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Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track

Hawkser bike hire, accommodation & refreshments on the Cinder Track

The Cinder Track at Hawkser, by HedgehogCycling

The Cinder Track follows the route of the old railway from Scarborough to Whitby. The railway was in use from 1885 to 1965, and after it closed, Scarborough Borough Council bought the line. The track ballast was made from cinders rather than crushed stone, hence the name the Cinder Track. 

Today, long sections of it could more accurately be called the Puddles, Mud, and Stones Track, as little or no maintenance has been done for a long time, perhaps since 1965, and much of the surface is a wreck. Sustrans is aware of this, and is coordinating a consultation and plan to restore the Cinder Track - see plans for restoration below. The route is well signposted all the way along.

The distance from Scarborough to Whitby along the Cinder Track is 21.5 miles, so it's easily possible for reasonably strong cyclists to ride there and back in a day. There's a lot of shake, rattle, and roll to it, though, so it may not be advisable for families with younger children to attempt it (nor sufferers of vibration white finger).

The council has a leaflet with some information about the Cinder Track, a map, and maps showing how to access it in Scarborough and Whitby.

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: map

This is a Google map of the route:

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: route description and photos

Whitby Abbey from Larpool Viaduct

Whitby Abbey from Larpool Viaduct, by HedgehogCycling

The Cinder Track starts from Sainsbury's car park in Scarborough, by a children's play area called Safe Ways Park - see access and parking in Scarborough.

When I rode it (late August 2016), there was a lot of broken glass on the path near the start. On the way out of Scarborough, the Cinder Track runs alongside a park, and here there is a tarmac surface, but the top layer has eroded away in large patches, giving a 'jolty' ride.

Cinder Track near the start in Scarborough

The Cinder Track in Scarborough, by HedgehogCycling

After about 3km/2mi, the path reaches Scalby. Turn right on Station Road, then almost immediately left on Field Close Road, followed by a right fork on Lancaster Way. At the end of Lancaster Way, you follow the sign to the right, and you're back on a path again.

Cinder Track near Scalby

The Cinder Track near Scalby, by HedgehogCycling

The next point on the route is the village of Burniston. The path crosses Burniston Beck on a rather sweet little wooden bridge. It meets the busy A165 main road, but the signing is good, and there's a pelican crossing.

The Cinder Track meets the A165 at Burniston

The Cinder Track meets the A165 at Burniston, by HedgehogCycling

The path continues to Cloughton, where it goes past the Station House Cloughton - B&B, self-catering, and tea rooms, in the old railway station buildings. 

Accommodation at the Station House, Cloughton

Accommodation at the Station House Cloughton, by HedgehogCycling

The Cinder Track route crosses a minor road, and carries on beyond a gate.

Cinder Track at Cloughton

The Cinder Track at Cloughton, by HedgehogCycling

Beyond Cloughton, the track starts to climb, with a gentle but noticeable gradient. It's uphill from here more or less all the way to Ravenscar, which is the high point of the route.

Hayburn Wyke Hotel

Hayburn Wyke Hotel, by HedgehogCycling

The path passes a picturesque pub and hotel, the Hayburn Wyke. You can walk from the hotel to a secluded bay, also called Hayburn Wyke. The Cinder Track is bordered by trees here, and it is particularly afflicted with water standing in puddles. Expect to get spattered in mud.

Bridge over the Cinder Track near Cloughton

Bridge over the Cinder Track, by HedgehogCycling

The track goes under one of a few attractive bridges along the route. It reaches the former station at Staintondale (or Stainton Dale), where free range chickens are now kept.

Staintondale disused railway station

Free range chickens sign at Staintondale disused railway station, by HedgehogCycling

Out in the open again, near the village of Staintondale, there are picturesque views of farm buildings and a wind turbine.

Wind turbine near Staintondale (Scarborough)

Wind turbine near Staintondale, by HedgehogCycling

Soon after, you're by the coast and can look out to sea.

National Trust permissive path near Ravenscar Low Radar Station

National Trust permissive path sign, near Ravenscar Low Radar Station, by HedgehogCycling

Ravenscar Low Radar Station dates from World War II. According to Humber Field Archaeology's East Coast Heritage Walk 4 leaflet, the station's full name was Bent Rigg Coast Defence/Chain Home Low Radar Station M47. It was built in 1941, and 'low' refers to the ability to track aircraft attempting to fly at a low level, under the radar. From 1942, it could track planes at 50 to 200 feet.

Radar station at Bent Rigg, near Ravenscar

Ravenscar Low Radar Station, by HedgehogCycling

This information board tells you about the radar station (open in new tab for full-size image):

Ravenscar low radar station information board

Ravenscar low radar station information board, by HedgehogCycling

These days, the only low-flying objects are house martins, in the spring and summer, and when you reach Ravenscar, you can see their quarter-sphere mud cup nests under the eaves of the houses there, and these delightful birds zipping in and out. (A house martin is blue-black on the top of its body, with a broad, white band before its tail; underneath, the body is white; the wings are brown; it has a moderately forked tail, but not the long, forked tail of the swallow).

House martin, and nests, at Ravenscar

House martin, and nests under the eaves, at Ravenscar, by HedgehogCycling

Ravenscar is the highest point of the ride, at 631ft/192m. It was the high point of the railway, and trains used to struggle to get up the slope from Robin Hood's Bay, having to take a run-up, and sometimes requiring several attempts before reaching the top. You arrive at the disused station, opened as Peak Station in 1885, and renamed Ravenscar Station in 1897. Along with the rest of the line, it closed in 1965.

Sign at Ravenscar disused station

Sign at the disused Ravenscar Station, by HedgehogCycling

An information board explains the story of Ravenscar (open image in new tab to see full-size version):

Ravenscar information board

Ravenscar information board, by HedgehogCycling

Ravenscar is described as the town that never was because developers bought the site, initially called Peak then renamed Ravenscar, in 1890. The estate company had plans to build a resort to rival Scarborough, and it laid out the roads which are still there today. It became clear that access to the beach was too steep, and the site rather exposed and windy. The estate company went bankrupt in 1911, and the idea was finally abandoned in 1913, with only a few houses built.

View from Ravenscar Station

View from Ravenscar Station, by HedgehogCycling

The Cinder Track route is on Station Road, as far as the entrance to the Raven Hall Hotel (perhaps on the site of a Roman signal station; the Hall was owned by the doctor who treated King George III for porphyria).

Entrance to the Raven Hall Hotel, Ravenscar

Entrance to the Raven Hall Hotel, by HedgehogCycling

Here, the route leaves the road, and the track starts to go downhill - past a National Trust visitor centre, which offers refreshments. There's a super view towards Robin Hood's Bay.

National Trust sign and view from Peakside, Ravenscar

National Trust sign and view from Peakside, Ravenscar

The Cleveland Way forks off to the right here, towards the old Alum Works. (There were alum works from 1650 onwards. Alum was used in the textile industry, for fixing dyes in cloth).

As you descend from the visitor centre, the surface of the track is very bumpy and uneven, with exposed bricks. On the left, there's some smooth concrete, wide enough for one bike, but not for two to pass, and with a kerb, so that you have to get on at the start, not part way up or down.

There are more views towards Robin Hood's Bay as you continue along the track around Stoupe Brow. Swallows - I think they are swallows - nest in an open barn at the farm on the left (Browside Farm).

View of coastline and Robin Hood's Bay

View of coastline and towards Robin Hood's Bay, by HedgehogCycling

The route meets the road at the edge of Robin Hood's Bay, and takes Cinder Trackers through a main car park (which has loos).

Loos in the car park at Robin Hood's Bay

Loos in the car park at Robin Hood's Bay, by HedgehogCycling

The route beyond Robin Hood's Bay, back on the Cinder Track, curves past Ness Point.

Sheep grazing at Ness Point, near Robin Hood's Bay

Sheep grazing at Ness Point, near Robin Hood's Bay

Reaching Hawkser, the Cinder Track crosses the busy A171, with a safe, traffic-light controlled crossing. Just after the crossing, on the right, is Trailways bike hire and shop, which also has accommodation in an old railway carriage. A second railway carriage serves drinks including tea and coffee, and flapjack with toffee icing. 

Hawkser bike hire, accommodation & refreshments on the Cinder Track

Bike shop at Hawkser, by HedgehogCycling

The path then runs past Stainsacre, and Cock Mill Wood (a very muddy section). It gets to the Larpool Viaduct, which took the railway over the river Esk.

Larpool Viaduct

Larpool Viaduct, by HedgehogCycling

Cycling over the Larpool Viaduct is one of the special moments on this route. There are distant views of Whitby Abbey and Whitby church.

View of Whitby Abbey from Larpool Viaduct

Whitby Abbey from Larpool Viaduct, by HedgehogCycling

At the end of the Cinder Track, signs direct you down a steep ramp to the left, and you emerge on South End Gardens - Whitby access for a map. Turn right down South End Gardens, then continue down Bagdale/New Quay Road, to get to Whitby harbour.

Whitby Harbour

Whitby Harbour, by HedgehogCycling

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: access and parking in Scarborough

Start of the Cinder Track, Sainsbury's Scarborough

The start of the Cinder Track at Sainsbury's in Scarborough, by HedgehogCycling

In Scarborough, the Cinder Track starts behind Sainsbury's (off the A64 Falsgrave Road). The path begins at the edge of Sainsbury's car park, by a children's play area called Safe Ways Park. This map shows Sainsbury's and the start of the Cinder Track (marked as a blue dotted line):

Map showing the start of the Cinder Track, Scarborough

Although Sainsbury's has a car park, parking time there is limited. You would have to ask the manager of the supermarket for permission to stay longer than 2 hours, and leave a note of your registration number. If you arrive in Scarborough by car, it's probably better to park in Scalby, and do the route from there. There's street parking, plus a little bay with about 4 spaces on Lancaster Way (see photo below). This is a residential road, and while it can cope with a few cars, it wouldn't be fair on the residents for hundreds of cars to park there.

Parking bay on Lancaster Way, Scalby

Parking bay on Lancaster Way, Scalby, by HedgehogCycling

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: access in Whitby

South End Gardens, Whitby

South End Gardens, Whitby, by HedgehogCycling

This map shows the start of the Cinder Track in Whitby at South End Gardens (the track shown as a blue dotted line):

Map showing start of Cinder Track, Whitby

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: photos

These photos were taken in late August 2016 (toggle right to see all photos):

Cinder Track

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: plans for restoration

'Caution surface very rough' sign, Cinder Track

'Caution surface very rough' sign on the Cinder Track, by HedgehogCycling

What a shame the Cinder Track has been allowed to fall into such a state of disrepair. It's great that Scarborough Borough Council bought it when the railway line closed in 1965. In many other cases, at the time of the Beeching cuts, parts of lines were sold off to lots of different private owners. Now, in order to turn them into greenways, years of negotiations are required to obtain rights of way. Here, that's not an issue, and this could be a fantastic asset to the local area.

The path is a jewel, by the coast in a beautiful area which is popular with tourists. The draft plan also identifies that 60,000 people live within a mile of an access point to the Cinder Track. There are great views from the track, and you can see wonderful wildlife. It should be an attraction in its own right, which could be promoted. With a decent surface, I guess that lots more people would ride the whole path there and back in a day - maybe three or five times as many people.

In April 2016, Sustrans produced a draft plan for the restoration of the Cinder Track. A consultation (organised by Groundwork) followed, with public meetings in May 2016. A second draft of the plan should now be published.

Consultation

An initial online consultation in February 2016 showed that 81% of people use it on foot, 59% cycling, and 5.5% horse riding. (Respondents were allowed to answer the 'use' question more than once).

The Cinder Track is mainly used for recreation (74% on foot, and 59% by bike). 36.5% of respondents use it for dog walking, 5% for going to work on foot, and 7% for going to work by bike.

Asked if the Cinder Track needs any improvement, 77.6% of respondents answered 'yes', with only 9.4% saying 'no'. The surface of the path is the feature most people want improving.

The plan recognises that the surface of the path has deteriorated, and it needs substantial, co-ordinated investment to put it right.

Drainage

Puddles on the Cinder Track

Puddles on the Cinder Track, by HedgehogCycling

Drainage is identified as an important problem, which it clearly is. There are many places where water stands in puddles, sometimes right across the path. You can tell it's been an issue for a long time, because over the years, bike wheels have created new routes off the side of the path around the water. It is said that dinosaur footprints have been found off the side of the track, but it's not clear if the puddles have been there that long.

New surface

The idea is that a new surface would allow the Cinder Track to be marketed and used all year by locals and visitors. The draft plan doesn't specify exactly what surface should be used, and inevitably it's controversial.

Smooth tarmac is best for bikes. If part or all of the track is an inferior surface, with a lot gravel for example, you immediately exclude a large number of bicycles with road tyres. On the other hand, people using shared paths on foot often don't like being passed by bikes, especially at higher speeds. 

The choice of surface will be vital.

Branding the track: Cindr

The 'next steps' for implementation of the restoration plan includes a section on communication and marketing. One of the actions is to 'discuss route identity and resolve name/symbol issues'. My slightly flippant suggestion is that, in this digital age, with the success of Tumblr and Flickr, the route could be signed and marketed as Cindr. What do you think? Genius? Awful?

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: other resources

There's a Cinder Track page on Facebook

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Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: Scarborough

Scarborough South Sands and Harbour

Scarborough, North Yorkshire, by Thomas Tolkien, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Scarborough is the largest holiday resort on the Yorkshire coast. As well as tourism, Scarborians live from fishing, services, and the digital and creative industries. There's free wifi on the town's seafront and harbour.

The rocky promontory, with the ruins of Scarborough Castle on it, separates the sea front into North Bay and South Bay. South Bay is more popular and commercial, while North Bay is quieter, and has the Japanese-themed Peasholm Park. The miniature North Bay Railway runs from the park to Scalby Mills and the Sea Life Centre.

Scarborough may have been founded around 966AD as Skaroaborg by a Viking raider, but there was little left of any settlement by the time of the Domesday Book. 

Scarborough Castle was built under Henry II, and he granted charters for a market in 1155 and 1163. The royal charter for Scarborough Fair was granted in 1253. It was a 6-week trading festival, with merchants from all over Europe, and it continued for about 500 years. The castle and town suffered during the English Civil War of the 1640s, and they were badly damaged.

Scarborough's history as a spa town began when a spring was discovered in 1626, and more visitors came after it was publicised by Dr Wittie's book in 1660. The Scarborough to York railway (1845) meant further popularity.

Scarborough is associated with Alan Ayckbourn, and almost all his plays receive their first performance at the Stephen Joseph theatre.

The Rotunda museum is a national centre for geology - appropriate, as Scarborough is on Yorkshire's Jurassic Coast

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: Robin Hood's Bay

Robin Hood's Bay

Robin Hood's Bay, by HedgehogCycling

Robin Hood's Bay is a small fishing village within the North York Moors National Park, which is picturesque, and popular with visitors. It is built in a fissure between two steep cliffs, and most of the houses are sandstone, with red-tiled roofs.

The origin of the name is uncertain, but a legend says that Robin Hood encountered French pirates, and made them surrender. He took their loot, and returned it to the poor people of the village which is now called Robin Hood's Bay.

There were settlements slightly inland (at Raw and Fylingthorpe) in the Viking and Norman eras, but it wasn't until the 1500s that Robin Hood's Bay itself was inhabited. In 1536, about twenty fishing boats were moored here.

Robin Hood's Bay has a tradition of smuggling. There may be underground passages linking the houses. In the late 1700s, contraband tea, gin, rum, brandy, and tobacco were smuggled from the Netherlands and France. There were battles between smugglers and excise men on at least two occasions.

Fishing reached its peak in the mid-1800s, with the fish carried over the moorland to Pickering or York. Tourism generates the most income today.

The Bay is on what is sometimes called the Dinosaur Coast, and many fossils have been discovered.

Robin Hood's Bay had a station until 1965, when the Scarborough and Whitby line was closed. The old railway line is now used for the Cinder Track foot and cycle path.

Scarborough to Whitby Cinder Track: Whitby

Whitby Harbour and church

Whitby Harbour and church, by HedgehogCycling

Whitby is a seaside town at the mouth of the river Esk.

The settlement here was called Streanoehealh in 657AD when a monastery was founded by King Oswy of Northumbria. It became known as Witebi, meaning 'the white settlement' in Old Norse, in the C12th.

The first Abbess of the monastery was St Hilda. Caedmon was transformed into an inspired poet at the Abbey. The Synod of Whitby (664) established the date of Easter in Northumbria, the Roman date being adopted in preference to the Celtic one.

The monastery was destroyed by Danish Vikings between 867 and 870, and only re-established under the Normans in 1078, when William de Percy gave the land to the Benedictine Order.

The town of Whitby grew after the Dissolution of the Monasteries, particularly due to trade in alum found locally, and used for medicine, curing leather, and fixing dyed cloths. There was also a local shipbuilding trade, and (from 1795) Whitby became a whaling port. A whalebone arch on West Cliff commemorates this period. There's also a statue of Captain James Cook there.

Whitby was a spa town in the late 1700s and early 1800s, with visitors drawn by three 'chalybeate' springs. More tourists arrived after the Whitby and Pickering railway was built in 1839.

In the Victorian period, jet was mined from the cliffs and moors, and Whitby Jet became well-known. (The Romans had already mined jet). Jet is a mineraloid which is the compressed remains of ancestors of the monkey-puzzle tree. It can be used to make jewelry and decorative items, and Queen Victoria liked it, especially after Albert's death. Fossils have also been found in Whitby's cliffs. 

Whitby swing bridge

Boat going through Whitby Swing Bridge, Whitby, North Yorkshire, by Glen Bowman, Flickr, Licence CC BY-SA 2.0

The main industries today are fishing and tourism. Amongst other things, visitors patronise the many local fish and chip shops, including the Magpie Café. Whitby is the closest port to a proposed offshore windfarm on Dogger Bank.

Whitby is associated with Dracula, because part of Bram Stoker's novel is set here.

Whitby is twinned with Anchorage, Alaska.

Whitby Abbey

Whitby Abbey, by Martyn Wright, Flickr, Licence CC BY 2.0

Cinder Track near Scalby View of coastline towards Robin Hood's BayWhitby harbour

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