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Summer Solstice at Saltwick Bay; See the Sun Rise and Set in to the Sea

High up on the North Yorkshire Coast lies the rugged charm of Saltwick Bay. We spent Summer Solstice here and had the most enchanting time.

Saltwick Bay is hidden from view, hard to find by car, and with a steep walk down, this beautiful craggy shore is dramatically picturesque. To witness the sunrise from the sea, then 12 hours later, watch it return to the icy waters like a cosmic magic trick performed in slow motion. For a few short weeks each year, this stunning spectacle occurs daily to enchant those lucky enough to be present at sun up and sun down.

Whitby Abbey Moon

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We drove up from Stafford the previous evening to arrive at the coast, ready for the 4 am sunrise. That night we took the opportunity to capture a few shots of the iconic Whitby abbey by night. The dark outline of the immense Benedictine monastery stark against the bright candescence of the summer sky was a generous reward for the four-hour drive north. Beneath the Abbey down the 199 Steps, Whitby town glowed orange and white as the lights of the harbour front bars twinkled in the blackness of the port-bound North Sea.

Summer Solstice

There is a trick to catching the early morning light – be prepared and have a flask of hot tea and a tasty treat in your pocket. Our alarm sounded at 4 am, and we set off into the brisk coastal wind for the walk down to the beach. As we arrived at the top of the cliff, a mum and daughter pulled up fresh from their drive from York. We walked down the steep steps along the rocky path down to the beach and were surprised to find another couple sitting wrapped in blankets, bleary-eyed from a chilly night under the stars. Six people made an effort to get out onto the sand to mark the beginning of the longest day.

Saltwick Bay

The sun rose quickly, breaking cloud cover as it climbed out of the misty dawn towards a crisp blue sky, beaming golden orange rays down onto the frozen earth, warming faces and seas alike. We stood awed by the serenity of the moment. It’s rare to find oneself in such situations as this, and it called for silent wonderment as the colour and shape of the world returned for its longest day. Saltwick Nab revealed itself in the morning light with a shadowy silhouette turning more solid as the sun reached greater heights. As the tide swept out, the young couple under the blanket braved the rock pools and took an expedition beyond the Nab underfoot.

Saltwick Bay

Saltwick Bay is known for its impressive hoarding of fossilised ammonites and occasionally for high-quality jet, drawing avid hunters from across the regions in search of ancient remains and black gold. We spent a couple of hours rummaging around on the beach, smashing the slate-like shale stones against tougher rocks to ‘open’ them up to see if there were fossils to be found, like opening a Jurassic kinder egg.

On this occasion, we discovered shells like ammonites and sharp pencil-like belemnites embedded in the rock. During low tide, it’s possible to follow the bay into Whitby, and you’ll likely encounter the wreck of the MV Creteblock and the SS Rohilla. Check the tide before committing to this adventure – it’s too easy to get caught out when the tide rushes in.

Whitby Sunset

Later, we walked into town, across the cliff tops along the Cleveland Way, and down the 199 Steps to enjoy a day in Whitby. There’s so much to see and so many things to do. Our final mission for the day was to enjoy the sun’s slow descent as it dropped into the sea like a giant yellow coin falling into a jar. Perched above Henrietta Street, we basked in the glorious evening glow with a long line of keen photographers hopeful of capturing the decisive moment when the sun touches the North Sea and begins its slide into a new day on a new continent.

3 thoughts on “Summer Solstice at Saltwick Bay; See the Sun Rise and Set in to the Sea”

  1. Hi
    I just wish I didn’t live in New Zealand and was able to join you. I remember going to Whitby with my parents and brothers as children, along with so many other places. One day soon, I hope I will be able to come back and live where my heart is, North Yorkshire, Boosbeck, was where I was born, so many moons ago.

  2. Hello there…my wife and I would love to celebrate the summer solstice at Saltwick Bay but are unsure whether to attend due to the current Coronavirus situation…could you please advise whether to come or not…Thanks.

    • Hi Mark. Saltwick Bay is a fantastic place to welcome in the Summer Solstice. When I was there, as explained in my article, there were just two other people present. The beach is large enough that adequate social distancing will be possible. Go for it! Best, James


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