Hands up all those who've heard of Runswick Bay?

By Johanna Bradley, a Travel Enthusiast

Read more on North Yorkshire.

Overall rating:4.7 out of 5 (based on 6 votes)
Recommended for:
Family, Romance, Short Break, Mid-range

Photographers, artists, fossil hunters, lovers of our stunningly varied English coastline; just some of the people who've discovered the North Yorkshire village of Runswick Bay and come back for more.

It was just a dim childhood memory for me until I renewed my acquaintance recently. Barely 8 miles north of bustling Whitby, on the North East coast of England, this peaceful village is a photographer’s dream. Picture a craggy coastline, the dark sandy beach peppered with pebbles. As the tide recedes, slabs of rock appear, full of enticing pools. Nestled in the shelter of the cliff lies the village of Runswick Bay - a warren of winding lanes and pretty cottages.

Like many a community these days, Runswick Bay thrives only in the summer months, the vast majority of its picturesque stone cottages given a new lease of life as holiday lets. It wasn’t always so peaceful - one night in 1664 the entire village slid into the sea! Returning from a wake, one of the villagers noticed the steps of his house slipping away beneath his feet. He gave the alarm and most of the village fled to safety. By morning only one house remained standing- the house of the deceased man. The village was rebuilt further around the shore but land slippage continued to be a problem. In 1970 a new sea wall was finally built, thankfully securing the village’s future.

So who comes to a village like this?

Certainly anyone with an eye for beauty, but the bucket and spade brigade could have a glorious time here too, poking about in the bladder wrack and the rock pools. Fossil hunters search Jurassic shale on the foreshore and in the cliff face crevices and caves. Nor could you find a more romantic hideaway in which to “cosy up” in a deep armchair, delighting in the panoramic sweep of the bay.

Set on the coastal leg of the Cleveland Way, which runs from Saltburn down to Filey, the clifftop vistas are stunning. You need to be pretty fit for the climb up from the beach, but there is a winding path up through the houses, to the upper village. Keep pausing for breath, and to admire the view. Temptation beckons in the form of The Royal Hotel where, on a less clement day, the roaring fire will ensure your stay. In fine weather, sitting outside with a freshly drawn Guinness, it’s hard to shift your gaze from the shimmering sea.

Food options are various, from tasty jacket potatoes and sandwiches at around £5 to full blown seafood platters for £9. (The Royal Hotel, Runswick Bay TS13 5HT www.royalhotelrunswick.com or phone 01947 840215) A quirky feature- the toilets occupy a separate building to one side of the pub. A hint of olden days. Upstairs there's a 2 bedroom flat available- no problems with the walk home.

It’s not easy to ignore the weather in this landscape. A sheltered haven from the north winds, when the weather turns against you, you’ll know it. Shipwrecks and rescues from heavy seas have enlivened many a winter evening, none more so than when, in 1901, the men folk went off to fish in calm seas. The lifeboat crew was out fishing with them when the storm blew in. The heavy task of launching and manning the lifeboat was down to the women of the village and a few old uns, while the children lit the beach with lanterns. All returned safe. Today Runswick Bay no longer has its own lifeboat, but the village people are well aware of the awesome power of the sea and are quick to turn out in their own craft if help is needed.

Where to stay to make the most of those views

If you fancy life in a church conversion with double height ceilings, High Chapel gives you just that experience. Phil and Karen have done a lovely job. The sense and space of the former Methodist Church are retained along with many original features, but nothing is sacrificed to comfort. A family home for 5, full weeks cost from £450 low season to £750 in high. 3 night weekends and 4 night midweek breaks can also be booked.

At the top of the village Castle House Holiday Cottage can accommodate 6/7 in 4 bedrooms. Its location ensures beautiful views, but the old stonework inside is a delight too. Prices range from £450 for 3 nights.

Did I mention romantic? If there are only two of you how could you resist Crab and Lobster Cottage snuggled in the heart of the village? You can have 3 nights of romance from £270 - not cheap, but with that special someone…

I have a little treat in mind

Runswick Bay is primarily about self catering, but if pure indulgence is what you’re seeking I know of a superb option not too far away. The Beehive Inne is a 15th century former drovers cottage specializing in period elegance. Depending on your personal style you can have a rolltop bath or a walk-in wetroom. You can choose to look out on the duck pond or on rolling moors. Best of all you can dine from a menu to make you drool. How does Whitby loin of cod, seared scallops, creamy chive mash and a chowder of caviar and green lipped mussels sound to you? If you prefer to stay in Runswick Bay you should still spoil yourself with a meal at this special inn. Or combine the two (The Beehive Inne, Newholme, Whitby YO21 3QY). Rooms are from £65, fabulous breakfast included.


A car is the easiest option hereabouts, but a half-hourly bus service (no 5) runs by the village, en route from Whitby to Middlesbrough, where there are railway connections. There is free parking at the top of the village if you’re agile. If not you need a ready supply of pound coins. The parking meter advises you can pay by credit card, but it is almost impossible to contact the phone number quoted to do so.

The village is a lovely place both to visit and to stay, but as there are no longer any shops you need to bring provisions with you or food-shop in nearby Whitby. If you are interested in the history of the village, including details of the "binks” and the thatched cottage, it’s all there on www.runswickbayyorkshirecoast.co.uk. Similarly for natural history lovers, lots of facts on local fossils and the seashore can be found on www.runswickbay.blogspot.com. Nothing remains to do but come along, marvel at its survival, and enjoy.

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More information on Hands up all those who've heard of Runswick Bay?:

Johanna Bradley
Traveller type:
Travel Enthusiast
Guide rating:
Average: 4.7 (6 votes)
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First uploaded:
17 July 2010
Last updated:
2 years 10 weeks 1 day 11 hours 23 min 21 sec ago
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Community comments (8)

0 of 0 people found the following comment helpful.

A good guide, I think Runswick bay has been mentioned on the BBC programmes Countryfile or CountryTracks recently.
Have just come back from 2 nights in the area, hope to do my own guide sharing what we did. (time permitting)

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Hi Johanna

I have just found your lovely review and was shocked to see my cottage - Crab & Lobster Cottage get a mention with some lovely pics of our garden! I wanted to post a link to our website as there doesn't seem to be any there so hope you don't mind me putting it here.
Runswick Bay is truly a hidden gem - if you find it, keep it a secret!


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Another satisfied customer!
Seriously, I'm so pleased you got in touch. It's really nice to get feedback from people who can actually be affected by the guide. Hope bookings are good this year. Cheers!

1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

I too haven't been since a child and remember thinking even then I'd love to live somewhere like this! I didn't know the history though which I found quite fascinating, thank you. Thank you also for the tips on parking and the lack of shops, I intend to show my children how beautiful our coastline can be very soon and fore-warned is fore-armed and always leads to a much smoother day out!

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Love the photos Johanna! The village looks very, very pretty indeed. The writing style is excellent. The guide flows along very nicely and I could easily have read much more in that style. I was drawn right in. Very engaging and informative. I like your innovative use of paragraph headings with questions and quirky lines that really help to keep the reader interested.

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1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Thanks Johanna for the wonderful guide and the great pictures! It is quite difficult to write about a lesser known destination but your beautiful description of the place has added weight to its tourism potential.

I just wanted to know if there are some worthwhile day long excursions possible from Runswick bay area? What are the other places of interest nearby?

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Hi Arif- I love this bit of the world and it's only a stones throw from my home town so I could go on for days. Whitby itself is a very charismatic place (there are a number of guides on the site). A personal favourite of mine is Saltburn- your little boy would love the miniature railway through the gardens (see my guide). If you like trains you're spoilt for choice as the Esk Valley line runs from Whitby right across the North York Moors and you can hop on and off to explore (see my North Yorkshire villages guide) Not too far away you've got the North York Moors steam trains and Scarborough with its castle and lovely Peasholm Park. That should keep you out of mischief for a week or so?

1 of 1 people found the following comment helpful.

Well, my hand certainly did NOT go up - I'd never heard of Runswick Bay.

What an excellent guide this is: a clever title, a beautiful introduction, very clever blending of history and quirkiness into a user-friendly text packed with useful content. The descriptions are great and I feel like I must have a pint of Guinness right now.

A lot of thought has gone into this, even down to parking tips for the not-so-agile. Great photos, too. Viva Runswick Bay!

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