Last updated 19th January 2023
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. Other than short tarmacked sections in Scarborough and Whitby, it's like a typical British bridleway, and therefore a mountain bike or gravel bike is your best bet.
Bayhire Scarborough rent out top-of-the-range mountain bikes and high-spec Trek e-bikes in Scarborough and Whitby. They are conveniently located near the start of the Cinder Track in Scarborough, at Scardale Crescent.
For those who wish to cycle the Cinder Track one way only, Bayhire now offer a drop off and collection service to and from Whitby and Scarborough.
The route is quite well signposted all the way along, and there are great views of the coast at times.
The distance from Scarborough to Whitby along the Cinder Track is 21 miles, so it's possible for reasonably strong cyclists to ride the 42 miles there and back.
Distance: 21 miles
each way, so 42 miles there and back
Time: 4-5h there and back
This is a Google map of the Cinder Track:
This is the ride on Plotaroute; you can download a navigation file from there.
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.
Sustrans has a leaflet for part of the Cinder Track, Scarborough to Hayburn Wyke, which is Stage 21 of the Slow Tour of Yorkshire.
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. A Cinder Track - Where Will It Take You? board marks the start point.
On the way out of Scarborough, the Cinder Track runs alongside a park, and here there is a tarmac surface. The path has been widened and resurfaced.
After about 2miles, the path reaches Scalby and a little residential cul-de-sac called Chichester Close. 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, a sign directs you to the right, and you're back on a path again.
The next point on the route is the village of Burniston. The path crosses Burniston Beck on a rather sweet little wooden bridge (which is eventually going to be replaced as part of Cinder Track restoration). It meets the busy A165 main road, but the signing is good, and there's a Toucan crossing.
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.
The Cinder Track route crosses a minor road (Newlands Lane/Salt Pans Road), and carries on beyond a gate.
Beyond Cloughton, the track starts to climb, with a reasonably gentle but definitely noticeable gradient. It's uphill from here more or less all the way to Ravenscar, which is the high point of the route. The Cinder Track is quite hilly for a railway path.
The path passes a picturesque pub and hotel, the Hayburn Wyke. You can walk from the hotel to a secluded bay with its own little waterfall, also called Hayburn Wyke. The Cinder Track is bordered by trees here, and this is one of the muddiest sections.
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.
Out in the open again, near the village of Staintondale, there are picturesque views of farm buildings and a wind turbine.
Soon after, you're by the coast and can look out to sea.
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.
This information board tells you about the radar station (click to enlarge):
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.
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.
An information board explains the story of Ravenscar (click to enlarge):
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.
The Cinder Track route is on Station Road, as far as the entrance to the Raven Hall Hotel. This may perhaps be the site of a Roman signal station. The Hall was owned by the doctor who treated King George III for porphyria.
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.
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, and with a kerb, so that you have to get on at the start, not part way up or down.
At the time of writing (August 2022), Ravenscar to Robin Hood's Bay is the worst surfaced section.
There are more views towards Robin Hood's Bay as you continue along the track around Stoupe Brow.
Swallows nest in an open barn at the farm on the left (Browside Farm).
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).
The route beyond Robin Hood's Bay, back on the Cinder Track, curves past Ness Point.
Reaching Hawsker, the Cinder Track crosses the busy A171 at a 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 note on their website says they are closed in Summer 2022.
The path then runs past Stainsacre. This section has been improved, with a crushed stone surface; it will inevitably get covered in mud again though, unless it is maintained. The Cinder Track reaches the Larpool Viaduct, which took the railway over the river Esk.
Cycling over the Larpool Viaduct is one of the special moments on this route. There are distant views of Whitby Abbey and Whitby church.
Looking down at the Esk, I saw a kingfisher flying low over the water and landing on a wooden post.
From the Larpool Viaduct to Whitby, the Cinder Track has been tarmacked. This was previously one of the muddiest sections, so it's a necessary improvement.
At the end of the Cinder Track, signs direct you down a steep ramp to the left, and you emerge on South End Gardens - see the Whitby access section below for a map. Turn right down South End Gardens, then continue down Bagdale/New Quay Road, to get to Whitby harbour.
Return by the way you came.
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. Of course it should now be called Waitrose Park.
This map shows Sainsbury's and the start of the Cinder Track (marked as a blue dotted line):
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.
This map shows the start of the Cinder Track in Whitby at South End Gardens (the track shown as a blue dotted line):
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. Also, 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.
In April 2016, Sustrans produced a draft plan for the restoration of the Cinder Track. A consultation followed, with public meetings in May 2016.
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 recognised that the surface of the path has deteriorated, and it needs substantial, coordinated investment to put it right.
Drainage was identified as an important problem, which it clearly is.
Larpool Viaduct to Whitby was one of the muddiest stretches, and this has now been resolved. Drainage issues remain in other places.
The idea in the plan was that a new surface would allow the Cinder Track to be marketed and used all year by locals and visitors.
Tarmac has been used in the towns at either end, and my impression is that crushed stone has been chosen for some other sections. Crushed stone is ok at first, but it does collect mud and deteriorate quickly.
In September 2018, Scarborough Borough Council produced a new draft Restoration Plan. It recognised the poor condition of the track, its eroded surface, and the fact that drainage was largely blocked, so that the track itself had become the drain in places. The council also took account of many of the objections made to the 2016 restoration plan, and said it intended to show sensitivity to flora and fauna in any works.
Track width was to remain the same in some more rural locations, and tarmac would only be used at the Whitby end as far as the Larpool Viaduct, for a short section at Robin Hoods Bay, and in Scarborough. The main new surface material was to be Ultitrec, which is made from 'recycled road arisings', whatever they may be. Resurfaced sections would generally be 3m wide.
The plan also mentioned opening up Ravenscar Tunnel. Access to the centre of Whitby could be improved, for example with a route along the Esk.
The total bill for the improvements the council would like to make was £3.5 million, and funding was to be found, rather than already in place.
On 21st March 2019, the Department for Transport announced a total of £23 million for cycling and walking, including £21 million for the Sustrans National Cycle Network. One of the projects that was to receive funding was 'refurbishing and upgrading Cinder Track North in Whitby to improve access to a substantial new housing development.'
The Whitby and Scarborough ends have been tarmacked and widened, but remain shared use. Best practice in LTN 1/20 Cycle Infrastructure Design says pedestrians and cyclists should be separated with levels or a kerb.
Whitby to Hawsker was Phase 1.
Scarborough was part of the second phase of work. Phase 2 was a £490,000 scheme that covered the Cinder Track from Scarborough to Burniston, and lasted until early Autumn 2022.
Now Phase 3 is proposed, between Burniston and Cloughton.
On 17th January 2023 Scarborough BC accepted a grant from Sustrans and agreed that Sustrans should use the funding to resurface a 2.5km stretch from Burniston to Cloughton. The surface will be Flexi-Pave.
It has taken 6 years to tackle relatively short sections at either end. Unless the pace of work accelerates, it is going to be decades before the whole Cinder Track is in good condition. The latest news about Burniston to Cloughton represents a promising sign, though.
Garmin Edge Explore, £220 at the time of writing.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
Bike hire in Scarborough is available from Bayhire.
They do drop-off and collection at Whitby and Scarborough for those that wish to cycle one way only.
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