Tucked between the popular seaside towns of Whitby and Scarborough is Robin Hood’s Bay, an impossibly pretty village that’s surrounded by the spectacular scenery of the North York Moors coastline. Wander along a maze of narrow alleyways that seemingly tumble towards the sea and you’ll pass by clusters of characterful cottages that appear to miraculously cling to the side of the cliffs. This is a magical village that captivates the heart and inspires visitors to return again and again - the perfect destination for a UK seaside holiday that the whole family will love.
A brief history of Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay is a village that’s steeped in history - follow the path of a tiled mosaic stretching 125 metres along the sea wall to uncover some of the stories of the past.
With a prime position on the North York Moors coastline, it will come as no surprise that Robin Hood’s Bay has a long fishing heritage. The village first came to prominence as a fishing port during the 16th century and, during the next couple of centuries, most of its inhabitants were involved in the trade. There are hundreds of historic fisherman’s cottages throughout Robin Hood’s Bay (now mostly holiday cottages) and you can still see some of the traditional wooden boats in the harbour.
During the 18th century, Robin Hood’s Bay’s myriad narrow streets were used to smuggle things such as silk and tea into the country without the smugglers having to pay the high taxes of the time. Boats would bring the imported goods to shore and the items could be passed through a network of inns, houses, secret passageways and tunnels until they reached the top of the village without ever being seen.
There’s also lots of natural history in and around Robin Hood’s Bay. The cliffs form part of Yorkshire’s dinosaur coastline and you can regularly find ancient fossils and ammonites that have fallen onto the beach below. There are fascinating rocks from the Jurassic period and hidden treasures that date back millions of years. Visit the Robin Hood’s Bay Museum to learn more about the village’s history and to see a range of precious preserved ammonites that have been found in the area.
The best things to do in Robin Hood’s Bay
From spending a relaxing day sitting by the sea to spotting some wonderful Yorkshire coast wildlife, you'll find lots of things to see and do in and around Robin Hood's Bay.
Visit the Old Coastguard Station
Located on the Robin Hood’s Bay slipway, the Old Coastguard Station is now a National Trust site that houses a fascinating marine life exhibition featuring a variety of interactive models. You can learn more about the wildlife and geology of the Yorkshire coast and come face to face with a range of interesting rockpool creatures in a special seawater tank.
Spend a day at the beach
At the bottom of Robin Hood’s Bay you’ll find a sweeping section of dog-friendly beach where pooches can play without restrictions throughout the year. Whether you fancy dipping your toes in the sea, taking a walk along the sand or grabbing a bucket and spade at the nearby Muir Lea Stores, a day at the beach is the perfect activity for a warm summer's day. There are a number of rock pools for children to explore and the curved beach has a beautiful backdrop of North York Moors cliffs.
Try the Robin Hood’s Bay Ghost Walk
Listen to some spooky stories of the past as you take an after-dark ghost walk through the streets of Robin Hood’s Bay. You’ll hear tales of local folklore, learn about some of the village’s ancient myths and legends, and find out lots of fascinating facts about Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s all done in a highly entertaining way that’s designed to be suitable for the whole family (although due to the walking involved, it isn’t recommended for under 4s).
Get up close to hundreds of seals
Ravenscar is just under 4 miles from Robin Hood’s Bay and the cliff tops here are well known for their spectacular views across the coast. The headland here was once used for a Roman signal station and today it is a great chance to spot some Yorkshire wildlife as the bay below is home to a 300-strong seal colony. You can take a rocky walk along the bottom of the cliffs to get a better view of the seals - just be careful not to get too close and frighten them.
Try some off-road driving
Image credit: North Yorkshire Off Road Centre
If you fancy testing out your driving skills on a range of challenging terrains, the North Yorkshire Off Road Centre has a special site in the hills above Robin Hood's Bay where you can let loose in their Land Rover Defender. You can tackle steep hills, rocks, mud, and even water and it’s up to you whether you drive over specially prepared terrain or go for it on the natural moorland. Full training is given and there are options for beginners and more experienced off-road drivers.
Visit the Falling Foss waterfall
Around 5 miles inland from Robin Hood’s Bay is the beautiful Falling Foss Tea Garden, home to one of Yorkshire’s prettiest waterfalls. After visiting the Falling Foss waterfall, we recommend taking a 10-minute stroll to the Hermitage - a unique cave that was carved out of stone in the 18th century. There’s also a 2-mile woodland trail to follow through the tea garden - children can enjoy a paddle in the babbling May Beck and there’s also a bridge that’s just right for pooh sticks.
Travel back in time for the Victorian Weekend
Image credit: instagram.com/matt1972
During the first weekend of December, Robin Hood’s Bay hosts an annual Victorian Weekend
which is full of fancy dress and festive fun. Cottage owners throughout Robin Hood’s Bay throw open their doors for visitors to have a look around the historic properties and there is a special lantern parade throughout the village. Other highlights of the event include a craft fair, carol singing and a selection of vintage games to try.
Robin Hood’s Bay shops
Nestled amongst the traditional fisherman’s cottages are a selection of independent shops where you can either stock up on supplies or treat yourself to something lovely as a reminder of your Robin Hood’s Bay stay.
Berties of Bay
This hidden treasure of a store is located about halfway down Robin Hood’s Bay’s famously steep bank and is known for its own Berties of Bay brand heritage clothing which includes traditional Gansey jumpers, knitted beanie hats, and chunky anchor belts. You can also pick up locally produced home fragrances and a range of bath and body lotions.
The Old Drapery
Image credit: instagram.com/theolddrapery
Another Robin Hood’s Bay clothing store is The Old Drapery
, which sells everything from linen tops to waterproof coats with both children's and adults' ranges available. This lovely boutique store also stocks shoes, wellies, handbags, purses and even beach towels with changing seasonal ranges throughout the year.
Muir Lea Stores
A Robin Hood’s Bay institution, Muir Lea Stores sells a wide range of gifts and everyday essentials. You can pick up a bucket and spade for the beach, logs and kindling for the wood burner, and daily fresh fruit and vegetables. The family-run shop also sells children's toys, wine and beer, and its own locally made range of jams and chutneys.
Browns and Dollies Sweet Shop
There are a couple of options in Robin Hood’s Bay if you are in the mood for some sweet treats. Brown’s is a chocolatier that serves fudge and ice cream alongside its own homemade chocolate truffles. The truffles come in a wide array of flavours and, if you need an even bigger cocoa hit, there’s a huge chocolate fountain in the middle of the store. The nearby Dollies Sweet Shop has lots of traditional and retro options if you fancy stocking up on some of the classic sweets of your childhood.
Other shops include:
Food and drink in Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay may be small but it packs an impressive amount of places to stop for food and drinks into its winding streets. There are a trio of good dog-friendly pubs that will give a warm welcome to you and your four-legged friends plus everything from classic seaside fish and chip shops to romantic bistro restaurants.
The Laurel Inn is a small and cosy pub that’s tucked away in the heart of the village. You’ll find real ales on the menu and photos of the past adorning the walls.
Looking out over the sea at the bottom of Robin Hood’s Bay is The Bay Hotel, a 19th-century inn that marks the end of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk. The bar serves hearty home-cooked food and there’s a wide selection of drinks to wash it down with.
Ye Dolphin is a traditional old-world tavern with roaring open fires and a history that dates back to the 1600s. You can enjoy live music here most weeks as you tuck into the pub’s signature dish - home-made steak and ale pie.
Tea, Toast and Post is a charming cafe that’s situated in the former Robin Hood’s Bay post office. There’s an array of sandwiches on the menu (including its legendary bacon doorstop) and music from the retro jukebox to entertain you while you eat.
You’ll find The Fish Box near the top of Robin Hood’s Bay so you can enjoy wonderful views out over the village as you tuck into traditional freshly caught fish and chips. You can choose to eat in or take them away and there’s a great children’s playground nearby.
The Cove is a dog-friendly coffee shop in a converted chapel that’s right next to the village’s sea wall. It serves light bites, artisan cakes and speciality coffees throughout the day with a selection of wines and gins available if you fancy a tipple or two.
Located in a traditional 17th-century building near the beach, Brambles Bistro is an elegant restaurant serving fresh and seasonal dishes which you can pair with a selection of fine wines.
Dark wood and candlelight add lots of romantic atmosphere to Smuggler’s Bistro, a popular wine bar and restaurant that’s just a short stroll from the sea. The place is full of history too - you can just imagine smugglers of the past meeting in the characterful bar.
Wayfarer Bistro is a contemporary restaurant at the top of Robin Hood's Bay that’s a popular choice with locals thanks to its excellent steaks and a regularly changing menu that makes the most of locally sourced ingredients.
Robin Hood’s Bay walks
The Yorkshire Coast has always been a top destination for walkers thanks to its spot on the edge of the North York Moors and an array of wonderful cliff-top paths. Here are some of our favourite walks to try around Robin Hood’s Bay:
The Cleveland Way
The waymarked Cleveland Way trail passes along the cliff tops of Robin Hood’s Bay and you can take a very scenic walk to Ravenscar if you go one way or to the seaside town of Whitby in the other direction. There’s a choice of lovely viewpoints and, if you manage to walk the 6 miles to Whitby, you can explore the grounds of the famous abbey before catching the bus back to Robin Hood’s Bay. Keep an eye out for seabirds during your walk - during summer months the Yorkshire Coast cliffs are home to hundreds of kittiwakes.
The Cinder Track
Another great walking route to tackle is The Cinder Track. This stretch of disused railway line winds its way through the North York Moors from Whitby to Scarborough and you can pick up the route at Robin Hood’s Bay. You can walk as little or as much of the traffic-free track as you want, though we recommend following the route through to Hayburn Wyke where you’ll find a secret waterfall and a hidden beach.
Fylingdales is located high above Robin Hood’s Bay and makes a perfect choice for a secluded stroll if you fancy some peace and tranquility. You can park at nearby Ravenscar and take this 4-mile circular route across the sweeping heather-clad moorland of the North York Moors National Park. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of one of the wild birds of prey that live here.
Wainwright’s Coast to Coast
While we aren’t suggesting you try to tackle the whole of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast walk, you can easily do just the final section of the route which ends by the sea in Robin Hood’s Bay. We recommend starting at Hawsker and completing the final 4 miles, but if you are feeling particularly energetic you can walk a 15-mile route from Grosmont (one of the stations on the heritage NYMR railway).
Where to stay in Robin Hoods Bay
You’ll find a lovely array of holiday cottages in Robin Hood’s Bay where you can rest your head after days spent exploring this beautiful part of the Yorkshire coast.
This dog-friendly couple’s retreat is tucked away in a quiet street near the sea and comes with a sheltered patio garden that’s just right for the warmer summer months. If you’re looking for a dog-free property, Little Pearl is a one-bedroom cottage that’s next door to Hidden Gem.
This traditional 17th-century sandstone cottage is set over three floors and has a classic coastal feel with white clapboard panels and accents of blue throughout. There are plenty of characterful features throughout this dog-friendly property and three bedrooms that can sleep up to six people.
This former church hall is now a bright and contemporary four-bedroom holiday home that has a large, sociable open-plan living/dining/kitchen area at the heart of the property. It’s just a stone’s throw from the beach and can sleep up to ten people.
This is just a small selection of the Yorkshire coast cottages that you can book for your short break or holiday. Browse the full range of luxury North Yorkshire cottages on the Gorgeous Cottages website and find the perfect base for your next UK getaway.
Disclaimer: Whilst every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the information at the time of writing,
please ensure you check carefully before making any decisions based on the contents within this article.