North York Moors

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Coast

Staithes by Mike KiplingStaithes by Mike Kipling

At the eastern edge of the National Park, the land meets the North Sea. For thousands of years rain, ice, wind and waves – not to mention the actions of people – have modified this coastline into a varied and fascinating landscape.  

There are towering cliffs and rocky shores, steep wooded valleys (or 'wykes)', and sheltered bays and sandy beaches. It’s a coastline of dramatic views, with the highest point on the east coast of England found at Boulby, near Staithes, where the cliffs are a mighty 200 metres (656 feet) high. Elsewhere, you’ll find wild flowers, nesting seabirds and abundant shore life, while dotted along the coast are attractive villages and the remains of ancient industries.  

The coast is also internationally important for its geology. Indeed, it was here, in the nineteenth century, that geologists like William ‘Strata’ Smith laid many of the foundations of the early science. The rocks on the cliffs and shore formed during the Jurassic period, around 180 million years ago. These sandstones and shales contain fossilised remains of the plants and animals that lived at this time, from ammonites to dinosaur footprints.

North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast

In England and Wales the most beautiful and unspoilt stretches of coast have been given special status to ensure they are cared for by local authorities and government agencies. These iconic coastlines are called ‘Heritage Coasts’ and there are over 40 around the coast of England and Wales. 

The North Yorkshire and Cleveland Heritage Coast is 36 miles long and stretches from Saltburn, just north of the National Park, down to Scalby Mills near Scarborough. It’s managed by the National Park Authority on behalf of the North Yorkshire and Cleveland Coastal Forum, which is a coastal partnership of several local authorities and relevant organisations that have an interest in and responsibility for coastal management.

The Heritage Coast is a fascinating area to explore and enjoy, but the coast can also be a hazardous place to visit if you don’t follow a few basic safety precautions. Download the Coastal Safety Code (pdf) and stay safe on the coast. 

Cleveland Way National Trail

Walker on Cleveland WayOne of the best ways to enjoy the coastline of the North York Moors National Park is to walk along the cliff path, which forms part of the Cleveland Way National Trail. The full coastal section from Saltburn to Filey is 53 miles, but you can also walk shorter distances between the towns and villages – see the Top 10 Trails website for more ideas. 

Walks along the National Park coast are also available as free downloadable routes from the walking area of our website.

Dig deeper

To find out more about the management of the coast, you can access policy documents, strategies, surveys, reports and plans by the National Park Authority and other organisations.