The coastal walk from Sandsend to Runswick Bay is about 4 and a half miles long. The walk follows an undulating route along the cliffs with stunning views at several points. In particular, the view from Kettleness towards the sweeping bay at Runswick has to be one of the best views on the Yorkshire Coast.
The whole of the coastal section of the Cleveland Way is covered on the Ordnance Survey explorer map OL27, the North York Moors – Eastern area. 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 weatherproof ‘Active’ version.
This route starts at the car park near the northern end of Sandsend beach. Look out for the signpost at the foot of the steps in the car park. This points out the path to Kettleness (and Runswick Bay). This well-signposted walk follows the Cleveland Way to Runswick Bay. If you have a dog please read the warning sign at the foot of the steps. Parts of the route run very close to the cliff edge. Climb the steps past the old old railway station, now a house and onto the cinder track of the old railway line. There are a number of viewpoints as you climb, with fantastic views of Sandsend and in the distance, Whitby.
The path climbs steadily to Sandsend Ness where alum used to be quarried. The old workings are still exposed in many parts and lack any vegetation. However, some pockets are recovering and returning to their natural state. If you are lucky you might see a fox or some deer. The path twists through the mounds of boulder clay. On the seaward side, it passes a small path down to Deepgrove Wyke. This leads down to a secluded, shale beach which is great for fossil hunting.
The route now approaches a sealed tunnel mouth (pity it’s bricked up, might be fun to walk through!). Steps at the side lead upwards through the trees eventually climbing out onto the top of Keldhow Steel. The route from here passes through coastal farmland, a mixture of fields, mostly growing arable crops. The path winds along over Tellgreen Hill, Ovalgate Cliff and on to the strangely named, Seaveybog Hill.
Before passing into the hamlet of Kettleness, the route passes a mound on the clifftop that is all that is left of an old Roman Signal Station at Goldsborough. There are five of these along the Yorkshire Coast at Filey Brigg, Scarborough Castle, Ravenscar, Goldsborough and Hunt Cliff near Saltburn. Observers would look out for seaborne raiders. If any were spotted a beacon could be lit, and the message quickly sent up and down the coast to mobilise soldiers on the mainland.
Kettleness beach is an excellent place for fossil hunting. The Ness itself is composed of shale and has been quarried in the past for alum. There is a little-used path down to Kettleness sands, or it is possible to walk around from Runswick Bay at low tide. If you do this check the tide times carefully to avoid becoming stranded.
Leaving Kettleness the path begins to descend towards Runswick Bay which is now in sight. The path drops steeply down to Runswick sands at Hob Holes where several becks drain into the sea. Hob Holes are so named because they were allegedly the haunt of hobgoblins. The ones here were supposedly able to cure whooping cough. The rocks that descend to the beach are particularly slippery. Please be careful walking over the rocks on the last 300 yards before the beach.
The route down to the beach is inaccessible at high tide, so check the tide times and try to arrive around low tide. Before starting the descent to the beach there is a sign with a map, which shows an alternative route to Runswick, avoiding the beach. This follows the old railway line which runs close to the Cleveland Way path, just after Kettleness. Note that the railway line takes a much longer route as it swings inland quite some way.
Runswick Bay is a circular bay and very photogenic. It used to be a very quiet place but seems much more popular lately, probably due to the fact it was voted beach of the year in 2020. At low tide, the beach is quite extensive and a perfect place to enjoy a rest after your walk. The village itself is a jumble of cottages and alleyways.
It has had a perilous past. In 1682 a huge storm caused a landslip, which washed away the village. There is an old lifeboat station here and a cafe just above the beach. The cafe is not open in winter.
Finishing your walk
If you’ve walked from Sandsend or Whitby (see Whitby to Sandsend post) and don’t want to walk back, there is a regular bus service from the top of the bank, in the upper half of the village. If you are returning by bus to Sandsend, get off the bus in Lythe and enjoy the superb views of Whitby from the churchyard of St. Oswald’s church. It’s then only a short walk to Sandsend (all downhill).
If you want to continue your walk, the Cleveland Way continues to Port Mulgrave and Staithes.
Want to save this for later? Pin the image below.