Once a busy fishing community, Staithes is a historical fishing village on the North York Moors coast. Filled with whitewashed, pantile-roofed cottages clinging to the hillside; and threaded with narrow alleys that lead to rugged coastlines, Staithes will surely charm your socks off! Located in the Scarborough Borough of North Yorkshire in England, it lies just 10 miles from the larger (and more well-known) seaside town of Whitby. For history-buffs, let me tell you that this village was the home of the famous Royal Navy explorer Captain James Cook!
Traditionally, Staithes has also been a huge draw for artists; with the annual Staithes Festival of Arts & Heritage celebrated each year between 10-11 September. During this time, many homes and shops are converted into art galleries and pop-up cafes; and street food stalls cater for the thousands of visitors who come down to the village.
Make a trip to this gorgeous fishing village which is brimming with character, and has a rich maritime heritage. Here are the things you can do in this picturesque village:
1Take a walk
As the village is nestled in a bay between two cliffs, the views are fantastic from all over Staithes. You can easily walk up onto the cliffs via the end of Church Street (the other end of the harbour from the High Street) for great views across the sea and Staithes itself, or walk westwards to Boulby (follow Cow Bar bank) for two kilometres along the coast path (the Cleveland Way) to be the higher than anyone else on the east coast of England.
Don’t forget to explore the old village through its fascinating alleys and ginnels while you are visiting Staithes. Winding through the village’s cottages and cobbled streets, each alley boasts a quaint name, such as ‘Dog Loup Alley‘—which is the narrowest alley in the world at just 18 inches wide! You will discover a different side to Staithes through these exploratory walks and you along with that you will get lots of opportunities to take a unique and quirky photograph of Staithes from all angles!
2See the Painted Illusion Trail
There is also an illusion trail around the village created in 2014 by a local artist Paul Czainski. It includes 8 realistic ‘illusions’ painted on buildings around the hidden corners of the village such as mermaids with mirrors and a representation of Noah’s ark in the style of the trompe l’oeil paintings, which depict realistic images to create an optical illusion of 3D.
3Visit Staithes Beach
Staithes has a small sandy beach which is at low tide only. This stretch of coast is also famous for rock pooling. A trip to seaside cannot be considered complete without a bit of rock pooling in the abundant rock pools left at low tide between Staithes and Port Mulgrave.
The water quality of the beach, however, is notoriously bad. In fact, over recent years there have been quite active discussions as to whether to remove it from the UK’s official list of bathing beaches. So, I would suggest you check first and then, go for anything other than paddling.
4Hunt for the many fossils
The long stretch of the coastline is sometimes referred to as the Dinosaur Coast and is a popular spot for fossil hunters’ palaeontologists and dinosaur fans from across the country. In fact, the abundance of fossils in the area has led to this part of the Jurassic coastline being given heritage coast status. However, please take care while you are around the cliff face as falling rocks can be very dangerous.
It’s up to you to go for an organised fossil hunting trip or, for the more experienced, explore independently in and around Staithes and Runswick Bay.
5See the Art Gallery
Fans of art and history will love to stroll through this pretty town’s narrow cobbled streets and pay a visit to the elegant Staithes Art Gallery. As told above, Staithes has always been a magnet for artists who come to admire the beautiful coastal scenery, traditional fishing scenes and village ambience, and immortalising them on canvas.
6Learn about its local history
Nestled between two cliffs, the sleepy hamlet gives the illusion as if nothing has changed since for hundreds of years. The name Staithes comes from the Viking word meaning ‘landing place’. Years ago, around 80 boats made Staithes of the largest fishing ports in the area. Nowadays most of the vessels are pleasure boats but there is still a lifeboat as there has been since 1875.
7Captain Cook & Staithes Heritage Centre
A recreation of the shop where James Cook worked during his residency here, the museum is a treasure-trove of over 200 books, engravings, letters, medals and more, providing an insight into his life and career, as well as into Staithes itself. A fascinating museum like no other; with a plethora of intriguing artefacts relating to Captain Cook; as well as other items and documents relating to the history of the village.
You can also visit ‘Captain Cook’s Cottage’ (photography opportunity only), and the Captain Cook Inn – a lovely pub and hotel overlooking the sea.
Staithes is situated in the north-east of the Yorkshire Moors National Park. Therefore, you can simply sit and enjoy the fabulous views across the sea; or over the North York Moors National Park as well. The cliffs surrounding the village make Staithes very compact but therefore easy to stroll around. Behind the harbour area, there is a warren of picturesque narrow streets to explore the dramatic coastlines and heather moorlands.
Also Read: A Quick Guide To The Channel Islands
Go ahead and discover little joys of this charming little village on your own; and let us know about your experiences in the comments below!