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Slow down and get back to nature on the beautiful Yorkshire coast

The coast of the North York Moors is the perfect place to break free, take in the sea air and gaze into the distance – either across the sea or across purple heather and yellow gorse.

Short walks, local art and a hidden waterfall - our top things to do on the Yorkshire Coast

For such a rugged landscape, the coast of the North York Moors National Park boasts some of the best coastal views in Yorkshire.

The Cleveland Way is a 175km long-distance trail that, at its heart, runs through and along the edge of the glorious and empty North York Moors National Park. Don’t worry, for you can explore the park without having to walk the whole route. Selecting much shorter, bite-sized chunks of the trail is easy enough.

One such option is to walk the headlands either side of the village of Staithes where you can gaze down at the wave-cut ledges exposed at low tide. Take time to wander down in the village too, where you can admire the trompe l’oeil work of local resident and artist Paul Czainski, who was commissioned by the national park authorities to create the Staithes Illusion Trail which comprises eight artworks on the walls of buildings around the village. Images include mermaids with mirrors and Noah’s Ark (the latter is perhaps a reference to the fierce winter storms that can batter the village).

Just a short stroll off the Cleveland Way is Hayburn Wyke, a waterfall that tumbles into a small cove near the village of Cloughton. You’ll find it by following a woodland trail down the valley to the shoreline, where the receding tide exposes fish-rich rockpools.

Slow down and get back to nature on the Yorkshire coast Slow down and get back to nature on the Yorkshire coast
Slow down and get back to nature on the Yorkshire coast

Take to the water for a secret view of the coast, try paddleboarding on the River Esk in Whitby.

The coastal margins of the national park can be explored from the water as well on land.

One of the best options is to take to the River Esk, which runs along the northern lip of the park, by paddleboard. A typical trip begins in Whitby and follows the Esk on the high tide (it’s a tidal river) and return to the town as the river ebbs.

‘It gives you a very different perspective on the landscape, you see it from an angle that few people do,’ says Simon Palmer of SUP Adventures who runs paddleboarding in and around the moor.

As well as chances to spot wildlife, paddleboarders pass photogenic small villages, boats upturned against the weather by fishermen and viaducts dating to the Victorian age.

‘It gets increasingly isolated as we go upstream, you see the moors cloaked in purple hues and what you’re looking at is a scene that’s pretty much unchanged for the past 200 years,’ says Simon.

The stillness can be haunting and if weather forecasts are favourable, Simon offers clients the opportunity to indulge in paddleboard yoga. ‘We have a docking platform and we bring the paddleboards together in a circle,’ he says. ‘Even if yoga is not your thing, the trip gives you a couple of hours to yourself.’

Slow down and get back to nature on the Yorkshire coast
Slow down and get back to nature on the Yorkshire coast Slow down and get back to nature on the Yorkshire coast

For the more adventurous, Simon will take you out into the North Sea at Sandsend and Runswick Bay, both of which have cafes to refuel on cakes and ice cream. 

Whether you walk or paddle here, Runswick Bay is a good place to pause, take off the boots and reward your feet with a paddle. The back of the beach is remarkably fertile fossil territory, thanks to its dark coloured Jurassic rock of shale and limestone, with ammonites and plant remains turning up in almost any rock you care to turn over.


We've put together a helpful page to help you get to know the North York Moors a little better, find things to do and learn more about this great region.