RUNSWICK Bay is my favourite place on the Yorkshire Coast, and the walk to Whitby is full of interest.

It offers the most varied coastline in the area; cliffs, sands and the old alum works. Finishing alongside Runswick Bay is the perfect way to finish the walk.

Park near the Runswick Bay hotel and take the bus to Whitby. It leaves roughly every half hour/an hour. The station is on the north west side of the estuary.

Have a wander along the harbour walls before climbing up the narrow street to meet the Cleveland way path which follows the northern cliffs. Whitby Sands are below whilst the grand North Cliff buildings are inland, a reminder of the past and Whitby’s popularity as a Victorian seaside town. The Cleveland Way accompanies you all the way to Runswick Bay providing a navigational comfort although you cannot go far wrong by keeping the sea to your right.

The path follows the edge of the cliffs for 400 metres before dropping down to the A174.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Whitby to Runswick Bay map Whitby to Runswick Bay map (Image: Jonathan Smith)

Walk alongside the road till you arrive at the sands of Sandsend at the Raitwaite Estate. At this stage you can either follow the pavement on the road in to Sandsend or take to the sands, I prefer the latter.

There is nothing special about Sandsend. Almost immediately after crossing the road bridge take the path north and climb above the cliffs. The scenery for the first half mile is unusual. It is the remains of the old alum quarries dating back to the 17th century. Alum was a chemical used in the textile industry to fix dyes. It is extracted from shales found on the cliff side and does not occur in its natural state in the UK. The remains show a bizarre moonscape style landscape.

Bradford Telegraph and Argus: Overdale Wyke near SandsendOverdale Wyke near Sandsend (Image: Jonathan Smith)

The cliffs become more natural before long as the footpath meets the old railway that used to link Whitby and Scarborough to industrial Teesside along the coast.

There are places along the coast where the erosion of the cliffs has meant the railway has disappeared, the power of the sea and the crumbling cliffs being a lesson of geography in action.

The path reaches the spectacularly situated Kettleness Head. It was here in 1829 that the original Kettleness village collapsed into the sea, the present hamlet built a bit further back! Kettleness other claim to fame is its reputation for fossils, I am led to believe the most profitable foraging can be found under the cliffs in the country.

From the head the path heads westerly along the southern end of the beautiful Runswick Bay. The views here are as good as anything along the Yorkshire coast.

Drop down off the cliffs to the sands, it is best to approach the village along the beach. The bay is sheltered from the strongest winds and the village provided an excellent port for fishing boats and smugglers alike. The situation is picture perfect and it is worth exploring this pretty village before heading back up to collect your car.

* Fact Box:

Distance: Roughly eight miles

Height to Climb: 500m (1,640 feet)

Start: NZ 572036. There is parking in upper Runswick Bay.

Difficulty: Medium/hard. The route is easy to follow but has some strenuous uphill sections.

Refreshments: There are two pubs in Runswick Bay and a café near the sea front.

Be Prepared: The route description and sketch map only provide a guide to the walk. You must take out and be able to read a map (O/S Explorer OL27) and in cloudy/misty conditions a compass. You must also wear the correct clothing and footwear for the outdoors. Whilst every effort is made to provide accurate information, walkers head out at their own risk.

* Jonathan runs Where2walk, a walking company based in the Yorkshire Dales. He has published three books on walking in the Dales; ‘The Yorkshire 3 Peaks’, ‘The Dales 30’ mountains and the ‘Walks without Stiles’ book. All these books (and more) are available direct from the Where2walk website.

Book a Navigation (Map and Compass Skills) Training day near Settle or a bespoke day for a private group. The dates for 2024 are now available to book. March 23 is the first.

He also offers Guiding Days for those wanting to explore the Yorkshire Dales further including the new ‘Dales 30‘ weekend. also features hundreds of walks across Yorkshire and beyond, from easy strolls to harder climbs.