Yorkshire Coastal walk - Ravenscar and Hayburn Wyke
PUBLISHED: 00:00 12 July 2017
Wander along the eastern edge of Yorkshire from a coastal resort that ‘never quite was’. Terry Fletcher leads the way.
The Yorkshire coast is blessed with fine resorts to suit all tastes. They start on the low cliffs of Holderness and Filey and Bridlington before taking in Scarborough and its ruined castle high on a headland. From there they go north through the smugglers’ haunt of Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby with its historic abbey and Dracula links before finishing at the picturesque fishing village of Staithes. You might think that should be enough even for England’s largest county but if all had gone according to plan there should have been one more. The land was bought, the streets mapped out and even a railway station built. Yet, despite the grand designs, the holidaymakers failed to turn up and now Ravenscar will always be the resort that never quite was.
In 1890 the tiny village of Peak, as it was then known, was sold to the Peak Estate Company with the aim of creating a purpose-built resort to rival Scarborough. The village’s name was changed to Ravenscar, roads were laid and plots put on sale. They even opened a brickworks in 1900 in anticipation of a building boom but public enthusiasm never matched the developers’ dreams and in 1911 the company went bust.
The railway was already there, having opened in 1865 to link Scarborough and Whitby and Ravenscar station was added in 1908 at the highest point of the railway at 631ft (192m). It closed along with the rest of the line in March 1965. Today the closure may seem like vandalism but there is a silver lining, as this circuit proves.
If you like your walks with plenty of variety and few navigation problems you would be hard put to top this wander along the eastern edge of Yorkshire. It starts among Ravenscar’s handful of houses and follows two generously-waymarked paths that could scarcely be a bigger contrast. The opening stretch along a section of the Cleveland Way follows cliff top paths hundreds of feet above the crashing North Sea, accompanied by the raucous screeching of gulls. The return is a complete contrast, following the former railway, through woods and fields serenaded by birdsong.
1. From the road corner by the National Trust tea room and the Raven Hall Hotel walk parallel to the coast for a hundred yards and then turn left by the Cleveland Way sign to the cliff top path, which will be followed down the coast all the way to Hayburn Wyke, four miles away.
After about half an hour you come to the unlovely but once-significant buildings of the Ravenscar Radar Station. Built during the darkest days of the Second World War in 1940 as part of a chain of coastal defences, it gave early warning of raids by enemy aircraft and warships, especially those laying mines in the inshore sea lanes. Today all that is left is a cluster of low concrete buildings to mark the site.
The path undulates along the cliff top with views down to the sea on one side and inland to the wooded slopes of the North York Moors National Park. Eventually it reaches Hayburn Wyke, a deep cleft when a stream cuts down through the cliffs to tumble onto the rocky beach in a double waterfall. The path drops to it down rustic steps and wooden walkways to arrive at the broad platform overlooking the beach.
2. The Cleveland Way continues down the coast to Filey but our route turns inland, climbing beside the stream, and works its way up through mature woodland, the character already changing from coastal to countryside. Continue uphill through the trees, climbing the occasional steps. Smaller paths branch off to either side but the main track continues climbing to reach a gate at the top of the wood. Go through and follow the path leftwards through a farm gate to reach the Hayburn Wyke Hotel, a popular spot with cyclists and walkers which marks roughly the halfway point of the walk and a tempting refreshment stop.
3. From the hotel go up its access road which immediately crosses the former railway line. The rails are long gone but the 21 miles of trackbed has been preserved as a wonderful bridleway known as the Cinder Track, because it was laid on a bed of cinders rather than the more conventional stone ballast. Turn right along this, heading towards Ravenscar.
The track is a delight to walk and although all navigation problems, such as they were, are now behind you, keep an ear open for cyclists approaching from behind. This is especially true on the first section where trees encroach on to the track, making it a little narrow in places. Further on the track passes between fields and there is more room for everyone.
After more than three miles the track comes to the old Ravenscar Station and another tea room. Here it is necessary to leave the track and while it is possible to follow the road into Ravenscar it’s more enjoyable to return to the cliff top path used on the outward leg and retrace your steps for the final few hundred yards.
Distance: 8 miles/13km
Terrain: Cliff top paths and an old railway line
Parking: On or off street in Ravenscar
Refreshments: Cafés at Ravenscar, pub at Hayburn Wyke
Map: OS OL27 North York Moors Eastern