Soak up the sun at these Yorkshire seaside towns, all within easy reach of Leeds.
‘I do like to be beside the seaside’ as the song goes – and well, who doesn’t? So why not make the most of the summer sun and head out to Yorkshire’s stunning coastline? After all, it’s just 2 hours away. From traditional seaside towns with funfairs, donkey rides and amusements to little villages with unspoilt beaches and incredible views – make the seaside your next day out.
Many of Yorkshire’s coastal destinations are well known, but not Sandsend. It’s a quiet, hidden escape, perfect for families or romantic getaways. This little slice of heaven is just north of Whitby and about an hour and fifty minutes from Leeds. It’s a tiny village, with breathtaking golden beaches split up by a stream that runs right into the North Sea. Along the waterfront you’ll find beach shacks selling traditional food and drink and if you find some high ground, you’ll have incredible vistas over the water – you can even see Whitby Abbey in the distance.
You should definitely come hungry, as Sandsend is a foodie landmark. Estbek House is the big find, a two AA Rosette restaurant in an old Georgian cottage with a seasonal menu of British classics. Elsewhere, you can get great eats at Bridge Cottage Bistro and a quality pint at The Hart Inn. If you’re looking for a bit of R&R by the seaside, try the Raithwaite Estate. This is a stunning country retreat that overlooks the beaches below. You’ve got two hotels, a cottage and the exclusive Lake House to stay in, but the real secret here is their spa – they have one for humans and one for dogs, so make sure you bring the pooch.
If you’re looking for a traditional day out at the seaside, Bridlington is just an hour and a half away from Leeds. There are two beaches to choose from. North Beach is a pebble and shingle beach, lined with amusements and funfair rides, and South Beach promises glorious stretches of golden sand. While you’re here, trek along the award-winning promenades, pay a visit to the historic harbour and take a ride on the pleasure boats out to the stunning Flamborough Head.
Bridlington Old Town is full of medieval charm, with tight streets, fascinating architecture and cool shops. Want a little culture? Stop by Gallery Forty Nine to see their latest exhibition or delve into the area’s history at Bridlington Priory Church, which dates back to 1143, and Bayle Museum, the old entrance to the Priory and a Scheduled Ancient Monument. You can also catch a show or a concert at the renowned Bridlington Spa or grab a bite at The Lamp Restaurant, which serves up classic British grub in a listed building. If it’s a chippy dinner you’re after, go for the originally named North Beach Fish and Chips and look out over the water as you eat.
Hornsea is a small but typically charming British coastal resort that’s perfect for weekend getaways. It’ll take you 90 minutes from Leeds and when you arrive you’ll find a picture-perfect village with a quaint promenade and a towering Yorkshire folly that overlooks a Blue Flag beach – sit back, relax and enjoy the views, or jump straight in and go for a swim. Keep an eye out for the sailing and fishing boats too, they favour the area.
There’s loads to see and do in Hornsea. The standout landmark is Hornsea Mere, the largest freshwater lake in Yorkshire, but you can also visit a host of natural attractions – Hall Garth Park and Tophill Low Nature Reserve are great if you’re looking for a walk surrounded by greenery. Bringing the kids? Spend a few hours at Bugtopia, a hands-on insect experience, and follow it up with a trip to Mr Moo’s Ice Cream Parlour. If you’re looking for somewhere to eat, The Falcon Inn is a top drawer gastropub, while The Trawlerman serves up a right-good fish and chips. You could even get a drink at the Stackhouse if you’re not driving home – they have a cracking craft beer and wine offering.
Staithes is one of Yorkshire’s best kept secrets, a charming coastal hamlet that overlooks the North Sea. It’s just one hour and forty minutes from Leeds by car and promises stunning views of the coast as well as a picturesque village worth exploring. A throwback of days gone by, it boasts narrow streets, ginnels and tall houses built into a sheltered cove at the base of a cliff. But it’s not just character, Staithes has loads of history too, because it was once one of the biggest fishing ports on the North Sea.
There’s plenty to see and do while you’re here. Relax on the small, sandy beach, take one of the old fishing boats out or nip into The Cleveland Corner Bistro, which has a reputation for working magic with fresh local seafood. It’s quite an arty town too, so Staithes Gallery and Staithes Studio are both worth a visit – alternatively, you can take on the Painted Illusion Trail that artist Paul Czainski has created. It’s also the perfect place to start a nice long walk, with coastal pathways taking you to Boulby Cliffs or Runswick Bay.
The fact that Scarborough is thought to be the world’s first seaside resort, with a history stretching back more than 400 years, makes a visit absolutely essential. Just an hour and a half from Leeds in the car, or 15 minutes less by train, Scarborough has not one, but two beaches that you’ll want to visit. South Bay is traditional, with arcades, shellfish stalls and ice cream vendors – grab a scoop in the renowned Harbour Bar. North Bay, on the other hand, is more relaxed, with sandy beaches, bright huts and even a miniature railway.
If you can peel yourself away from the beaches, there’s plenty more to do here. Try Eat Me, a great little industrial-style cafe, or Lanterna, a critically acclaimed Italian restaurant. Alternatively, you can learn about the town’s history at Scarborough Castle, which overlooks the town from the rocky headland, or at Rotunda Museum, which is believed to be the world’s first purpose built museum. Don’t pass up your chance to try out one of their two Victorian funicular lifts too, which makes getting up and down the cliffs a doddle.
As soon as you see the rugged white Bempton Cliffs, you’ll know you’re in for something special at Flamborough Head. It’s about an hour and fifty minutes from Leeds, but well worth the trip, as you take your pick of two beaches, North or South Landing. It’s got stunning panoramic views, some of the best in Yorkshire, and it’s a popular spot for all kinds of activities, from bird watching to sea canoeing, kite surfing and rock pooling.
It’s not just about activities on the beach though – there’s plenty to see and do around town. You can go and see two ancient lighthouses, the shingle dates from 1806 and the octagonal goes all the way back to 1674. A little out of the centre, you can spend a few hours exploring Danes Dyke Nature Reserve or checking out Rudson Monolith, an ancient hamlet from Neolithic times. Of course, all that sightseeing will leave you hungry, so grab fish and chips at High Street Fisheries or go for a proper meal at The Seabirds Inn. Thirsty? End your day at The Rose and Crown for a few drinks.
Robin Hood’s Bay
If you want to see the Yorkshire coast at its most beautiful, Robin Hood’s Bay is the place to go. About an hour and 45 minutes from Leeds in the car, it’s the perfect antidote to busy city life. Look out over the scenic village, where brooding cliffs meet red roofed fishing cottages and cobbled pathways lead to a rugged, unspoilt beach – it’s one of the best spots in the UK for fossil hunting.
Despite its isolation, Robin Hood’s Bay has plenty to see and do. It’s known as Smuggler’s Town, because in the 18th century it was used to smuggle alcohol, tea, French lace and cigarettes into the country, to be sold on the black market. Paul Johnston runs Smuggler’s Tours all year long, telling their interesting stories, or you can visit the Old Coastguard Station, which is now a local museum. If you want to do something a little bit different, take the short walk inland to Sneaton Forest and Falling Foss Waterfall before heading back into the village for a pint at The Laurel Inn – its unique bar is made out of rock.
Saltburn-by-the-Sea is just 90 minutes from Leeds, so you can easily do a day trip, but you might need a few days to explore everything it has to offer. There’s over a mile of golden sands stretching along the coast, where you’ll often see surfers riding waves, but that’s not the only reason to go. This Victorian coastal town has some rather unusual features – the UK’s last remaining water-balanced cliff lift will take you from the town centre down on to a 600-foot pier, which is the very last one in Yorkshire.
There’s more to see around the town – the architecture here is phenomenal, full of buildings that have been largely untouched since the 19th century. If you love nature, spend an afternoon exploring the wild side of the region with a trip to The Saltburn Valley Gardens Woodland Centre or The Danby Moor Centre. You can also get an insight to the town’s industrial past at The Cleveland Ironstone Mining Museum. Hungry? The Seaview Restaurant does a top notch fish and chips, or you can tuck into a local favourite at Yorkshire Pie and Mash. The Alexandra Vaults is a quality old school boozer for a few drinks too.
Whitby is one of the most popular seaside resorts in Yorkshire, and you’ll soon see why. About an hour and a half from Leeds in the car, it’s wonderfully picturesque with a Blue Flag beach that both grown ups and kids will love. You can also enjoy donkey rides, picnic stalls and lifeboat cruises, which sail past the fishing trawlers from the fully working harbour.
There’s more to explore in Whitby than just the waterfront though. It’s packed full of history, from Whitby Abbey’s ruins to the Captain Cook Memorial Museum and the Whale Bone Arch. You can even take the Dracula Walk around Victorian Whitby, the inspiration behind Bram Stoker’s novel. All that sun, sea and sightseeing will surely leave you hungry, and while the The Magpie may be recovering from its recent fire, The Whitby Catch, Fusco’s or Fortune’s will sate your appetite with a loaded portion of fish and chips on the Quayside. The local farmer’s market is a must visit too and if you get thirsty, The Duke of York sits at the foot of the 199 steps that lead up to the Abbey.
If you’re looking for a hidden gem, pay a visit to Runswick Bay. It’s one of the prettiest places you can visit in Yorkshire and it’s just under two hours away from Leeds. It’s a sheltered bay with a well-kept beach and red-roofed cottages towered over by the imposing Lingrow Knowle crag. It’s a great trip to go on with the little ones, because the beach, once used as anchorage for brightly coloured fishing boats, is now a prime destination for rock pooling, fossil hunting and coastal walks.
The village is just as charming as the beach. There are quaint pedestrianised lanes that weave through it, leading you to the one pub and two tiny cafes that are open here – you can go for a pint in The Royal Hotel or grab a bite to eat in either the Sandside Cafe or Runswick Bay Tea Gardens. Afterwards, climb the old stone steps to get a brilliant sea view and visit the ancient village spring. It’s also on the Cleveland Way, so if you fancy a big ramble up and down the coast, you’re in the right place.Feature image copyright Magnus Hagdorn licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.