Runswick Bay is one of the prettiest villages along Yorkshire's coast and makes a good starting point for a walk inland across the four tributary valleys of Staithes Beck. Our 9 mile circular route then joins the coastal footpath close to the towering cliffs at Boulby. From there we follow the Cleveland Way south.
Distance: 9 miles
Time: 5 hours
Conditions: good, well marked field paths, muddy in valleys
Refreshments: Runswick Bay, Roxby, Staithes, Hinderwell
OS Explorer Map OL27
Originally published: 31 October 2008
We start from the car park next to the Cliffemount Hotel, (GR808162), where there are fine views of the bay and the whitewashed houses below. Walk back a few yards to the Runswick Bay Hotel and continue along the road to Hinderwell. In three quarters of a mile, as soon as you reach the houses, look out for a path on the left which crosses one field to the A 174, the road to Whitby.
Then turn right for about 50 yards before going left along Brown's Terrace. In 200 yards this becomes Hinderwell's Back Lane, running parallel to the village street, away to the right. It must have once been the boundary for the crofts, the medieval plots of land tilled by the villagers from their tofts or cottages.
In less than half a mile turn left at a T junction on to a path which soon drops down to cross Dales Beck in the first of our valleys. The path then climbs through the trees and crosses one small field to another wood. Here, ignore the track which bears right down through the trees and instead follow an indistinct path half left through the wood down into Borrowby Dale. Cross the bridge over the beck and go half left again on a steep climb through the trees and out on to open grazing land.
The right of way continues to a stile over a wire fence and then over the next field to a stile in a hedge. Climb beyond it to the tarred Borrowby Lane. Cross straight over and follow the path across several fields. There are magnificent views all along here of the coast from Boulby southwards to Kettleness.
In slightly more than half a mile the path descends to a sharp bend in Roxby Lane where go left up to Roxby church where there are more wonderful vistas. It was probably built by the Boynton family in the 16th century. Its interior is notable for, according to Pevsner, an 'unprovincial' monument to Lady Boynton who died in 1634. If the church is locked it can be seen through a tiny window to the right of the porch. There's a welcome seat nearby too.
Our route continues by returning along Roxby Lane from the seat and, in 50 yards, taking a path to the left. This descends across fields still described as Roxby Park, once a medieval hunting park of the local family. After the first gate look out for a well built wall below the path on the left; it could be a surviving section of the 'pale' which would have enclosed the animals and made hunting them all the easier.
Our path drops down to skirt Roxby Wood before entering it over a stile. From here go down to a footbridge over Roxby Beck and then right, through the trees and along the beckside for about half a mile until you see an abandoned tunnel through the ridge to your left. This was built for a narrow gauge railway which, from 1875 to 1924, carried iron ore from Grinkle Mine on the far side of the ridge to Port Mulgrave for shipping. We pass what remains of the harbour later.
From here there is a choice of routes. You could climb the ridge beyond the old railway embankment to a stile on Ridge Lane where turn right, or you could continue ahead on an indistinct path through the trees to meet the lane lower down. The third alternative, which I took, is to cross the beck by a rickety bridge and follow the track over two similar bridges to the same Ridge Lane where turn left to meet the other two routes at a house called Beck Meetings.
Next go past the house on a bridleway over a ford, (there's a bridge too), and climb up to reach the A 174. Turn left and in about 100 yards go right at Red House Farm on the lane to Cowbar. You soon reach the coast to join the Cleveland Way. We follow it southwards for the next 3 and a half miles to our starting point.
Apart from the delight of walking high above the sea there's much to look out for. You'll hear the raucous calling of the gulls roosting on Cowbar Nab long before the sudden, surprise view of the houses of Cowbar and Staithes tucked tightly into the narrow ravine carved by
Staithes Beck. And, of course, you can't help but notice the fishing boats, the survivors of a fleet which once numbered over 100.
The Cleveland Way crosses the beck and threads the narrow main street to the harbour. It then turns right up Church Street, once the route taken by villagers to Hinderwell church, and passes a notice recording Captain Cook's time here as a shopkeeper's junior assistant before he moved to Whitby.
At the end of the houses our route turns left and heads across fields for over half a mile before returning to the cliff tops just south of Old Nab. There are excellent views back from here to Boulby Cliffs, at 600 ft. the highest in England. This is the Jurassic coast of shales and sandstones where, if you venture on to the shore, there are fossils to be found.
One place where this is possible is at Port Mulgrave, half way to Runswick. Here, in the 1850s Charles Palmer mined the Rosedale Cliffs and constructed a harbour to ship out the iron ore. Later he bored a tunnel under the cliffs as part of the railway to Grinkle Mine. His works were purposely damaged during World War II to deter enemy landings so there's little left except a very ruinous pier and the tunnel entrance. The houses he built on the cliff top still exist however, the long row being for the mineworkers, the short one for officials. The manager's house stands apart, closer to the cliff edge.
The final mile and half looks south to where Kettleness stands on its promontory. Runswick Bay is hidden by the heights of Lingrow Cliffs below which, on Wrack Hills, there was more mining activity. There are two ponds where the path turns inland. These fed the boiler house
for the two blast furnaces which functioned here briefly in the 1860s. From them it's another half mile to our starting point.