North Yorkshire coastal path: Raven Hall to Filey

North Yorkshire coastal path: Raven Hall to Filey

Scarborough Harbour

The cliffs of Filey Brigg

Scarborough's North Bay on a stormy day

Filey Bay

First published in Walks
Last updated
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In the year 1774, foundations for a magnificent house were being excavated on a high and bleak cliff overlooking the North sea. The previous house, Peak House, was long gone and the cliff lay bare until an Army captain bought the nearby alum works and decided to build his house there. He called it Ravenhill Hall.

As his men cleared the remains of the ruined old house they came across a large stone buried beneath with a Roman inscription which, when translated, claimed that “Justinian, Emperor of the Romans, built a maritime castle there for the aid of navigation”.

It would have been much like others along this coast and called a watchtower, whether it was used as a lighthouse or as an early warning system of invaders approaching from the sea I cannot say, probably a mixture of the two After the demise of Roman occupation, Danish raiders arrived and in 876AD, erected their black raven flag on the Peak, which became known as Raven Hill, the settlement was called Ravens Scar.

The Danish raider responsible for this was a chieftain called Hungar. Today we have a grand house standing there, the Raven Hall Country Hotel built in the same position as the Roman Watchtower, but let us get on our way now and leave Raven Hall behind us to walk along Station Road for a couple of hundred paces then turn left along an unmade road signed as the Cleveland Way to take us onto the cliff path.

Once more these cliffs are high and sometimes eroded, please take care. Follow the path for some time until you reach Hayburn Wyke Wood and cross a gully where a detour from the Cleveland Way can be made to the Hayburn Wyke Inn, an old coaching inn for refreshment if required. If not continue along the Cleveland Way path and climb back to the cliff top Continue past Cloughton Wyke and onto Burniston Bay, keeping an eye out for angry nesting Gulls and eroding cliffs along the way.

It was in Burniston Bay that the Home Guard arrested a German sailor having been dumped by a German U-Boat! Imagine how proud the Home Guard must have been as they marched their prisoner along to the village to hand him over to the police! The rocky beach between Burniston Bay and Jackson’s Bay at Scarborough is where evidence of Dinosaurs has been found.

Fossilised footprints and scratch marks on rocks are to be seen. From the cliff path there are now good views of Scarborough Castle. As the cliff descends at Scalby Mills it would be perhaps appropriate to stop for refreshment at the Inn before we take a look at the streets of old Scarborough. Leave the Scalby Mills Inn to walk along the promenade past the car park and Sea Life Centre to eventually join the roadside footpath to walk around the Marine Drive to the harbour.

Let us stop for a while to imagine what it would have been like here in the 17th century. Imagine being no road, no large harbour and hardly any shops but picture in your mind the noise and smell of a shipbuilding industry with carpenters, anchor smiths, block makers, a mast and timber yard, sail makers, a ropery and a bleach house.

There would be ships in various stages of completion being built and chocked on the launch slopes which were called hills. The whole length of the foreshore would be busy involved in the building of ships. Not only small boats for fishing but ocean going ships capable of sailing to Tangiers and Rio de Janeiro.

Scarborough’s streets were busy as traders from recently docked ships carried silk, wine, rice, fish and fancy goods up into the streets of Scarborough town. Much trading was done door to door as gaily dressed hawkers persuaded the housewives to buy their wares. A cry would go out across Newborough of ‘the merchants are here’. Strolling players brought the news singing highly disguised ballads. And if you listen carefully above the street racket you might hear the blast of a horn signalling the approach of one of the many stagecoaches on their regular trips to Scarborough. If only we could step back in time for a day!!

The sea off Scarborough was a dangerous place in the 14th century as piracy was rife; many ships were attacked, after robbing them of their cargo many of the ships were sunk or put to the torch. The pirates were French, Dutch and Scottish but they became reckless with their success and stole a ship of the Tindall Line from Scarborough. The culprits this time were pursued, caught and hanged!

Fed up with being attacked some Scarborough ship owners became privateers, piracy with a licence! They found it easy to rob shipping off the coast until, after several years of thieving they made a huge error by attacking and robbing the Kings ships in the name of Parliamentarians. Eventually the King became very angry when they robbed a ship bearing the royal coal and sent a task force to Scarborough which resulted in the seizing of over a hundred ships and their crews to stamp out the activities of the Scarborough pirates.

Let us leave Scarborough behind now and continue the journey along the coast to Filey. Walk along the foreshore where the shipbuilding took place and head for Scarborough Spa. Keep going past the Spa then take the lower promenade right to the end. Continue on to climb an ascending, rough path then at the top keep straight ahead to enter a thicket at the Cleveland Way sign.

Follow a narrow path past a golf course and eventually down a slippery bank onto a wide, rough road. Turn right up the hill then at the top go left at the Cleveland Way sign, continue along to the end then go right to the main road. Go left here and when the road bears right you must keep straight ahead on a dead end road. Part way down the hill turn left at the stumpy sign with the white acorn on it to descend steeply through a wood.

Lots of steps lead to a junction of paths, go right here at the white acorn guide post. Continue along following guide posts to eventually ascend steps to the cliff top. Turn left here at the Cleveland Way sign; descend the field to cross a minor road to continue along the Cleveland Way past a caravan site and houses to ascend the high cliffs of Gristhorpe. The path climbs, descends then climbs again to pass a caravan site. Keep following Cleveland Way signs along the cliff all the way to Filey Brig. Continue to the car park exit road then at the t-junction go left downhill to walk along the valley to the promenade beside the sea.

I’ll leave you in Filey for a week or two before continuing the journey along the coast to the seaside town which was known in the year 1086 as Bretlinton.

The Facts

Distance - 21miles/34 km
Terrain - Moderate cliff paths with some serious ascents and descents
Best Map - OS Landranger 101
Start/grid Ref. - Ravenscar GR980016
Refreshments - Hayburn Wyke Inn, Scalby Mills Hotel, Scarborough’s Marine Drive and Foreshore, Farrer’s Bar at Scarborough Spa, Filey Town
Public Toilets - Scarborough North Promenade, Scarborough Piers near Harbour and Foreshore

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