Tiny, pantiled cottages, honeycombed with narrow courtyards, tumble down a narrow gully to the sea. Front doors look over neighbours’ roofs and vertiginous stone steps link the different levels.
Down at the shore of Robin Hood’s Bay, boats are still drawn up on the rocks of Landing Scar, a reminder of the village’s smuggling days.
The tide ebbs at Robin Hood’s Bay in the North York Moors National Park to reveal a series of wave-cut platforms – Landing Scar, High Scar, Billet Scar – beyond which lies the snow-dusted headland of Old Peak ©Alamy
In 1800, everyone who lived in Bay Town, as it’s known locally, was said to be involved in this illegal transportation of goods. The villagers linked their cellars up the steep slope so that contraband, received at the shore, could be passed underground to the cliff top, unbeknown to Bay Town’s customs officers.
Robin Hood’s Bay is special, particularly in December during the village’s Victorian Weekend (this year 8-10 December). Local people and visitors welcome the Christmas spirit by dressing in period costume – some of startling originality. It’s a true celebration of the winter season.
Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire, England ©Getty
Shops and houses are decorated with wreaths and garlands, Christmas trees sprout at every window and there are regular opportunities, formal and informal, to sing festive carols. And for those with a little more energy, there are even smugglers’ walks.
On Friday evening, the first night of the event, head to the dock for the lighting of the ‘Bayilluminations’. Throughout the weekend there is live music, storytelling, treasure hunts and traditional games such as ‘splat the rat’. Sample a smugglers’ ale at the Baytown Beer Festival in the Victoria Hotel, and look out for special appearances from Father Christmas – and perhaps even Queen Victoria.
Escape the crowds
If the Christmas spirit is proving a little too much, take a winter walk through the surrounding North York Moors countryside.
Beach at Robin Hoods Bay, North Yorkshire ©Getty
Wake early and catch sunrise over Robin Hood’s Bay
A four-mile circular route heads south from the Station Car Park on the hilltop above the village (visitors’ cars are not allowed in the narrow streets).
Along the line
This four-mile coastal walk starts south from the Station Car Park on the hilltop above the village (visitors’ cars are not allowed in the narrow streets) and follows the disused Scarborough to Whitby railway line, opened in 1885 and closed in 1965, for two miles.
When it is about to go across a bridge, turn left down steps, and then left on the road into Boggle Hole on the coast.
Acorn to acorn
Cross the inlet on a bridge to join the Cleveland Way, following its acorn signs along the cliffs – with their spectacular sea views – back to Robin Hood’s Bay.
Click on the map below and get an interactive version of the route