Coast to Coast Day 14 – Grosmont to Robin Hood’s Bay

Published 20 October 2010

Signpost for Robin Hood’s Bay

“I feel like I don’t want to stop. That I just want to keep on walking…”

“Are you doing the Coast to Coast then?” asked the man behind the Post Office counter at the Grosmont Co-operative Stores. Given the size of the rucksack sat on my back, it was a pretty safe assumption.

“Second most popular trail in the world”, he went on. “Second only to that Andes trail. More popular than New Zealand. We get people from all over the world doing it. Even from Taiwan!”

He seemed stunned that people would come all the way from the other side of the world to get soaked and cold in the hills of Northern England. And to be rather frank, so was I.

“Really?” I replied. “Because almost everyone I’ve seen seems to have come from the North of England!”

It was perhaps a slight exaggeration however there was an element of truth in it. We really had seen a large number of Northerners whilst we’d been out walking.

The popularity of a walk like the Coast to Coast is such that, inevitably, you regularly see the same group of people. Your itineraries may be slightly different however if you’re all doing the same route in the same number of days, well you’re going to keep on bumping in to people. Often I’d play a game and see if I could correctly guess who we would be sharing the breakfast table with the next morning.

However it was soon to end. It was our fourteenth and final day; the day we’d finally complete our journey from west to east and arrive in Robin Hood’s Bay.

And it being the last day, we began to see lots of people who we didn’t recognise – the people who had done the route in 12 days, 13 days, hey, maybe even 9. The ones who had caught up with us, and those who were going even slower, had taken a rest day or whatever.

The pastel painted houses of Grosmont

The climb out of Grosmont was spent following two such people – a Sloane Ranger-esque couple, where the woman had an amazingly small rucksack with a large bum-bag underneath it. As she walked, the two bags moved in different ways and the whole effect was as if an ant had stood on its hind legs and was walking up the road.

Without the burden of weight that we had, they soon sped on ahead as we hit the moorland, helped by us wandering over the heather filled land seeking a pair of stone circles which barely seemed the effort once we did locate them, and admiring the local wildlife which to seemed to consist mostly of sheep and ants.

Ah the wildlife. Inevitably going over such huge distances meant you are going to see a lot although much of the animals I could tick off in my I-Spy book seemed to consist of different kinds of sheep. Every now and then Catherine would proclaim something like “Is that a peregrine falcon?” but almost without fail it would turn out to be a crow or a blackbird.

Happy Christmas

Swifts and swallows were plentiful, grouse even more so whilst in several fields butterflies had danced happily around our heads. A turkey once wandered out on to the road. However we never did see what is apparently an amazing sight.

Our guide book proclaimed we may see “the horrendous sight of a stoat dancing before a terrified, hypnotised rabbit” but most of the fluffy creatures we saw were running in an un-hypnotised fashion across fields, or lying in the middle of the road rather squashed. I did see a mole and a hedgehog however both were similarly lifeless.

Coming off the moorland we entered Little Beck Wood where a sign proclaimed we may see roe deer or foxes, and although initially peaceful and rather tranquil we saw little bar fellow walkers.

Then came a sudden change in the woodland life – people, lots of people, ambling around in trainers, shrieking kids running around.

Falling Foss Falling Foss

We were suddenly back in civilisation, near a pretty waterfall complete with busy tea shop, and equipped with two huffing and rather rotund men hogging the best view of the cascade by parking their similarly large cameras on tripods there. Even seeing me struggle to actually take a photograph due to their piles of equipment getting in the way did nothing for their selfish hearts and their tripods remained unbudged.

After nearly two weeks spent with lovely, friendly and kind people, it was a harsh welcome back to the real world of selfish, self-centred and ignorant people and I just wanted to pick up their tripods and throw them in to the waterfall below.

Quite what they even expected to catch on the cameras by setting them up so perfectly was beyond me. Were they expecting some rare woodland nymph to suddenly pop out, see the crowds and then hurry away as fast as possible?

Walking through the rest of the woods was similarly disheartening – the kids barging all over the paths; the woman who had barely walked five minutes from her car but couldn’t cope without lighting up a cigarette – and sadly I couldn’t wait to be out of such a lovely place. The empty moorland afterwards was far more inviting and welcoming, back amongst our “own kind” once more. But it was a sharp reminder that soon we’d be back in the normal world properly. The walk would not last forever, even more notable as the moorland fell away once more and left us in areas filled with holiday parks and caravan sites.

A caravan park

The Coast To Coast took us through one such park before finally hitting the coastline. We’d been welcomed by a staff member who had told us to feel free to use the toilets, however that good vibe was spoiled by an unfriendly and downright patronising sign demanding we “respect the privacy of our residents” by not looking through the caravan windows.

It was a ridiculous request. No one feels the need to put such a sign at the entrance to a housing estate. “Waterfield Avenue is a residential area. Please don’t gawp through the net curtains of number 42”. If such a sign really needed to be erected – and that’s dubious – it could have been worded in a much warmer way rather leaving a bitter taste in the mouth of walkers.

Still we were heading for the sea and that was enough to put some joy in our hearts. For most of the afternoon Whitby had been in our sights and if you hadn’t known, you would have assumed it was the place that the Coast to Coast ended. But instead Wainwright had a trick up his sleeve and we were heading south, rejoining once more the Cleveland Way for the last stretch to Robin Hood’s Bay.

On the cliffs

The cliff path that would take us there was decked out with a plethora of wild flowers making it a lovely stroll, joined by a number of day trippers taking the path down from Whitby.

Our destination remained hidden until right near the end and even when the bay itself appeared, the town remained invisible for some time. Then, in a crack in the bushes, as if by magic, it appeared; the old buildings of the town suddenly visible next to the sea.

Entering Robin Hood's Bay's crowded streets

Coming in through the grand streets lined with Victorian guest houses, we made our way steadily towards the beach, fighting our way through the crowds to finally arrive at the Bay Hotel and the sea beyond.

It was hopelessly busy and the journey of two walkers with giant rucksacks meant little here, but we’d made it. Enthusiastically dipping our boots in the sea, we left our pebbles splashing around in the waves as we adjourned to the pub to celebrate our completion with our fellow walkers.

Well dipped boots

It seemed an appropriate way to end. Usually such long distance paths end at some dull location like a roundabout or a shopping arcade, with no one around to revel in the occasion with you. You’re just some nutter in scruffy clothes with walking poles and a lump of cloth on your back. But here, others knew too. Others to compare notes and mutter things like “wasn’t the Lakes awful?” or discuss the purchasing of celebratory certificates and plaques.

Another celebratory photo!

However that wasn’t our only celebration. We’d found a special treat to round off our trip.

At Grosmont Catherine had spied a poster proclaiming, entirely by coincidence, that the Waterson Family would be preforming at Old St Stephen’s Church in the village that very night.

As soon as we’d arrived at Robin Hood’s Bay we got tickets and after a hasty meal at the chip shop and a quick shower we headed right to the top of the village and beyond to visit the old church to see and hear the vocal stylings of some legends of the folk world. Eliza and Martin Carthy were otherwise engaged, however Mike and Norma Waterson and a plethora of talented family members (and someone called Jill) more than made up for it in a concert in the now defunct church which normally sits quietly at the top of the hill with little around it.

As the sun went in, we headed back to the bay for another celebratory pint of two – to sit down and relax.

The following morning would see us heading home. It would all be over. The thought of going back to work in an office in West London just didn’t appeal. We’d spent fourteen days walking across some of the finest landscape in Britain and I’d loved it.

Except the Lakes. Cos frankly they were awful.

One Coast To Another: Following Wainwright from St Bees to Robin Hood’s Bay

The whole Coast to Coast adventure is available to read now in paperback, and for Kindle, iOS, Kobo, and Google Play or other e-readers.

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Your Comments

Pam Robson

24 June 2011 at 11:30 am

Loved reading your story! Setting off to do it myself 5 weeks tomorrow and have smiled my way thru your adventures hoping I get some too!

Helen Granville

3 August 2013 at 11:19 pm

Read you every night for two weeks as I logged my 70 yearl old Dad’s journey and delighted every night on Skype as I asked if he had seen all that you had. Thank you.

Ali Bearpark

13 January 2016 at 11:08 pm

Just read your whole story and made me smile in parts but more important has prepared me for when me and my boyfriend set off in june for our coast to coast adventure. We booked this trip last August and cant come quick enough. Thankyou so much and hoping the weather will be kinder for us in the lakes.

Linda B

9 March 2016 at 4:16 pm

Enjoyed sharing your journey before beginning our own in June this year. A kindly reminder regarding the importance of dry liners and good quality waterproofs!

Don Gemmecke

1 October 2016 at 10:46 pm

Excellent blog. Enjoyed your descriptions and humor. That was humor wasn’t it? Looking forward to our own hike in May, 17.

Dave McCulley

2 February 2017 at 9:11 pm

Superb blog, just finished reading it all and it brought back great memory’s of when I walked it in July 2013 (Yep that 2 weeks of 30 degree plus heat we had). Time to start planing for Coast to Coast number 2 this week

John

4 May 2017 at 4:26 pm

Setting off to do my own coast to coast walk on May 12th 2017. Been planning it for last few months, campsites booked at Shap and Lion inn, rest of it wild camping. Really enjoyed your story which has given me lots of food for thought, might miss the gigantic heart attack breakfasts though! Will have to do with handful of cereal and snicker bars. Thanks again.
P.S. did you ever give up that office job in London for a B&B in Kirkby Stephen? It sounds a much better option.

Andrew Bowden (Rambling Man editor)

6 May 2017 at 10:49 pm

Ha! No, I gave up the office life in London for office life in Manchester! Although currently that office is on the top floor of my house!

Dan Goldfischer

10 May 2017 at 8:39 pm

Lovely description of the Coast2Coast. I did it last year and had fantastic weather luck–practically no rain. I feel for you going through the wet Lake District hills.

For a Yank’s view of this venerable walk, please see my blog at https://hiking.topicwise.com/doc/?o=1mr&doc_id=18376&v=Gl. I highly recommend Coast2Coast for walkers from anywhere, including the U.S.

Linda Crisp

11 May 2017 at 9:18 am

Thanks for sharing your Coast to Coast journey, I really enjoyed reading it. Great images too.
We will be travelling from Australia to commence the walk 11 June. I hope the weather in the Lakes District is kind to us.
Thanks again for the time you took to write this blog and the generosity to share it.

Cally H

22 May 2017 at 11:31 pm

Enjoyed reading your journey and some great tips! Just ordered a dry liner, just in case. We set off on our C2C adventure this Sat 27th May…12 days. Cannot wait!

ScottieBoy

11 June 2017 at 7:13 pm

Hi Andrew – thanks for sharing your experiences which were very useful on planning my own solo trip just done (over 12d, Sun. 28th May – Thurs. 8th June). Camped all the way except for New House Farm Bunk Barn (v. good) and had a very cold, wet ‘n’ windy wild camp up the Wainstones. Never seen conditions like that on the NYMoors in June before – full respect to those Moors!
If I was to do again I’d maybe get all my gear shuttled but then you could lose flexibility (e.g. due to weather as I’d originally planned 11d itinerary) so maybe doing over 14d and B&B like you would allow more rigidity and a bit more time to smell the flowers. Ennerdale to Grasmere and KStephen to Reeth in a day were doable but hard days!
Overall, a challenging but enjoyable walk and I met some interesting folk (most of whom I assume were not imaginary!). Thanks for the beta…⛺😀

ScottieBoy

11 June 2017 at 8:53 pm

Oops! Actually, it was BANK House Farm bunk barn in Glaisdale I stayed at and could recommend. A bit off- piste but if you don’t mind missing the Beggar’s Bridge, you can take a path from behind the farm then a quiet road to rejoin the C2C route.

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