The Cinder Track or Scarborough to Whitby Rail Trail runs 34.4 km (21 miles) between Scarborough and Whitby and is free of traffic along its length, apart from a couple of short road sections. It follows the old railway line and is suitable for cyclists, walkers and horse riders.
The old railway line linked Scarborough with Robin Hood’s Bay and then headed further north to Whitby. Sadly, the line was part of the Beeching Axe and it was closed in 1965. However, the loss of a railway was the walker or cyclist’s gain. With great foresight Scarborough Council bought the line shortly after it closed. It is now a well-maintained bridleway. The route is very easy to follow with plenty of signposts.
The old track was laid on cinders rather than crushed stone hence its name the Cinder Track.
The route forms part of the larger Route 1 of the National Cycle Network. Due to the nature of the surface, mountain bikes are probably the most suitable. It has two long, steady climbs to tackle. The first from Scarborough to Ravenscar is 190 m (625 ft) and the second from Robin’s Bay to Whitby 75 m (250 ft).
The route passes through or close to a number of villages including Scalby, Burniston, Cloughton, Ravenscar, Robin Hood’s Bay and Hawsker.
As part of the maintenance of the Track over 1,000 trees have been planted. The Cloughton section has been planted with lime trees that attract pollinating insects.
The Ordnance Survey explorer map OL27, the North York Moors – Eastern area covers the whole of the Cinder Track and the Cleveland Way coastal section. 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.
I have only ever walked on the Cinder Path, I’ve never cycled it, so my description is from the point of view of a walker. I’ve split it into three sections, Scarborough to Ravenscar, Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay and Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby. I’ve described the walk from Scarborough to Whitby, it’s just as good travelling in the other direction.
Each of the three sections could be paired up with the corresponding walk on the Cleveland Way to form a circular route. (The Cleveland Way – Scarborough to Ravenscar, The Cleveland Way – Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay and The Cleveland Way – Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby)
The walk is to all intents and purposes flat, the uphill sections are very gradual and not really noticeable to the walker. I’d therefore class it as an easy walk throughout. The corresponding sections on the Cleveland Way are more strenuous with drops to sea level and climbs back up to cliff height.
I’ve walked the whole length of the Track with my dog and the whole route is accessible to dogs. I would recommend putting your dog on a lead on the short road sections and also if there are a lot of cyclists using the Track as it’s quite narrow in places.
If you want to leave your car in either Whitby or Scarborough, I would suggest using the Park and Ride service in Whitby. This is definitely easier than trying to park in the centre of Whitby which gets extremely busy. The Cinder Path starts a little way out of town in Scarborough so you may be able to find some street parking nearby. Don’t park in Sainsbury’s Car Park as this has a time limit (3 hours). You could use the Scarborough Park and Ride into the town centre and walk from there to the start of the Cinder Track in Sainsbury’s (10 minutes walk).
If you want to walk the route in one go there is an excellent bus service running between Scarborough and Whitby, the x93 run by Arriva. The same service calls at Robin Hood’s Bay and Cloughton. There is a limited bus service between Scarborough and Ravenscar which runs twice a day, the 115 run by East Yorkshire Buses.
Best Time to Walk
The Cinder Track is a great walk for when everywhere else is muddy and wet. A lot of the route is tarmacked and the sections that aren’t are mostly stone, cinder or rubble. It is also well-drained. Much of the corridor that the track runs through is populated with trees so it’s quite nice to walk along in late Autumn when the trees are shedding their leaves.
The path can get very busy in summer with both walkers and cyclists, especially during the middle of the day. The Cinder Track quite often hosts charity walks and rides in summer.
The Cinder Track
Walk from Scarborough to Ravenscar 16.9 km (10½ miles)
The walk starts from Sainsbury’s Car Park on Falsgrave Road. Walk past the play area in the corner of the car park and under the bridge, pass the basketball court and graffiti wall. The track is quite wide at this point and passes along a tree-lined route through the suburbs of Scarborough. Continue past the cemetery on the right and continue across the playing fields. These used to be the site of the Northstead Carriage Sidings.
The Track continues through the suburb of Newby, crossing over Newby Farm Road and then the bridge over Scalby Beck before exiting onto Chichester Close. This is a short road section. At the end of Chichester Close turn right onto Station Road and then left onto Field Cl Road and then right into Lancaster Way. At the end of Lancaster Way pick up the Track again. It now runs through open countryside.
This is a fairly long section through farmland. After crossing a small stream the Track stops at the busy A165 coastal road at Burniston. Turn left onto the path beside the road and walk along to the pelican crossing. The Track continues on the other side of the road. Leaving Burniston it returns to farmland.
Cloughton is reached shortly. The old station here has been restored with a tearoom in an old carriage between the platforms. The Track passes to the east of Cloughton through farmland and enters the North Yorkshire Moors National Park. At this point, the route starts to climb steadily. The area around the Track is now mostly woodland and passes the old platforms at Hayburn Wyke Station and shortly afterwards the Hayburn Wyke Hotel.
Close to the Hotel is an extremely scenic cove, Hayburn Wyke, owned by the National Trust. Here there is a double waterfall that drops straight onto the beach. This is well worth a detour if you have time. (My post The Cleveland Way – Scarborough to Ravenscar has more information and some photos).
Back on the Track you soon arrive at the old station at Staintondale which is now a private house. The path continues to climb to the old station at Ravenscar which is the highest point on the route at 192 m (631 ft) above sea level. Ravenscar can be a bleak place and it’s often very windy. If you are in need of refreshment the little square near the station has a tearoom and there is a shop and cafe down the road run by the National Trust as well as the Raven Hall Hotel.
Walk from Ravenscar to Robin Hood’s Bay 8.2 km (5 miles)
In Ravenscar, walk across Station Square and down Station Road to the entrance of the Raven Hall Hotel. Turn left onto Raven Hall Road and a signpost points to the Cinder Track just past the National Trust Visitor Centre (next to the litter bin). The Track descends to Brickyards Alum Quarry, owned by the National Trust. This had its own railway siding until the 1930s. Leaving the quarry the Track runs along heather-clad hillsides. At this point, the views across Robin Hood’s Bay are absolutely stunning especially if it’s late summer and the heather is in flower.
The Track continues through woodlands to reach the site of Fyling Hall station. The old platform is not easy to see among the trees which are quite dense at this point. After crossing Middlewood Lane the track runs along the back of the Middlewood Farm Caravan Park.
The Track stops at Thorpe Lane. Turn right onto the road for a short distance until you pick up the Track again on the left. This now runs into the old Robin Hood’s Bay station. The old station buildings have been turned into holiday accommodation and the station yard is now the main car park for the village.
Robin’s Hoods Bay has an upper village where the old station is and a lower, older village by the seaside. There are pubs, cafés and restaurants in both. However, if you detour down to the bottom of the village note that the return up the main street is very steep, especially if you’ve had a portion of fish and chips and an ice cream!
Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby 9.5 km (6 miles)
The old track leaving Robin Hood’s Bay has been covered by back gardens. So you need to walk a short way along Station Road. Turn left into Mount Pleasant North and regain the Track at the end of the street. The area just north of Robin Hood’s Bay is Bay Ness. There are open views down to the sea across the Ness. Don’t forget to look back at the coastal views all the way back to Robin Hood’s Bay and Ravenscar. The Cleveland Way is quite close at this point and is just beyond the fields on the right-hand side.
After descending all the way from Ravenscar, the Track starts to climb again.
It also runs away from the coast now and past Seaview Holiday Park before crossing Bottoms Lane. This is the route of the last (or first) section of the Coast-to-Coast Walk. The Track then crosses the busy A171 road at Hawsker, thankfully there is a pelican crossing. Whitby comes into view at this point and the Abbey is clearly visible on the clifftop. Trailways Cycle Hire own the old station at Hawsker and there are several old railway carriages at the platform. There is also a small cafe.
The Track passes under Summerfield lane and then along the back of some houses, crosses Stainsacre Lane and continues into Larpool Woods. There are occasional views on the left over towards the Esk Valley.
Leaving the woods you encounter one of the highlights of the whole route, the spectacular Larpool Viaduct on the outskirts of Whitby. The viaduct is 36 m (120 ft) high and crosses over the River Esk and also the Whitby to Middlesbrough railway line. There are extensive views here of the river, the harbour and Whitby Abbey. The 13-arch viaduct is a Grade II listed structure and is actually mentioned in the Dracula novel by Bram Stoker.
The little river, the Esk, runs through a deep valley, which broadens out as it comes near the harbour. A great viaduct runs across, with high piers, through which the view seems somehow further away than it really is.Dracula, Chapter 6. Mina Murray’s Journal
The Track finally passes between school playing fields before it finishes rather abruptly at the top of Stakesby Vale. Whitby town centre is signposted down Southend Gardens and then onto Bagdale, which leads to the bus and railway stations, beach, shops, cafes etc.
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