201. Saltburn-by-the Sea to Whitby

Still waiting on a reasonable weather window for Scotland and now in range for a long day trip to the North East. My daughter Nicola, relieved of Pharmacy duties for this week, joined me for this walk, which would be predominantly along the Cleveland Way National Trail.

We set off at 5:30 am for the 200 mile trip to Whitby, where we parked and caught the Stagecoach X4 bus to Saltburn-by-the-Sea. The bus route follows the coast, albeit about a mile inland.

We arrived in Saltburn and immediately made for a cafe to get stocked up with coffee. For a Sunday morning there were a surprisingly large number of people out and about, which probably had something to do with the weather, which was sunny, dry with a very light breeze.

The first job was to ascend a rather steep and muddy path up onto the cliff edge. We could make out Redcar in the distance and many industrial chimneys from Teeside. We passed by the site of a Roman signalling station, one of possibly 5 along this stretch of the coast, built to warn of Pictish invaders from north of the Wall. Nothing remains of the station , other than a notice board telling us of its previous existence. At a large charm bracelet sculpture the path runs alongside a railway. This part of the track once formed part the Whitby to Redcar railway; a railway that hugged the coastline and reminders of which we would see later in the day. Virtually all of the track was pulled up many years ago. However, the site of the nearby Boulby potash mine enabled this section to be preserved and used to haul the potash onto the national rail network.

We dropped steeply down to the small hamlet of Skinningrove and climbed again up steep slopes to gain the cliff edge. For virtually, the whole of the rest of the walk, evidence of mining and quarrying could be seen on the steep cliffs. The primary material sought in this quarrying was the extraction of Alum, a substance that required careful preparation and processing. The process involved  extracting, then burning huge piles of shale for 9 months. The material was then transferred to a leaching pit to extract a aluminium sulphate liquor. This liquor was then channelled to the alum works where human urine was added – a lot of it – 200 tonnes of it each year! By the mid to late 19th century, cheaper and better alternatives to Alum were found.

We passed over Rockhole Hill and began the descent down towards the village of Staithes. Staithes attracts many visitors due to its location, set almost entirely within a steep-sided ravine which Staithes Beck had cut through the soft rock and clay. The tight cobbled streets reminded me a great deal of some of the small Cornish fishing villages. We found a bench outside of the Cod and Lobster pub looking out onto the small harbour. I knew there was some connection between the village and Captain Cook. On later checking I found that Cook spent time in the village as a young lad working in a shop. We left Staithes by following the steep path up and out of the village .

Looking back at Saltburn-by-the -Sea
Charm bracelet sculpture, with railway line behind
The route ahead
Looking down at Skinningrove
Above the Alum quarries near Hummersea
Descending off Rockhope Hill towards Staithes
Entering Staithes

We walked onto Port Mulgrave and then onto Runswick Bay, where we descended again down onto the beach. There were many people on the beach, mainly walking their dogs. We knew we had to climb steeply again to get up and onto the cliffs. At Hob Holes we followed the path up a stream with steps cut into the side of the stream, after again ascending many steps we emerged onto the plateau of level walking. We continued onto Kettleness and immediately became aware of a railway station there, it then became obvious that this part was part of the old Whitby – Redcar railway. After steeply descending into Over Dale, we also saw the entrance to an old railway tunnel which we later found out went on towards Kettleness. As we approached Sandsend, we passed large excavations and spoil tips as a result of the Alum extraction. At Sandsend, we joined the main road and continued along it into Whitby.

A tough days walking especially with the amount of ascent and descent involved, but a rewarding one, with great views of the cliffs and an industrial past that has shaped the landscape.

Walking along Runswick Bay beach
Heading up a stream gulley at Hob Holes
Kettleness railway station
Old railway tunnel in Over Dale
Alum quarries with large spoil heaps near Sandsend
Heading towards Sandsend

Distance today = 19 miles
Total distance = 3,577 miles



One thought on “201. Saltburn-by-the Sea to Whitby”

  1. I loved this walk, especially Staithes which was one of those places I knew nothing about and so it was such a pleasant surprise to find how pretty it was. The Cleveland way meant the path was good too. Robin Hoods Bay was another lovely place along that stretch of the coast. It’s a fabulous stretch of coast this.


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