North York Moors

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Arts and heritage

Staithes Festival of Arts & HeritageStaithes Festival of Arts & Heritage

Different ways of seeing... the sea

It might seem peaceful now, but the North York Moors Coast has a surprisingly industrial side to its past. Ironstone from the moors was shipped to the foundries of Teesside, and jet has been mined on the coast since prehistoric times. 

Blue wave by Ailsa NicholsonBut its beauty has attracted countless generations of artists too who’ve loved the special light, the impact of nature on the landscape and the incredible skies above the coastline. 

In the 19th century the “Staithes Group”, an art colony of around 25 artists, inspired others to come to the North York Moors Coast to paint and enjoy the special light.  

Increasing numbers of artists continue to come in search of inspiration and a sense of freedom, thanks to the refreshing open spaces of the moors, and the wide sea vistas. Their creativity is fuelled by the towering cliffs and cottages huddled around the historic harbours.

Use the dropdown menu above to find just a few of the contemporary artists and makers who are inspired by the North York Moors varied land- and seascapes, and where to purchase their work. See examples of some of their work in our coastal brochure too.

Public artwork to seek out

Fishing Floats on Paul Czainski's Staithes Illusion Trail Credit Tony BartholomewThe North York Moors is full of interesting outdoor art, from sculptures and mosaics to trompe l'oeil and beautiful mosaics. Here's a few highlights to discover.

  • Seek out the sea wall (follow the signs around the village) at Robin Hood’s Bay where you’ll find a mosaic storyboard tracing 190 million years of history from dinosaurs, shipwrecks and smuggling through to the village today. ‘The Story of Bay – Footprints through Time’, created by artist Ruth Wilkinson using 300,000 tiles, draws on ideas from residents, visitors, local artists and historians.
  • One of sculptor Emma Stothard's amazing Coronation Lobsters welcomes you to the Bank Top carpark in Staithes. Then follow the Staithes Illusion Trail, a series of trompe l’oeil works created by talented artist Paul Czainski which are on buildings across the village, taking visitors off the beaten track. 
  • Enjoy the tranquil garden at St. Peter's Centre in Staithes - look for the mermaid and fish carvings created by local chainsaw sculptor Steve Iredale.
  • Look out for the ceramic of the flood and merman (both at Riverside Building), the carved fisherman in his restored coble, the Pigeon man, the anchor of the Sylvania and the 18ft long 'Evolution of Life in the Sea' mural on the Skinningrove Public Art Trail. There's also the Village storywall mosaic featuring work by local artists Derek Mosey and Helen Gaunt and the local community. Panels show various aspects of Skinningrove's history. Download a pdf copy of the Art Trail.
  • Keep an eye out for three sculptures designed in steel to reflect the historic importance of the local metal-working industries when walking along the Cleveland Way National Trail from Saltburn’s seafront up onto Huntcliff. The large metal fish represents the fishing heritage; the unusual marker post denotes earth, air, sky and water; while the metal ring has 10 charms that each symbolize a piece of local folklore or culture.

Galleries and open studios

The area is packed with high quality galleries where you can see work by local artists and craftspeople.

Find even more galleries here

Want to try for yourself?

For those wanting to be more hands on or develop their own artistic talents.

  • Try your hand at painting by booking onto one of the weekends held at Staithes Art School, or join one of the Printing from Nature courses held by Stef Mitchell
  • Cober Hill is a sought-after facility for various short break art and craft courses from painting and photography to stained glass and jewelley-making

See other ideas for workshops and experiences too.