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Visiting Ravenscar and Robin Hood’s Bay – Seals and smugglers on the Yorkshire Coast

robin hood's bay

If you’re looking for a lovely day out on the Yorkshire Coast this year, here’s a two-location trip with double the joy: a spot of seal-spotting at Ravenscar followed by a meander around the pretty seaside village of Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s an area that can get busy during the warmer months, so we wrapped up and headed along during a quiet winter weekend on the hunt for seals (and fish and chips). 


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About Ravenscar

Knowing the kids’ energy levels and the power of a promise of fish and chips, we aimed for Ravenscar first to do the popular walk down the cliff to see the seal colony. Ravenscar is a little village on the Yorkshire coast, mid-way between Whitby and Scarborough. Famed for its dramatic clifftop views, it’s an easy hour and half drive from York. There’s plenty of free, on-street parking and, while it’s a popular location with hikers and dog-walkers (and hiking dog-walkers), we had no problem finding a space. There are free public toilets, too – a godsend after a long drive with children.

Ravenscar seals

We swapped our city shoes for something more sturdy (Crocs for a cliff walk? That’s a no, even from the most liberal parent!), popped into the National Trust Ravenscar Visitor Centre to check the route and made our way across the top of the cliff towards the sea. We were glad we’d insisted on sensible footwear as the walk down was more uneven and muddy than we’d expected, but it wasn’t long before we were focusing on the incredible sea views rather than our feet. It wasn’t clear what we were seeing at first, but once we’d stopped and focused, we could make out seal after seal of all colours and sizes.

Seeing the seals at Ravenscar 

Ravenscar seals

Please note! A trip to Ravenscar is not an opportunity for a seal selfie! Humans need to keep way up from the beach to keep the seals safe, so you’ll need to manage the expectations of your little wildlife seekers and let them know that they won’t be going nose-to-nose with our fish-eating friends. However, if you check the tide times and arrive at low tide like we did, you’ll be rewarded with a panorama of seals napping on the rocks and playing in the sea. When we visited, some helpful volunteers were on hand to give us more information on the seals and even kindly lent us some binoculars for a better look. Despite not getting close to them, it was magical to see the seals doing their thing in their own habitat. 

We bid farewell to the seals and made our way back up the cliff to the warm welcome of the Ravenscar Visitor Centre for a much-needed drink. This small but perfectly formed place has a little cafe with a good selection of light refreshments, books and gifts, and plenty of visitor information. Suitably refreshed, we made the short drive along the road to Robin Hood’s Bay in search of lunch and fossils.

Visiting Robin Hood’s Bay

Even in winter, picturesque Robin Hood’s Bay is a popular place, so the car parks can fill up fast. Luck was on our side and we managed to bag a tucked-away space which we didn’t even have to pay for (some of Robin Hood’s Bay’s car parks are free during the off-peak season: bonus!). 

Robin Hood's Bay

We then made our way down the hill towards the sea, taking in the gorgeous cottages and narrow alleyways as we went – you can almost hear the echoes of smugglers past. We didn’t get far, though, before the scent of frying fish drew us into Fish Box, a lovely local chippy with indoor and outdoor seating. With a few vegetarians in the family, it can be hard to find somewhere to eat that offers something other than just chips, but Fish Box had plenty of vegetarian options including halloumi and falafels. We found an outdoor table and admired the sea views as we tucked into our food (be warned – portions are generous!). 

robin hood's bay
robin hood's bay
robin hood's bay

Appetites satisfied and batteries recharged, we wended our way down to the shore, following the most higgledy-piggledy route to take in the quirky corners and hidden alleyways. There are lots of tempting independent shops, including a sweet shop or two, and plenty of places for ice cream (a must for a seaside trip, of course). We made it onto the sandy beach to search the rock pools for treasure, but before we knew it our (sensible) shoes were full of water and the tide was coming in fast. So no fossil hunting for us this time, but it’s the perfect excuse for a return visit to this beautiful corner of the Yorkshire Coast.

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