With the intention of a ten mile walk heading north from Whitby to Staithes, we’d set off with a large picnic to keep us fuelled, and parked the car on West Cliff Avenue overlooking the beach huts. The huts can be hired out for the summer, but apparently they’re not cheap, and there is a waiting list.
It was a bit disappointing (and a clue I should have registered) to discover the tide was in, so we were unable to walk along the first bit of beach, but the promenade was pleasant and we were soon trekking across the sand towards our first pit stop, Tides café at Sandsend.
Here, it was warm enough to sit outside on the terrace and watch a family of ducks hold up the traffic as they crossed the road to reach the small inlet, where East Row Beck flows gently into the sea. Sandsend is a small, picturesque village, with whitewashed fishermen’s cottages overlooking the beach, which was busy today with children playing in the rock pools.
After a quick coffee we set off again, crossing the bridge at the north point of Sandsend, and picking up the Cleveland Way National Trail at the top of the car park, just behind the public toilets. The steps there took us up to a flattened track, part of the old Whitby to Teesside railway line. If you’re a nature lover, this is a great place to spot nesting sea birds on the cliffs to your right, as well as wild primroses, gorse and other wildflowers all along the track and spreading inland to your left.
The track comes to an end where the trains would have gone into a tunnel cutting through the embankment ahead. Since the tunnel is now closed off, we had to climb (and I do mean climb) up two sets of stone and then wooden steps to reach the cliff top.
After catching our breath and crossing a field, we were rewarded with a spectacular view across the bay towards Runswick. We paused to have our picnic on a bench, and I mentioned we were already halfway to our destination. My twenty-year-old son is not quite as keen on walking as I am, and after his reaction I felt it prudent to mention the nice pub at Staithes.
The prospect of a refreshing pint did the trick, and with renewed enthusiasm, we carried on, following the Cleveland Way across the cliff tops, before dropping down across a small wooden footbridge to Runswick Bay Beach.
And there we stopped. The tide was in, and there was no way of crossing the beach without wading waist-deep in cold water. Not even a pint was going to make that happen. After a fruitless search for an alternative route with a few fellow stranded walkers, we waited it out on the beach and spent the time skimming stones and hunting for fossils.
An hour later, we impatiently made a run for it during a break in the waves (a little too early, because it resulted in wet feet), and headed up the boat ramp to the Royal Hotel. There was no way I was going to convince my son to walk another hour from there with a soggy trainer, so we cut our losses, sat back and enjoyed our drinks and the sea view; saving Staithes for another day.
The frequent Coastliner bus service makes it easy to complete the return journey from any part of this route, and after trudging up the steep hill to the main road, we didn’t have long to wait before the bus picked us up for the twenty-minute journey back to Whitby.
We’d walked eight miles instead of the planned ten, but it had still been a lovely day out along a well-kept and family-friendly trail. Before driving home, we had a nice meal at Long King Chinese, overlooking the sunset across Whitby bay.