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Skinningrove to Boulby Cliff & Loftus

Skinningrove takes its name from the Viking meaning 'rocky gorge'. Whilst the rocks may now be less evident the narrowness of the valley of the Kilton Beck certainly determined the village's size and shape.

Distance: 6 or 5 miles

Time: 4 hours

Grade: moderate

Conditions: one short climb out of Skinningrove, then easier gradient

Refreshments: Riverside at Skinningrove, Loftus

OS Landranger Map OL27

Originally published: 5 April 2013

We start our 6 mile walk from The Square, the heart of the original settlement (GR 713199). The post office was once the 16th century Old Hall and part of Stone Row formed the stable block. The New Hall (1704) or Timms Coffee House, was named in the early 19th century after the popular London coffee houses of that time.

The route we take also traces the more recent industrial history of the area and at first climbs up to Boulby Cliff, at 666ft the highest point among Yorkshire's coastline. The return is by field paths and then through Loftus.

From The Square walk past the post office down towards the beach. Cross the beck past a statue to the local pigeon fanciers. After a sharp bend in the road the Cleveland Way strikes off left along the coast climbing at first rapidly up on to Hummersea Cliff. The views back are spectacular. The sandy beach half a mile distant is Cattersty Sands punctuated by the curve of the jetty which was built in 1886 so that the 4 ships owned by the Skinningrove Iron Company could take away the pig iron and wrought iron goods produced from locally mined ironstone in the works on the hill above. Today's hilltop steelworks rolls steel which is made elsewhere.

The walk now levels out as we continue for another half mile to a 4 way junction. The path to the left leads down wooden steps to Hummersea Beach. If you have time to explore you will find at the water's edge remains of the earlier alum industry including the New Gut inlet into the beach which would have been used as a dock.

The Cleveland Way bears right here and then goes left in 250 yards along the access track to North Warren Cottage where it reverts to a path. The alternative (which I've also mapped) goes straight ahead from the junction, is easy to follow but may be slippery underfoot. In 150 yards, though, there is an excellent view of Hummersea Beach. You may also notice along the path the remains of two stone cisterns associated with the alum industry. In less than half a mile the path passes an entrance to Loftus Alum Quarry and soon after rejoins the main path. Turn left.

The Cleveland Way continues its climb and soon reaches the summit plateau and the amazing site of the Loftus and Boulby Alum Quarries, nearly 200ft deep and over a mile long, between the path and the cliff edge.

Here, from 1656 to 1863 vast quantities of shale were laboriously processed to produce alum which was used for fixing dyes as well as in tanning and various other industries. Little grows even now, some 150 years after the quarries closed.

Shortly after reaching the plateau you could reduce the walk by one mile, by turning right, over a stile on the Miners' Way After crossing two fields you rejoin the longer route at Upton. However, it's well worthwhile continuing for another half mile to the next path to the right. From this point a panoramic view  opens up of the coast. Just over two miles distant are the houses of Staithes and, beyond, the sharp outline of the cliffs at Port Mulgrave and Runswick Bay.

If you are tempted at this point to make your walk linear and continue downhill all the way to Staithes or further then it's easy to return by bus to the Skinningrove lane end on the A 174. From the bus stop it's less than half a mile back to the starting point. Arriva bus 5 operates regular daily services but remember it's a half hour climb back up the bank from Staithes village to the stop on the main road.

To complete our circular walk follow the path to the right to a BT beacon some 300 yards distant. You will pass a Bronze Age tumulus and a trig point on the left on this stretch.

Go right at the beacon on a lane down Upton Hill to Street House Farm. In the surrounding fields archaeological excavations since 2005 have revealed human activity from 3,300 BC. The most stunning of all finds came from the 7th century  grave of the only known Anglo-Saxon royal burial site in northern England. The Saxon Princess Exhibition at Redcar's Kirkleatham Hall displays the finds.

200 yards beyond the farm is the hamlet of Upton, originally built for the alum workers. Turn left here on the Miners' Way. The path is well signed with a small wood and an attractive spring at the half way point before the A 174 is reached on the outskirts of Loftus. Turn right along the pavement and in a few yards go right again on a path which skirts Swalwell Wood (one of the area's ancient woodlands) before returning to the main road.

Turn right into Loftus, another Viking settlement signifying a house with a loft or upper floor. Its High Street of imposing buildings such as the 18th century Golden Lion and the Town Hall and Old Zetland School of the 1880s reflects its prosperous industrial past.

Some 150 yards beyond the town hall turn right off the main road into Duncan Place. Pass through a gap in a fence designed to stop through traffic and continue ahead at the next crossroads into Coronation Road. Follow this to the end and then go right past the Mars Inn and the leisure centre on a broad tarred lane down into the aptly named Deepdale.

Only 60 years ago this area was a scene of intense industrial activity, being the site of Loftus Mine, the third largest in Cleveland. The mine is now the Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum, reached by steps on the left some 400 yards after the leisure centre. It  certainly merits a visit. From the top of the steps continue down the tarred track to the starting point.


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