A Stroll With Stu: take a walk around Robin Hood's Bay's fascinating alleyways
The second of our staycation walks around Robin Hoods Bay takes in the fascinating alleys and cottages in the lower part of the town which, apart from the advertising leaflets next to the front door, have barely changed for hundreds of years.
But we’ll start with a three-mile leg stretcher and some cracking clifftop views by heading North along the Cleveland Way.
From the top of the bank, head in the general direction of Whitby until the road bears right opposite the Station Car Park.
Take a right along Mount Pleasant North Road and follow a short diversion at the end along a stretch of the Cindertrack.
Soon, you are diverted right, onto the clifftop path which you should follow for a mile and a half.
There are great views back across the bay and out to sea, often including fishing boats with parties of green-faced day trippers from Whitby – rod in one hand, packet of Kwells in the other.
The path curls slowly left around Bay Ness, eventually to the eroded valley of Rain Dale.
Adjacent to some small ponds teeming with tadpoles, a signpost points upwards to the Cinder track where, with a sharp intake of oxygen, you should turn left and head back to town.
The loftier views down across the fields to whence you came, are perhaps even better now as the gentle downward gradient leads you back to the second part of our little jaunt.
Resist the temptation of the sumptuous beer garden at the Victoria, (OK, don’t then), and head down the hill past the excellent Fish Box Chippy.
Halfway down the hill, past the Laurel pub and a village shop, head into an alley with the beck bubbling along in the bushes down to your right.
Have a wander round where the little gaps and snickets take you, but always be respectful and no peering through windows!"
These cottages are now predominantly holiday lets, and occasionally you will come across a quaint shop, a bookstore, a café, (or even a permanent resident), which most of the day-trippers and exhausted coast-to-coast hikers will miss.
This is real history.
In the 17th and 18th Centuries, these terraces will have been smoke-filled from countless coal fires, fighting the tang of gutted fish which brought most of the income to the townsfolk.
Smuggling became a more lucrative trade with huge amounts of tea, tobacco and illicit grog brought in on small ships from the continent.
The network of alleyways and underground tunnels made it easy to evade any brave tax collectors, who had their work cut out dodging the assorted slop and hot water poured on them from the bedroom window of the cottages by Mr Smuggler.
Many of the houses are whitewashed and sport pretty little decorative plaques, or planters.
There are tiny gardens too, adding a splash of greenery and the whole effect is a delightful diversion from the beach and the ice-cream.
The majority of the houses and alleyways are on the North side of King’s Beck which cuts though the centre of the village.
But head over to the South side too, where the snickelways continue and include the tiny Robin Hood's Bay museum which is well worth a visit, to learn a bit more about the colourful history of this stunning little town.
Down at the seafront, Kings Beck emerges through a large culvert onto the sand.
This was a main highway for the smuggling community, with some little side shafts and hatches leading to cellar rooms of the cottages above.
I don’t really need to tell you that though, do I?
There have been lots of travel/walking shows on the gogglebox recently that have paid a visit to Baytown, and every one of them has had a poke around in the tunnel.
I’m reliably informed that there is now a fully functional TV studio up there, and dressing rooms for Kate Humble and Julia Bradbury.
Finally, if the tide is right, I recommend a spot of beachcombing in the many rockpools left behind when the tide retreats twice a day – and it goes out a long, long way at Robin Hoods Bay.
The geology of the area has led to the creation of a huge wave-cut platform, which is well worth exploring to find a variety of sea life in the pools, so long as you explore the tide table, first.
On your way back to the shore, have a look at the rocks beneath your feet as the area is also rich in fossils and you may find an ammonite or two if you are lucky.
It’s quite a place, is Baytown!