The coastal cliff paths in Yorkshire are quite simply stunning. Rugged, windswept and dramatic, even an easy stroll on a sun-drenched day is thrilling. Home to nesting seabirds, birds of prey and basking seals as well as a riot of wildflowers and grasses, coastal walks in Yorkshire are hugely rewarding. We’ve rounded up five of our favourites that take in chalky cliffs, fossil hunting, bird-spotting, abbeys and churches, towns and villages. Most can be rounded off with a warming cuppa or pint of cold ale, depending on the weather and what takes your fancy.
The Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay 11-mile walk takes in both land and coast. It starts from the Ravenscar National Trust Coastal Centre and meanders through the vibrant and varied landscape of the North York Moors. The route runs across Howdale Moor for a dose of dreamy violet-hued moorland scenery before dropping down to the old Scarborough-to-Whitby railway line and along to the famous smugglers’ haunt of Robin Hood’s Bay. Both here and at nearby Boggle Hole, you can indulge in a spot of rock-pooling and fossil hunting, before returning along an exhilarating clifftop stretch of the Cleveland Way National Trail, gazing at sweeping sea vistas and skirting the old alum works industrial site, before returning to your start point.
Stay at Union Place, enjoy convivial breakfasts, beautiful bedrooms and art galore. Stroll to cliff top views and Whitby harbour; walk all day on the North York Moors.
Starting from the town centre, you begin by climbing 199 steps up to Whitby Abbey. The Whitby steps, also called The Church Stairs or Jacob’s Ladder, were built in 1370 if not earlier and were made of wood until the 1770s. They are now a listed and protected structure. Once you reach the top, take a breather and enjoy the superb views over the town and harbour. Now take the footpath along the clifftop towards St Mary’s Church. Perched dramatically on the cliff edge, the church is thought to have been the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and tales and stories continue to swirl about whether he might be buried in the graveyard. From here, you continue along the coastal path to Whitby’s East Cliff to see the iconic Whalebone Arch, a 20-foot whalebone sculpture to honour the town’s whaling history, before heading back into town.
Stay at River Lodge at Egton Estate, a romantic log cabin on the Egton Estate with a river running through it, wildlife in abundance and just a short hop from bustling Whitby.
Starting from North Landing, you have the option to head east or west along Flamborough Head’s coastal path. This promontory on the Yorkshire coast is one of the most spectacular chalk cliffs in the UK. Heading east takes you along a dramatic cliff-top walk with spectacular sea views and close-ups of puffins and other nesting seabirds. West takes you towards Bempton Cliffs Nature Reserve where you can witness the spectacular sight of gannets hurling themselves like arrows into the sea. As well as being a famous nesting site for seabirds, visitors at dusk are sometimes rewarded by a view of barn owls gliding eerily across the fields on an evening hunting trip.
Stay at The Hayloft at Flamborough Rigg, an 1820s farmhouse at the end of a quiet road in the North York Moors National Park, overlooking a forest and surrounded by fields.
An easy yet super rewarding circular, almost five-mile walk beginning in Staithes – a charming little town with cobbled streets and pretty houses. Beginning from the car park, stroll through town, where you can take a small detour up Cowbar Lane that rewards with long views out to sea. From here it’s a hop onto the Cleveland Way and up onto the cliff tops. Looking back, you’ll see Staithes tucked in the bay below you, as you continue along the rugged cliffs. It can be pretty blowy up here so mind kids and dogs. Keep going until you reach the next bay, Port Mulgrave, which is a tiny coastal hamlet, where you leave the coastal path and head back through woodland to Staithes for a well-earned drink or bite to eat.
Stay at Crag House Farm Barns, two cottages that are huge fun for all – from log-burner to LED mood lights, a real treat of a country retreat in the North York Moors National Park.
Mappleton is a great dog-walking beach, welcoming them year round. The mainly rocky beach also appeals to fossil hunters, and most will be rewarded with a haul of Jurassic ammonites, corals and molluscs. When the tide is out, it’s possible to follow the sand for around 3.5 miles, all the way to Hornsea. The bird life is busy here, and most days you’ll spot cormorants, sand martins, gannets and a lone buzzard or two circling overhead. On reaching Hornsea, there are steps up from the beach to the promenade, and a clutch of cafés for a rewarding tea.
Stay at Beverley Arms, a coaching inn turned luxury hotel in a sophisticated market town; shoppers, foodies and history buffs will find plenty to enjoy here.
Carmen is a freelance writer specialising in travel. She once lived in a bus in north Wales, skipped off to study in Barcelona, and now calls Bristol home. When she’s not tapping away on her laptop, she can be found reading (a lot), lake swimming (a little), and pottering on the allotment with husband and two kiddos. She’s currently dreaming about cold cerveza and torta in Mexico.