Robin Hood's Bay is one of the astounding sights of Yorkshire's coast and attracts thousands of visitors annually to its steep streets, narrow passages, 18th century cottages and their pretty gardens, huddled on the edge of a broad bay between the the cliffs of North Cheek and South Cheek.
Distance: 8.5 miles
Time: 5 hours, but worth a day
Conditions: well signed field paths and bridleways
Refreshments: Robin Hood's Bay
OS Explorer Map OL27
Originally published: 29 August 2014
Behind the village is a large semi circle of farmland watered by half a dozen little becks where the settlement began. This highly attractive landscape with its constant view of the sea is explored in this most rewarding 8.5 mile walk.
From the roundabout at the top of Bay Bank, the steep village street (GR 952054) walk 50 yards back uphill before turning left along Thorpe Lane towards Fylingthorpe.
200 yards after passing the parish church go left through a gate on the Cinder Track, the bed of the Whitby-Scarborough railway built in the 1880s. It's now part of National Cycle Route 1 (look out for an elaborate steel milepost on the left in a few yards). In about 400 yards pass through another gate and immediately turn right past the silos of Middlewood Farm and on to a tarred lane. Go right and, after passing the farmhouse, bear left on a signed path which is easy to follow through a little estate.
At the end of the houses of Middlewood Garth a path on the left climbs up one field before turning left over the next field to a ladder stile. This gives access to Park Gate which once formed the entrance to the hunting lands of the abbots of Whitby. From the house turn left past the former outbuildings (now cottages). The path (partly paved) continues through trees to Fyling Hall.
The fine house, built in 1819 for John Barry, a Whitby shipowner, is now a school. Opposite the rear facade with its 'bottle' window a bridleway strikes off right. After a gentle climb it soon offers stunning views across the bay. In about a mile you drop down through Oak Wood to Ramsdale Mill, an early corn mill, still with its large overshot wheel. It was rebuilt in 1859 after a flood destroyed its predecessor. The mill is in a dramatic setting overlooking a waterfall which plunges into a densely wooded deep little gorge.
Go past the mill and a nearby farm on a little used bridleway which continues through Carr Wood to a T junction. Turn left. After a gate cross one field to another T junction. If you have time it's worth walking 200 yards or so down the path to the left to have a look at a well preserved section of the medieval wall which surrounded the abbots' deer park. Half a dozen huge stone crosses some 5ft high are built into the wall to mark the boundary of the monastic land. About 25 similar crosses have been found on other sections of the wall.
Retrace your steps and continue the walk on the other arm of the T. Where the bridleway turns sharp left in about 100 yards go straight ahead through a gate on a path which drops down across three fields to Kettle Well Cottage, visible below. In the first field you need to pass through a line of bushes in about 200 yards before bearing right to a gate giving access to the second field.
When you reach the cottage turn left along the lane to Boggle Hole and in another 300 yards go right on a bridleway just before Colcroft Farm. It's a delightful walk on a broad track which, after a crossing of Stoupe Beck, passes through woodland to the cluster of houses at Spring Hill. I looked in vain for 'Harry's Folly', marked on the OS map. None of the locals knew about it either.
Continue past all the houses before turning left on a path which climbs on to Thorney Brow. There's only one tricky point on this section - after the first stile 50 yards of dense gorse have to be penetrated. The narrow path is muddy too but there's the reward of widespread views across the bay when you emerge.
The path, signed Howdale one field after the gorse, continues to a concrete track. Turn left down it to a group of buildings under Thorney Brow. Where the track forks left go ahead on a path through pretty woods. Two well sited seats with a view make an ideal picnic spot. The path then joins the track to Howdale Farm. Turn left and when it ends at the buildings, go left over a stile through a field which borders the large house called Howdale.
The path then meets the track from the house. Turn left down it and in 100 yards look for a path to the right. This drops into a deep ravine, crosses the beck and climbs the far side. This must have been one of the prettiest paths to school. It arrives, quite suddenly, at Howdale School, a tiny 19th century school now privately owned. From here the outstanding views of Robin Hood's Bay and its hinterland of lush green farmland and little valleys are the best on the walk.
We follow the narrow lane from the school. This leads past the houses which lie direct;y under Stoupe Brow, the high ridge that dominates the southern edge of the bay. Alum shale was extracted from here in huge quantities in the 19th century. The reducing works were a mile away on the coast under South Cheek. The huge scars on the brow made by the quarrying still remain.
In half a mile our lane joins Scarborough Road, the old route from the bay to the south. Originally rough tracks would have connected it to Fylingthorpe or travellers would have taken to the beach (at low tide only) between Stoupe Beck and Robin Hood's Bay village. Today as a motor road it ends at Stoupe Bank Farm.
Turn left down the steep hill and over the former railway which at this point is climbing the steep gradient to Ravenscar. In another 500 yards the lane is joined by the Cleveland Way close to the cliff edge.
From here the village is about one and a half miles along one of the finest stretches of the coastal footpath. If you decide not to walk along the beach (passable 3 hours either side of low tide) there are two sharp climbs, from Stoupe Beck and Boggle Hole. The reward at the end is the sudden appearance of the tightly packed houses on their little ridge below.