Cornelian Bay, Yorkshire Coast

Cornelian Bay lies between the headland of White Nab, south of Scarborough’s South Bay and Knipe Point just north of Cayton Bay. The Cleveland Way footpath runs along the clifftop for the length of the bay. The relative inaccessibility of the bay means that even on the busiest bank holiday, you can count the number of people on the beach on one hand.

Cornelian Bay is a fantastic place for a peaceful walk. Like most beaches, it’s definitely best to visit at low tide. Search UK Tide Times before you go.

Other than the free car park there are no facilities at Cornelian Bay. Dogs are allowed on the beach all year round.

Getting to Cornelian Bay

Access the car park near the beach by heading out of Scarborough along the A165. At the South Cliff roundabout turn left along Filey Road and find Cornelian Drive (YO11 3AJ) on the left-hand side (don’t follow the new bypass). Drive part way around Cornelian Drive and look for a lane off to the left. The lane runs along the edge of the golf course and leads to a small, free car park. If the car park is full (unlikely) there is ample space to park on Cornelian Drive itself.

Once you have parked, bear left away from the pumping station, cross a small stream and look for a steep, wide gravel track heading downhill. There isn’t a real path near the bottom. The path down to the beach is on the right and needs to be negotiated carefully, especially when it’s wet. Once down at sea level, scramble across an area of uneven rocks to reach the main beach area.

The Ordnance Survey Map of Scarborough, Bridlington & Flamborough Head. covers this part of the coast. The OS Explorer Map 301 covers the east coast of Yorkshire around Scarborough, Bridlington and Flamborough Head. With this map, you also get a code for use on your iOS or Android smartphone or tablet. The explorer map is available in both the standard paper version and the weatherproof ‘Active’ version.

Be careful if you’re tempted to wander out over the scar and rocks at low tide. You can become marooned on an island as the inner lake floods very quickly when the tide comes in. Perilous Rocks are well named.


The Bay is named after the dull red semi-precious stone carnelian. This occasionally washes up on the beach. The carnelian or cornelian stone is a type of chalcedony quartz similar to sard and sardonite. The name of this gemstone refers to its colour which ranges from pale red and orange to dark red and brown.

The cliffs here are mostly made from glacial clays, sands and gravels. These were left behind as the ice melted at the end of the last Ice Age about 10,000 years ago. They are not very stable and subject to erosion by both waves and rainwater. There have been several landslips at Knipe Point over the years.

WWII Relics

Head south along the beach towards Knipe Point, easily recognised by its hump-backed shape. Halfway along the beach is an obvious Second World War lookout or pillbox. There is another one at the end of the beach at Knipe Point.

Cayton Bay

At low tide, it is possible to walk around Knipe Point to Cayton Bay. This is a tough walk over a jumble of rocks, it’s also possible to get into Cayton Bay by climbing over Knipe Point.

Climb the cliff to the right of the pillbox, walk along the ridge at the top and scramble down the other side. After walking over the jumble of rocks at beach level, you’ll be on the sands in Cayton Bay. I’d definitely only attempt this when it’s dry. Be very careful descending into Cayton Bay as the cliff is quite steep in places. If you wanted to walk along Cayton Bay you could leave by the path up the cliff next to the pumping station. Then walk back towards Scarborough along the Cleveland Way footpath at the top of the cliffs. This will take you back to the car park at Cornelian Bay. There are several viewpoints along the path overlooking Cornelian Bay.

Walk from Scarborough

Cornelian Bay is only a short distance from Scarborough. It’s possible to walk to Cornelian Bay along the Cleveland Way footpath. This runs next to the Sea Cliff Road car park (YO11 2XU) in Scarborough. It’s also possible to walk from Scarborough around White Nab at low tide, although this is a bit of a rocky scramble. Note that Sea Cliff car park has a three-hour limit.

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