Towering cliffs and rocky outcrops protrude seaward, occasionally giving way to curved bays with fossil-rich, soft, sandy beaches lined with quaint cottages, sometimes seemingly higgledy-piggledy in their positioning. This extraordinary stretch of coastline has become a favourite holiday destination for many.
Not only is a large section of the Yorkshire Coast designated part of the North York Moors National Park, it is also a Heritage Coastline – an area given special protection in order to remain undeveloped by tourism or industry – one of only 40 such coastal areas in England and Wales. The North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast begins just north of the National Park, and stretches 36 miles to the Park’s southern boundary, just north of Scarborough. The area provides important habitats for lots of different wildlife, residing in the rock pools, caves and muddy estuaries, and the sandy beaches and high rocky cliffs.
The towns and villages along the Heritage Coast, some at sea level and surrounded by countryside which gently rises into heather-clad moorland, some with much steeper ascents, and some perched atop the high ground with majestic views to the north and the south, are all unique in character, and most have rich and interesting histories.
Just north of the Heritage Coast is the town of Redcar, a holiday resort since the 19th century, with an 8 mile beach stretching as far as Saltburn by the Sea, the town which marks the start of the Heritage Coastline. From here, all the way south to Scarborough, you can enjoy rich pickings of fossils, unveiled on a daily basis as the coastline erodes. It’s for this reason that this unusual area has become known as the ‘Dinosaur Coast’, and from Ravenscar southward you may even be lucky enough to find dinosaur footprints in the stone.
Each of the towns and villages along the Yorkshire coast has its own individual appeal, from Saltburn by the Sea, with its cliff tramway which connects to the pier, to Staithes, with its multitude of red brick and white washed cottages, starting at the water’s edge and spreading into the crevices of the land and up the steep banks that lead to the flat tops of the National Park.
Further south is Runswick Bay, formerly a fishing village which has a beautiful unspoilt beach that’s particularly good for fossil finding. The long beach at Sandsend is a popular choice for families, and when the tide is out you can walk all the way to Whitby, one of the country’s most popular seaside resorts.
Whitby is an active fishing town and has a stunning abbey and fish and chips restaurants galore. The town’s rich history and wonderful creative ambiance make it an alluring destination, and its two beautiful beaches provide plenty of space to relax and enjoy some summer sun.
Just south of Whitby is Robin Hood’s Bay – a picturesque seaside resort and fishing village with a fascinating history of smuggling contraband, using secret passageways and bolt-holes. On higher ground, and with tremendous views along the coastline and over Robin Hood’s Bay, is Ravenscar, known as ‘The Town that Never Was’, as it was originally intended to be a resort town to rival Scarborough.
As the first seaside resort in Britain, Scarborough has a long history dating back to 1660. It is now a very popular destination due to its rugged headland, fine beaches and family-friendly atmosphere.
Most of the beaches along the Yorkshire coast have Blue Flags or a Quality Coast Award, so they’re safe for all the family. When the sun is shining and the sea is calm the area is one of picturesque beauty. And when the sky is grey and the sea is rough, a battle seems to break out between land and water as the angry sea relentlessly launches at its majestic opponent. Whatever the weather or the time of year, you are sure to fall in love with the Yorkshire coast.