Day out: Runswick Bay, North Yorkshire

Visit a North Yorkshire coastal village recently voted as having the best beach in Britain

Coastal village and beach

The pristine, mile-long sands of the former fishing village of Runswick Bay on the North Yorkshire coast were recently crowned “Britain’s best beach” by the Times and Sunday Times. 

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With its sheltered, sweeping bay, golden sands and delightful cluster of pantile red-roofed cottages tumbling down to the sea, it is a firm favourite with many families. The beach, which once provided anchorage for scores of brightly coloured fishing boats, is now more popular for rockpooling, Jurassic Age fossil-hunting and bracing coastal walks.

Small cottages in coastal settlement
Regular erosion of the cliffs around Runswick Bay make ita hotspot for fossil hunting/Credit: Getty

Things to see and do in Runswick Bay

Runswick Bay captivates you with its charm as you descend through narrow lanes – known in Northern England as ginnels – to the village, with its ancient, thatched coastguard’s cottage (the last thatched house on the Yorkshire coast), the flower-decked Royal Hotel and the tiny Runswick Bay café, which sells delicious homemade cakes and pastries on the seafront.

The former Primitive Methodist chapel, now privately owned, was built in 1829 largely by the backbreaking labour of the women of the village. The steep slopes made it impossible for a horse and cart to convey the building materials, so 140 loads of stone, sand and lime were carried down in baskets on the heads of the wives and daughters of the fishermen. 

Runswick Bay to Staithes walk

Runswick Bay is sheltered at its northern end by the lofty crags of Lingrow Cliffs. From the cliffs you can take the three-mile stroll north along the Cleveland Way to Staithes, another lovely former fishing village, enjoying breathtaking views of the North Sea and rambling coastline along the way.

At the southern end, you can scramble up the steep coastal path for views from the headland of Kettleness, site of industrial-scale alum mining from 1727 until the late 1800s. 

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Around the edge of the bay, the ceaselessly pounding waves have created a series of caves known as Hob Holes. These are small cavities where hobgoblins (mischievous spirits) were believed to live. One was supposed to be able to cure whooping cough, and mothers would take their ailing children there, reciting an ancient rhyme and hoping for a cure.