern area)
Ordnance Survey Mapping © Crown Copyright Media 049/13
Why Robin Hood’s Bay? This is a question which seems to remain unanswered. Historians have speculated on many theories as to why the village has this name but their ideas however wild and wonderful have failed to come up with a definitive answer.
What cannot be denied is the beauty of its setting and the mysterious nature of its layout, and of its cottages and alleyways that make the village special.
Much of the village is hidden from view as visitors cross the wild moorland but they cannot fail to be impressed with the rugged coastline of the bay as the land to the south rises to some 600 feet (183m) on the approach to Ravenscar. Similar views along the coast towards Ness Point can be seen to the north.
The surprise that first-time visitors have in store is yet to be revealed as the main street drops from the hilltop steeply down to the sea. Not surprisingly Robin Hood’s Bay or Bay Town as the locals prefer to call it has been referred to as “The Clovelly of the North”.
On either side of the main street whitewashed cottages stand higgledy-piggledy along narrow alleyways inviting the curious to explore what they have to reveal. Visitors, especially those with imagination, will not be disappointed. These alleyways are in fact a relic of a former age when fishing and even smuggling were part of everyday life. The cottages, many of them now holiday lets, were originally homes to the many fishermen who sailed out of the bay. At one time 173 vessels were owned by people from the village. But where is the harbour? There isn’t one and what boats now remain can be seen standing at the foot of the main street where they have been hauled from the sea up the slipway.
The walk follows field paths northwards out of the village before turning towards the cliff tops and walking back into the village along part of the Cleveland Way. Expansive views along the coast and out to sea are combined with the sound of waves crashing onto the shore below whilst overhead the silence is broken by the bird noises of the fast-flying fulmar, the noisy kittiwakes, common gulls and the far from delicate herring gulls.
Returning to the village it is time to explore those alleyways overlooking the sea and to imagine the smugglers using them to dodge the excise officers or you can simply enjoy the pleasure of the views shared by the cottage users and of the array of window-box displays offered by these tightly packed garden-less dwellings.
Robin Hood’s Bay – ‘The Clovelly of the North’ – looking south
1. Return to the car park entrance and turn left uphill along the main road. As the road bends to the left take the footpath signed on the right. Continue over the field along the well-trodden path to the metalled gate.
2. Turn right and walk to a second gate and follow the path to the right to the gate in the hedge. Pass through the next field with the stone wall on your left before turning right at the end of the field to reach a lane.
3. Cross and follow the waymarked path, continuing along the field edge (wall on right). Pass over the stile and head diagonally left towards the gate.
4. Walk in the direction of the farm, through the gate and follow the waymarked path around the buildings, following the signed route.
5. Continue until the footbridge is reached, cross and at the T-junction veer right following the path to the right of the bank. After fifty yards (50m) take the signed path to Hawsker. Where the hedge curves to the left go through the gap on the right, crossing the field to the road.
6. Turn right and right again towards the caravan parks and the sea. Cross the railway and keep to the metalled road as it goes downhill.
7. Follow the signed path to the right and pass through the caravans eventually arriving at the coastline. Turn right here along the Cleveland Way for two-and-a-half miles (4 km) back to the village.
8. On reaching the main road opposite the car park from which you started turn left and make your way down the hill into the village main street but take every opportunity to meander through the alleyways on your left overlooking the sea before finally arriving at the slipway. Your route back is via the main street, using the steps on the right of the street to assist with the climb if necessary