Looking for a little inspiration for your next trip to North Yorkshire? Here’s our guide on how to spend a week in Runswick Bay
Runswick Bay is a gorgeous little village that appears to cling to the cliff tops of the stunning North Yorkshire coast.
It is situated just 8.5 miles from Whitby, 13 miles from Robin Hood’s Bay and just a stroll from the North York Moors National Park.
With its red stoned rooftops, grey stone seawalls and traditional seaside feel it is the perfect place to spend a week’s holiday.
A Village Of Fishing, Lifeboats, And Superstition
Life in Runswick Bay dates back to at least Roman times and it is thought that life always revolved around the fishing industry there.
This changed a little, however, in the 17th and 18th centuries when smuggling became rife across the whole of the North Yorkshire coast.
Life has not always been easy in this little village with its beautiful fisherman’s cottages and panoramic views. In the mid to late 17th century, recorded dates vary, the whole cliff face on which Runswick Bay stood collapsed and the entire village bar one house was swept into the sea.
Luckily a disaster fund was started which helped rebuild the village as we know it today.
The sweeping away of Runswick Bay was not the only problem the village had with the sea. Runswick Bay lifeboat station was kept busy by the many shipwrecks that occurred nearby.
Interestingly, in 1901 one of these incidents involved most of the men in the village who made up the lifeboat crew. Out in the cobles doing their day job of fishing, a freak squall put them in danger and it was left to the fisherwives to man the lifeboat!
Unfortunately, Runswick Bay lifeboat station itself was closed in the 1970s and joined with the village of Staithes.
As well as the history of a place, legend and superstition often live on and Runswick Bay is no different. Locals here believed it was unlucky to save a drowning man, and tales of the elders in the village telling other villagers to leave men suffering from such are rife.
This cruelty makes another story of fisher wives sacrificing a cat when the fleet returned safely after a severe storm perhaps quite easy to believe.
It was not only the women who were superstitious, however, as the fishermen of the village are reputed to have abandoned a day of fishing should they hear talk of pigs or see a woman on their way to the docks!
Journeying To Runswick Bay
With its fascinating history, scenic positioning and a plethora of superstition, Runswick Bay, I’m sure you’ll agree, is a perfect holidaying spot.
Before you can start your fun packed week there, however, you need to make the journey and here’s how.
From the South
Take the M1 towards Sheffield joining the M18 towards Doncaster. Next join the A1 towards York and then the A64. Turn off onto the A171 then B1416 and finally the A174 into Runswick Bay.
From the North
Take the A171 towards Whitby and then the B1266 into Runswick Bay.
From the West
Take the M62 towards Leeds and then the M1 towards York. Turn onto the A64, then A171, B1416 and finally the A174 into Runswick Bay.
Where To Stay In Runswick Bay
Once in Runswick Bay, you are going to need a place to stay and we would highly recommend that to be The Firs Guesthouse!
Set in a fabulous and quiet position within this wonderfully quaint and old-fashioned village The Firs Guesthouse offers true Yorkshire hospitality at its best!
Should you want to you can even hire the whole property out privately. Several rooms have mobility access and features making this guest house ideal for everyone.
Located on both the ground and first floors the rooms at The Firs are light and airy with gorgeous finishing touches.
Tasteful artwork, soft furnishings and even beach hut wardrobes in one of their nautical themed rooms make this guest house feel modern whilst still remaining traditional. The bathrooms have all been fitted to be crisp, modern and clean.
Room options are varied but all are en-suite and have TV, tea and coffee making facilities, sofas or easy chairs, free wifi and radios or iPod.
Should you require anything else, which is doubtful, you only need ask here as Mandy and her team will be more than happy to assist you in any way they can.
The room options are:
● Doubles or four poster
● Doubles and twins with mobility access
● Flexible occupancy rooms with double and a single bed
Please note: mobility access rooms have shower wet rooms with grab rails and shower seats available.
Breakfast at The Firs is freshly prepared and uses as much locally produced fresh ingredients as possible.
Bacon, sausage and black pudding come from the local butcher and eggs are from the farm that can be seen from the dining-room window.
Bread, marmalade, and jams are all homemade on the premises and you can’t get much more local than that!
Vegetarian and vegan options are available at The Firs along with other special dietary needs being catered for. These include coeliac, diabetics, low salt or low-fat diets and any intolerances or allergies.
The Firs do not have a license to sell alcohol but is more than happy for you to bring your own which they will then chill and serve for you.
What To Do On Your Holiday In Runswick Bay
With your journey to Runswick Bay sorted and your accommodation booked it only remains to decide what you are going to do whilst there. Well, there are plenty of attractions locally and fun days out to be had!
Day One; How to spend a week in Runswick Bay
Let’s keep it traditional and start off with an activity that most people participate in when arriving at their holiday destination and explore! This is something I’m sure you will be dying to do on seeing your gorgeous surroundings.
The streets of Runswick Bay are tightly packed with red-roofed houses and their pocket-size gardens.
Though these houses have obviously changed over the years, it is not difficult to imagine them being occupied by whale and herring fishermen and their families.
Growing vegetables in the garden and mending nets in the slipway are both activities you would have seen. You may also have viewed the catch being transferred to the herring houses, which are no longer standing, where it was kept.
In the 1840s there were 20 cobles working out of Runswick Bay but just a century later they were gone and the tourist industry took over.
You can still see the old coastguards house, however, with its traditional thatched roof on the old harbour front. In the town, the Methodist chapel also still stands although now it is a private dwelling.
Down on Runswick Bay beach, which incidentally is one of the few sandy beaches along the North Yorkshire coast, you will find four caves known locally as the ‘Hob Holes.’ These are where, according to local legend, the hobs or hobgoblins lived.
Whether this legend was believed or just used to keep people away from the smuggler’s caves is unknown. However, some people obviously believed it as local fisherwomen would take their children sick with whooping cough to the hob holes in the hope the hobgoblins would cure them.
Curiously the menfolk stayed away, too afraid to approach the caves!
Day Two; How to spend a week in Runswick Bay
After exploring the delights of Runswick Bay why not take a walk to explore the nearby town of Whitby?
Situated just over 8.5 miles away and on the Cleveland Way, this will take you roughly 3 hours. Views on this walk are stunning and include coastal scenery mixed with the bizarre sight of waste deposits from the ancient alum industry.
You can but don’t have to walk both ways as there is a bus from Whitby to Runswick Bay every 30 minutes that takes roughly 24 minutes.
Once in Whitby, there are a plethora of things to do. This includes exploring Whitby’s history which is heavily based around the fishing industry, especially whaling, and building oak ships.
Later, Whitby would also become a popular spa town providing tonics and the fresh sea breeze that were thought at that time to heal.
Nowadays, Whitby is home to the famous tale of Dracula and you can explore this further at the Dracula Experience interactive exhibit.
For those not so into the gothic why not explore the wonderful streets of Whitby which are home to many wonderful shops selling everything from seaside trinkets to the sought after Whitby Jet.
Sourced from the fossilised monkey puzzle tree over hundreds of years, Whitby Jet is a magnificent opaque black gemstone that has even been favoured by royalty.
Queen Victoria herself, visited Whitby to pick out jet mourning jewellry after the death of her husband Prince Albert.
Day Three; How to spend a week in Runswick Bay
After spending two days on your feet today you may feel like a rest. If you do why not take yourself down to the lovely Runswick Bay beach and relax or not!
Runswick Bay beach comes with many activities as well as being a place to laze and sunbathe.
Popular with canoeists and other sports enthusiasts such as surfers, when the weather permits, Runswick Bay offers activities for all ages.
There is cliff top walking, fossil hunting, rock pooling, sea angling, sand castle building, seal spotting, and safe swimming.
The beach itself is a mix of sand, scattered rocks, and stony areas. When the tide is out more rocks are exposed, and it is here, you are most likely to find fossils.
This beach is also an excellent choice of place to set up an easel and paint the magnificent scenery you can see.
Be aware that access to the beach is via either a very steep narrow road or a very steep narrow footpath. The beach is, however, dog-friendly with no limits all year round.
Day Four; How to spend a week in Runswick Bay
We do not recommend taking the Cleveland Way walk to get there as it will take approximately 7 hours. Rather, we suggest you either drive or take the two buses needed which takes around an hour.
Once there, you will no doubt want to explore the history of this village as being one of the major smuggling areas on the North Yorkshire coast.
The Robin Hood’s Bay museum is an excellent place to do this with its exhibits on the subject and a fisherman’s wife for you to search! You’ll be surprised by what you may find on her.
Following your museum visit, you could make your way to the Fishermans Arms pub for a late lunch or drink. Here is where after raiding smugglers caves, the police would take the contraband they had found and drink it.
Once drunk, however, the police would then have the drink stolen back from under their noses by the very smugglers they had confiscated it from!
Day Five; How to spend a week in Runswick Bay
With Runswick Bays history being so closely linked to the sea, fishing and shipwrecks, it is a must that any visitor goes to the lifeboat station which served the village for so long.
Though it is no longer functioning as a lifeboat station the building is still there and mostly unchanged.
It is from here that the women of Runswick Bay launched the rescue of their men in the ‘Cape of Good Hope’ lifeboat in 1901. This was no easy feat!
In the early 20th century launching the lifeboat in Runswick Bay was no easy matter. It rested on a 4 wheeled carriage with front wheels of 8 feet in diameter and 1 foot wide!
This carriage had then to be rolled to the water’s edge where the crew of 20 wearing their cork life jackets would push and pull the boat into the water and begin to row.
Many rescues were performed from this lifeboat station up until it was closed in the 1970s. These rescues included the Princess Clementine from which all the crew but the Captain were taken.
He, believing the ship could be saved refused to leave it for eight days before accepting the ship would sink and allowing himself to be rescued.
Following your visit to the old lifeboat station, you could take a meander on the Runswick Bay Walk. This is a 2 mile stretch of cliff top pathways that lead to Port Mulgrave on the Cleveland Way National trail towards Staithes.
The views on this walk are magnificent and the path easy to follow being mainly level grass and earth through fields along the cliff edge. Whilst walking this path the only sounds you will hear are seabirds and the rustle of the sea breeze.
The turnaround point of this walk is at Port Mulgrave where around 1856 iron ore mined locally was shipped from to nearby furnaces in the North East.
Should you take your dog with you it is recommended you keep them on a lead in areas where there is no fence.
Day Six; How to spend a week in Runswick Bay
As Runswick Bay is situated on the edge of the North York Moors National Park, it would seem a shame if you did not visit them and explore all the fabulous things they have to offer.
Forged by nature the moors are a wonderful place shaped over generations to go walking, cycling and horse riding.
The above, however, are not all these sprawling moors have to offer, they also have visitors centres, a railway, wildlife centres, river activities, and Abbeys and castles. It is the latter two, and three of, I advise you to visit!
Helmsley Castle is situated just less than an hours drive from Runswick Bay within Helmsley, a village in the North York Moors National Park.
Over 900 years it has been a medieval fortress, a luxurious Tudor manor, civil war stronghold, and romantic Victorian ruin.
Nowadays you will find there, hands-on exhibitions, bronzed archers, a fabulous audio tour and a model of how the castle once looked.
Rievaulx Abbey is a half hours cycling or a 7-minute drive from Castle Helmsley. Here you will find a comprehensive museum detailing the lives of the 650 monks who originally lived and worked there until the late 1530s.
If the date sounds familiar that is because it is when Henry the 8th decided to destroy all the monasteries in an attempt to build his new faith.
Only 20 monks by now lived at Rievaulx Abbey but the closure must have been devastating!
Byland Abbey is a 50-minute cycle or an 18-minute drive from Rievaulx Abbey and described as one of the greatest Monasteries of its time in England.
It would later inspire the design of other church buildings throughout the North including the York Minster rose window. This was modeled on the gothic architecture of Byland.
Like Rievaulx Abbey, Byland Abbey was also closed in the late 1530s by Henry the 8th. He gutted it of all valuable plate which was shipped to London and stripped it of its lead, glass, and timber.
The 25 monks there were given a pension, however, with the Abbot receiving £50 per year and the monks between £5 to £6.
Please note walking between these historic sites is not recommended as it adds up to nearly six hours walking which would not leave you very much time to explore each site.
Also, all three sites are no longer standing buildings, rather they are all in partial or near ruin.
Day Seven; How to spend a week in Runswick Bay
Sadly, today is the day you have to leave your gorgeous accommodation at The Firs Guesthouse in Runswick Bay and travel home.
However, just to extend your holiday a little further and because it’s worth it, why don’t you call on the lovely village of Staithes on your way.
Just 2.5 miles from Runswick Bay, Staithes is a higgledy-piggledy array of cottages and winding streets.
It too like Runswick Bay was once one of the largest fishing ports on the North-East coast. Here you can go rock pooling or fossilling on the beach, or maybe visit the art gallery.
Working in William Sanderson’s shop in Staithes was where Captain Cook got his first tastes of the sea.
In a life-size replica of a 1745 street in the Staithes museum, you can visit that shop. You will also find over 200 engravings here from Cook’s 3rd sea voyage as well as letters, glass, porcelain, medals, and coins.
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