Your Day Out: A day on the rail trail

The old Scarborough to Whitby rail trail from Lancaster Way, Scalby.
The old Scarborough to Whitby rail trail from Lancaster Way, Scalby.

The Scarborough to Whitby rail trail is hugely popular, being used by walkers and cyclists determined to complete the 21-mile stretch, as well as ramblers and dog walkers enjoying a leisurely stroll. The atmosphere always seems relaxed and cheerful, with courteous cyclists thanking walkers for stepping aside.

It hasn’t always been so used. It was only in the 1970s that Scarborough Borough Council acquired the trackbed for such recreation. Going back in time to 1885, the 21-mile railway line was opened on July 15 and cost £649,813 to construct. It was originally owned by the Scarborough and Whitby Railway, but was not a financial success. In 1898 it was bought by the much larger North Eastern Railway for £261,333.

In 1923, this line became part of the London and North Eastern Railway. Traffic increased along with increased tourism, but changes were ahead. Following World War Two there was competition from road transport. Then following the formation of British Railways in 1948 there was a steady decline in use of the line. Finally, it was closed as part of the Beeching cuts in the mid-Sixties. I well recall the last train ran on March 6, 1965.

Shortly after closure, the rails were removed, but that was not the end, but a new beginning. In the 1970s Scarborough Borough Council acquired the trackbed to be used as a path for walkers and cyclists. Great news indeed. Except for a few minor little detours for obstructions, the entire line remains for public use today.

The Scarborough end of the Rail Trail is in the Sainsbury’s car park area, off Falsgrave Road. The supermarket was built on the site of the Gallows Close goods yard in the 1990s. Formerly heading southwards towards the Scarborough-York main line, through Falsgrave tunnel, this was bricked up many years ago.

The trail sets off from the rear of Sainsbury’s, near the Wykeham Street bridge bearing a colourful display of public art on its walls near Gladstone Road School. Regular readers of this column will have already completed this first section heading north via a series of cuttings, and passing beneath several bridges into suburbia. They’ll have skirted alongside the open green spaces of playing fields, at the site of the former Northstead Carriage Sidings, to pass further housing, crossing a couple estate access roads, before striding out across Scalby Beck on a four-arch brick viaduct. You’ll recall that it led swiftly into the first obstruction – though a very pleasant one, as walkers had to pass along Chichester Close, built on the site of Scalby Station.

Now, the next leg of the route starts from Scalby cross-roads at the junction of Scalby’s High Street with the A171 Scalby Road and Station Road. Turn right along Station Road, passing Chichester Close off right. This development is built on the site of Scalby Station. Continue along Station Road to turn left into Field Close. Then another right turn takes you along Lancaster Way. At the end of Lancaster Way you enter open countryside once more.

A level walk between fields, and the occasional seat and picnic table for refreshment and you cross a stream. The Rail Trail soon crosses the busy A165 Coastal Road near the nursery at Burniston. Take the official crossing, and your path continues between bushes at the other side.

Leaving Burniston behind, it isn’t far to Cloughton, where the old railway station has been delightfully restored. The old waiting room was beautifully transformed into a highly popular tea room, and an old carriage was installed between the platforms. It’s a wonderful haven of tranquillity whether you choose to dine inside, or in the peaceful garden. The perfect ending for your day on the Rail Trail.

I suggest you return along the Rail Trail to see it in reverse. Or you may choose to explore Cloughton village and return by bus.

Distance: Scalby to Cloughton Station return – five miles approximately.

Refreshment: Cloughton Station Tea Rooms – Cloughton’s rail track, Coast Gallery, Old County Primary School, Mill Lane, Cloughton, The Yew Tree, Nag’s Head, and The Plough in Scalby’s High Street.

Public transport: Bus services between Scarborough and Cloughton - Arriva bus service X56, Scarborough and District bus services 15 and 115.