First published in: The Times Click here to view a map for this walk in a new window
I hadn’t visited Scarborough for 20 years, and my daughter Ruth had never been there in her life. But she’d often pictured the town, a classic among North Yorkshire’s seaside resorts, and on this lovely morning it was more than fulfilling her fantasies. Regency crescents, sweeping sands, the cliffside tumble of the old town, donkey rides, tacky fun palaces and elegant cast-iron arcades, all lay bathed in clear sunshine.
We climbed the many steps to St Mary’s Church on its ridge. Poor Anne Brontë, dead at 29 of the consumption that had already claimed her sister Emily, lies buried here in a flower-strewn plot. The prospect from the cliff railings just above the church must be one of the best on this coast of wonderful views – the big crescent of North Bay rimmed with elegant Victorian hotels and houses, headlands of many-coloured cliffs reaching into the ice-blue sea beyond.
From the northern end of the strand we looked back to the gaunt ruin of Scarborough Castle silhouetted high on the dark ship-like promontory that divides the town’s two sandy bays. From here northwards the bays have a harder edge; they are floored with ‘scars’ or parallel ribs of rock, remnants of strata turned on edge through subterranean upheavals, then ground down by the sea.
The well signposted Cleveland Way took us unerringly north at the very edge of the crumbly cliffs. This is a mineral coast, a working place where alum, jet, iron and coal were dug with pick and shovel out of the cliff faces. We passed headlands delved and eroded by diggings, bays with tiny rough jetties and tramways. Inland it was all gently undulating cornfields and old farms with pale stone walls and red roofs.
The miles flew by. I was amazed to see the great bulk of Ravenscar promontory loom ahead, a signifier that we’d walked a dozen miles at least. A quick cuppa in the tearoom on the headland and we were striding along the curved coastline towards the red roofs of Robin Hood’s Bay, a shovelful of houses thrown down a cleft by some careless giant.
We trod the steep streets of the village on feet that were beginning to feel the miles. Every crooked corner and flight of narrow steps called for the camera; but we had only baths, beers and beds on our minds just now.
Start: South Bay Underground car park, Foreshore Road, Scarborough, YO11 2HD (OS ref TA 045877)
Getting there: Rail to Scarborough. Bus 93 from Whitby. Road – A171 (Whitby), A170 (Pickering), A64 (York), A165 (Bridlington).
Walk (15 miles, easy, OS Explorer OL27. Online maps, more walks at christophersomerville.co.uk): North up South Bay promenade. At NW corner of Old Harbour (047888), left up West Sandgate Terrace; on up steps to church and Anne Brontë’s grave (047891). Up snicket opposite church to railings; left round North Bay to Old Scalby Mills PH (036909). From here, follow well-waymarked Cleveland Way National Trail to Robin Hood’s Bay.
Return: Bus 93 from Thorpe Lane, Robin Hood’s Bay.
Conditions: Some steep flights of steps; unguarded cliff edges.
Accommodation: 17 West Street, Scarborough, YO11 2QN (01723-361914, 17weststreet.co.uk) – stylish and welcoming stopover.
Victoria Hotel, Station Rd, Robin Hood’s Bay YO22 4RL (01947-880205, victoriarhb.com) – very friendly and full of character.
Information: Scarborough TIC (01723-383636)