“Oh we do like to be beside the seaside”. The words of this well-known song have never rung more true than in relation to the Great British Seaside. Wonderfully rugged coastlines, villages and towns brimming with character, and a rich maritime heritage, make a trip to the coast one of the most enjoyable pastimes of both UK holidaymakers and visitors from abroad.
The North Yorkshire seaside town of Staithes, just 10 miles from Whitby, embodies many of the reasons why seaside towns hold such appeal. Once one of the busiest fishing ports on the North East coast, Staithes boasts a long proud history as the one-time home of famous Royal Navy captain and explorer, Captain James Cook.
A famous resident
Remnants of Cook’s time here can be seen in many of the tourist attractions of today including the Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre. A recreation of the shop in which James Cook worked during his residency here, the museum is a treasure-trove of over 200 books, engravings, letters, medals and more, providing an insight into his incredible life and career, as well as into Staithes itself.
You can also visit ‘Captain Cook’s Cottage’ (photography opportunity only), and the Captain Cook Inn – a lovely pub/restaurant and hotel overlooking the sea. Famous for its real ales and great food, which includes a range of vegetarian and wheat-free options, you are sure to enjoy a relaxing stay, whether simply enjoying a bite to eat or staying the night. Don’t forget to try their house ale, the Northern Navigator, brewed especially for the Captain Cook Inn by the nearby North Yorkshire Brewery.
The Dinosaur Coast
Staithes sits on what is known as the ‘Dinosaur Coast’, making it a favourite with fossil hunters, palaeontologists and dinosaur fans from across the country. You can choose to go on an organised fossil hunting trip or, for the more experienced, explore independently in and around Staithes and Runswick Bay. If visiting as a family, children will love their finds of ‘fools’ gold’ – little nuggets of Iron pyrite which, to the untrained eye, look just like the real thing!
There is so much to do in Staithes, for both young and old. Fans of art and history will love strolling through the pretty town’s narrow cobbled streets and paying a visit to the elegant Staithes Art Gallery.
Staithes has always been a magnet for artists who come to admire the beautiful coastal scenery, traditional fishing scenes and village ambience, and immortalising them on canvas. The advent of the railway in 1883 brought a host of artists to Staithes including Hannah Hoyland, Fred Mayor and Harold Knight. Many paintings from local and visiting artists are on display at the gallery throughout the year – look out for special exhibitions and showcases too.
Exploring and Walking
Another popular activity whilst in Staithes is to explore the old village through its fascinating alleys and ginnels. Winding through the village’s cottages and cobbled streets, each alley boasts a quaint name, such as ‘Dog Loup Alley‘ – the narrowest alley in the world at just 18 inches wide! You will discover a different side to Staithes through each alley you visit with lots of opportunities for taking unique and quirky photograph of Staithes from all angles!
A trip to the seaside wouldn’t be complete without a bit of rockpooling in the abundant rock pools left at low tide between Staithes and Port Mulgrave, many of which are teaming with life that children especially will love to seek out. You will certainly find plenty of fossils and tiny marine creatures whilst exploring, and if you are lucky, you may even spot some seals sunning themselves along the shore!
The Cleveland Way
Whilst it is entirely possible to stroll through the streets of Staithes or wander its coastlines in search of fossils, fans of the longer walk will be in their element on a holiday to Staithes, thanks to its location on the 109-mile long Cleveland Way.
Running from Filey to Helmsley in a horseshoe shape along the eastern, northern and western edge of the North Yorkshire Moors, the Cleveland Way National Trail will spoil you when it comes to spectacular views. Whether you prefer dramatic coastlines peppered with views of castles and fishing villages, or you prefer to look out over wild heather moorland, you can see it all from the trail.The route is well
The route is well sign-posted however it is always a good idea to bring a map or GPS with you. Suitable for those who are reasonably fit, the Cleveland Way does get a little challenging at times, but that all adds to the experience! Families may like to head to the cycle-friendly sections and those visiting with dogs will be pleased to know that they are also welcome on the Cleveland Way!
Enjoying life at your own pace in Staithes
Whatever you decide to do whilst visiting Staithes, you will not be stuck for ideas. The great thing about this fabulous little town is that you can do as much or as little as you wish – enjoy being outdoors on a casual walk or snuggled up in a village pub, explore the dramatic coastlines and heather moorlands, or simply sit and enjoy the fabulous views across the sea or over the North York Moors National Park – it’s up to you!
Getting to Staithes: The nearest railway station to Staithes is Whitby, on the Esk Valley Line. Arriva North East operate a bus service between Middlesborough and Whitby with stops at both Staithes and Runswick Bay. If driving from Scarborough or Whitby, follow the A171, turning off at Scaling for the road into Staithes.
Parking: Parking is not allowed within the old town, due to the narrow streets. There is a public car park near the old station with space for over 100 cars as well as a privately-run long-stay car park for those planning on staying a few days.
Staithes Art Gallery: The Art Gallery is open on Wednesday, Thursdays, Saturdays & Sundays 10.00 – 17.00.
Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre: Open daily between 10:00-17:00, except January when open weekends only.
Cash Machines: There are several cash points in Staithes including at the Co-op store on Whitby Road, the Post Office and at Barclays Bank. Alternatively, you can take cash out in Whitby or Saltburn by the Sea.