I’VE often thought of Runswick Bay as Robin Hood’s Bay’s little sister.
The topography is very similar with a small village tumbling down to the sea at one end of a long sandy bay.
The beach is similarly backed by low hills stretching for a mile or two before rising to towering cliffs at the other end of the bay.
The difference between the two is that Runswick is astonishingly uncommercialised. One shop/cafe, a hotel and a couple of pubs is as wild as it gets.
If this was Spain, there would be hundreds of high rise hotels and thousands of Brits doing their bit for the lager industry.
This six-mile route takes in the beach, the cliffs to the north and the open countryside a little way inland.
Access the Cleveland Way path through the car park of the Runswick Bay Hotel at the top of the village (Arriva’s X5 will drop you over the road).
This leads directly to the cliff top (near a duck pond, oddly enough), then heads left for a mile or two to Port Mulgrave.
You are 300ft above the sea and the views are wonderful, eventually surpassing themselves as you approach the old port. “Port” sounds rather grand for the few fishing cobles on the shore far below, but this place was once a thriving harbour with piers, gantrys and tramways, purpose built to take locally mined ironstone to the blast furnaces at Jarrow in the 19th Century.
Keep left at a kissing gate and you’ll soon emerge onto the road in the village.
Turn left and after a few hundred yards you’ll pass the old pub – now a cafe and B&B – then keep your eyes open for Rod Hull and his emu in a field on your left (OK, Rod is in heaven complaining about the TV reception and they are probably ostriches).
Carry on down the road, turning left at the end, then cross the A174 in Hinderwell and go down a lane immediately opposite. Go quickly left, then double-back on a path in front of the blue and white old Methodist Chapel.
After some pretty cottages, the path goes sharp left and then straight on along a thin path with a farm on your left.
This soon widens, then bends left as a very wide track with Hinderwell away to your left.
A couple of hundred yards after a kink to the left, a gap in the bushes on your right leads to an unmarked but fairly clear track heading downhill with bushes on your left.
In the woodland at the bottom, cross a footbridge then go uphill, over a stile and diagonally right to cross two stiles, keeping a farm on your left. It was in that field that I came across a farmer assisting a rather uncomfortable looking cow to give birth. Let’s just say he was up to his elbows in it and for everyone’s dignity I thought it prudent not to take a photo.
Turn left into Newton Mulgrave (as new towns go it is more impressive than Milton Keynes) and after the last house on the left, turn right on a signed path.
Follow this track uphill through a couple of rusty gates, then zigzag left and right before cutting a corner of a field using two stiles.
The farmer has left a clear route straight ahead through the crops and after a few more stiles and footbridges you will drop onto the road in Ellerby village.
Pass the pleasantly upmarket Ellerby Residential Country Inn (where an impromptu debate on politics is unlikely to be won by anyone from the Socialist Workers Party), then follow the road round to the left to cross straight over the A174.
Keep left over a stile on the track opposite and follow the waymarks for less than a mile to drop down onto another quiet lane where you should turn left.
Half a mile or so later you cross the old Whitby to Saltburn Railway and if mud and thorns aren’t your best pals it might be prudent to turn left here and go back to Runswick by turning right as the rail path meets the road. Otherwise, head straight on through two wooden gates, then after a third gate go down a steepening gully where I think they store all the mud required for Glastonbury Festival.
On top of that, a mesh of thorn bushes further restricts progress, but I did eventually get to Runswick beach where I could clean the gloop off my boots and pick the spikes from my head.
It is a genuinely difficult route, so unless you are following someone carrying a hedge trimmer and several dozen paving stones, you should seriously consider the old railway route.
For the adventurous, the reward is the glorious beach. Head left to the village and follow the steps behind the cafe/shop to climb the pretty way back up to the bus stop at the top, perhaps pausing before you tackle the climb to sample the refreshments on offer in the sun trap outside the Royal Hotel. Actually, it would be rude not to.