Tales from the Big Trails, in print on 2nd September 2021, available now for pre-order from Vertebrate Publishing. Featuring all 15 National Trails in England and Wales, and the 4 designated long-distance Scotland’s Great Trails. This is the story of the people I meet, the landscapes and coastal scenery and the sheer joy of walking these iconic long-distance routes in the UK. Click on a link below for a copy.
Two contrasting walks. Firstly along the dramatic coast of North East England and then inland along the northern escarpment of the North York Moors. The coastal seaside fishing ports are justifiably popular as are the coastal towns of Whitby and Scarborough. Inland, the villages and pubs are superb, with excellent food and beer ideal after a longs day walk.
Time of year
The coastal path does get very muddy and of a type that is difficult to walk on. Also, the coastal resorts and picturesque fishing ports are very popular in July and August and during any Bank Holiday. So find a time when the path is dry and the tourists are absent. This will also make accommodation booking easier and availability at many excellent restaurants easier to book. Strong northeasterly winds can be testing at any time of year.
Length of walk
Approximately 50 miles of coastal walking and 50 miles of moorland. The path is 109 miles from Filey Brigg to Helmsley. I walked in this direction continuing on from the Yorkshire Wolds Way and to keep the sun on my shoulder.
Accommodation is plentiful, but at peak times must be booked in advance if you want to find the best. Quite expensive at times, but generally high quality. The YHA get block booked by families during school holiday breaks yet look wonderful. You will have to descend the moorland route to find an accommodation between Saltburn and Osmotherly.
It took a while to adjust to the change in the landscape from the Wolds Way and onto the coastal path. It is wonderful to see the seabirds and coastal vistas again. Coastal walking is very rewarding. The heavy mud was hard work into Scarborough, but the weather is changing and the paths dry out quite quickly. After 11 odd miles, you enter a Victorian seaside town, not unlike Brighton in many ways. The B&B is superb as is a local pub meal with the Friday night locals. It takes a while before the remote coastal path is reached again, but the diverse town life makes for a pleasant change.
Much of this coastline is suffers from continuous erosion and the path is moved inland often to avoid dangerous cliffs. On one section I am confronted by a pack of hounds, fox hunting, which was somewhat scary. More muddy sections eventually lead to the picturesque seaside village of Robin’s Hood Bay, the end of the very popular coast-to-coast walk. Nice B&B and superb seafood restaurant.
The path is popular on a Sunday, and the paths have dried out nicely in the sun. Time for shorts in March! Whitby looms ahead, marked by the dominant sight of the Abbey. This bustling seaside town is full of history, not least of Captain James Cook, who went to school in Great Ayton and apprenticed in Staithes and Whitby, before joining the Royal Navy. The path continues past Runswick Bay to Staithes and a nice B&B (without the last B) next to a lovely locals pub serving a superb pint of Stout next to a coal fire.
Early departure is rewarded with an above cloud coastal ‘flight’ along with a section with the highest cliffs on the east coast of England. The nearby Boulby mine reaching several miles out to sea. Saltburn-on-Sea arrives soon enough for a brunch at the cafe, before heading inland towards Guisborough.
Up into the forestry tracks, I come across a tree felling machine, not unlikely a scene from War of the Worlds as it makes short work of huge pine trees, harvested into neat piles along the trail. Views over towards the industrial landscape of the northeast dominate until arriving at Roseberry Topping, a pyramid of rock and a popular destination for day walkers from the valley below. I have to walk around a section of moors being burnt back to promote growth for the grouse. Several smokestacks can be seen south over the Cleveland hills and moors. My phone doesn’t walk to summon a lift as promised from the local Inn at Great Ayton, so another 3 miles to do, but amply rewarded with a steak pie and pint and friendly locals.
Another long day to Osmotherly, with some tough ascents as the terrain changes, but views are obscured by thick mist. I only have Red Grouse for company except for the gamekeeper I meet at the precise time to open the gate for him for his 4×4 quad bike. The mist continues as I reach the Wain Stones and find myself scrambling down a rock face. The day is like watching TV with a white noise signal until I reach the lovely village of Osmotherly and a wonderful Inn, with excellent rooms and evening meal. The cloud next day final dissipates as I reach Sutton Bank and the views across Yorkshire from the glider airstrip. The walk into Helmsley is easy going to reach an identical marker stone to the start point and a bustling town. The YHA is cosy and I’m the only guest for a nice meal.
The bus into York the next morning comes complete with a Yorkshireman who talked non-stop for 1 hour about himself.
- Day 1 – 11m – 1/2 day from end of Yorkshire Wolds Way to Scarborough – B&B
- Day 2 – 15m – Robin’s Hood Bay – B&B
- Day 3 – 18m – Staithes – Shed
- Day 4 – 24m – Great Ayton – Coaching Inn
- Day 5 – 22m – Osmotherly – Pub
- Day 6 – 19m – Helmsley – YHA
Day 7 travelling by bus and train home via York and Kings Cross