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Along the Coast at Robin Hood's Bay

Through fields from this obscurely-named village and back along part of the Cleveland Way.

Distance 5.6 miles (9km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 466ft (142m)

Level of difficulty Easy

Paths Field and coastal paths, a little road walking, 14 stiles

Landscape Farmland and fine coastline

Suggested map aqua3 OS Outdoor Leisure 27 North York Moors - Eastern

Start/finish NZ 950055

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads

Parking Car park at top of hill into Robin Hood's Bay, by the old railway station

Public toilets Car park at Robin Hood's Bay

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1 From the car park, return via the entry road to the main road. Turn left up the hill and, where the road bends round to the left, take a signed footpath to the right over a stile. Walk up the fields over three stiles to a metalled lane.

2 Turn right. Go left through a signed metal gate. At the end of the field the path bends right to a gate in the hedge on your left. Continue down the next field with a stone wall on your left. Again, go right at the end of the field and over a stile into a green lane.

3 Cross to another waymarked stile and continue along the field edge with a wall on your right. At the field end go over a stile on your right, then make for a waymarked gate diagonally left.

4 Walk towards the farm, though a gate and take the waymarked track round the right of the buildings to another gate, then to a waymarked opening beside a metal gate. Continue with a stone wall on your right, through another gate and on to a track that eventually bends left to a waymarked stile.

5 Continue to another stile, which leads to a footbridge over a beck. At a T-junction by a telegraph pole, veer right and take a path to the right of the bank. After 50yds (46m), look for a signpost for Hawsker in woodland. Walk to the signpost then follow it right. As the hedge to your right curves left, go through a gap on the right and over a signed stile, walking straight ahead through the field to another stile on to the main road.

6 Go right and right again, following the footpath sign, up the metalled lane towards the holiday parks. Pass Seaview Caravan Park, cross the former railway track and continue along the metalled lane, which bends right, goes downhill, crosses a stream and ascends to the holiday park.

7 Follow the footpath sign right, then go left and follow the metalled track down through the caravans, eventually leaving the track to go left to a waymarked path. Follow the path towards the coastline, to reach a signpost.

8 Turn right along the Cleveland Way for 2½ miles (4km). The footpath goes through a kissing gate and over three stiles, then through two more kissing gates, past the Rocket Post Field to three gates by a National Trust sign. Go left through the field gate and past houses to reach the main road.
The car park is directly opposite.

Walking the coastal path north of Robin Hood's Bay, you will soon notice how the sea is encroaching on the land. The route of the Cleveland Way, which runs in a huge clockwise arc from near Helmsley to Filey, has frequently to be redefined as sections of once-solid path slip down the cliffs into the sea. Around Robin Hood's Bay, the loss is said to be around 6 inches (15cm) every two years, with more than 200 village homes falling victim to the relentless pounding of the waves over the last two centuries.

For countless holiday makers, Robin Hood's Bay is perhaps the most picturesque of the Yorkshire Coast's fishing villages - a tumble of pantiled cottages that stagger down the narrow gully cut by the King's Beck. Narrow courtyards give access to tiny cottages, whose front doors look over their neighbours' roofs. Vertiginous stone steps link the different levels. One of the narrow ways, called The Bolts, was built in 1709, to enable local men to evade either the customs officers or the naval pressgangs - or perhaps both. Down at the shore, boats are still drawn up on the Landing, though they are more likely to be pleasure craft than working vessels.

In 1800 everyone who lived in the Bay was, supposedly, involved with smuggling. The geography of the village gave it several advantages. The approach by sea was, usually, the easiest way to the village; landward, it was defended by bleak moorland and its steep approach. And the villagers added to the ease with which they could avoid customs by linking their cellars, so that (it is said) contraband could be landed on shore and passed underground from house to house before being spirited away from the cliff top with the officers never having glimpsed it.

There was a settlement where the King's Beck reaches the coast at least as far back as the 6th century. Despite strong claims that Robin Hood was a Yorkshireman, no one has yet put forward a convincing reason why this remote fishing village should bear his name - as it has since at least the start of the 16th century. Legend is quick to step in; two of the stories say that either Robin was offered a pardon by the Abbot of Whitby if he rid the East Coast of pirates, or that, fleeing the authorities, he escaped arrest here disguised as a local sailor.

Where to eat and drink

Stoke up in Robin Hoods Bay before the walk, as there is nowhere else on the route. In the village there are several pubs and cafés, offering everything from a quick snack to a full-blown meal.

What to look for

At low tide, the bay reveals concentric arcs of rocks that are the remains of a large rock dome that has, over the millennia, been eroded by the action of the sea. The ridges are bands of hard limestone and ironstone that have eroded less quickly than the softer lias between them. Where the lias is exposed fossil hunters search for shells (among them the characteristic whirls of the ammonites) and larger sea creatures.

While you're there

Travel south along the coast to Ravenscar, a headland where the Romans built a signal station. Alum shale, used in fixing, was mined here in the 17th and 18th centuries and you can see the scars of the industry. In the middle of the 19th century a new resort, a rival to Scarborough, was begun here, then abandoned. The streets are still there, but only one row of houses was constructed.

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