This month we continue our journey along the Yorkshire Coast to Ravenscar for afternoon tea at the Raven Hall Hotel.

Leave Runswick Bay by exiting the car park turning right then at the Cleveland Way sign descends steeply along the footpath through the old village. (Alternatively turn left out of the car park then left again down the steep road to the old village.) The houses in the village are not as old as it would as the cliff had a nasty habit of sliding away taking houses with it! The slide of 1684 left just one house standing! I hope you have a more leisurely descent and reach the beach in fine fettle.

You must do the next part of the walk at low tide. Where the road ends go right along a wide slipway onto the beach, after passing several wooden buildings in the cliff turn right to walk into a cleft in the cliffs which was where the famous Hob resided many years ago. Like all Hobs he was a bit bad tempered but was good at curing whooping cough in children! Keep on the left side to join a path, sometimes flagged and stepped following Cleveland Way signs. Up the cliff now on a steep path then enjoy the walk along the edge of the cliff to soon reach Kettleness.

One misty day two men were walking the cliffs at Kettleness when the sky darkened and a huge hound appeared from above the sea. It moved menacingly toward them then just as disaster was about to strike the hound faded away. The beast has been seen several times with the same effect of fear then dematerialisation. The same beast has also appeared at the mouth of the railway tunnel at Sandsend. Was there really a beast? Was it a trick of the light? Or was the beast Dracula’s pet dog taking its evening walk from Whitby?

There were many shipwrecks along this part of the coast and at Kettleness point there were three, but nearer to Whitby we find something more interesting - German Submarines! Two examples lie on the seabed and are said to be quite intact, both are designated war graves.

Still on the Cleveland Way take the cliff path away from Kettleness to eventually descend onto the disused railway track as you approach Sandsend. Mulgrave Castle stands in a wooded park on a hill above Sandsend near Whitby, it is well known as the seat of the Marquis of Normanby. But hidden in Mulgrave Woods are two other Mulgrave Castles, or what is left of them, as the older one was a Motte and Bailey and is now simply a motte.

On the top of Castle Rigg on the opposite hill to today’s Mulgrave Castle is the ruin of a castle built in the thirteenth century. It was originally the home of the De Mauley family and at one time the castle served as a prison. Around 1600 it was converted into a hunting lodge then forty years later re-fortified in the fight against the Royalists. Unfortunately, after being besieged most of the castle was destroyed. What was left of the ruin was repaired between 1959 and 1999.

The older castle in the woods is Wada’s castle whose name is lost in the mists of time, some say he was a giant who had a giantess for a wife and between them they built Mulgrave Castle and Pickering Castle; others say he was a high ranking Saxon. The motte and bailey castle he is said to have built is situated half a mile away to the north-west on the opposite ridge. It can be accessed from a spur off the Lythe to Ugthorpe road via a public footpath but there is not much to see apart from a wooded mound of earth. You will find it marked on OS Outdoor Leisure 27 at grid ref. 832118.

Onwards now past evidence of alum mining to reach Sandsend and the chance for some refreshment at one of the cafes or pubs there. You can then walk along the beach to Whitby if the tide is out, alternatively, take a leisurely walk along the roadside footpath into town. Make your way through the town, cross the harbour over the road bridge then go left to soon reach the 199 steps to the Abbey and the quaint St. Mary’s church.

I am not going to tell you about the tourist side of Whitby or the many historical facts that are associated with the great Abbey on the cliff. But I will relate to you some interesting history of Whitby in a trade that made riches for the town. Whitby in the eighteenth century imported and exported goods by sea. Many of their ships had the privileged to be built in the Whitby yards of which there were three, all facing the harbour along Church Street.

To support these yards there were five roperies, block and mast makers and four sail lofts supported by ninety one sailcloth looms in the town making five thousand yards of cloth a week. One of the largest exports from Whitby was butter, which was highly regarded; other large exports were sailcloth, hams and bacon, oats, leather and alum. But the most lucrative trade of all was just starting as two ships, the Henry & Mary and the Sea Nymph set sail in 1753 for Greenland to fish for Whales.

Ships sailed to Greenland for several years but trade was only mediocre until in 1775 when fifteen ships were involved in the hunt. This later increased to twenty ships as the demand for whale oil increased. The total number of ships that sailed out of Whitby was fifty three of which eight never returned. The most successful year was 1814 when 172 Whales were caught, and in the last fourteen years the total was catch amounted to 1443 producing almost 13000 tons of oil. This brought immense wealth to the town putting Whitby well and truly on the map.

I could write all day about Whitby but we have to continue our journey along the coast on the high cliffs, if you are afraid of heights do not attempt the walk. Ascend the 199 steps to the Abbey then walk along the road for about 200mtrs then go left at the Cleveland Way sign which leads to the cliff top. Take care along here the cliffs are high, sheer and sometimes eroded. You will pass the ‘Whitby Bull’ on the way, this is the old fog horn and could be heard as far away as Scarborough on a favourable day, the building is now a holiday cottage.

Continue along and after a scenic walk arrive at Robin Hoods Bay. Imagine the scene here three hundred years ago. Huge nets hung out to dry, boats resting on the slipway, cheeky children and piglets playing in the streets and alleys which lead to the higgledy piggledy houses with their back yards and pigsties. Some had small gardens where herbs were grown and everything sloped down to the sea. The houses were small and it was custom for young couples to live with their parents which involved building a couple of extra rooms onto the existing house. These curiously built houses exist today, many of these interconnect and were used for smuggling contraband from shore to cliff hidden from prying eyes.

In the 19th century it was the fishing centre of the coast having five large boats and thirty five cobles, giving work for one hundred and thirty fishermen, more than twice as many than Scarborough and Whitby together. Today it has just a few cobles and is invaded by tourists.

We will leave Robin Hoods Bay now to head off to the end of this section to rest at Ravenscar. Walk through the ‘town’ and down the steep hill to the old village, at the bottom of the hill look to the right opposite the Bay Hotel and near the Old Coastguard Station Visitor Centre turn right up steps at Covet Hill then follow the Cleveland Way signs to the cliff path where there is erosion – take care!

Continue along the Cleveland Way cliff path crossing gullies at Boggle Hole and Stoup Brow YHA then passing the remains of the old alum works to eventually reach the heights of Ravenscar and refuge at the Raven Hall Hotel for your afternoon tea.

We will continue our adventure along the Yorkshire Coast in a few weeks when we will head off to see what was going on in the streets of old Scarborough town two hundred years ago.

The Facts

Distance - 17½miles/28km

Terrain - Moderate but steep in places, eroded cliff paths

Best Map - OS Landranger 94

Start/grid Ref. - Runswick Bay GR808161

Parking - Village pay & display car parks

Refreshments - Tea shops and pubs at Sandsend and Robin Hoods Bay, Choice at Whitby, Raven Hall Hotel Ravenscar

Public Toilets - Runswick Bay cliff top car park and near the café in the old village, Sandsend at Car Park and on the Whitby Road, Whitby as signed, Robin Hoods Bay bank top, Ravenscar 100 mtrs. West from Raven Hall entrance