175km OF UK MOORS AND COAST
(All the photos in a slideshow at bottom of this page)
After walking along the Dutch coast the year before, I have felt strange longing of going back to the coast and to feel the sea again, to see the far horizon and gathering clouds above, to hear the waves etc. Yep, all that romanticized stuff one associate with the sea. Anyway as my brother was residing in UK at that time, I got an perfect opportunity to do some walking over there. I pondered long between the Hadrians Wall and Cleveland Way, but it was the aspect of experiencing the sea again which finally made my mind. I introduced this idea to my brother and we were good to go. The main purpose of this hike was to get myself ready for the big trip of the year – GR20 in Corsica.
The route itself, the Cleveland Way, goes some 175km over the moors from Helmsley to Saltburn, and from there along the coastline through Scarborough until Filey. May should be nice time to walk this but be careful with the weather. It’s windy and even more windy.
The route is very well marked and when you’ll reach the coast there’s no way to get lost. We had the official national trail guide by Ian Sampson and it worked very well.
DAY 1, 15th of May
*Helmsley to Sutton Bank
*Walking time 17:00 – 19:30
*Distance covered ~16km
*Overnight stay in Hambleton Inn (free)
A Train from York left us to a quite abandoned looking Thirsk station, I mean there was nothing there, so we crossed the main street quickly to an Inn nearby. We were in a hurry to find a ride to Helmsley. The Innkeeper called a taxi for us as there seemed to be no other choice. After 30 minutes or so we were driving through the hilly landscapes and past Hambleton Inn, which would be our first night’s stop. 30£ to Helmsley but at least we were there to start the hike. No time to waste, as it was quite late already and the weather dark and unpromising.
The trail was quite muddy after some very rainy days but well marked. We met no other walkers at that late hour and the Hambleton Inn was already closed when we arrived. The owner showed us the grass field for camping. Free of charge but no facilities to use. We ate quickly our adventure meals as it started to rain and darkness fell. The first night was restless as the road was just next to our tent and heavy wind and rain were playing furiously with our tent. I couldn’t find myself comfortable in my sleeping bag at all.
DAY 2, 16th of May
*Sutton Bank to Lord Stone’s Cafe
*Walking time 7:00 – 16:30
*Distance covered ~31km
*Overnight stay in Lord Stone’s Cafe (free)
The rain had ceased when we got up but the day couldn’t have looked more grey and dull. We packed our gear and walked to the Sutton Bank visitor centre to have some breakfast. We saw no one and everything was closed, no toilets or water. After some muesli we started the long walk of the day.
Right after leaving Sutton Bank behind some nice views opened up on the left side, giving views far to the horizon. We entered the moors.
At 12 o’clock we reached the village of Osmotherley and a nice hotel for a lunch break. We were a bit weary and decided to order some good meal. After filling finally our water bottles it was time to start the second leg of the day. We pushed towards immensely strong wind, climbed up and down several hills and passed through enchanting forests. We saw very few people on our way to Lord Stone’s Cafe, which was just about to be closed. There were no other campers and the owner left the toilets open for us. Alone at the campsite again and this started to feel like wild camping! We enjoyed the solitude, stretched and cooked our meals. It hadn’t rain the whole day which was quite a miracle considering the dark and heavy clouds that had followed us the whole day. Some sun would do well though.
DAY 3, 17th of May
*Lord Stone’s Cafe to Kildale
*Walking time 7:30 – 14:00
*Distance covered ~20km
*Overnight stay in Park Farm 4,50£/person
We slept well despite the raging wind… until 5 am, when a cacophony of birds began. There were small birds singing, big birds signing, ravens, ducks flying past, and the most terrible creature of them all – a peacock lurking just outside of our tent making terrible noise.
The morning was grey as usual. After a short field it was time to climb the first hill of the day, and there were many today. So even if it was not that long until the next campsite, it was tough enough, up and down and we had to be careful because of Jukkas knee. On our way we saw Middlesbrough, the steep profile of Roseberry Topping and the first glimpse of the sea. Tomorrow we would be quite close already. Actually this was especially great in Cleveland Way – the exciting approach towards the coastline.
After tiring final descent we walked through a field full of cows, towards a terrible baaing of the sheep. Are the sheep going to be our nemesis the next night? Well, the Park Farm was really nice and there were some other campers as well. Lovely views but very windy place. We took a warm shower and were able to charge our batteries, ventilate the sleeping bags and in general it was a good stop.
DAY 4, 18th of May
*Kildale to Slapewath
*Walking time 7:30 – 14:00
*Distance covered ~17km
*Overnight stay in Margrove Park Caravan camping 5£/person
The morning revealed itself cloudy again but we had slept very well. We left the small village of Kildale behind and climbed towards the monument of Captain Cook. A light rain began while on top. After coming down and climbing the next hill, we were at the gate to Roseberry Topping – the highest peak of the Cleveland Way. It looked tough but it’s pretty steep and straightforward ascent and quickly done. Rewarding views on top but no time to linger, as it was very windy and dark clouds were hanging all around us. It took 50 minutes back to the gate again.
After Roseberry Topping there was the last leg of the moors, which passed through Guisborough woods to Slapewath. The day was short but this was a good place to halt, as further in Saltburn there’s no way to camp. However Margrove Park was nice and quiet campsite – a real campsite with big facilities. And as the sun shone for the first time for a while, life was good. We boiled some porridge for “first aid” and walked then 30 minutes to the village of Boosbeck to buy some supplies. After coming back, we just ate and ate the whole evening. Jukka passed out at 8:30 while I kept writing my journal for an hour or so. Tomorrow would be the day we had been looking forward to – finally reaching the sea.
DAY 5, 19th of May
*Slapewath to Runswick Bay
*Walking time 7:00 – 16:00
*Distance covered ~26km
*Overnight stay in Runswick Bay Camping 6£/person
My brother said it was a cold night and the tent had gathered some moisture, but the sky was clear! For the first time this would be a sunny day. At seven we started today’s journey first by passing by Boosbeck and meeting again with the original trail. We walked through some very charming woods and park area at Skelton and finally reached a nice vantage point at Saltburn. We bought some snacks and stopped there to admire the beautiful sea in front of us, which would be with us the rest of the way. I smelled the sea and remembered my adventure along the Dutch Coast.
The day was beautiful and there was so much to photograph that going was slow. At four we reached Runswick Bay and a nice campsite. In a restaurant nearby we enjoyed a good big dinner and the first beers of the journey. Tomorrow was, however, slightly worrying as we would have to cross the beach and the guidebook said “if the tide is in, wait for it to recede. There’s no alternative.” We tried to figure out with the locals the good time for crossing the beach but I think the tide wasn’t that strong anyway.
DAY 6, 20th of May
*Runswick Bay to Ravenscar
*Walking time 6:50 – 16:50
*Distance covered ~30km
*Overnight stay in Bent Rigg Farm 2£/person
The sky was clear and promising a nice but windy day for walking. We passed the beach and famous goblin caves at 7 am without any problem, when the tide was already receding. How far would we go today, we were unsure, but at least we should reach Robin Hood’s Bay. Up and down along the cliffs we walked, passing some nice houses at Sandsend and the buzzing city of Whitby. The trail was full of people walking. Well not full, but compared to the first days lonelyness it felt full.
At Robin Hood’s Bay we decided to push a bit further to be able to make all the way until Filey the next day. The last kilometres to Ravenscar were quite tiring, wet and cold as some dark clouds finally reached us. The Bent Rigg farm behind Ravenscar was not that lovely surprise as we had to clear a spot from sheep waste for our tent. There were also pretty much no facilities to use.
DAY 7, 21th of May
*Ravenscar to Filey
*Walking time 5:30 – 14:30
*Distance covered ~32km
We got up early as this would be a long walk until Filey, and we had a train to catch from Scarborough to Manchester. So we set foot after another without wasting time, reaching Scarborough in good time. It took long to reach the other end of this city but I felt relieved after able to leave such a touristy circus behind. We rested for a while and then the last leg to Filey we were flying, walking in a euphoric trance without any pains. We saw the end of these cliffs and the last signpost of the Cleveland Way. We did it! Our Expedition succeeded!
Still a tiring march to the city centre and by bus back to Scarborough train station, to our exit point.
My first visit to UK gave me more than I had expected. The landscapes were really charming and the duality of the Cleveland Way is something I enjoyed a lot. When you leave the barren moors behind, starts as if completely another walk along the beaches and high cliffs. Gear wise everything went smoothly. I had a perfect set of clothes and the new backpack did its job. It was a good preparation in every way for the coming and much tougher Corsica trip.