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.
Our guide to Robin Hood’s Bay in the North York Moors includes local history, best places to eat and drink and a walking route with a map.
Where is Robin Hood’s Bay?
In 1800, everyone who lived in Bay Town, as its 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.
Where does the name Robin Hood’s Bay come from?
Robin Hood, Britain’s most popular and enduring folk hero, is usually associated with Sherwood Forest, which is about as far as you can get from the sea in England. So why does a bay on the North Yorkshire coast bear his name?
There are several versions of the story, but the most widely accepted seems to be that our hero in Lincoln Green once successfully fought a battle with a notorious piratical cleric known as Damon the Monk, who had been harrying coastal villages. In true swashbuckling style, Robin strung Damon and his crew up from their own yard-arm.
The truth is, of course, that Robin was a kind of medieval superhero, and his moniker crops up in place names all over the country, from Cornwall to Caithness.
But there may just be an inkling of truth in the local legend, for on Stoupe Brow on the moors above the bay, there is a Robin Hood’s Butts, where the man in tights could have practised his archery.
Best pub in Robin Hood’s Bay
Ye Dolphin is appropriately only 50 yards from the sea, and a real smugglers’ pub, with low ceilings, cosy open fires, real ales and a fish-dominated menu. And if you visit on a Friday night, you’re bound hear some sea shanties, as the Robin Hood’s Bay Folk Club meets here.
Robin’s Hood’s Bay walking route
This 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).
1. 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.
2. Boggle Hole
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.
3. 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.