Coasting along in Yorkshire
David Thorpe dons his walking boots and heads to Yorkshire for some tremendous trekking along the Cleveland Way.
There are times while walking in Britain when you simply have to stop and wonder why we go to all the trouble of travelling abroad in search of eye-popping scenery.
As anyone who has seen the BBC's superb Coast series will know, our shorelines alone provide thousands of miles of stunningly spectacular assaults on the senses with endless variety, surprises and potential for adventure around every corner,
Then there are our 15 national parks, all of them treasure troves of lovingly-protected unspoiled countryside.
Yorkshire, of course, not only has two of them but – as we found during a long weekend just outside Scarborough – some of the most breathtaking coastal walking imaginable.
That helps to explain why, having found ourselves an idyllic bolthole on the Scarborough side of the Yorkshire Moors National Park for an extended weekend, we ended up not even starting to explore the inland delights of 'Heartbeat Country' on our very doorstep.
The reason was that once we'd started on the coastal path we couldn't leave it alone.
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We began with an intoxicating seven-mile circuit of Flamborough Head, then moved on to the Cleveland Way, which begins a little further up the coast at Filey, then hugs the cliff tops for 50 miles all the way up to Saltburn before looping inland around the northern and western edges of the national park to finish at Helmsby, 110 miles from its starting point.
Flamborough, jutting out into the North Sea, has the feel of an island and proved a great warm-up for what followed with vertiginous paths running perilously close to 400ft chalk cliffs, some of them teeming with colonies of gulls and puffins.
It only left us wanting more, and the follow-up was far from an anti-climax, demonstrating why the coastal section of the Cleveland Way has claims to be one of the most walker-friendly routes to be found anywhere.
One of the problems of tackling long-distance routes can be matching them up with other footpaths to turn them into circular walks to fit into a day. If you can't you are left to rely on there being a bus service like North Norfolk's wonderful Coast Hopper to get you back to your starting place, or to retrace your steps.
There's no such problem with the section of the Cleveland Way from Scarborough to Whitby, because it is effectively not one linear route but two, running parallel.
Winding its way along the Heritage Coast itself is the actual Cleveland Way and just inland is the Cinder Path, a superbly-maintained 21-mile path for walkers, cyclists and horse-riders following the course of a railway line which closed in 1965.
So you can start your walk anywhere along that section of the coast, knowing you can turn it into a beautiful, easy-to-follow circuit of pretty much any length you want.
Very popular is the nine-mile circuit from Robin Hood's Bay to Ravenscar and back.
We did the 'inland' bit first, leaving behind the 'chocolate box' prettiness of the fishing village, which marks the end of Alfred Wainwright's 'coast to coast' walk, to climb through woodland and past former quarries to reach ever-more stunning views of the broad bay opening up beneath us. Then we reached Raven Hall Hotel, perched high on a cliff edge with surely the best lunch table window seats to be found anywhere in England (and, posh though it is, walkers are welcome – leave your muddy boots at the door).
The return leg is more energetic as well as more exhilarating, taking in not only the cliff edge but plunges down and up to cross gullies such as the smugglers' haven of Boggle Hole, now offering nothing more illicit than tea, coffee and smoothies served by a deliciously isolated youth hostel.
It was a richly satisfying day. And as if to remind ourselves how lucky we had struck with our base – the luxury Low Moor Holiday Cottages, near the village of Burniston, just north of Scarborough – we were able to dispense with the driving for the final day, striking out early from our front door to the nearest cliff top at Crook Ness, from where we gasped at the view south to the promontories of Scarborough, Filey and Flamborough, set out in misty layers trailing into the distance.
Putting our own Cleveland Way flexibility theory to the test, we filled in the gap between Ravenscar and Scarborough, walking north past the lovely sheltered Cloughton and Hayburn wykes (a local word for small, sheltered bays below crumbling cliffs) before cutting across and picking up the Cinder Track.
Refreshed along the way at the wonderful Hayburn Wyke Hotel and an old railway station at Cloughton, we continued all the way to the very edge of Scarborough before fading light told us it was time to find the coast path back to Crook Ness to complete a circuit of a dozen or so miles.
With an extra couple of days we'd have made it all the way to Saltburn. With such delights as Whitby, Runswick Bay and Staithes all stops along the route, it's a mouth-watering prospect.
Perhaps then we can turn our attention to the Moors!
We stayed at Low Moor Cottages, next to a working farm in open country, inside the North Yorkshire National Park but only three miles north of Scarborough – the country's oldest seaside resort.
As well as being close to the Heritage Coast and its uncrowded sandy beaches, the cottages are ideal for venturing directly on to the moors. Dalby Forest is on the doorstep with its miles of cycling tracks and wild scenic drive while the delights of 'Heartbeat Country' – Goathland, the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, the Hole of Horcum and the Roman Road – are just a few miles to the west.
Lovingly run by David and Paula Penny, whose attentiveness ran to a welcome basket of basic provisions, there are five well-appointed self-catering cottages to choose from, ranging from The Old Dairy, which sleeps two, to Stable Cottage, sleeping eight. Two of the cottages are all on the ground floor so ideal for disabled use. They are available all year round with prices for a full week ranging from �210. Short breaks are available from mid-September until mid-June.
For details, including offers, visit www.lowmoorcottages.co.uk
Other useful websites – www.northyorkmoors.org.uk and www.clevelandway.co.uk