Surrounded by the incredible natural beauty of the North York Moors and Whitby, Sleights is a lovely village to visit, with plenty to do!

Sleights, situated in the Esk Valley, is a village in Whitby’s postal region. This pretty village offers plenty, from historical landmarks to walks and cosy pubs. This blog post will provide you with the village’s history, things to do, and how to get from Sleights to Whitby. We’ll also explore some of the best accommodation options in the area.

History of Sleights

According to historical records, Sleights was first mentioned in a document from 1223 as Sleghtesc. Like other place names in Yorkshire, Sleights is derived from Old Norse. It means ‘smooth or level fields’ and comes from the word ‘slétta’, which refers to flat land, plain, or prairie.

By the 14th century, Sleights was home to the Lord of Ugglebarnby. By 1850, the hall had fallen into ruin and was rebuilt into the present building. The area was officially surveyed in 1849 as part of the country’s Ordnance Survey. This showed that the area of Ugglebarnby Parish was 2470 acres and Eskdaleside 1939 acres. The population at the last census was 1981.

Due to difficult travelling conditions, Sleights grew very slowly, and people tended to stay put. However, turnpike roads around 1756 and the railway in 1840 were the most dramatic change. They opened up the whole area to travel and trade.

Coach Road, Sleights
Bus stop, Coach Road, Sleights | © Copyright Stephen Craven and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

An industrial history

Sleights has a rich industrial history, with two prominent industries shaping the area. The first was the Alum industry, which flourished between 1650 and 1830. This industry brought many workers to the area, accommodated in rows of cottages built for them. The Alum works were at Littlebeck, Eskdaleside, Hole Bank, and Thornhill.

Following the decline of the Alum industry, the area saw the emergence of Iron Stone mining, with smelting works established at Grosmont, which was then part of the Parish. This industry also employed many people, but it declined due to the discovery of better-quality iron ore in the Cleveland Hills. By the turn of the century, the industry had declined entirely, and many workers emigrated from the area. The Emigrating Officer for the Parish, a ‘W Morgan’, oversaw the emigration process, with many workers sailing from Whitby to countries such as Canada.

Since the decline of the iron industry, Sleights has not seen much development, with most of the buildings being in-fill. The village remains mainly agricultural, much like it was centuries ago.

Sleights Bridges

Sleights has two bridges over the Esk – the main road bridge, constructed in 1938, and the footbridge at Briggswath, built two years later in 1940. The first bridge at Sleights was erected in 1190 to facilitate trade, with a covenant being established between Abbot Peter of Whitby and Reginald de Rosels, Lord of the land on the west of the Esk. Before this, there was only a Ford or ‘Wath.’ Unfortunately, this bow bridge was washed away by a flood.

It was replaced by a three-arched stone bridge in 1720, but this, too, was washed away by a flood. A temporary bridge was erected with a single carriageway for vehicular traffic and a cantilever footway. This bridge carried traffic until 1940 when it was deemed unsafe. Consequently, all vehicular traffic was routed over the main road bridge, which is still used today.

Blue Bank, heading down into Sleights
Lynne Kirton / Blue Bank, heading down into Sleights.

Blue Bank

Located in the village of Sleights on the North York Moors, Blue Bank is known for its steep gradient of 1 in 4 (25%). It is one of the steepest roads in Yorkshire and lies at the top of the village, while the hamlet of Iburndale can be found to the east of the village. To ensure safety due to road accidents, an escape lane of soft sand has been installed on Blue Bank’s steep slope.

Things to do in Sleights

There are plenty of things to do in Sleights and its surrounding areas. We have listed a few of our favourites.

1. Visit one of the churches

Sleights is home to three places of worship, catering to different denominations. St John’s Church of England Church, dedicated to St John the Evangelist, is in the village. The English Martyrs Roman Catholic Church is on Eskdaleside, while the Briggswath and Sleights Methodist Chapel is at the bottom of the village.

The churchyard of St John’s is the final resting place for people from all denominations in the parish, including the renowned author Alfred J. Brown and his wife.

2. Take part in the Horticultural & Industrial Society Show

The annual show has a long history dating back to 1880. Since 2006, it has taken place on the sports field and includes a variety of classes such as produce, fruit, flowers, vegetables, crafts, cake decorating, photography, and flower arranging. Visitors can also enjoy attractions like a bouncy castle, face painting, a tombola, and a fun dog show.

3. Pick up some treats from Bothams Bakery

Elizabeth Botham’s bakery was established in the fishing port of Whitby over 150 years ago. Initially, she sold her bread and cakes from a basket at the local market. Today, the Botham family proudly continues her traditions, and they are now in their fifth generation.

The family runs five shops and three Tea Rooms in Whitby, Sleights & Pickering, North Yorkshire. One of their specialities is the famous Whitby Lemon Buns! The Sleights shop offers many of their famous bakes, takeaway sandwiches, and hot drinks. It is an ideal stop as you leave Whitby and head towards the North York Moors.

4. Explore the North York Moors National Park

Sleights is an excellent base for exploring the North York Moors National Park. It’s a great place to go hiking, with various trails and paths. Additionally, the park is rich in history and culture, with ancient ruins, churches, and other landmarks scattered throughout the area.

How to get from Sleights to Whitby 

To get from Sleights to Whitby, you can take the bus, drive, or walk. If you prefer to take the bus, you can take the Arriva bus service between Sleights and Whitby. The journey takes around 15-20 minutes, depending on traffic. If you’re driving, you can take the A169 road that connects Sleights and Whitby. The drive takes around 10-15 minutes, depending on traffic. 

Sleights to Whitby Walk

4 miles (6km) | 1 hour 30 minutes | Easy

This 4-mile walk takes you along the historic Esk Valley Railway. It begins at Sleights train station, which serves both the village of Sleights and the hamlet of Briggswath across the River Esk. Starting on the southern side of the station, the trail leads you eastwards towards Hagg House and Ruswarp, where you’ll find another station. After crossing the river, you’ll head into Whitby and finish at the iconic Whitby Abbey on the coast. You can retrace your steps or catch a train back to Sleights from Whitby. 

You can follow the entire route here.

Stay at Rowan Tree House B&B

Rowan Tree House B&B

Rowan Tree House B&B is a lovely bed and breakfast located in Sleights. It offers accommodation with garden views, free WiFi, and free private parking. We had a pleasant stay here; our room was clean and comfortable.

The B&B’s location was perfect for us as we wanted to explore Staithes, Whitby, and Robin Hood’s Bay during our long weekend. Our hosts were accommodating, allowing us to pick up the key on our first day and ensuring we were happy with our breakfast. We appreciated the complete privacy and independence of coming and going easily, aided by the convenient off-road parking in front of the B&B.

Or relax and stay over at a lovely pub!

The Salmon Leap

There are also a few pubs in Sleights and the surrounding area, such as The Plough Inn and The Salmon Leap, where you can stay over and enjoy a drink or meal with friends and family.

We had a wonderful stay at The Salmon Leap. The room was modern and spacious, with a well-finished bathroom. The hotel’s bar was small but friendly, offering a menu of classic pub meals. The staff were helpful and friendly, making our stay even more enjoyable. We recommend this hotel to anyone looking for a short break within easy reach of the beautiful North York Moors and Whitby.

Sleights is a great village to visit, but it is perfect if you want to stay close enough to enjoy Whitby and quickly access the surrounding area. Hopefully, this blog post has inspired you to explore Sleights and helped you plan your visit. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Header image credit: © Copyright Pauline E and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.

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