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Discover These Three North Yorkshire Seaside Towns with our Coastal Guide

Steps at Whitby, cobbled street at Robin Hoods Bay, Sandsend
August 2022
Reading time 4 Minutes

Discover the rich history of the Yorkshire coast in the winding streets of this fascinating and picture-perfect seaside trio

There’s something undeniably dramatic about Sandsend, Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay. Each has its own distinct personality but, together, they give a tantalising glimpse into the darker corners of the coast’s history and mythology, where smugglers, vampires and ghosts still might haunt the winding, cobbled streets.

Whitby, which inspired Bram Stoker to write Dracula and Captain Cook to venture forth on the Endeavour, is flanked by the Gothic ruins of a 13th century abbey on one promontory and a 20-foot whalebone arch on its twin across the harbour. In between are tumbling streets packed with shops, bars, restaurants, visitor attractions and museums.

Two miles up the coast at Sandsend you’ll find chocolate box cottages and a wide sweep of beach bisected by a beck that merges with the sea at high tide. Its streets, peppered with holiday homes and a handful of cafés, restaurants and shops, reach up towards the 15,000-acre Mulgrave Estate.

The slopes of Sandsend are, however, nothing compared to the narrow, occasionally breathtakingly vertiginous streets of Robin Hood’s Bay, to the south of Whitby, which tumble down to the family-friendly beach, where children now love to go rock-pooling in the footsteps of smugglers and press gangs – and dinosaurs.
houses at Sandsend Sandsend

Base Camp

Starting in Sandsend, the natural choice here is Raithwaite Sandsend. Tucked between the sea and the moors, this luxurious coastal retreat has plenty of wooded grounds, a stylish restaurant, a great outdoor sun-trap terrace and a spa, all within walking distance of the beach. 

Heading into Whitby, seek out Riviera Guesthouse, a welcoming spot with 15 comfortable ensuite bedrooms, many of which have truly spectacular sea views. Don’t miss out on their famous Riviera ‘breakfast of champions’, served in the dining rooms which have floor-to-celling bay windows with stunning views over the sea. 

Another great option here is La Rosa Hotel, an elegant period townhouse on Whitby’s West Cliff and once a favourite of Lewis Carroll. With one of the best views in Whitby, each of the somewhat kitsch rooms here has been lovingly designed with the town’s rich heritage as inspiration. If self catering is more your style, there’s plenty of choice. 

Jackson’s Cottage is in the heart of the medieval old town, sleeping six, and simply oozes luxury and charm – it’s available to rent from Host & Stay. In the heart of Robin Hood’s Bay, The Boutique is just minutes from the beach, has seven bedrooms, a hot tub and precious parking.

fish, chips, mushy peas and tartare sauce Raitwaite Sandsend
Out door seating area Fish Cottage
Whale bones at Whitby Whitby

Perfect Weekend

If you’re starting in Sandsend, the beach should be your first port of call after breakfast at Sandside, the ‘café-ina- cabin’ which, as the name suggests, enjoys a prime position overlooking the beach.

If the tide is out and the weather hospitable, you can work off your full English by exploring the nooks and crannies along the beach, taking a bracing dip in the North Sea, or heading up to the disused railway path on the cliffs which tower above the northern end of the bay to make the most of the clifftop views. 

Back down to sea level, just off the beach is Fish Cottage, a seafood restaurant and takeaway serving delicious, locally-caught seafood in everything from tacos to regular fish and chips. 

Sit outside and soak up the sun here, or book table inside if the sea fret is keeping temperatures cool. There’s a great kids menu here too so everyone will be happy. Don’t want to miss a minute on the beach? Order a takeaway to enjoy on the sand.

An early start is advisable if for a day out in Whitby – even Dracula would brave the morning sunshine if it meant seeing all the sights, especially Bram Stoker’s Dracula Experience. 

Top of the must-see list is Whitby Abbey which, frankly, is difficult to miss, but you might also want to take a stroll to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum in the 17th century house where young James lodged as an apprentice. 

Whitby Museum in Pannett Park is a lovely lunchtime picnic spot; and don’t miss The Endeavour Experience, to explore the full-scale replica of Cook’s ship and discover more about life on board. There are lots of small independent shops to discover in the town, which is also home to Hamonds, the original Whitby jet store dating back to 1860 and made popular by the Victorians.

Oysters on ice Star Inn the Harbour
Captain Cook Memorial Museum Captain Cook Memorial Museum
Steam train with Larpool Viaduct in background Larpool Viaduct

Shopping done, grab a paddleboard and take a gentle paddle up the River Esk to the Larpool Viaduct. A monument to engineering, this 13-arch brick built viaduct was part of the Scarborough to Whitby line. 

If that’s not enough, a great way to end the day is on a sunset cruise. Sailing out of Whitby harbour you can watch the sun set over this magical part of Yorkshire’s coast. 

After all that effort – including the 199 steps up to the Abbey – you’ll probably be ready for a hearty supper. Trenchers and The Magpie Café are both famous for their fish and chips, but you might also want to try Andrew Pern’s Star Inn the Harbour, or The Moon & Sixpence for great food and great views across the harbour as the sun sets.

Round off the weekend with a spot of fossil-hunting, beach-combing and rockpooling in Robin Hood’s Bay – and build up an appetite for the banquet of edible seaweeds, shellfish and plants foraged from pools and gullies around the bay with expert guidance from Taste the Wild

The Coastguard’s Station reveals the secrets behind living and working on the coast, whilst the Robin Hood’s Bay Museum provides an interesting distraction with its carefullycurated collection of local memorabilia, and you can join a ghost walk should you want to learn more about the bay’s smuggling history.

Just above the village is Old St Stephen’s church, built in 1822 and crammed with local history, you’ll find memorials to shipwreck victims and a model of SS Pretoria.

Whitby Abbey at sunset Whitby Abbey

Must See

A £1.6 million transformation project at Whitby Abbey means visitors can now explore 3,000 years of history in a new permanent exhibition with dramatic displays of unique objects and a free interactive experience – The Ammonite Quest. Legend has it that the headland at Whitby was once infested by snakes until a nun called Hild, who wanted to build a monastery, threw the slithering interlopers off the cliff, miraculously turning them to stone as they fell. Today, these ‘snakestones’ are better known as ammonites, which can easily be found in and along the cliffs.

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