Last year we were able to visit Saltburn-By-The-Sea in North Yorkshire (in-between lockdowns) and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We had heard about Saltburn on another blog and decided to investigate. From its tall cliffs to sweeping beach this is a great place to blow those cobwebs away.
History of Saltburn-By-The-Sea
This picturesque Victorian seaside town is situated on the Cleveland coastline, between Redcar and Whitby. The town has a lot of history including the Roman signalling station. Located on top of Hunt Cliff, a station was built to watch out for Anglo Saxon attackers from Denmark and Germany. Some excavations were undertaken upon its discovery. Some artefacts including Roman pottery, leather sandals and clothing are on show in the Whitby museum. Due to erosion this has now been lost to the sea. There was a sign up nearby however I am not sure if that is still there after the winter.
Smuggling was also rife on this stretch of coastline from Saltburn to Whitby in the 18th and 19th century. Everyone seemed to be involved, from clergymen and farmers to local gentry. Saltburn and other villages along the coastline that were quite rural and isolated, allowed for the illegal smuggling of contraband to become a profitable business away from prying eyes. This contraband included items such as tea, brandy and textiles which at that point were taxed heavily as imported goods. Robin Hoods Bay even has a smugglers tunnel leading from the beach inland and is another destination that we loved visiting.
The Victorian influence in the town is unmistakeable as the industrial revolution seemed to touch every corner of the country. Railways were built, factories churned out goods and the pollution started to cause health problems for those living in cities and industrial areas. The health benefits of being by the seaside lead to the development of seaside towns popping up for the wealthy to visit and escape the smog.
Henry Pease and the building of Saltburn.
During the industrial revolution, the discovery and recovery of Iron Ore would change the fortunes of Saltburn. Henry Pease came from a mostly Quaker family who were heavily involved in industrial enterprises. The family had several lines of business including woollen mills, coal mines and railways.
Henry’s father Joseph Pease was influential in creating the Stockton to Darlington railway. He then proposed to extend the line further. The SIC (Saltburn Improvement Company) was formed and development began on the extension of the railway line. It is stated that one evening by Henry’s wife, he returned home late for dinner. Explaining that he had walked to Saltburn-By-The-Sea “seated on the hillside he had seen, in a sort of prophetic vision, on the edge of the cliff before him, a town arise and the quiet unfrequented glen turned into a lovely garden”.
The railway line had already received royal assent in the North Riding Railway Act of 1858 by then and seemed to pave the way for Henry to build the town from his vision. Land was purchased from the Earl of Zetland by Henry and designs for a grid iron town with a mass of sea views able to capitalise on the steep incline up the cliff face from the beach. Plots were sold to developers and over the years the town was built Rapidly growing in size. The seaside resort benefitted greatly from the completion of the Saltburn stretch of railway by 1861.
As a result, today you can see how well they capitalised on the local geography to maximise profits on views. The town peers down in tiers to views across the bay. They also take a battering from the winds off of the North Sea too.
We found free parking easily on Marine Parade. With plenty of room on the road side for larger campervans such as our Iveco XLWB. From here, you could either use the steps provided for the descent from the cliff top or you could walk back along the roadside for a longer but easier gradient. There are pay and display car parks in Saltburn-By-The-Sea located at the bottom of the cliff near Skelton Beck should you require a closer parking spot to the beach itself.
Another way to get to sea level easily is a short ride on the funicular, or Cliff Lift! Providing easy access to the pier, this is the oldest working funicular in the UK. At 120ft high and a 71 percent incline, these 12 person cars still use water balancing to operate. How does it work you ask? There are two cars on the lines, one at the top and one at the bottom. Each car is fitted with a huge water tank, filled until the mass of the top car is heavier than the one at the bottom. The shift in weight allows the car to travel down using gravity and the movement is managed by the brake-person. When the car gets to the bottom, water is released and pumped back to the top.
Sadly, due to Covid rules, this attraction was closed when we visited so we couldn’t see it in operation. It looked splendid on the coast line in the sunshine and we hope it will be open again soon.
Across the way from the funicular is the famous pier. Famous because it is now the last remaining pier in Yorkshire. Originally 1500ft long and operating steamer excursions for passengers from Saltburn-By-The-Sea to Middlesbrough, and then Hartlepool and Scarborough.
In October 1875 a bad storm destroyed the end of the pier removing 300 ft and leaving it badly damaged. The pier has had some changes since then. Most recently a cash injection of £2.1m from the National Lottery Heritage Grant. This has led the way for conservation of the cast iron trestles and replacement of the hardwood timber beams. The Pier now sports a 680ft jetty with benches for visitors to enjoy the views. There are no structures on the pier such as amusements.
We had a lovely time sat here watching people with their kids and dogs, chasing waves and playing happily. The long beach golden in the waning summer sunshine casting a glow and shadows of the pier onto the sand.
Saltburn-By-The-Sea is home to a gently sloped sandy beach with some shingle. It is family friendly and has dog friendly sections of the beach all year round. The tide goes out past the end of the pier (well certainly when we were visiting!) at low tide. Multi-coloured beach huts for hire mark the edge of the promenade under the cliffs. There is one arcade and a small selection places to get your fish and chips and ice cream from.
The surf scene at Saltburn-By-The-Sea is also pretty well known in the surfing community. The waves here have baptised many to the sport that have gone one to do very well in surfing competitions. Some say Saltburn-By-The-Sea is the best surf spots on the east coast of England.
The Cleveland Way Walk
The Cleveland Way is a famous horse shoe shaped national trail. It runs 110 miles from Helmsley (in-land), on a north-eastern trajectory until it turns south along the coast line from Saltburn-By-The-Sea to Filey Brigg. It’s highest point is 454m above sea level and the route can be split into 30 smaller walks. Officially opened in May 1969, the Cleveland Way takes in all types of scenery, from the costal cliff top paths to heather moorlands and views ever changing with the seasons. The North York Moors national park is a very special part of England boasting unspoilt dark skies perfect for star gazing.
We took the path for the Cleveland way up the hill from the Ship Inn past the National Trust sign. Climbing steeply to the cliff top before we levelled out to fields on our right full of crops and butterflies and a few little cottages before walking alongside the railway line. A heavily trodden path lead the way towards the village of Skinningrove, tucked around the cove. Some wonderful sights along the way including these two pieces of artwork.
The drop at Hunt cliff of around 365ft straight down is one of the highest cliffs on the east coast of England and part of a nature reserve. The formidable cliff face is an appealing home for birds such as Cormorants, Kittiwakes and Fulmar.
Seats overlook the cliffs edge but with constant erosion you wouldn’t catch me on them for love nor money. There is also a sad history here, with many people choosing this location as one to end their lives. Rocks with messages on and the number for the Samaritans mark locations chosen by desperate people that visit here uncertain of where to turn. You can’t help but reflect on the sadness that this cliff has born witness to even though the location is beautiful and peaceful.
The suicides that happen here are not new sadly. This place has been chosen for centuries as a sure way to a quick demise. Evidence of that can be seen in the number of bodies recovered on the beaches below. With the local pub, the Ship Inn, being used as a makeshift mortuary until 1881. The 12ft by 18ft building that sits alone across the road was then built as the local mortuary. Long since closed and used as a wood store and photographers studio in following years.
Skelton Beck and Valley Gardens
Henry Pease had a vision of the unfrequented glen turned into a beautiful garden. Land was purchased from the Earl of Zetland for it and the location where Skelton Beck ends its journey from Guisburgh is where you will find Valley Gardens.
The railway line development needed to find a way of crossing the beck to reach Skinningrove. An incredible 11 arched railway viaduct was built to serve the limestone mines. The beck winding its way towards the sea below was not without its share of the news. Pollution from pig slurry killed the fish and needed cleaning and restocking many years ago.
The gardens are beautiful to walk around and include wooded areas as sell as steep banks and Italian inspired designs. A tea room, play area and miniature railway line provide entertainment and relaxation away from the beach. We saw children playing with their fishing nets paddling in the water here away having lots of fun.
Saltburn-By-The-Sea is a must see!
Ensuring you can explore locations where you have plenty of space is still a new way of thinking post covid. We all are desperate now for life to return to normal however there will be lasting changes for some. The highlights of Saltburn-By-The-Sea include…
- Dog friendly sections of the beach year around
- Beach huts for hire – if they reopen this summer it will provide safe areas for your family.
- Wide and long beach
- Cliff walk as part of the Cleveland way
- Gardens and beck for paddling and fishing for the children.
- Takeaways providing food and ice cream
We had a lovely time here and felt very safe in the area.
Please continue to follow all government advice and guidelines for travel in your area.
See other Locations we have visited