Robin Hood’s Bay on the Yorkshire Coast

Thursday, 27 July 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
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Robin Hood's Bay as seen from the shore © Kreuzschnabel/cc-by-sa-3.0

Robin Hood’s Bay as seen from the shore © Kreuzschnabel/cc-by-sa-3.0

Robin Hood’s Bay is a village in North Yorkshire, England. It is 6 miles (10 km) south of Whitby and 15 miles (24 km) north of Scarborough on the Yorkshire Coast. It is an ancient chapelry of Fylingdales in the wapentake of Whitby Strand. It is on the Cleveland Way national trail and also the end point of Wainwright’s Coast to Coast route.

The origin of the name is uncertain, and it is doubtful that Robin Hood was ever in the vicinity of the village. It is attested to in the early sixteenth century as “Robyn Hoodis Baye” in 1544. The English ballad The Noble Fisherman tells a story of Robin Hood visiting Scarborough, taking a job as a fisherman, defeating French pirates with his archery skills, and using half the looted treasure to build a home for the poor. However, the ballad is only attested to in the 17th century at the earliest. It is considered more likely to be a work original to the 17th century rather than an older medieval popular legend passed down, and very unlikely to be based on any historical incident. However, it is possible the author knew of Robin Hood’s Bay, and sought to tie the story they wrote to the Scarborough area to explain and justify the name.

The village, which consists of a maze of tiny streets, has a tradition of smuggling, and there is reputed to be a network of subterranean passageways linking the houses. During the late 18th century smuggling was rife on the Yorkshire coast. Vessels from the continent brought contraband which was distributed by contacts on land and the operations were financed by syndicates who made profits without the risks taken by the seamen and the villagers. Tea, gin, rum, brandy and tobacco were among the contraband smuggled into Yorkshire from the Netherlands and France to avoid the duty. In 1773 two excise cutters, the Mermaid and the Eagle, were outgunned and chased out of the bay by three smuggling vessels, a schooner and two shallops. A pitched battle between smugglers and excise men took place in the dock over 200 casks of brandy and geneva (gin) and 15 bags of tea in 1779.

© panoramio.com - Paul Lakin/cc-by-3.0 Bay Bank © geograph.org.uk - Humphrey Bolton/cc-by-sa-2.0 Leafs Shop Muir Lea © chris_debian/cc-by-sa-4.0 New Road, leading down to the sea shore © Nigel Coates/cc-by-sa-3.0 The Bay Hotel © panoramio.com - Paul Lakin/cc-by-3.0 The Laurel Inn © chris_debian/cc-by-sa-4.0 Victoria Hotel © panoramio.com - Paul Lakin/cc-by-3.0 Robin Hood's Bay as seen from the shore © Kreuzschnabel/cc-by-sa-3.0 Robin Hood's Bay from Cleveland Way © James F. Carter/cc-by-sa-2.5 © panoramio.com - Paul Lakin/cc-by-3.0
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Robin Hood's Bay as seen from the shore © Kreuzschnabel/cc-by-sa-3.0
Fishing and farming were the original occupations followed by generations of Bay folk. Many houses in the village were built between 1650 and 1750 and whole families were involved in the fishing industry. Many families owned or part-owned cobles. Later some owned ocean-going craft. Fishing reached its peak in the mid 19th century, fishermen used the coble for line fishing in winter and a larger boat for herring fishing. Fish was loaded into panniers and men and women walked or rode over the moorland tracks to Pickering or York. A plaque in the village records that a brig named “Visiter” ran aground in Robin Hood’s Bay on 18 January 1881 during a violent storm. In order to save the crew, the lifeboat from Whitby was pulled 6 miles (9.7 km) overland by 18 horses, with the 7-foot (2.1 m) deep snowdrifts present at the time cleared by 200 men. The road down to the sea through Robin Hood’s Bay village was narrow and had awkward bends, and men had to go ahead demolishing garden walls and uprooting bushes to make a way for the lifeboat carriage. It was launched two hours after leaving Whitby, with the crew of the “Visiter” rescued on the second attempt. The main legitimate activity had always been fishing, but this started to decline in the late 19th century. These days most of its income comes from tourism. Robin Hood’s Bay is also known for the large number of fossils which may be found on its beach. The foreshore rocks on the north side of the bay, in particular, are a well known location for finding ammonites, especially after winter storms. In 1912, Professor Walter Garstang of Leeds University, in cooperation with Professor Alfred Denny of the University of Sheffield, established the Robin Hood’s Bay Marine Laboratory, which continued on the site for the next 71 years, closing in 1983.

Robin Hood’s Bay is built in a fissure between two steep cliffs. The village houses were built mostly of sandstone with red-tiled roofs. The main street is New Road, which descends from the cliff top where the manor-house, the newer houses and the church of St Stephen stand. It passes through the village crossing the King’s Beck and reaches the beach by a cobbled slipway known as Wayfoot where the beck discharges onto the beach. The cliffs are composed of Upper Lias shale capped by Dogger and False Bedded Sandstones and shales of the Lower Oolite. The Wine Haven Profile near Robin Hood’s Bay is the Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) of the Pliensbachian Epoch (183,0–189,6 mya), one of four chronographic substages of Early Jurassic Epoch. The headlands at each end of the beach are known as Ness Point or North Cheek (north) and Old Peak or South Cheek (south).

The village was once served by Robin Hood’s Bay railway station on the Scarborough and Whitby Railway line which opened in 1885 and closed in 1965. The track of the old railway is now a footpath and cycleway. The nearest railway station is in Whitby. The village connects to the A171 allowing access to Whitby and Scarborough. The X93 Arriva bus service between Scarborough and Middlesbrough passes through Robin Hood’s Bay every hour, increasing to every 30 minutes or every 20 minutes during the summer. Robin Hood’s Bay is the eastern terminus of Wainwright‘s Coast to Coast Walk. Robin Hood’s Bay is also on the coastal section of the Cleveland Way, a long-distance footpath.

Read more on robin-hoods-bay.co.uk, yorkshire.com – Robin Hood’s Bay and Wikipedia Robin Hood’s Bay (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.






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