Portobello to Eyemouth / Berwick to Tyne Tunnel / South Shields to Hayburn Wyke


Lying between the Tyne and the Tees there are rocky coasts and sandy bays with craggy ruined castles. The southeast is industrial and chemically based, with mining areas at Easington and Peterlee.

The name is from the Saxon ‘Dunholme’ - Dun means hill and Holme means island. Bishops ruled until 1836 so shire was never added to the name.


foot tunnelWe emerged from the tunnel and went round to a quiet parking spot overlooking the south entrance of the foot tunnel. Across the river we could see cranes and buildings all along the dockside.

MarchJarrow was made famous by the hunger marchers in 1936 and is the birthplace of Catherine Cookson.

The Venerable Bede sought solace in the chapel at the Saxon monastery nearby in the 7th century..

South Shields

Foot ferryThe road between Jarrow and South Shields was busy and built-up. We were as close to the riverside as possible but unable to see past the fences or the cranes. The Tyne Dock has official looking gates and we spotted the foot passengers emerging from the ferry from North Shields.

Conversation PieceThe road crossed a metal arched bridge before turning south at the mile long pier at the mouth of the Tyne. The area has been modernised and an area with green statues that looked like fat penguins caught my eye.

The BentsThe town impressed me as it is clean and there is masses of parking all along the road. This council encourages visitors! The beach is sandy, although strong currents make swimming dangerous. The Bents is a grassy stretch along a promenade and there are plenty of fairground rides for the kids. It is quite nice.

Marsden Bay

Marsden RockThe shore becomes a rocky limestone cliff at Trow Point and there are wide grassy slopes called 'The Leas' that belongs to the National Trust. Footpaths lead down to Marsden Bay where an impressive natural sea arch stands offshore and is covered in sea birds.

GrottoBuilt into the cliff, in yellowish bricks, is a lift leading to a small 1930’s looking café, it really is a most bizarre structure and at the top the entrance is a tunnel – it is currently named The Grotto.

Souter LighthouseFurther round, the red and white Souter Lighthouse stands on the cliff; it also belongs to the National Trust and is open to visitors.

This is definitely an area worth a visit as it is so surprising.


WhitburnWhitburn is a small resort with a sandy bay that merges into the larger town of Sunderland with its ornate street lamps along the promenade. The way to Roker Rocks is more pleasant than expected, with wide roads and cycle lanes.

SunderlandSunderland was once called Wearmouth. Long harbour walls stretch out like arms, with a lighthouse at each end and we crossed the river by the Wearmouth Bridge.

A monastery was founded here in 674 AD and the first glass in Britain was made here. The town subsequently became a centre for glass-making. In St.Peter's church (once the monastery) you can see some 7th century glass.

BedeA monument to the Venerable Bede stands by the road because he was born nearby. The town has a shipbuilding heritage and was a glass making centre.

East Coast railwayWe attempted to leave the main road to drive nearer to the sea but got lost in the rows of terraced houses in Hendon. It looked a bit menacing and run down.

Between the road and the coast, runs the East Coast railway line, passing over an arched viaduct at one place. In the sea are outcrops of rock with the names Pincushion and Featherbed Rocks.

SeahamNow entering the area of collieries, we passed Seaham with its cliffside harbour and bay and on through Easington.

EasingtonAn unusual feature in this mining landscape are wooded ravines running inland along streams. Near Easington is one called Paradise and Castle Eden Dene runs south of Peterlee.


HartlepoolHartlepoolWe passed more disused collieries and merged into Hartlepool taking a long detour along grotty streets to its northern headland with an old lighthouse and St.Hilda's 12th century church.

This was a shipbuilding town until the 60s and fragments of the medieval town remain. There is a brand new shopping centre, ship museum and marina where the docks used to be.

HMS Warrior, the world’s first iron battleship is one of the exhibits at the museum.

HartlepoolIt seems that many dock areas are being renovated now and are the better for it, but it is a shame that so many livelihoods have been lost with the decline of fishing and shipbuilding and the arrival of container ports.

Nuclear Power StationThere is a very nice bay and it is all rather smart. At the south of the town is a small resort called Seaton Carew. The beach runs down to the breakwater at North Gare and beyond the Tees estuary is a National Nature Reserve at Seal Sands.

Seal SandsThe area is composed of mudflats and sand dunes but has an awful lot of chemical works, as well as the Hartlepool Nuclear Power Station with its ubiquitous visitor centre. Those nuclear fuel guys are certainly trying to reassure us!


Charlie’s Transport BridgeWe were forced away from the coast by the River Tees and decided to cross at the most easterly point, this being Charlie’s Transport Bridge. This bridge opened in 1911 and ferries vehicles on a cantilever system. It is the most unusual structure and is visible above the surrounding, awful, industrial landscape by its twin triangular towers. Unfortunately it is closed for repairs but there were no road signs to tell us this before we reached it!

Thwarted, we rejoined the A1046 and went towards Middlesborough. This is definitely something to be avoided, as all you see for miles and miles and miles are ghastly factories and chemical works. Iron ore was discovered in 1850 and the village was transformed - for the worse. Steel making began in 1875 and there was the largest petro-chemical industry in Europe by 1970.

IndustryWe finally negotiated several roundabouts and flyovers and passed British Steel, British Gas, ICI and everybody else to emerge finally at the sea again. In all the books I have read by people walking our coast, all of them complain bitterly about having to tramp the streets here - I fully sympathise. It is horrible!!!


The North Riding is the largest of the three parts of Yorkshire. The county is so big that the Danes divided it into 'Thridings' - they had a huge influence on the area. The coast has picturebook villages like Robin Hood’s Bay and Staithes and big resorts like Whitby and Scarborough.


RedcarAfter we finally saw the back of the chimneys, turning the corner into Redcar was quite a breath of fresh air. It is a traditional family resort with sandy beaches and rocks or ‘scars’ jutting into the sea. There is a well-known race course and often the horses are seen galloping along the shore.

RedcarNumerous wrecks lie among the offshore reefs. Unusual street lamps adorn the promenade that look like ladybirds hanging from white towers.

The Cleveland Heritage Coast

SaltburnShortly afterwards we entered the resorts of Marske-by-the-sea and then Saltburn-by-the-sea. Holidaymakers have been drawn to these resorts since the railways arrived in 1861. In past times the fossil filled rock faces concealed smuggling that centred on Saltburn. The story of the infamous ‘Smuggling King’ - John Andrew - is told in the Heritage Centre.

SkinningroveThe town developed into a fashionable Victorian spa with a unique cliff tramway. This is Britain’s oldest operating water-balance lift and descends to the pier, that was shortened by freak tides in 1974. The road out of Saltburn takes a very steep, hairpin bend down to the harbour with a view of the pier.

Cleveland WayA few traditional flat-bottomed cobles still fish from the little bay at Skinningrove, but it was the discovery of ironstone in 1948 that began a century of mining. British Steel has a large factory and there is a small mining museum.

Cleveland Way sculptureThe road down to the harbour is very narrow and winding and the Cleveland Way footpath climbs up an extremely steep flight of steps. The path here is extremely up and down, not for the faint hearted. Several steel sculptures can be seen on the footpath near here


Boulby CliffsAlum and jet were mined in this vicinity and remains of the workings can be seen along the cliffs. Inland a potash-mining complex that stretches 2 miles under the sea produces fertiliser.

Boulby Cliffs are the highest point on the East Coast – 666 ft. These cliffs are stuffed full of fossils that I remember well from an Open University geology summer school, when we raced to beat the incoming tide.


StaithesWe continued the journey from here by car as the roads to the bays are impossible in larger vehicles. We parked at the top of the narrow road leading down into the ravine of Staithes Harbour. There is no parking below this point, as the whole village has become a tourist attraction and traffic congestion is just what it dosen't need.

StaithesThe narrow, twisty road was very steep and provided lovely views down into the bay. The harbour is surrounded by tall cliffs that act as a natural breakwater. The tide was out and the few boats sat at jaunty angles in the mud. I'm sure it would be much nicer with the tide in.

StaithesAll the way down, the houses are closely packed around narrow alleys and we could hear the sounds of the people inside. The harbour is charming with a little museum and a pub with seating outside on the harbour wall.

yorkshire bearsOnly a few cobles now fish regularly, but it was once one of the country's six biggest fishing ports as well as a boat building centre. In its heyday 3 trains a week were filled with cod, haddock and mackerel. Captain Cook served his apprenticeship in Staithes before sailing for Australia from Whitby.

We stayed at a hotel at Grinkle and were very impressed with everything about it, particularly the location and price, and will definitely stay there again.

Runswick Bay

Runswick BayThe instability of the East Coast is evident here. In the 1690’s, the old village disappeared into the sea and the road down to the new village is precipitous to say the least but we made the steep descent in the car. Kettleness was another village that slipped into the sea in 1829.

Runswick BayFor many years, the village was isolated and some men worked at the alum mines in Kettleness or the Grinkle ironstone mines. In 1682 a landslide destroyed the entire village with the exception of one cottage. The railway was built in the 1940s and the village became a holiday retreat.

It is very quaint, with its red pantile roofs, and nestles around a sailing club in a gorgeous bay. We arrived in the evening and after walking around, we spent some time watching a couple in a small boat being towed out of the sea by a tractor.

Lythe BankBack on the A74, we were never away from the steep hills as the road passed through Lythe Bank and a 25% gradient down to Sandsend.

SandsendThe view over the bay was lovely as we descended to the village and crossed the little bridge.

Jet used to be mined here and carved into jewellery in Whitby. The beach along Sandsend Wyke runs all the way to Whitby with a fine view of the old priory standing on the headland.


WhitbyWe went to Whitby for an evening meal in a small, friendly restaurant overlooking the harbour. The town was crammed with tourists and many were enjoying the fair and amusements. The East Cliff is lined with Victorian houses and large hotels.

There is a statue and museum to Captain Cook and a whalebone arch signifying one of Whitby’s bygone trades. The harbour is still very much alive with herrings being smoked as a local delicacy and tourism is a large source of income as the numerous gift shops and museums signify.

Whitby regattaThe next day we drove straight to the Abbey and found a place to park quite easily. It was a glorious day and the regatta was in full swing.

The Abbey stands majestically on the eastern cliff and the town nestles deep in the valley of the River Esk. The original monastery was founded over 1300 years ago by King Oswy of Northumberland and was destroyed by Vikings in the 9th century, being rebuilt shortly after the Norman Conquest.

AbbeyBram Stoker was inspired by the graveyard on the clifftop beside the abbey when he wrote Dracula. An earlier monastery on the site produced nine saints, five bishops and a Saxon poet. The Abbey is quite impressive and much of it still remains - very photogenic.

We took the 199 steps from the Abbey to the harbour. These ‘church stairs’ were first mentioned over six hundred years ago, and in 1717 were still wooden. People were placing coins in a line all the way down the steps for the lifeboat association. We squeezed between the tourists and found our way to the little bridge over the river.

Red ArrowsWe bought some food for a picnic in the supermarket and had a walk around before returning by different steps to the grassy car park. Finding a good vantage point, we ate our lunch and waited for a display by the Red Arrows.

Predictably, they arrived dead on time and provided us with a breathtaking performance.

Robin Hood’s Bay

Robin Hood’s BayWe were glad to escape the frantic pace of Whitby and headed for Robin Hood’s Bay. Between the two places, the Cleveland Way traverses some beautiful bays with names such as Maw Wyke Hole, White Stone Hole and Homerell Hole, much of which is now National Trust Coast.

Escape the people we did not, for the beautiful sunshine had brought most of the population to the sea and all the car parks were full. I wondered if the entire country was empty in the middle and was sinking around the edges today.

Robin Hood’s BayEventually we found an illegal parking spot and walked into the village. All the guest houses had ‘no vacancy’ signs displayed. The road drops steeply and is only used by a few local vehicles but a narrow set of steps beside the road took us down part of the way.

For many years smuggling was an organised activity in the bay there is a local legend about the passages that once linked many of the houses in the village and it was said that a bail of silk could pass from the bottom of the village to the top without seeing daylight!

Coastal repairsIt is picturesque and could be wonderful with its red roofs and cobbled streets, small cafes and pubs. It isn’t, because it is ruined by gift shops and ice cream parlours. The road ends abruptly at a small, beach with a landing stage. It was even more abrupt today as the tide was in and people were crowding around the 10ft concrete ramp to see the view.

A ship was dumping huge boulders at the bottom of the cliff to stave off coastal erosion.

Boggle Hole

Boggle HoleWe spotted this little NT place on the map and found a small lane leading down a footpath. We reached the Cleveland Way again at a Youth Hostel housed in a former water mill in an idyllic spot (as usual for youth hostels).

The tide was in, but the youngsters were enjoying themselves in the water surrounded by tall cliffs. It really was a hole in the coast and a superb spot for the youngsters.

The name comes from a boggle, or goblin, which is said to haunt the slopes.


RavenscarThis is at least our third visit to Ravenscar and we still had trouble finding the start of the path to the shore. We went in search of a drink at the Raven Hall Hotel but found that the bar only opened at lunchtime and we had to pay for the priviledge of enjoying the view from the cliff.

George III stayed here when he was ill, and it was then a private house. The owner wanted to turn the village into a fashionable resort but the cliffs were too unstable so fortunately that plan was thwarted.

We made do with warm coke from the car boot and set off across the golf course. There was no one around and it was absolutely wonderful. The evening light showed off the cliffs in all their glory as we went down and down. We finally arrived where the rocks were eroding into the sea and the path became hazardous, so we sat for a while enjoying the tranquillity.

The ascent was not as much fun - it is a long way up!!

Hayburn Wyke

Hayburn WykeWe took the little lane leading to the pub at Hayburn Wyke and were pleasantly surprised. Some of the tables outside had candles burning and there were a few people enjoying meals. After a well-earned pint we found the path to the shore along some stone paths that were originally created by the Victorians when they wanted to 'take some sea air'. A little bridge crossed the river, which cascades onto the pebbly cove as a small waterfall.

It is extremely pretty but unfortunately it was time to go home.