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If you’re looking for a rugged, dramatic coastline, idyllic fishing villages, beaches all to yourself and deliciously fresh seafood, the North Yorkshire coast is the perfect destination for your next trip. From Whitby to Staithes, North Yorkshire’s coastline really does have it all. Off the beaten path for even most domestic tourists, the Yorkshire coast is a hugely underrated stretch of the country. What’s more, it offers up plenty to tourists in every season!
To get the most out of this Yorkshire coast itinerary, a rental car is necessary. Outside of Whitby, public transport in this part of the country is patchy at best. The isolated nature of these villages means that even the most regional of buses won’t get you close enough. Plus, waiting for the infrequent bus services will waste precious time! I recommend either driving the entire trip or getting the train to Scarborough, where you can rent a car.
This itinerary is for 4 or 5 days spent discovering the best that the Yorkshire coast has to offer. If you have more time and are a keen hiker, you could easily stretch this itinerary out to a week or longer. If you don’t have much time, select one or two of these destinations for a weekend itinerary.
So, without further ado, let’s get started!
Day 1 – Scarborough and Flamborough
Although on the Yorkshire coast, Scarborough isn’t worth spending much time in aside from picking up your rental car. Once a thriving seaside holiday resort, Scarbrough is now pretty run down and a bit rough around the edges. That being said, If you have time before picking up your car, check out Scarborough Castle.
This castle has survived five sieges and even played a part in the English Civil War. Its position on a rocky headland overlooking the town offers some fabulous views on a clear day, and adult tickets are only £4.70.
Once you’ve explored the castle, stop by The Anchor Fish and Chips for a delicious lunch before hopping in your car and driving 40 minutes to the town of Flamborough.
This rugged and windswept coastal town is one of the most gorgeous on the Yorkshire coast. It’s famous for its white chalk cliffs – the Flamborough Heads. For avid hikers, the best way to kick off your trip to Flamborough is the 7 mile Flamborough Heads hike. Starting in the village of Flamborough, this walk takes you right around the dramatic headland, offering breathtaking views of the sea and cliffs.
Set in the stunning Flamborough Cliffs Nature Reserve, the trail also stops at the famed Flamborough Head Lighthouse. The lighthouse is still in use, despite being built way back in 1806, and tours of the lighthouse can be organised in advance.
The lighthouse is roughly halfway through the hike and is a great place to break up the hike with a cup of tea or an ice cream. If you have the energy, walk the 200 steps down to the beach and relax for a while. Just remember you’ll have to walk back up! If you don’t fancy a 7-mile hike, don’t worry – the Flamborough Head car park is only a minute’s walk away from the lighthouse. Parking for two hours costs £1.40 – make sure you have cash!
The Flamborough Heads are very exposed to the elements, so take a jacket – even in summer! It can get very windy near the lighthouse, so coming prepared is key.
Once you’ve taken in the Flamborough Heads, either drive or walk back to Flamborough town. There are only a few options for hotels and B&Bs in Flamborough itself, so book in advance! If you’re unable to find anything suitable, the nearby town of Bridlington has more options.
If you’re staying in Flamborough, round off your day with a traditional pub dinner at the Rose & Crown. Don’t forget to order a pint of local real ale to toast to your first day on the Yorkshire Coast!
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Day 2 – Robin Hood’s Bay
Bright and early, make the 1-hour drive along the coast to the beloved fishing village of Robin Hood’s Bay. Despite what the name suggests, there is no evidence that the famous character Robin Hood ever visited the bay. The origin of the town’s name remains a mystery to this day! This small village is located in the North Moors National Park, so beautiful nature is plentiful around here.
Robin Hood’s Bay is not the destination to rush around with a checklist of things to do. Instead, spend the day taking it easy and soaking up everything that makes Robin Hood’s Bay so great. There are countless hiking trails around the clifftops and bay which could easily fill a full day for hiking enthusiasts.
Don’t miss spending time on Robin Hood’s Bay Beach before moving on to Boggle Hole. You can get to this oddly-named cove either by walking along the sands (if the tide is on your side) or over the cliff and through the woods. The small cove is ideal for exploring rock pools, fossil hunting and watching the world go by. The hostel nearby, which is in a converted mill, serves epic hot chocolate if you’re visiting on a cold day.
If the weather isn’t on your side, you always have the option of popping into the Robin Hood’s Bay Museum. Although small and pretty outdated, the museum is a good introduction to the history of the village. What’s more, it’s free!
Stay in the Victoria Hotel, upon the cliffs, for stunning views over the bay – especially at sunset! A double room costs £90 per night and offers great value for its location, which is just minutes away from anywhere you would want to be in the village.
After checking in, head back into the village for some dinner. Here, expect to eat some of the freshest fish you can imagine. Chances are it was caught that very day from the local waters! Although there are lots of dining options to choose from, my recommendation would be The Smuggler’s Wine Bar. If it’s a nice evening, opt to sit outside and enjoy the fresh sea air. Be sure to order their Whitby crab!
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Day 3 – Whitby
On day 3, make the short drive (just 13 minutes!) to the gothic town of Whitby. There is so much to do here that if you have enough time you should spend two days in Whitby rather than just one.
Undoubtedly, one of the most popular things to do in Whitby is to pay a visit to Whitby Abbey, which sits overlooking the town and the ocean. It was the ruins of this ancient abbey which supposedly inspired Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula, to set part of his famous gothic novel in the town. The abbey costs £9 to enter, and you should set aside an hour or two to explore its historic grounds.
From Whitby Abbey, take the famed 199 steps down to Tate Hill Sands. This descent is one of the most scenic views of Whitby, and stopping to admire the view breaks up the trek down to the beach.
Another great stop in Whitby is the Whitby Museum, situated in the lovely Pannett Park. This museum is jam-packed full of interesting articles relating to the history of Whitby and the Yorkshire coast in general. Some of the ancient fossils found nearby are on display, as well as shipping artifacts. Tickets cost £5 each.
If the weather is on your side, take the short one-mile stroll along the coast to the stunning Saltwick Bay. At sunset, this place truly looks otherworldly, and Game of Thrones fans would agree this beach could easily have starred as the backdrop for some of its dramatic scenes. Scour the sands for the half-submerged wreck of the Admiral von Tromp ship, which mysteriously wrecked on the shore in 1976. This beach is also famous for fossils, so keep your eyes peeled!
If you’re visiting Whitby in late September or early October, don’t miss booking a Whitby Whale Watching tour. This is the time of year when the whales migrate south, and you have a good chance of seeing them off the coast of Whitby! Tours cost £40 per person and can last anywhere from 4-8 hours, depending on whether or not you’ve seen any whales. Bear in mind that the tours often take you many miles offshore, where weather is unpredictable, so warm clothing is a must!
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Day 4 (or 5!) – Staithes and Runswick Bay
After you spent a day or two enjoying Whitby, drive 20 minutes to Runswick Bay. This sandy beach is a great place to sunbathe or paddle in the freezing sea! Pick up a coffee from the beachside cafe to wake yourself up, then meander to the Beech Grove Bakery for some freshly-baked pastry.
Relaxed and raring to go, join the 109 mile Cleveland Way footpath for your coastal walk to Staithes. Don’t worry, you won’t be tackling the whole thing! This walk is only a small section of the Cleveland Way, stretching a little over three miles, and it’s fairly easy to hike. Hugging the coast, this hike takes in rolling meadows, magnificent clifftop views and ocean vistas spanning for miles. Take your time on this hike and snap lots of photos, especially as the picture-perfect Staithes, North Yorkshire first comes into view.
On arriving in Staithes, trust me when I say you won’t be able to stop snapping photos! Fishing nets lay stacked on the cobbled harbour as the local fishermen unload their catch, children splash about in rock pools and families sit out on the pub terraces overlooking the harbour, catching some sun and refreshment. This tiny town looks just like something out of a children’s book! For an authentic Staithes experience, book yourself one of the cosy fishermen’s cottages to stay in for the night.
To step back in time, head inside the charming vintage post office to buy a postcard of Staithes. Next, pop by the Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre. The famous captain grew up in Staithes, and this museum is the best place to learn about his life in the village.
Now an expert on all things Captain Cook, stroll along the beach before getting a harbourside seat at the Cod & Lobster. Sit back, relax and raise a glass to your fabulous road trip on the Yorkshire Coast!
About the authour: Ella is a London-based travel blogger who spent 3 years living in Yorkshire. As an avid reader, she spent as much time as she could
exploring Yorkshire, the Yorkshire coastline, and its surroundings to learn more about her favourite literary figures. You can read more about her travels over on her blog, Many More Maps.