2016 Walk 5 – Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay

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The Footpath Diversion Welcoming Committee

It was a quiet morning at the Goathland bus shelter with the majority of traffic consisting of ewes and their lambs going about their business. This included lying in the middle of the road, fertilizing the common and staring incredulously at the humans standing in the bus queue. The staring matching finally ended when the 840 Coastliner double-decker arrived and whisked us (the humans that is) away to Whitby.

Over the years I’ve walked all of the coastal portion of the Cleveland Way from Staithes in the north to Scarborough in the south. Today I was walking one of my favourites sections, a 7-mile stretch from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay. I planned to visit Whitby later today and so I immediately crossed the bridge, headed through the old town and made my way up the 199 steps to Whitby Abbey, famous in its own right but all the more so when it became the setting for Bram Stoker‘s most famous novel, “Dracula”.

Confined to Barracks

Confined to Barracks

The Cleveland Way follows the cliff face and provides plenty of spectacular views of the rolling coastline. The only blight on the landscape is encountered one mile south of Whitby at the large caravan park at Saltwick Bay. I last walked this stretch in 1998 and I remember it then however it has grown a great deal since my last visit. The RV section is definitely new and there are many more static caravans than before. I’ve never understood the attraction of holidaying in the great outdoors when you’re crammed together in rows of buildings resembling barracks in a 21st century Prisoner of War camp. That being said there wouldn’t be so many of them if they weren’t popular so what do I know.

The footpath between Whitby and Saltwick Bay was fairly busy but the foot traffic tapered off considerably after that and I likely passed no more than a dozen walkers on my three hour walk to Robin Hoods Bay. The views were as stunning as ever and the walk was very pleasant on this overcast, mild and extremely calm day.

One fact that won’t escape anyone’s attention is the how erosion is effecting the coastline, the footpath and the farms that border it. I saw signs of several recent landslips including one about two-thirds of the way along that required a diversion through a field. Unfortunately for the lady and her dog walking ahead of me the field in question was full of very curious steers. She was forced to take a longer detour but I managed to talk the cattle into moving back a foot or two so that I could climb over the stile. They then followed me down to the other stile where I rejoined the Cleveland Way. The diversion was obviously the most interesting thing to happen to these bovines in quite some time.

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Coastlines invariably involve some ups and downs

The route includes it’s share of ups and downs, often involving stone stairs, but it’s gentler than I remember. Perhaps this is because I now have the South West Coast Path as a reference point. The fields and hedges included a lot of wildflowers and as I neared Robin Hoods Bay the skies began to clear. The sun was shining properly when I began the very steep descent into Robin Hoods Bay.

It was the Friday afternoon before the bank holiday weekend and so visitors were beginning to stream into the village, towing caravans or emptying car loads of supplies into their holiday cottages. I enjoyed a pint at the Ye Dolphin pub and the landlord mentioned they were expecting the onslaught to begin in earnest around supper time.

I had a brief nose around the village and then climbed back up the village to catch my bus back to Whitby. The 5-mile journey took ten minutes and cost £4.20 which I thought was a bit pricey. I’ve taken a lot of buses on this trip and this was by far the most expensive considering the distance travelled. For example my 20-minute “school bus” rail journey yesterday cost £3.50 while my return ticket from Whitby to Goathland cost £6.90 (and a few days later I spent £11.80 on a 3-hour bus journey from Goathland to Leeds).

I spent a couple of hours exploring Whitby and enjoying some chips from the Magpie Cafe. The sunny breakwater was the perfect place to sit and stare up at the Abbey ruins while watching the boats come and go out of the busy harbour.

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