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Cleveland Way National Trail

The Cleveland Way National Trail is a 109 mile route through remarkable and contrasting scenery.

In its early stages, you're treated to the best of the North York Moors National Park with wide open views across exposed moorland.

Sutton Bank and Gormire Lake
Sutton Bank and Gormire Lake © alh1 via Flickr

The second half of the trail sees you making your way south along the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast.

Panoramic views from the Cleveland Way
Views from The Cleveland Way © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

The coastal views to be enjoyed here are stunning and a vivid contrast to the lonely moorland scenes of earlier.

Robin Hoods Bay
Robin Hoods Bay © Paul Stephenson via Flickr

There is much history to be seen along the Cleveland Way National Trail, ranging from remnants of a proud industrial and mining past up on the moors to nefarious smuggling activities along the coast.

Further, there's a wealth of interesting features and wildlife to be enjoyed in between.

Cleveland Way looking towards Whitby
Looking towards Whitby © alh1 via Flickr

First opened in 1969, The Cleveland Way National Trail is the second oldest British National Trail, and it shares much of its route with other well respected long distance paths - Wainright's Coast to Coast Path follows the same route around Osmotherley over the moors to Blowarth Crossing, some distance short of Kildale.

Rievaulx Abbey
Rievaulx Abbey © David Merritt via Flickr

Walkers on the Yorkshire Wolds Way National Trail also join you for the closing sections of the route.

The trail is officially split into 6 sections, though with the amount of things to see and do along the way, it's worth thinking about splitting some of the sections over a couple of days in order to take it all in properly.

Looking back at the viewpoint on Cringle Moor
Looking back at the viewpoint on Cringle Moor © Andrew Bowden via Flickr

Walking on the Cleveland Way National Trail is fairly easy but there are various ascents and descents to make, plus the exposed nature of much of the route could leave you exposed to difficult or inhospitable weather in less clement months.

Thus, as with all long distance paths, whether walking the whole route, or just taking a shorter trip on smaller sections, you're advised to go properly equipped taking usual hillwalking precautions, to be suitably fit, and to check the weather forecast.

Brackenberry Wyke from Cleveland Way
Viewpoint on Cringle Moor © Wipeout Dave via Flickr

The Cleveland Way National Trail has a Trail Officer whose office can be contacted on +44 (0)1439 770 657.

Here is a summary of the official Cleveland Way National Trail sections:




The startpoint of the Cleveland Way National Trail.

Things to do near Helmsley

Helmsley - Sutton Bank

Length: 10 miles
Total since start: 10 miles

This first section of the trail breaks you in gently with a relatively short, easy walk through to Sutton Bank. There's lots to see on this section, the first "must do" appearing before you've even left the pretty little market town of Helmsley. The ruins of 13th Century Helmsley Castle offer imposing testament to the rigours of Britain's sometimes turbulent history.

Once on the Cleveland Way National Trail proper, you'll soon come across the ruins of 12th Century Rievaulx Abbey. Generally held to be one of the finest example of the art, French Cistercian monks founded the abbey as one of their first in Britain. In its heyday it was the a force to be reckoned with, being the main hub of the Cistercian movement in Britain.

There is much else to see on this part of the trail too, from views such as those over the Pennines from Sutton Bank, to remnants of ancient settlements and hill forts to more modern features such as the 1930s White Horse of Kilburn.

Things to do near Sutton Bank

Sutton Bank - Osmotherley

Length: 12 miles
Total Since Start: 22 miles

Moving up onto the bleak vastness of the North York moors, full enjoyment of this section of the trail can be weather dependant. When the weather's good, great, panoramic views are yours to enjoy. When the weather's less good though, you can feel quite isolated and exposed.

The route follows ancient drove roads for much of the way, and as such offers the opportunity for both horse riders and cyclists to enjoy the trail too. Due to its great popularity, this section has suffered some quite significant erosion, but the trail administrators rightly pride themselves on their award winning restoration works. These can be best viewed in the section around the Oakdale Reservoir.

The Sutton Bank National Park Centre is to be found close to the beginning of this section and is well worth a visit for informative background on the park and its management.

Later in the trail you can see features varying from remarkable limestone landscape to the remnants of the once famous Hambleton Down Racecourse.

Things to do near Osmotherley

Osmotherley - Kildale

Length: 20 miles
Total Since Start: 42 miles

This section of the Cleveland Way National Trail sees you join up with walkers on the Coast to Coast Walk Long Distance path for much of the way, finally parting company at Blowarth Crossing in the closing sections of the route. The walking's more challenging than the other sections so far with various ascents and descents onto moors and over crags and hills.

An early highlight is the 14th Century Mount Grace Priory. Generally regarded as England's best preserved example of a charterhouse monastery, it's run by English Heritage and is well worth the detour to pay it a visit.

Striking moorland scenery awaits you thereafter, with reminders of the area's industrial mining past to be found along most of the way. This section also contains the famous Lord Stones Cafe, a traditional sustenance point for walkers on the local National Trails.

Suitably recharged, your walk then takes you past the Wainstones and then up onto Urra Moor past Blowarth Crossing.

Things to do near Kildale

Kildale - Saltburn-by-the-Sea

Length: 15 miles
Total Since Start: 57 miles

The sights on this section of the trail range from open moorland to wooded sections, with various landmarks to take in on the way.

Captain Cook features heavily in this section of the trail, as he was a native of the area. In addition to references in Great Ayton, his home town, there's also Captain Cook's Monument on Easby Moor.

The walking on this section is generally easier than on the preceding one, with the most strenuous climb being that up the "Yorkshire Matterhorn" - the 1,050 ft Roseberry Topping.

There are various wooded sections on this route, with the extensive Guisborough Woods concealing Highcliff Nab, a great lookout point over Guisborough itself. The scenery opens out again as you pass through Skelton before entering woods again on your final approach to Saltburn.

Things to do near Saltburn

Saltburn-by-the-Sea - Whitby

Length: 19 miles
Total Since Start: 76 miles

With this section, the Cleveland Way National Trail moves into its coastal section, following the cliffs and coves of the North Yorkshire Heritage Coast. The cliffs of the area are famous for erosion and landslips, so be careful not to stray too close to the edge.

Before leaving Saltburn-by-the-Sea, it's worth taking some time out to visit the Saltburn Smugglers Heritage Centre to get a flavour of the coast's turbulent past. The going's fairly easy with much to take in, including evidence of roman occupation with cliff top signal sites.

Back on the Trail, the first major ascent is not until the climb up the 660ft Boulby Cliff, the highest on Eastern England's coast. From here you can't fail to notice the chimneys of the Boulby Potash Mine. Equally impressive are the mines themselves which are the deepest in Europe.

Further on, The Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre beckons in the ruggedly characterful little fishing village of Staithes, together with a good selection of local amenities and tourist facilities.

Carrying on, the charms of Runswick Bay offer a real treat, its beach being worth taking some time out to enjoy. Shortly before you approach Whitby and the end of this section, you'll pass what remains of Kettleness, a clifftop village which slipped into the sea in 1829.

Things to do near Whitby

Whitby - Filey

Length: 33 miles
Total Since Start: 109 miles

By far the longest section of the trail, it's well worth considering making an overnight stop along the way, especially as the going can be quite tough. Scarborough is roughly half way along this section and would make a good stop off point.

Whitby, with its imposing and foreboding Abbey, was where Bram Stoker got his inspiration for the classic Count Dracula story. Much of the town has been lifted and transposed into the story, not least Dracula himself, supposedly a name found by Stoker in local library records.

A tourist tradition in Whitby is to count the 199 steps up to St. Mary's Church which sits on the hill top next to Whitby Abbey.

After Whitby, the trail carries you out along the cliffs to the very picturesque Robin Hood's Bay, a small clifftop town with tightly packed houses and narrow cobbled lanes running up and down the steep slopes of the cliffs and hillsides. Here too, smugglers thrived in earlier days, and the atmospheric nature of the town evokes vivid scenes of them scurrying around with their illegal contraband.

After Robin Hood's Bay, the trail climbs up towards Ravenscar and on to Hayburn Wyke Nature Reserve, a woodland reminder of how things were before the industrial revolution.

Hereafter, the trail passes through Scarborough, where you might want to make an overnight stop.

After Scarborough, a real highlight is the Filey Brigg Nature Reserve where birds and seals may be seen enjoying the local scenery.

The attractive seaside town of Filey marks the end of the Cleveland Way National Trail.

Things to do near Filey

You can continue reading about other National Trails and Long Distance Walks using the links at the bottom of the page.

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