The North York Moors is the childhood home to one of the world’s most successful explorers, Captain James Cook, and traces of his early life can still be seen today in and around the coastal towns and moorland villages.
Cook and the coast
James Cook was born on 27 October 1728 in Marton. In 1736, the family moved to Aireyholme Farm, near Great Ayton, where Cook attended the village school from the age of eight.
In 1746, Cook moved to Whitby to start work as an apprentice seaman to Master Mariner John Walker. When not at sea, Walker lodged Cook in the house he and his brother owned in Grape Lane, which is now the Captain Cook Memorial Museum. His eagerness to learn earned him vital command skills such as navigation and astronomy. Soon he received an invitation to command one of the coal ships, which he turned down in favour of enlisting as an able seaman in the Royal Navy. Before long, he had risen through the ranks, commanding a number of ships under the Royal Navy fleet.
Cook’s navigational skills were instrumental in mapping Newfoundland, which brought him to the attention of the Admiralty and The Royal Society. This led to his commission in 1768 as Commander of HM Bark Endeavour for the first of three Pacific voyages.
Trace the footsteps of Cook's childhood
Take yourself on a journey through Cook's early life in the North York Moors and visit the numerous museums, monuments and attractions nestled amongst the area that tell the story of the famous explorer.
Look Out! Trail
Follow in the footsteps of Captain Cook and discover the hidden treasures located within the North York Moors. You can pick up a Look Out! Trail in our National Park Centres at Sutton Bank and Danby and from various Tourism Information Centres, accommodation providers and attractions, or download the Trail below and make your way around the North York Moors to uncover the clues that lead you to Captain Cook’s treasures.
Will you be the next great explorer? Try and uncover all the answers to the clues. If you get stuck, you can find the answers here.
Walks & tours
To follow in the footsteps of Cook's childhood, enjoy our classic 7 mile circular walk that takes in two iconic landscapes - Cook’s Monument and Roseberry Topping, often climbed by the young Cook it offers stunning views of the heather moorland and coast.
A smaller replica of Cook’s original ship, the Bark Endeavour offers scenic trips around Whitby harbour and along the coast to Sandsend, accompanied by traditional sea shanties and tales of the life of Cook and the history of Whitby.
Starting in November 2018, a new day trip from York provides the opportunity to visit Great Ayton, Staithes and Whitby. It offers the chance to see moors and coast with time to explore Whitby too. Available for individual bookings or private tour.
Activities to commemorate the 250th anniversary
2018 marks the 250th anniversary of James Cook setting sail on HM Bark Endeavour to observe the transit of Venus across the Sun in the Pacific Ocean and travel further to explore Australia and New Zealand.
Head to Whitby Abbey (every weekend 7-29 July except 14/15) for Captain Cook, a Time Will Tell theatre play transporting you back to an age of exploration and discovery, marking the anniversary of Cook's expedition.
Staithes Festival of Arts & Heritage (9-10 September) will include a life-size polar bear made of white willow created by sculptor Emma Stothard, inspired by Cook’s final voyage in search of the North West passage where he encountered polar bears.
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