North York Moors

North York Moors logo
Browse section

Walkers mark the Cleveland Way's 50th anniversary by retracing the first footsteps on the national trail

The Cleveland Way National Trail across Runswick Bay beach in the North York Moors National Park Credit Tony BartholomewThe Cleveland Way National Trail across Runswick Bay beach in the North York Moors National Park Credit Tony Bartholomew

Friday 24 May

Cleveland Way 50th logoHalf a century ago the 109-mile Cleveland Way National Trail was launched.

The trail, which runs in a horseshoe loop across the North York Moors National Park from Helmsley to Saltburn before following the coastline down to Filey Brigg, has since been enjoyed by millions of people from hikers and runners through to artists, stargazers and bird watchers.

To mark the 50th anniversary on May 24 more than 150 walkers will today retrace the steps of the early walkers by striding out along a three-mile stretch of the trail, aptly known as the Pilgrim’s Walk, from YHA Helmsley to Rievaulx Abbey.

Leading the group will be apprentices from the North York Moors National Park kitted out in 1960s walking gear, including plus fours, thick socks and carrying bulky canvas rucksacks – a world away from today’s lightweight hiking equipment.

The day will also see the first showing of a new video about the Cleveland Way produced by students from Teesside University (link to the new film here updating the original public information film that was created back in the 1970s.

The event will celebrate those early years back in the 1930s when the YHA (England and Wales) first mooted the idea of a long distance path linking the Hambleton Drove Road, the Cleveland escarpment and the coastal footpaths.

From 1953 when the National Parks Commission and local authorities first proposed the creation of a route to the North Riding County Council it took a further 16 years before the Cleveland Way came into existence.

Since then the National Trail, which is managed through the Cleveland Way Partnership by the North York Moors National Park Authority and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council, has become one of the UK’s rural treasures, carving out its own history while also providing the backdrop for many other events including:  

  • 1990s – a massive restoration programme on the Cleveland Way which had suffered from major erosion due to the popularity of the trail.  
  • 2015 – Helmsley Brewing Company creating the trail’s official beer, Striding the Riding
  • 2015 – Cleveland Way Adoption Scheme being launched resulting in an army of volunteers helping to maintain the trail.  
  • July 2016 – Natural England opening the latest stretch of the England Coast Path along a 50-mile stretch of the Cleveland Way from Saltburn to Filey  
  • December 2016 – the Cleveland Way going live on Google Streetview following months of mapping the route with cameras to provide 360º views.
  • The rolling back of the route in places by around 20 metres during the 50 years due to coastal erosion.  
  • April 2018 – Cleveland Way voted the nation’s favourite National Trail in a Facebook poll.
  • April 2019 – a new vehicle helping rangers maintain the trail, purchased with a donation by the Hardmoors Race Series from money raised through race entries.  

Malcolm Hodgson, Cleveland Way trail manager commented: “The success of the trail over the years has been due to the hard work of our volunteers and bodies such as Natural England, the National Park, YHA, English Heritage and National Trust in helping to preserve the route and the qualities that make it so special for thousands of people each year.”

James Blake, YHA (England and Wales) Chief Executive, added: “YHA has long been an advocate of access to the countryside. This was the case when we first mooted the idea of the Cleveland Way and remains so today. The five youth hostels we have along the Cleveland Way are hugely popular and over the years have enabled thousands of school children to discover the transformative power of having adventures in this fantastic landscape. As a leading youth charity we remain as committed now as we were in 1969 to ensure the Cleveland Way is accessible to the people who need it the most - young people and their families.”

Defra Minister Lord Gardiner said: “For half a century, this famous walking route has given thousands of visitors the chance to access fabulous views and landscapes – from stunning moorland to precious ancient woodland and breathtaking coastlines.

“As we mark the 50th anniversary of the Cleveland Way, I am delighted to celebrate the important role National Trails play in allowing us all to experience the benefits of the natural environment and connect with the beauty of the English countryside.”

Natural England interim Chief Executive Marian Spain said:  “Cleveland Way takes walkers on a journey through some of the most stunning and diverse landscapes in Britain, from picture-postcard villages to big-sky moorland and dramatic coastline.  

“Three years ago Natural England opened an additional 50-mile stretch of the England Coast Path from Saltburn to Filey, much of which follows the existing Cleveland Way, and we’re proud to be back today celebrating the trail’s 50th anniversary. National Trails are the jewels in the rights of way crown and Cleveland Way is a perfect example of how these routes can help people of all ages and places enjoy the great outdoors.”  

Events marking the anniversary continue into the summer. For more information, go to


Notes to editors:

YHA (England and Wales)
The YHA has five hostels along the Cleveland Way, at Helmsley, Osmotherley, Whitby, Boggle Hole and Scarborough.

National Trails
National Trails are long distance routes for walking, running and sometimes cycling and horse riding through the finest landscapes in England and Wales. Altogether there are about 2,500 miles (4,000km) of National Trails in England and Wales. There are 15 Trails in England and Wales.

The Cleveland Way was the second National Trail to open. The trail launched on 24 May 1969. It runs for 109 miles in a horseshoe loop across much of the North York Moors National Park between Helmsley and Filey. The coastal Cleveland Way follows part of the England Coast Path, which will be 2,795 miles (4,500km) long when it is completed in 2020.

The Cleveland Way attracts thousands of visitors every year, mainly from the UK, but also from all over the world, especially the Netherlands and Germany.

The Cleveland Way is managed through the Cleveland Way Partnership by the North York Moors National Park Authority and Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council. Most of the funding for the National Trail comes from Natural England with additional support from the managing authorities.

The North York Moors National Park
The North York Moors is a beautiful landscape of stunning moorland, ancient woodland and historic sites. Created on 28 November 1952 it became Britain’s sixth national park. Covering an area of 554 square miles (1,436 square kilometres), the National Park has 26 miles of coastline, two national nature reserves, 840 Scheduled Monuments and over 3,000 listed buildings, attracting an estimated 7.6 million visitors a year.

The North York Moors National Park Authority works with a wide variety of people to care for this beautiful corner of Yorkshire, providing apprenticeships and volunteering opportunities with nearly 14% of staff being apprentices from local families.

To view other press releases and for further information about the North York Moors National Park, visit

For further information and images please contact Amanda Brown at A2BPR on:
T: 01423 740048
M: 07876 452580

Or Nina Beadle, Communications Officer, North York Moors National Park Authority:
T: 01439 772700