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Staithes and the Scenic Coast

Staithes, where Captain Cook was apprenticed, Runswick Bay and Port Mulgrave are the highlights of this splendid coastal walk.

Distance 5 miles (8km)

Minimum time 2hrs 30min

Ascent/gradient 436ft (130m)

Level of difficulty Medium

Paths Field, woodland, coastal paths and tracks, 16 stiles

Landscape Farmland, woodland and fine coastline

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

Start/finish NZ 782185

Dog friendliness Dogs should be on leads, except in woodland

Parking Car park above village, signed off A174

Public toilets Staithes

1 From the car park, walk past the garages and along a path by allotments. Turn right up the valley and follow the footpath signs through the houses, to meet the main road. Cross, go over a stile, through the field, then cross a track by two more stiles. Descend half right, go over a stile and cross the stream by the road bridge to the left, signed 'Hinderwell'. After the bridge follow the waymark left, going over a stile and climbing steeply. Pass a gate with a stile beside it into woodland. This part of the route is through the typical inland farming hinterland of the Yorkshire coast, with old native woodland lining the slopes of the streams that feed into Roxby Beck.

2 By the Oakridge Nature Reserve sign take the left fork, keeping along the ridge. At a field, go through the hedge and turn left along the field edge, turning left at a crossing path into the woods. Descend steps, cross a footbridge and go uphill over two stiles. Cross the field, then turn right after the gate and go along a track, which eventually bends left and becomes a metalled road through houses.

3 At the main road by a garage turn right, and then turn left along a path beside a bungalow. Go over a stile, through the field and over another stile on to a road. Turn right along the lane-side footpath to Runswick Bay. To see the view, go straight to the cliff top. The pretty village is at the foot of the steep cliffs, and has been there since at least the 13th century. In the 19th century the village briefly had a blast furnace, but is now renowned for its fine sandy beach.

4 The walk continues along the right side of the Runswick Bay Hotel. Go through a kissing gate and along the edge of a field to a stile to reach the coast. Turn left and walk along the Cleveland Way for a mile (1.6km) to go over a stile near Port Mulgrave, and then bend round the top of the valley to a kissing gate.

5 Follow the coast road, which soon becomes a track. Go over a stile, along the coast, over a second stile and descend towards Staithes. Go over two stiles and into a fenced lane, which becomes a metalled lane by a farm. The path descends by a wall down into the village.

6 To return to the car park, walk up the main street.

Clustered around the harbour and along the banks of the Roxby Beck, Staithes is one of the most attractive of the East Coast villages. Its narrow streets, lined with cottages, climb steeply up the hillside. Look out for the occasional wearer of the traditional white cotton Staithes bonnet, originally worn by the women to protect their heads as they carried baskets of mussels from the beach. It was in Staithes that young James Cook - the future Captain Cook - was apprenticed to William Sanderson's grocers' merchants in the main street. The Heritage Centre has a reconstruction of the street in his time.

From 1865 Port Mulgrave was an ironstone port. Its 3½ acre (1.4ha) harbour cost the Mulgrave Ironstone Company £45,000 to build. Trucks ran along a gantry above the pier and tipped their load into bunkers - there was a tunnel under the cliffs through which the railway line ran. The harbour remained in good condition until 1934, when the machinery was broken up and sold for scrap. During World War Two the breakwater was blown up so it couldn't be used by an invader.

Where to eat and drink

Staithes has quite a number of eating places, as you'd expect from somewhere on the Captain Cook Trail. The Cod and Lobster near the harbour does meals and snacks, while two eating places with loyal and satisfied clientele are Sea Drift, which does splendid sandwiches, and the Storehouse Bakery and Tea Shop.

While you're there

West of Staithes is Boulby Head, the highest cliffs on the east coast, rising to 660ft (201m) Nearby is Boulby potash mine, the deepest in Europe. Its shafts descend 3,600ft (1,097m) and reach 5 miles (8km) out to sea. Morris Men have performed the world's deepest dance here and scientists use it to search for 'Dark Matter', said to make up 99 per cent of the universe.

What to look for

Staithes harbour is protected by the shaley cliff of Cowbar Nab, and you are likely to see a number of small, colourfully-painted boats bobbing in the water or leaning in the mud if the tide is out. These are cobles (pronounced cobbles), the characteristic small fishing boats of the east coast. Inspired, it is said, by Viking boats, they are clinker-built - with the planks overlapping downwards - and are specially designed for launching from a beach. A guide of the 19th century said of the local men, 'During the winter and spring seasons they go out to sea in small flat bottomed boats, called Cobles, each carrying three men, and so constructed as to live in very tempestuous weather; in summer they go out in large boats, of from ten to twenty tons burden, called 'Five Men Cobles', they generally sail on Monday, and, if the weather permit, continue at sea the whole week.'


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