This walk in the North York Moors National Park, takes you from the cute village of Robin Hood’s Bay, and along the coastal path to reach the harbour town of Whitby, with its narrow streets and Dracula vibes. After which you will follow the Cinder Track back to Robin Hood’s Bay.
As it’s a circular route, you can start at either end. You also don’t have to do the full circular walk, as there is a bus connecting Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, so you can just pick one way….
What I’m going to do in this guide, is first give you an overview of the circular Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby walk route, with full logistics, a map, and tips. This should help you decide, which direction you want to walk, and if you want to walk one way, or do the full circular. I will then go on to describe the route step by step with lots of photos, so you can see what every bit of it is like. At the end I will provide suggestions for other walks near Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay.
What to expect on the walk between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay
The coastal path between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay
The coastal path section of the walk between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, is part of the Cleveland Way National Trail. With a view out over the North Sea, it’s nice and cliffy, and quite exposed. It’s also pretty easy to follow. You will be walking close to the cliff edge at some points, but I never felt unsafe when I did it.
If you walk in the direction from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby, you get the best cliff views, as well as a view to Whitby Abbey.
The steps in Whitby
In Whitby, you will tackle the 199 steps. These are quite famous steps, and have been around for a long long time. The first record of them is from the 14th century, although they are thought to be much older. They were also originally wooden, but replaced with stone in the 18th century.
Fun fact: Although not confirmed, it is thought that these steps were use as a way to test Christian faith and determination. In order to worship at St Mary’s Church, you would first need to tackle the steps. If you did so, you were determined.
If you do the route in the direction of Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby, you will get to walk down the steps, and not up.
The Cinder Track from Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay
The Cinder Track section of the walk between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, is actually a cycle route, and is fully on well maintained path. It start’s off mostly under tree cover, and opens up a bit later on.
Fun Fact: The Cinder Track is where the old railway line was.
I did find the Cinder Track walk from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay a little bit tedious. Walking from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby along the coastal path, with grand cliff views, was a solid hike in itself. So to then walk many more miles, on a path without much in the way of views, felt like an afterthought, without any purpose other than to get me back to Robin Hood’s Bay.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice trail. But I would have preferred it as its own thing, on a different day.
How long is the walk?
The coastal walk from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby, is just under 7 miles. The Cinder track from Whitby, back to Robin Hood’s Bay, is about 6 miles.
All together the full Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay circular walk (including navigating through Whitby) is 14 miles. It took me about 4.5h to complete.
How difficult is the walk between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay?
The route itself between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, both on the coastal path and Cinder track is easy. The length brings it up to moderate difficulty.
The coastal path section of the walk between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, is the more rugged part. With a few small hills, some steps, and lots of undulations. As far as coastal cliffy walks go, it’s one of the easier ones. If you have walked along the South West Coast Path, you will know.
The Cinder Track section of the walk between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay is completely level, along a maintained path.
Is the walk pram friendly?
The Cinder Track from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay is pram friendly. The Cleveland Way coastal path is not.
Is the walk dog friendly?
I would say that the Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby circular walk is mostly dog friendly. There are no stiles, although, there is some livestock about along the coastal path section of the walk. Also, there will be some roads when walking through Whitby.
On this walk, you will go right past the gothic ruins of Whitby Abbey, which helped inspire Dracula, by Bram Stoker. I didn’t go inside, but feel free to add it on. It costs £12.70 for adults, and £7.70 for children (at the time of writing). However, entrance is free for English Heritage Members.
Whitby and Robin Hoods Bay Parking
In Robin Hood’s Bay there are two car parks. Station Car Park and Bank Top car park. Both cost about £6 for the day, however, are free during the winter months (end of September to 1st March). You can pay with the RingoApp or cash.
There is however some free parking. On the road leading into Robin Hood’s Bay, near the church, you can park street side for free. Spaces are limited though. I arrived at 9am on Saturday, and a lot was taken.
In Whitby, there are lots of car parks. I would park the Whitby Abbey car park which has lots of spaces. At the time of writing, it costs £7 for 5 h, or £9 for the day. You can pay contactless or by using the Ringo App.
Tips for walking between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay
- If you don’t want to walk the full circular, then I would pick the coastal path from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby.
- When choosing which direction to walk, I would plan it so that you walk the coastal path section from Robin’s Hood’s Bay to Whitby (as opposed to Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay). I made sure to look both ways when doing the walk, and I think the views this way are better. If you are already in Whitby, you can get a bus to take you to Robin Hood’s Bay, then walk back.
- Both Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay have a sandy beach. I didn’t go onto either, but feel free to include a detour to them on the walk. Just note, that you should aim for low tide at Robin Hood’s Bay. At high tide, the beach is swallowed up. You can check the tide times here.
- Wear sunscreen. Coast path walks are the ones that get you, even on overcast days.
Top Tips in Whitby
To see the steam train in Whitby, you can find the train times here. You will want to time it so that you are on the Larpool viaduct when it leaves Whitby.
If you want to enjoy Whitby without the craziness, then try to plan the walk for a weekday…in winter.
If you want to explore Whitby Abbey, and think you will be visiting more English Heritage sites, then it might be worth getting a membership.
For more English Heritage sites, you could try this walk to Rievlaux Abbey, further inland in the North York Moors National Park. Or over in the Howardian Hills, you could visit Kirkham Priory. Both of these walks can be done for free, however, you would need to pay to visit the main sites.
- Start/Finish: For this guide, Robin Hood’s Bay. However, as it’s a circular, you could start at either end.
- Where is it: Located along the coast of the North York Moors National Park. Post code for Robin Hood’s Bay is YO22 4RE.
- Public Transport: Bus X93 Max gets you between Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, with a 15min journey. In Robin Hood’s Bay, the bus stop is on Thorpe lane. The bus stop in Whitby, is right by the train station. This bus runs between Scarborough and Middlesborough. Whitby is on a train line, which you can get to from Middlesborough.
- Distance: 14.5 miles
- Time: 4h 30min
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Terrain: Maintained Path, dirt trail, grass, steps, road.
- Amenities: Public toilets at the car parks (cost 40p in the Whitby one, and Bank Top in Robin Hood’s Bay)
- Time of year: I walked the Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay circular in summer.
Map for the Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby circular walk
Note: Don’t follow the little loop in Whitby. I went the wrong way and had to loop back.
You can find my more detailed route map for the Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby circular walk on Alltrails.
For more from the North York Moors, you can read about all the best walks I recommend here.
Route description for the Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby circular walk
If you are starting from the main area of Robin Hood’s Bay, walk up the main road. If starting from the street side by the church, follow the road leading towards Robin Hood’s Bay, then at the next road, instead of turning right to walk down to the bay, turn left. You should see the post office cafe here.
Follow the road up as it then curves to the right. Then as the road curves left, you should see a signpost for the Cinder Track and Cleveland Way. Follow it.
There is now an unusual amount of signage, telling you which way to go. So follow them.
When you reach the fork junction in the photo below, take the right, which will lead you onto the coastal path section of the Cleveland Way, towards Whitby.
Robin Hood’s Bay views
The path to start, is very neat and well maintained. Then when you reach the wooden bench, you will have a lovely view towards Robin Hood’s Bay below.
Further along, through the gate, you will be in a field with what’s called a Rocket Post.
Fun Fact: Rocket Posts were used by coastguards to practice rescuing shipwrecked sailers.
This one isn’t the original, as that one was very old and falling apart. It is an exact replica though.
Now continue along the grass trail, keeping to the fence on the right, and exit the Rocket Post field through a gate further along.
Back onto the dirt trail, make sure to occasionally look back for more views towards Robin Hood’s Bay.
The undulating clifftop trail
The trail now becomes more rugged, and undulates along the clifftop, with a few steps thrown in. For a while, you don’t have a lot of grand views. Just mostly the North Sea.
I did wonder if this is what it would be like for the whole walk from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby. I hoped it wasn’t. Look, it is nice, but I’m a cliffy girl….
My dreams came true, when the cliffs started to present themselves. Spectacular views of the cliff headland ahead. This is exactly why I love coastal walking.
As I mentioned earlier, I looked back a lot to check out the view, but it was nothing compared to what was ahead. This is why I recommend walking in this direction, from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby.
The path is easy to follow, as it guides you along the cliff top. There are a few arrows, just incase you get confused.
The trail mostly undulates gently, however, there are a few dips along the way, where you have a steep drop down and steep climb back up…..Maybe with some steps.
The views looking back
There is the occasional lovely view of the cliffs view looking back. However, they are better further along, as you near the Whitby end of the coastal path.
Soon you will get a view to a white lighthouse ahead. The coastal path takes you right alongside it.
As I walked by, I saw there was a building attached to it. I though about living there, although, I would need to put a big hedge in, for a bit of privacy from people walking along the coast path.
I have since looked it up, and you can actually live there. It’s a self catering cottage.
The final stretch of the coastal walk from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby
When you reach the road, go straight across to pick up the trail on the other side. The trail will undulate some more, with a few more steps, before you get a wonderful view to a beach and headland ahead. That is Saltwick Bay.
I hadn’t looked at my map for a while, so I didn’t know exactly how far along I was in the walk, but at this point, I knew I must be near Whitby, as it was getting noticeably busier.
Walk through the Whitby holiday park
The trail will soon take you through the Whitby Holiday Park. It’s a large holiday park, and feels a bit jarring, after the lovely coastal path. But there is no nice way around. You just follow the main road straight through. Then when you see the footpath sign to Whitby, follow it.
Walk to Whitby Town
Once you walk up the steps, you will get your first view to the ruins of Whitby Abbey ahead, with some cliffy goodness below. That’s another reason to walk in this direction from Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby. For the Abbey view.
The path will lead you straight to Whitby Abbey, and the entrance, if you want to go in. I decided not to, as it was so so busy by this point, which messed up the peaceful vibes I had so far had.
When you arrive in the car park, next to the Whitby Abbey Ruins, you want to walk over to the opposite corner (see where the ice cream van is in the photo below).
Then go into the church and graveyard, and follow the path on the left. This will lead you to the 199 steps. This is the third reason to walk in the direction of Robin Hood’s Bay to Whitby, so you can walk down these steps and not up.
Now, there is a debate as to how many steps there actually are. And you are supposed to count as you walk them. I didn’t. There were way too many people which distracted me. I made a mental note to come back in winter. Through all the people, it looked like it would be worth visiting again…at a quieter time.
Walk through Whitby town, to head back towards Robin Hood’s Bay
At the bottom of the steps, walk along the narrow street to the left, and follow it around.
It’s narrow, quirky, high street vibes along here. I have to say though, I was shocked. It was way busier than I was expecting. Too busy. I had intended to wander around Whitby a little, but at the sight of this, I wanted to get out and onto the walking trail back to Robin Hood’s Bay as quickly as possible.
To head towards the Cinder Track, when you reach the end of this street, at the main road, turn right to walk across the bridge over the River Esk.
Over the bridge, turn left and follow the river. Continue around the big ship, and along the road with a Coop to your right.
A short walk along, make a left turn at the ice cream hut by the car park, which will lead you alongside the marina.
I was very relieved when I got here. It was significantly more peaceful. Out of the crowds, I sat on a bench to eat my lunch in peace, whilst looking at all the boats.
From here, continue along the harbour side, and over to the opposite corner of the car park, where you will find a trail sign post, pointing left along the railway riverside trail. Don’t go that way, instead cross over the railway.
I mistakingly went left…..
The wrong turn and the steam train
Looking on my map, it looked like this trail would lead me to the bridge crossing over the River Esk, which is why I followed it.
My first inkling that something was wrong, was when I could see the viaduct ahead. At first I was intrigued by the bungee jumpers falling off it. Then I realised, this is where I was supposed to cross, but it was very high, and I was on the wrong side of the railway track to get up to it.
Once I got to it, my suspicion was confirmed.
I was very annoyed at myself. It was hot, and I didn’t want to walk back on myself. Looking on my map, I could see that if I kept going to the next bridge crossing, it would be a slightly shorter distance than going back. Only, I wouldn’t get to walk over the viaduct. I imagined the views on it would be great.
I stood there for a moment, debating what to do, whilst watching the bungee jumpers. Then I heard the steam train. I was annoyed again, that I was missing the steam train. Then realised, I was standing right next to the railway track. How could I forget that.
After the steam train passed, the decision was made. I would walk back.
Finding the Cinder Track
What I should have done, is cross over the railway. So I made my way back, and did just that.
Across the railway, you need to turn left, then when you reach the residential area, follow the very steep path up along the left side. Make sure to look back for a view over the rooftops of Whitby and Whitby Abbey in the distance.
Keep going, then when you reach the road, there is a side path to the left, to take you under it, and up along the other side.
Follow the road now on the other side (with the road to your right), and take the first left turn which will lead you towards a school. Now, keep left, to get onto a path between the building and fence. Follow the path alongside the field, and it will lead you all the way to the Cinder Track, where you turn left.
Follow the Cinder Track from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay
A short way along the Cinder track, you will reach the Larpool Viaduct, where you have a nice view along the River Esk on both sides. Way way in the distance, you can see Whitby Abbey. The view wasn’t as grand as I was expecting, but it’s still really nice. I have been spoilt with some of the views I have seen, hiking around Yorkshire, so that’s what I’m comparing it to.
Now you just continue following the path. This is what it looks like for most of the walk back to Robin Hoods Bay, with some variations in the terrain.
It also mixes up between tree cover, open views, and bridge archway tunnels.
Not much navigation is needed. There is a road crossing, but you can pick up the Cinder Track directly opposite.
Someway further along, things will really open up, with a proper view out to sea. I knew I must be near Robin Hood’s Bay now, as I started to recognise a few things.
Keep going, and you will be led back to where you started.
More walks near Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay
If you continue along the coast from Robin Hood’s Bay, you will reach Ravenscar. This guide, shows you a circular route, taking you first along the clifftop, and then back along the sandy beach. You might get a chance to spot some seals on this one.
If you continue further south along the coast, you will reach Hayburn Wyke. This is my favourite coastal walk in the North York Moors. At only 3.5 miles, it’s very short, but has the most wonderful waterfall on a secluded bay.
Slightly inland from Whitby and Robin Hood’s Bay, I recommend this route from Goathland to Grosmont. It follows an old railway line through the Esk Valley. You can actually catch the steam train there from Whitby, to then do this walk. It would make a lovely day trip out.
Further inland, you could try Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey. It’s an easy route, out and back. Rievaulx is English Heritage, but you don’t need to go inside for this walk.
For a side by side comparison, as well as many more walking route ideas, you can check out my North York Moors walking guide.