The best beach walks | Living North

The best beach walks


Here’s our top picks of where to go and the walks when you can go down to the beach again
'This popular seven mile trek between these famous fishing and smuggling ports follows part of the Cleveland Way, along a beautiful stretch of Yorkshire’s coastline with remarkable cliff top views.'


Seahouses & Bamburgh

The walk between these coastal villages is a truly beautiful one. Check the tide times however, as at high tide certain parts of the beach are near impassable. It’s just over three miles between the two, and all the while you are flanked by sandy dunes to one side and views of the famous Farne Islands with their huge and important population of seabirds including puffins, kittiwakes, arctic terns and razorbills on the other. If you are lucky a seal or two will pop up to watch your progress, and keep an eye for the many Oyster Catchers which are found wading in the shallows.


Enjoy a pint at the charmingly traditional The Olde Ship inn, or find a seat in the dog-friendly Bamburgh Inn’s beer garden overlooking the harbour and the nearby Farnes. Fish and chips are a go-to here, with Lewis’ the Living North chip shop of choice. Packing a picnic? Pop into the Independent Food & Drink shop on Seahouses’s Main Street which stocks a range of specialist local produce alongside great beers and wines. 


Once you’ve explored the iconic castle, taken a trip around the Grace Darling Museum and wandered around the ancient village church, check out one of Bamburgh’s many hostelries. The Victoria is a popular choice for an early evening drink. If you are hungry, the top pick is The Potted Lobster for locally-caught oysters, lobster and their speciality squid. Picnickers should pop into R Carter & Sons, the local butcher, famous for its pies and sausages. Down the street is The Pantry, home to loads of local produce, and Wydenwell, a popular ice cream parlour and coffee shop.


Alnmouth to Warkworth

If you choose to start in Alnmouth you need to make sure you head to the south of the Aln Estuary. It’s a relatively easy three and a half miles to Warkworth, simply follow the track through meadowland full of cranesbill, cowslips and harebells, towards the dunes of Buston Links. St Cuthbert’s Cross, (marking the spot where it is thought St Cuthbert agreed to become Bishop of Lindisfarne) high on the top of the dunes to your left, will act as your guide. As you hit the beach and turn south you can see Coquet Island in the distance – a managed nature reserve and home to 35,000 nesting seabirds each summer, including roseate terns and puffins. The long stretch of beach is often empty and you can watch the terns dive-bombing for fish. 


With its pretty, pastel-coloured houses strung out along the estuary, and the many red-tiled roofs, Alnmouth, once an ancient sea port, is now a bustling seaside village with shops, tea rooms, a popular art gallery, and several pubs – the favourite of which is The Red Lion with its cosy bar and ample beer garden behind, with views stretching down to the estuary. The village shop stocks lots of essentials, but for some luxury treats for your picnic try Scotts of Alnmouth, a great little deli serving freshly baked goodies and good coffee.


You can walk north or south between the two villages. If you end up in Warkworth then you will find you are spoilt for choice in terms of refreshments in this historic village, almost entirely surrounded by a loop in the river Coquet. At one end, overlooking village proceedings, is the ruin of Warkworth Castle. Once the seat of the Percy family, and now owned by English Heritage, it’s great for kids to explore. There’s also a medieval hermitage here, hidden away on the river bank and accessible only by boat. The ancient streets are lined with shops, galleries and inns. Pop into Cabosse a luxury chocolaterie and patisserie, or head to Bertram’s – a bustling spot for lunch, or The Masons Arms for some real Northumbrian pub grub.


Seaham & Crimdon

As part of the Durham Heritage Coastal Path, the near 11-mile walk offers a great mix of clifftop scenery, vast empty beaches and steep wooded ravines. But perhaps the most enthralling aspect of this walk are the constant reminders of the region’s once prosperous coal industry as you pass abandoned equipment and old collieries along the way. The slag heaps which once spilled down to the sea are now covered with wild flowers and grasses, but you will still find coal and coal dust washing up on the beaches when the tide is right. Look out for the rich plant and wildlife, including the rare Durham Argus butterfly which is attracted to the coastal rockrose. If you choose Seaham as your starting point, head to North Dock Marina and follow the cliff path to Nose’s Point and continue south past Hawthorn Dene, Beacon Hill and Easington Colliery into Castle Eden Dene before hitting the caves of Blackhall Rocks.


Seaham’s North Beach with its long sea wall is the perfect place to grab some fresh air. Before you head off on the coastal path, visit Tommy – the WWI commemorative statue, the popular heritage and lifeboat centre, and St Mary the Virgin Church, one of the 20 oldest surviving churches in the country, dating back to the 7th century. Head to The Lamp Room café or Clean Bean for a bite to eat, or the dog-friendly Lookout on the harbour.


Once a thriving holiday destination for the mining families from nearby villages, Crimdon is now famous as a home to the rare little tern which arrive from West Africa each year to breed, and are well protected by wardens and volunteers here. Crimdon boasts a long, sandy beach and the only sand dunes on the Durham Coast. Nearby Crimdon Dene boasts a Victorian viaduct but there’s not a vast amount else here so carry on to Hartlepool, or head back to Seaham at the end of your walk.


Whitby & Robin Hoods Bay

This popular seven mile trek between these famous fishing and smuggling ports follows part of the Cleveland Way, along a beautiful stretch of Yorkshire’s coastline with remarkable cliff top views. Start on Whitby’s Quayside, where Captain Cook learned his trade and where his ship, the Endeavour was built. From here, head up the 199 steps to the churchyard of St Mary’s and the infamous Abbey which stands guard over the town before striking out along the Cleveland Way, admiring the far reaching views from the coastal cliffs which tower over the coves below. Passing the lighthouse and foghorn station before dropping down into a series of gullies as you near Robin Hood’s Bay. Should you chose to start at Robin Hood’s Bay the walk is easy enough in reverse.

Robin Hood’s Bay

This picturesque fishing village (and former smuggling hot-spot) on Yorkshire’s Heritage Coast is popular with day-trippers, and it is easy to see why. More important as a fishing port than its neighbour Whitby during the 16th century, by the 18th century, Robin Hood’s Bay was reputedly the busiest smuggling community on the Yorkshire coast – its coastal position, protected by moorland on three sides helped this seemingly well-organised trade continue unhindered for many years. Bay wives were known to pour boiling water over excise men from their windows which overhung the narrow, cobbled streets below.  Despite regular visits from the excise men, and press gangs, smuggling and fishing thrived here  until the mid-19th century, when tourism became an additional source of income for the bay. Its winding, cobbled streets, sandy beach and rocky pools make it hugely popular for visitors looking for a day out beside the sea, and there are many cafés, pubs and shops to explore too. Smugglers Wine Bar in the lower part of the village is a cosy (dog-friendly) bar with open fires and a tempting menu of pizza, deli boards and sharing plates. The beach-front Bramblewick Fish & Grill serves a delicious Bouilabaisse and dressed crab, or why not pick up fish and chips to fuel your walk at the Fish Box on the Bay Road.


This seaside town, split by the river Esk, is known the world over for its iconic Abbey, and as the home of Captain Cook. The ruined Gothic Abbey was Bram Stoker’s inspiration for Dracula whilst below, in the town, the Captain Cook Memorial Museum – the building where Cook lived, displays the explorer’s maps, paintings and navigational instruments. The Whitby Museum and Pannett Art Gallery houses many major collections including archaeology, fossils, paintings, militaria and ceramics, whilst you can discover the geology, history and legacy of the town’s famous jet at the W. Hamond Museum of Whitby Jet. There are a myriad of boat trips to be taken from the harbour – some which will take you to Robin Hood’s Bay should you choose not to walk. But before you set off on two feet, or by boat, don’t miss out on the award-winning fish and chips at The Magpie Cafe near the harbour. The Star Inn the Harbour is a Living North favourite, part of Andrew Pern’s stable, this nautically-themed. bustling brasserie serving great food right on the water front. The picnickers amongst you should head to Clarke’s of Whitby on Skinner Street for a great range of fine wines, beer and local produce perfect for those on-the-go.


Filey to Scarborough

The walk north from Filey to Scarborough is just over seven miles, and is all part of the Cleveland Way – which actually starts at Filey. Spend a little time exploring this seaside resort before heading to Filey Brigg, the rocky headland that extends 1600m into the North Sea and once used by the Romans as a lookout point for invaders. If the tide is right you can reach it along the beach and clamber over the rocks before using the steps up the cliff to start your cliff walk with its breathtaking views which continue all the way to Scarborough. You’ll pass the end (or beginning) of the Wolds Way as you start along the well-worn Cleveland Way. There are several beautiful sandy bays beneath you; Gristhorpe Sands and Cayton Bay to name two (there are steps down to the bay from the path here), as well as wooded areas. At Knipe Point, a rocky headland between Cornelian Bay and Cayton Bay, you will have to turn inland towards Osgodby before turning back down to the coastal path. You enter Scarborough on the seafront promenade, passing the Spa and Sun Court Café before climbing up into the town.


Its vast sweep of soft, golden sand has made Filey a popular holiday destination for many families whilst the Edwardian architecture, quirky shops and cafés make it a great place to explore before heading off on your walk. The award-winning Filey Museum and Filey Bird Garden & Animal Park are both worth a visit, as is the 12th century St Oswald’s church where Charlotte Bronte was amongst the congregation. The Boat Shed is a great, family-finely stop off serving the ever popular combination of pizza and cocktails. The best coffee is found at the Coffee Shed and there are fish and chip shops aplenty as you would expect. If you don’t want to carry a picnic, then stop off at the Beach Cafe at Cayton Bay for some well-earned refreshments en-route.


Known for its two wide, sandy beaches, the promenade, castle headland and fun fair Scarborough receives mixed reviews as a seaside town but it certainly has all the traditional offerings and is perfect as a place to while away a few hours. The kids will love Scarborough Sealife and the Alpamare waterpark, exploring the rock pools at Scalby Mills, and riding on the Cliff Lifts which connect the town centre with the seafront. Whist adults might prefer a visit to the famous open air theatre, the Japanese Garden in Peasholme Park, or exploring the castle headland which separates the North and South Bays and where the cliffs are home to thousands of seabirds. Tucked behind the Stephen Joseph Theatre is the Eat Me Cafe with a fabulously mixed menu including Thai curry, handmade burgers, and homemade cake. The Lifeboat Fish Bar is the place for fish and chips, and for tapas, try La Roca. Looking for good coffee and cake? Head to Love Brew Cafe or The Seastrand on the seafront where you can grab a seat outside or coffee-to-go.


Published in: May 2020

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