Is Runswick Bay one of Yorkshire’s best kept secrets?

The sun shines on Runswick Bay. Picture by Gerard Binks.
The sun shines on Runswick Bay. Picture by Gerard Binks.
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EVEN ON an unseasonably cold and rainswept Easter weekend the beauty of the Cleveland Way trail between Staithes and Sandsend did not lose its appeal.

At one stage, I stood shivering on the headland of Kettleness and turned my face into the stinging northeasterly to look back over Runswick Bay, still managing to obtain nothing but undiminished joy from my surroundings and remembering those famous John Ruskin words: “There is really no such thing as bad weather, only different kinds of good weather.”

A view southwards from the Cleveland Way towards Runswick Bay and Kettleness. Picture by Roger Ratcliffe.

A view southwards from the Cleveland Way towards Runswick Bay and Kettleness. Picture by Roger Ratcliffe.

Perhaps this thought would not have occurred to me had I been walking along the drawing-board-straight and - on such a day - irredeemably dull Holderness coast that stretches south from Bridlington. That’s because Runswick Bay could not be more aesthetically pleasing.

It is the most perfectly formed of all Yorkshire’s bays, comprising a fine crescent of sand overlooked by a huddle of red-roofed cottages all neatly wrapped in the sheltering embrace of soaring cliffs.

I can’t find any record of John Ruskin visiting Runswick Bay, although on the other side of Yorkshire his name will be forever associated with the view over the River Lune from Kirkby Lonsdale, which he described as the most “naturally divine” in England.

For decades the so-called Ruskin’s View was obscured by trees and bushes until a clearing operation last year by the Yorkshire Dales National Park. But I have no doubt that Runswick would have appealed to Ruskin’s artists’ eye.

In fact, along with Staithes the village became home to a highly regarded colony of artists between the early 1880s and the outbreak of the First World War, and paintings by Frederick William Jackson (1859-1918), Henry Silkstone Hopwood (1860-1914), William Gilbert Foster (1855- 1906) and Mark Senior (1864-1927) are now highly collectible. Even a decade ago one of Foster’s works sold at auction for $11,000.

More recently, a regular holidaymaker in the village was the late James Herriot, Thirsk vet and All Creatures Great and Small author, who described the bay as “so picturesque and scenic that it hardly seems real.”

Yet those lists of best bays and beaches always miss out Runswick. Being compiled in London, they tend to favour the South Coast and the West Country. And coincidentally, after my visit to Runswick Bay I found another of these surveys in a national newspaper, and again Runswick failed to get a mention.

The only “Yorkshire” bay to feature in a list of 40 was Cattersty Sands near Saltburn-by-the-Sea (given a derisory placing of number 40), but that has not been part of Yorkshire since 1974’s boundary changes.

To my eye, the view over Cattersty is disfigured by a somewhat dilapidated jetty built in 1886 for loading ironstone from a nearby mine, and the adjacent village of Skinningrove lacks charm.

In the end, my annoyance that Runswick Bay still failed to get the credit it is due was tempered by the thought that, actually, it’s better off being Yorkshire’s best-kept secret.