Guide to walking the Cleveland Way: places to stay, things to do
Gorgeous coast, pretty fishing harbours, rugged hills and ancient monuments – all in one spectacular route. Welcome to the wonders of North Yorkshire’s Cleveland Way with our expert guide on how to walk this epic route, plus places to stay and useful travel advice.
The 108-mile horseshoe-shaped Cleveland Way leaves Helmsley to the north, arching east through the North York Moors before returning south along the coast from Saltburn to Filey Brigg.
The National Trail is not just for weather-beaten long-distance hikers: there are plenty of shorter circular walks that incorporate stretches of the path and could be completed in a day or an afternoon.
Your essential guide to the Cleveland Way, including facts, day walks, places to stay and where to eat.
Facts about the Cleveland Way
108 miles: The trail is a lengthy walk but can be split into 30 smaller interconnected circuits.
1969: It opened after nearly 16 years’ work, becoming England’s second official long-distance path.
454m: Its highest point is on Urra Moor, which boasts prehistoric remains, including barrows and a rock marker carved into a face.
203m: The route also passes the highest spot on the east coast, the Rock Cliff at Bouldry.
5,562m: The total ascent gained along the way equates to climbing Ben Nevis four times from sea level.
Where to visit
Roughly nine miles south of Saltburn, Staithes is a fishing village almost too attractive to be real. Sheltering under towering cliffs and apparently tumbling down the banks of Roxby Beck into the sea, this jumble of fishermen’s cottages gained its curious name because it was blessed with two seaward landing places, or ‘staithes’. From 1880 until the start of the First World War it was home to a little cluster of impressionists called the Staithes Group. Artists are still lured here by its beauty, which remains largely untouched by the modern world, although most of its cottages are now holiday lets. Oh, and if you arrive in Staithes for the first time and are plagued with the feeling that you’ve been here before, it may be because you’re a parent: the popular CBeebies series Old Jack’s Boat is set here.
This was once the spot where the Rosedale Ironstone Railway – carrying ironstone across the moor bound for the blast furnaces on Teesside – met a road conveying travellers from Fadmoor, away to the south-east. Today the crossing, redundant since 1929, has a vaguely absurd feel to it: two all but abandoned trails touching momentarily in a high wilderness of heather, seemingly oblivious to the fact that one is no longer a railway and the other is no longer a road. Completely alone in that landscape, where what is not heather is sky, you realise that you don’t need vast tracts of sand to enjoy a desert experience. When the wind dies completely, only the occasional startled ‘Get back! Get back!’ of a grouse or the lyrical trilling of a skylark interrupts the silence.
Short walks on the Cleveland Way
Steep stairwells, pitched roofs, an intriguing past and windy clifftop walks make this Yorkshire village the perfect winter getaway.
Walk: Gisborough Moor, North Yorkshire
An isolated building on the North York Moors masqueraded as an entire city in order to save Middlesbrough from burning.
Places to eat along the Cleveland Way
Cobbles, Staithes (formerly Cleveland Corner)
The recently opened Cobbles in Staithes is a friendly café during the day and then a cocktail bar and upmarket pizzeria during the evenings. 01947 841117
Rusty Shears, Whitby
Choose from sharing boards, sandwiches, a wide range of dishes including several vegetarian choices, and an overwhelming selection of freshly baked cakes. There are also 120 gins behind the bar, making it just the tonic whatever mood you’re in. 01947 605383
Eat Me Café, Scarborough
This eatery has its own blend of coffee, uses locally sourced and free-range ingredients, and offers many veggie or vegan options. The secret recipe for their seasoned chips is one of the wonders of Scarborough. 07445 475328
Places to stay along the Cleveland Way
The Endeavour Restaurant with Rooms, Staithes
A delightful little home from home in the heart of Staithes, one of the most picturesque fishing villages on England’s east coast. The restaurant (pictured below) runs on a ‘pop up’ basis and has featured local celebrity chef Lisa Chapman in the kitchen. endeavour-restaurant.co.uk
Dillons of Whitby, Whitby
Opposite the town’s Pannett Park, Dillons is a beautiful boutique bed-and-breakfast with rooms whose chic interior design really has that ‘wow’ factor. The breakfast ingredients are hand-picked from local suppliers, including bread from the renowned Botham’s of Whitby, and there’s even a massage room, should you care to indulge yourself. dillonsofwhitby.co.uk
Gisborough Hall Hotel, Guisborough
A Victorian country house set right on the edge of the North York Moors, Gisborough Hall now serves as a very swish hotel. It boasts a restaurant, bistro and spa – just the thing if all those miles have taken their toll. gisborough-hall.com
High Paradise Farm, Boltby
An absolute must: a remote farmhouse where the former dairy has been converted into charming cosy suites complete with wood-burning stoves. It also sports a funky tearoom, a very friendly welcome, and is slap bang on the Cleveland Way, so you can walk right in. highparadise.co.uk
Lord Stones Country Park, Carlton Bank
The Cleveland Way runs right through Lord Stones, where yurts, bell tents and posh pods are ready to accommodate weary walkers. As well as the campsite for those carrying their homes on their back, there is a café by day and a restaurant – The Belted Bull – serving food by night. lordstones.com
How to get there
Going to Helmsley: Single from London to York from £12.80; 03457 225333; virgintrainseastcoast.com. From York station, take the X31 bus operated by Stephenson’s of Easingwold direct to Helmsley. £5.30 single; 01347 838990; stephensonsofeasingwold.co.uk
Coming back from Filey: Single from Filey to Doncaster, via Hull; £33.50; 0800 2006060; northernrailway.co.uk. Virgin East Coast runs trains north and south from Doncaster. Doncaster to London, single from £14.
North York Moors map
Dixe Wills is the author of a shelf-wearying host of books about Britain including The Z-Z of Great Britain, Tiny Islands and Tiny Churches.