Whitby is often referred to as the jewel in the east coast crown. Its beautiful beaches of golden sand stretch all the way to the appropriately-named Sandsend. Popular it may be for bathers and surfers too, but there’s more to Sandsend than first meets the eye.
It’s a pleasant village about one mile south east of Lythe. This is a popular resort for summer visitors because of its healthy climate, its nearness to the Mulgrave Woods, and the pleasant surrounding scenery. The village itself is quite picturesque, and often overlooked.
Surprisingly there were mines all over the area crossed by the Cleveland Way. At Kettleness and Sandsend, alum was obtained from ‘alum shale’, a rock found in Yorkshire’s Jurassic rocks. Over 100 tons of shale were needed to produce one ton of alum! It was a long process before the alum crystallised. Hundreds of men laboured for decades in this unpleasant industry, gradually replacing the cliff at Kettleness to half its original height. The cliff is still rugged and strangely beautiful. By way of compensation, the delightful stone cottages and houses in local towns and villages were raised by profits from the cliffs’ destruction.
From Whitby, access to Sandsend is along the A174. This cliff top road has remarkable coastal views opening up ahead. Just past the Hart Inn, cross the road bridge and turn left into a car park unless you find free roadside parking.
Along the seafront you’ll find shops, an art gallery, pubs and restaurant, but our choice would be a picnic alongside the beck. Don’t miss a walk past the cute country cottages, see the pet goats, and feed the ducks beside the beck. St Mary’s quaint church should be viewed, as we usually find it’s open. You’ll notice that Sandsend is an amalgam of two villages. One is situated on Sandsend Beck, and the other on East Rock Beck.
Once it flourished with alum and jet workings on Sandsend Ness, and the railway bringing people and prosperity. There was a hotel on the cliff edge. It was famous as a smugglers’ haunt. The cliff below was riddled with contraband-filled caves. Now it’s just a busy seaside resort at the end of a fine stretch of sand. This is the place for building sand castle and paddling; for sand between your toes, and in your egg and tomato sandwiches!
There are many attractions inland from the car park, but today Sandsend Beach is the winner! It is possible, if the tide is right, to walk along it into Whitby. Do be very careful not to be caught by a rising tide, particularly at Whitby end. Notice the cliffs here, which are the remains of the 200ft thick Ice Age debris, the boulder clay. As we all know from local and recent cliff falls, this is a very unstable medium. If the tide is in, you must retreat to the A174 - the road along which you drove to Sandsend. At first, this runs along at the beach edge. Later, however, it errs on the side of caution and runs inland. At point (879 117) you’ll see a lane off left heading north beyond the golf course. Take this, as it goes back to the cliff edge.
From here go eastwards along the path at the edge into Whitby.
Your return to Sandsend again depends on the tide. Either walk back along the beach, take a bus from Whitby or walk the A174, or arrange for a driver to pick you up at the far end. Whatever your chosen option, have a good day and visit again.
Distance: Sandsend to Whitby’s West Pier along beach return is 5 miles approximately/Cleveland Way return 6 miles approximately.
Refreshment: Inns, cafes, shops etc plenty in Sandsend and Whitby.
Map Ref: Ordnance Survey Explorer Map OL27, North York Moors, Eastern Area. Scale 2.5 inches to 1 mile.