A cliff-top walk from Sandsend to Kettleness and back

Around 6 miles (steep in places, but not too stretching)

Sandsend is a beautiful little seaside resort about 3 miles from Whitby. You can walk from one to the other on the beach when the tide’s out (always check tide times before starting out) or you can walk inland through the privately owned Mulgrave Woods (though only on certain days of the week).

Sandsend used to be part of the once-thriving alum industry (an important chemical with a variety of uses) and this walk takes you past some of the discarded mines and tips, and, for part of it, along the path of the old railway line which was used after the quarrying stopped in the second half of the 19th century to bring in holiday-makers from the north of the county (the North Riding, in those days).

The outward leg of this walk follows the Cleveland Way.

  1. The walk starts from the Sandsend pay-and-display car park by ascending the stairs to the right of the café near the entrance/exit. At the top of the steps and to your left is the old station.
Looking back to Sandsend from the cliff top. The car park is on the right and at the top right you can see part of the former railway station.
Looking back to Sandsend from the cliff top. The car park is on the right and at the top right you can see part of the former railway station.
  1. Turn right and follow the path of the old railway line which runs parallel to the coast. Looking back you should be able to see Whitby in the distance, with its church and ruined Abbey on top of the hill overlooking this marvellous seaside town.
Whitby Abbey overlooks St Mary’s Church, which itself overlooks the town and its harbour.
Whitby Abbey overlooks St Mary’s Church, which itself overlooks the town and its harbour.

On both sides of the path you’ll see evidence of the alum industry, as revealed by the unnatural landscape (now very attractive) created from the mines and the spoils. You’ll also see the occasional set of steps leading down to the seashore.

Rust-coloured water at the old quarry
Rust-coloured water at the old quarry.
  1. After about a mile or so, you’ll see the blocked entrance to an old railway tunnel and, to the right of it, there’s a path going up into the trees with a short but steep climb – though mainly with steps.
the old railway tunnel and path upwards to its right (there’s a way marker bearing the legend “7 Trail” signalling the correct path)
The old railway tunnel and path upwards to its right (there’s a way marker bearing the legend “7 Trail” signalling the correct path).
  1. Take the upward path through the woods and when you get to the top, keep right and follow the path again, to the left of a stone wall. The path now goes along the edge of what are very steep cliffs, and it’s clear that the edge has crumbled away from time to time.
You can see the top of the railway tunnel on the left of the picture.
You can see the top of the railway tunnel on the left of the picture.
  1. Carry straight ahead on the Cleveland Way with fine views of the sea to your right. When you’re halfway to Kettleness you’ll see a signpost saying Kettleness 1½ miles. It also points out that the village of Lythe is on a path heading off to the left.
at the half-way mark
At the half-way mark.
  1. From here on the path hugs the cliff edge so it’s pretty straightforward.
the path follows the cliff edge from here onwards
The path follows the cliff edge from here onwards.
  1. On the right you can see the remains of some more old alum workings which if they weren’t patched with green would be reminiscent of the surface of the Moon or Mars.
coastal alum workings
Coastal alum workings.
  1. On the outskirts of Kettleness there’s a large farmhouse on your left and straight ahead you can see Runswick Bay. If you’re thinking of stopping for a rest or to eat a packed lunch don’t stop at the first bench you come to (on your left) there are several more twenty or so yards/metres further on which are more comfortable and have a much better view.
one of North Yorkshire’s prettiest fishing villages
Runswick Bay – one of North Yorkshire’s prettiest fishing villages.
  1. There are only a few houses in Kettleness. Indeed the village had to be rebuilt after a landslip in 1829 caused by torrential rain when part of the cliff fell into the sea – as it sometimes does today. Kettleness is one of the top spots on Yorkshire’s Jurassic coast for fossils, with ammonites and reptile fossils in abundance. As always, great care should be taken for one’s own safety and also not to be destructive to the environment (the sea does a more than adequate job of revealing fossils).
  1. There’s an old railway station on the one road out of Kettleness which was connected to Sandsend and Whitby by the disused track we walked on earlier. The station is now used as an Outward Bound centre.
the former station at Kettleness
The former station at Kettleness.

A few hundred yards up the road lies an old chapel with a stylishly patterned slate roof.

the old chapel
The old chapel.
Highland Cattle in a field by the chapel
Highland Cattle in a field by the chapel.

 

  1. For the return journey there is an inland route back to Sandsend through the field next to the chapel but (having walked it) my opinion is that this isn’t particularly interesting or scenic (other than Lythe Church) and includes a half-mile stretch on a narrow pavement beside a very busy and noisy road. So I suggest returning the way we came.
The Church of St Oswald, Lythe
The Church of St Oswald, Lythe.

All photos © 2016 Chris Jones