Things to see and do on the Yorkshire Coast
With numerous beaches, bays and wide-open spaces, the Yorkshire Coast is a special place to visit at any time of year. Enjoy self-led walks, cycle trails, fossil hunting and wildlife watching, take in some incredible views and unearth the history of this stretch of coastline.
Ravenscar can be found high on the cliffs of the North Yorkshire coast between Scarborough and Whitby. The coastal countryside and industrial heritage found here are products of thousands of years of natural history, and hundreds of years of industrial and agricultural activity.
The well-preserved remains of Peak Alum Works and a Second World War radar station offer a glimpse into the past. Nature lovers can meander through a bluebell wood or pause at the pond to spot aquatic life and colourful dragonflies.
Ravenscar Visitor Centre
Head to the visitor centre to dip into the fascinating story of Ravenscar, known as ‘The Town That Never Was’. You’ll also find information about the local area, including walking and cycling routes, events, plus activities such as geocaching and wildlife watching. While you're at the visitor centre, why not refuel with a hot or cold drink and a snack.
Robin Hood’s Bay
The Old Coastguard Station, our visitor centre on the edge of the sea in Robin Hood’s Bay village, will help you discover what makes this part of the Yorkshire Coast so special.
Learn about the area’s distinctive geology, the impact of the elements and climate change on the coast, local history - including smuggling, and the work that National Trust rangers are doing in the area. You can enjoy a drink or a snack from the ground floor café, too.
A lovely place for a walk, Hayburn Wyke is accessed either from the Cleveland Way or via footpaths north or south of the Hayburn Wyke Inn at Cloughton.
Winding paths through woodland lead to a rocky bay where a beck meets the beach in a double waterfall. Oaks twisted by sea breezes create mystical shapes, while flat rocks above the waterfall provide the perfect spot for a picnic.
We advise that dogs and young children are kept under close control as there are some hidden steep drops, particularly where the woods meet the cliff slopes.
Our field at Runswick Bay contains two reservoirs built to feed an ironworks' blast furnace in the mid-19th-century, the remains of which can be found at the base of the slumped sea cliffs. Today, they're managed as wildlife ponds. The deeper of the two provides a breeding habitat for all three of our native species of newt, including the rare great crested variety.
Keep a safe distance from cliffs
At many places along the Yorkshire Coast, the cliffs are prone to erosion and rock falls, and these can become even more frequent following periods of extreme weather. So, please remain a safe distance from the cliffs at all times.
Lying nine miles north-west of Whitby, the village of Port Mulgrave owes its existence to the ironstone mining industry of the mid-19th-century. The old mine entrance can still be seen 50 feet above the high-water mark. After the mine ceased production, the tunnel was extended to join the Grinkle Park mine and used to transport stone to the harbour by narrow gauge railway.
Tree sparrows at Port Mulgrave
Large parts of the National Trust’s land at Port Mulgrave are covered in blackthorn, the spiny thickets of which make an ideal home for small birds such as dunnocks, yellowhammers and chaffinches.
Tree sparrows can often be heard chirping from the bushes. These attractive little birds – which look like house sparrows but have a chestnut-coloured cap and a black cheek patch – have suffered a severe population decline over recent years, so we’ve installed nest boxes to help them breed and thrive.
Risk of landslips
Following a series of landslips, the footpath to the beach is considered dangerous. Therefore, we ask that you do not use it at the current time.
Birdwatching at Cowbar Nab
There's nothing quite like visiting a seabird colony in spring. Cowbar Nab is a great place to see a range of different birds that come here to breed every spring. Enjoy the sights, sounds and, oh yes, the smells.
Good views can be had from the cliff tops to the north, as well as from the harbour wall below Cowbar Nab. Bring along a pair of binoculars for the best birdwatching experience.
Among the species that pay a visit to the area are herring gulls, kittiwakes, fulmars and razorbills. They’re also joined by housemartins – not a bird you might expect to see in a seabird colony, but one that returns to breed every year.
Do not access
Please note that following a landslip in March 2016, access to Cowbar Nab is currently not possible due to the cliff slopes remaining unstable and dangerous.
Loftus Alum Quarries
Step away from the daily grind and enjoy peaceful clifftop views of the coast from these old quarries, which were a centre of industrial activity between 1656 and 1863.
Warsett Hill is the highest point on the stretch of coast between Saltburn and Skinningrove. It's well worth climbing to enjoy the superb panoramic view of the coast and surrounding area.
The hill was the site of a Roman signal station, built to defend the area against Anglo-Saxon attack, but most of the archaeological interest here is a little more modern.
Old Saltburn may only be a small piece of land, but it's interesting for its nature conservation value.
The slumped boulder clay cliff slopes that rise from the beach support plants such as hemp-agrimony, fragrant orchid, bird’s foot trefoil and betony.
The steep-sided valley that cuts through the centre of the property is known as Little Dale, and is a Site of Nature Conservation Importance. Salad burnet, wild thyme, harebell and common century can all be found growing here.
Walking and cycling
The Cleveland Way National Trail and Cinder Track
Explore the area on foot or clock up a few miles on your bike. A section of the Cleveland Way National Trail follows the coast between Saltburn and Filey, offering many options for walkers.
The Cinder Track is a multi-use, cycle-friendly route that travels along the old Scarborough to Whitby railway line and brings you right to the door of Ravenscar Visitor Centre. Our downloadable Ravenscar easy cycle loop follows a section of the Cinder Track on a gentle route suitable for beginners.
A series of downloadable walks curated by the North York Moors National Park team showcase some special stretches of the Yorkshire Coast, each telling a story:
- A stroll through Saltburn’s Victorian roots – a two-mile circular amble
- A journey through time (from Runswick Bay to Staithes) – a 4.5-mile linear route
- Linger with loved ones (a short preamble along Sandsend beach) – approximately three miles
- Bay to Boggle and back again (from Robin Hood’s Bay to Boggle Hole) – a 1.5-mile loop. Be sure to pop into the Old Coastguard Station on The Dock at the beginning or end of your walk
- A mindful meander around Ravenscar – a figure of eight, just over three miles
Some places on the Yorkshire Coast are excellent for rockpooling when the tide is out. Try Saltburn, Robin Hood's Bay and Boggle Hole – there's a surprising variety of wildlife to be found.
You might spot barnacles, periwinkles and limpets clinging to the rocks, as well as ragworms and chitons hiding beneath. A world of seaweed in greens, browns and reds conceals slippery butterfish, velvet swimming crabs and much more.
Please be a considerate rockpooler; always put overturned stones back, and return wildlife to the place you found it, without keeping it from its natural habitat for too long. Oh, and handle with care, as some creatures may nip or sting and others are very fragile.
Always check the tide times before going rockpooling, and be aware that the tide can move fast on its way in. Watch your step on uneven rocks and seaweed.
Along the Yorkshire Coast, rocks from the Jurassic period (150–200 million years ago) are exposed in cliffs and bays. This has made the area popular with geologists for generations.
Follow in the footsteps of pioneering geologists by hunting for fossils such as ammonites, belemnites, devil’s toenails and tiny star-shaped crinoids. You might even be lucky enough to find a bone of a Jurassic marine reptile or a dinosaur footprint.
The best time to search for fossils is following a storm, usually in the autumn or winter. Heavy seas break up rocks and wash new material onto the beach. There's no need to hammer at cliffs (which is dangerous anyway). Instead, hunt among the stones and shingle along and below the high-tide mark. Once you get your eye in, you'll spot plenty.
Discover the 780 miles of beautiful coastline in our care. Plan your next coastal adventure, whether you want to explore soft, sandy beaches or rugged, windswept cliffs.
While canoeing and kayaking are great ways to experience nature and keep fit, they can be dangerous if you don't follow the guidelines. Learn how to stay safe with our advice and guidance.
Try out the ‘50 things to do before you’re 11¾’ activities children can enjoy by the sea, from paddling or swimming, to catching crabs and skimming stones.
Discover how human history has shaped the rugged Yorkshire Coast, from the first establishment of alum works in England to a Second World War radar station.
Discover what family-friendly activities are on offer at the Yorkshire Coast, from cycling and birdwatching to fossil hunting and rockpooling on the beach.