I love Yorkshire. It’s England’s biggest county and is often referred to as God’s Own Country. If you’ve spent any time in Yorkshire then you’ll know why. Travel to the West and you’ll find yourself surrounded by rolling hills and dry-stone dykes in the heart of the Yorkshire Dales. Travel to the East and you hit the picturesque fishing villages clinging to cliffs overlooking the North Sea.
Last Summer I spent a number of weekends exploring the Dales but this year I have been exploring the North Yorkshire Coast. On a sunny weekend at the end of March I set off with two friends on a roadtrip to discover the stunning coastline of North Yorkshire and the charming villages that shelter along it!
We began our 200 mile round trip from Leeds at 8.30am on Saturday morning and returned at 6.30pm on Sunday evening with an overnight stay in Sleights (Eskdale House B&B). I had planned a route in advance to pack in as many places as possible and we started at the North of the Yorkshire Coast in Saltburn-by-the-Sea, slowly making our way down to Robin Hood’s Bay as the final stop.
If you decide to take a road trip along North Yorkshire’s Coast then make sure these six locations are on your itinerary!
Leeds to Saltburn-by-the-Sea: 1hr 30min
Our first stop was at Saltburn-by-the-Sea and we were greeted with glorious sunshine as we clambered out of my car. Saltburn was a popular seaside resort with the Victorians and much of its charm today is in relics from this period. The pier, built in 1869, celebrates its 150th birthday this year. However, it is a steep walk down to the beach from the town and it seems this may have put the Victorian residents and visitors off enjoying the new attraction.
This led to the iconic Saltburn Cliff Lift being installed which carries people down to the beach below. It is still in use today but unfortunately was under maintenance when we visited. Let me know if you take a ride on it! If you walk out along the pier and look back you get an unusual perspective on the Lift.
We had a short stroll along the beach to stretch our legs and to take some snaps of the multicoloured beach huts that line a section of the promenade. There’s something so cheerful about beach huts drenched in sun, dripping wetsuits hung on the back of deckchairs outside and a dog snoozing in a shadowy corner. It was a little too early (and too cold) at 10am for this yet!
Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Staithes: 20min
The second stop of the morning was in Staithes. This charming fishing village nestles in a cove with cliffs towering on either side. It’s no wonder that this is a popular place for visitors to the North Yorkshire Coast!
There’s plenty of different reasons people are drawn to Staithes. For the historians, Captain James Cook spent time living and working here and you can hunt out the buildings associated with him! Any geologists might go in search of fossils on the beach when the tide is out whilst walkers can enjoy the Cleveland Way which runs through Staithes.
We found two view points for stunning vantages of Staithes with varying perspectives! Cross the bridge to the North side of the river and turn left up the steep hill until you find the bench which looks over Staithes from behind. To find the sweeping view of Staithes at the top of this section, take the Cleveland Way past the Cod & Lobster pub, through the village and up the hill. This should take around 10 minutes and the view back across Staithes you’ll be rewarded with is one of the best views along the North Yorkshire Coast!
We were lucky enough to have glorious Spring sunshine and sat outside the Cod & Lobster enjoying a late breakfast with the sun on our faces. Make sure to explore the cobbled streets of Staithes and pop into Betsy & Bo for some old fashioned sweets for some energy to get back up the hill to the car park!
Staithes to Runswick Bay: 10min
Exploring Runswick Bay in the early afternoon really surprised me. I wasn’t expecting this village to be so gorgeous but negotiating the narrow alleyways between beautiful cottages dotted through the village was like walking through a dream as the streets were so quiet. All we could hear was the sound of the waves crashing against the rocks below the village.
Look out for the lovely lamposts dotted along the pathways and make sure to find the thatched roof cottage that perches almost on the edge of the North Sea. I wonder what it feels like to be here in the midst of a storm?!
The main draw of Runswick Bay is the sweeping stretch of sand that stems South from the village. Make sure to visit when the tide allows you to walk the full length of the beach. As you walk back towards the village you can really see how it clings to the cliff behind it!
Runswick Bay to Sandsend: 10min
Sandsend was our final stop on Saturday before heading to the B&B in Sleights. We took a stroll along The Valley which is part of the Mulgrave Estate. The cottages here are very cute but some of the most expensive properties along the North Yorkshire Coast! We finished off the afternoon with a leisurely cup of tea and a scone at Wits End Cafe. Much needed after exploring the first four out of six of our stops along the coast.
Sandsend to Whitby: 5-10min (dependent on parking location)
Whitby is probably the most well known of the North Yorkshire Coastal towns and villages with its iconic Abbey settled high above the town and harbour. We spent Sunday morning taking in as much of Whitby as we could. I have visited twice before so I wanted to show my road trip partners as much as I could in the few hours we had!
Whitby is as varied as it is charming. On the West bank you can find the newer part of the town and we took a quick boat tour from one of the docks here to enjoy a unique view of Whitby from the sea (the sea was choppy so watch out if you are prone to feeling nauseous!). This is also where you can find the amusement arcades and plenty of fish and chip vans as well as ice cream stands. Take a walk out along the pier and if you’re lucky, climb the light house for more views of the town.
The East bank is the oldest part of Whitby and there are cobbled streets to wander down and browse the gift shops and cafes along the way. Let your wanderings take you to the base of the 199 steps beside the Abbey Steps tea room. Climb the steps to St Mary’s Church at the top and be sure to take a pause as you’re walking up and admire the beautiful view.
Behind St Mary’s Church is Whitby Abbey. The Abbey was built in the 7th century and the Gothic ruins were the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s infamous Dracula. Check the English Heritage website and you may be lucky enough to visit when they are dramatising Dracula amongst the ruins.
For more things to do in Whitby check out my post: 15 ways to spend a weekend in Whitby
Robin Hood’s Bay
Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay: 15min
Robin Hood’s Bay is my favourite location along the North Yorkshire Coast and we saved it to last to enjoy the final few hours of our road trip. There are car parks located at the top of the village before a steep walk down through the village. We stopped off at the Fish Box for a delicious lunch of fish and chips with an incredible view out across the terracotta roofs, the sea and the rugged cliffs.
The gorgeous Robin Hood’s Bay is now a paradise for tourists with plenty of cute old fishing cottages to stay in but this village once held a dark secret. Robin Hood’s Bay was a haven for smugglers bringing in goods like gin and tobacco to sell on the black market. There are hidden alleys, basements and passages in many of the houses and pubs through the village that concealed the illicit goings on.
There are so many nooks and crannies to explore in this village so make sure to give yourself enough time to do that as well as enjoy some time on the beach soaking up the sun (if you’re lucky enough for it to be out!)
Robin Hood’s Bay to Leeds: 1hr 50min