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Robin Hood's Bay

Coordinates: 54°26′04″N 0°32′04″W / 54.4345°N 0.5344°W / 54.4345; -0.5344
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Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood's Bay is located in North Yorkshire
Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood's Bay
Location within North Yorkshire
OS grid referenceNZ950053
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Post townWhitby
Postcode districtYO22
Dialling code01947
PoliceNorth Yorkshire
FireNorth Yorkshire
UK Parliament
List of places
54°26′04″N 0°32′04″W / 54.4345°N 0.5344°W / 54.4345; -0.5344

Robin Hood's Bay is a village in North Yorkshire, England. It is 6 miles (10 km) south of Whitby and 15 miles (24 km) north of Scarborough on the Yorkshire Coast.

It is an ancient chapelry of Fylingdales in the wapentake of Whitby Strand. It is on the Cleveland Way national trail and also the end point of Wainwright's Coast to Coast route.


"Whitby, Robin Hood's Bay, Yorkshire, England", c. 1890 – 1900


The origin of the name is uncertain, and it is doubtful that Robin Hood was ever in the vicinity of the village. It is attested to in the early sixteenth century as "Robyn Hoodis Baye" in 1544. The English ballad The Noble Fisherman tells a story of Robin Hood visiting Scarborough, taking a job as a fisherman, defeating French pirates with his archery skills, and using half the looted treasure to build a home for the poor. However, the ballad is only attested to in the 17th century at the earliest. It is considered more likely to be a work original to the 17th century rather than an older medieval popular legend passed down, and very unlikely to be based on any historical incident. However, it is possible the author knew of Robin Hood's Bay, and sought to tie the story they wrote to the Scarborough area to explain and justify the name.[1][2]

Early history[edit]

By about 1000 the neighbouring hamlet of Raw and the village of Thorpe (Fylingthorpe) in Fylingdales had been settled by Norwegians and Danes. After the Norman conquest in 1069 much land in Northern England, including Fylingdales, was laid waste. William the Conqueror gave Fylingdales to Tancred the Fleming who later sold it to the Abbot of Whitby.[3]

In the period 1324–1346 there was an early reference to Robin Hood's Bay. Louis I, Count of Flanders, wrote a letter to King Edward III in which he complained that Flemish fishermen together with their boats and catches were taken by force to Robyn Oeds Bay.[4][5] The settlements were about a mile inland at Raw but by about 1500 a settlement had grown up on the coast. "Robin Hoode Baye" was mentioned by Leland in 1536 who described it as,[6]

"A fischer tounlet of 20 bootes with Dok or Bosom of a mile yn length."[7]

Fisher folk, Robin Hood's Bay, 1880, by Frank Sutcliffe
Robin Hood's Bay Sculpture

After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, Whitby Abbey and its lands became the property of King Henry VIII with King Street and King's Beck dating from this time.[8]

In the 16th century, Robin Hood's Bay was a more important port than Whitby, it is described by a tiny picture of tall houses and an anchor on old North Sea charts published by Waghenaer in 1586 and now in Rotterdam's Maritime Museum.[9]


The village, which consists of a maze of tiny streets, has a tradition of smuggling, and there is reputed to be a network of subterranean passageways linking the houses. During the late 18th century smuggling was rife on the Yorkshire coast. Vessels from the continent brought contraband which was distributed by contacts on land and the operations were financed by syndicates who made profits without the risks taken by the seamen and the villagers. Tea, gin, rum, brandy and tobacco were among the contraband smuggled into Yorkshire from the Netherlands and France to avoid the duty.[10]

In 1773 two excise cutters, the Mermaid and the Eagle, were outgunned and chased out of the bay by three smuggling vessels, a schooner and two shallops.[10] A pitched battle between smugglers and excise men took place in the dock over 200 casks of brandy and geneva (gin) and 15 bags of tea in 1779.[11]

Fishing, farming and lifeboats[edit]

Robin Hood's Bay beach

Fishing and farming were the original occupations followed by generations of Bay folk. Many houses in the village were built between 1650 and 1750 and whole families were involved in the fishing industry. Many families owned or part-owned cobles. Later some owned ocean-going craft.[12] Fishing reached its peak in the mid 19th century, fishermen used the coble for line fishing in winter and a larger boat for herring fishing. Fish was loaded into panniers and men and women walked or rode over the moorland tracks to Pickering or York.[13]

A plaque in the village records that a brig named "Visiter" ran aground in Robin Hood's Bay on 18 January 1881 during a violent storm. In order to save the crew, the lifeboat from Whitby was pulled 6 miles (9.7 km) overland by 18 horses, with the 7-foot (2.1 m) deep snowdrifts present at the time cleared by 200 men. The road down to the sea through Robin Hood's Bay village was narrow and had awkward bends, and men had to go ahead demolishing garden walls and uprooting bushes to make a way for the lifeboat carriage. It was launched two hours after leaving Whitby, with the crew of the "Visiter" rescued on the second attempt.[14][15]

The main legitimate activity had always been fishing, but this started to decline in the late 19th century. These days most of its income comes from tourism.[16]

Robin Hood's Bay is also known for the large number of fossils which may be found on its beach. The foreshore rocks on the north side of the bay, in particular, are a well known location for finding ammonites, especially after winter storms.[17]

In 1912, Professor Walter Garstang of Leeds University, in cooperation with Professor Alfred Denny of the University of Sheffield, established the Robin Hood's Bay Marine Laboratory, which continued on the site for the next 71 years, closing in 1983.[18]


Robin Hood's Bay was part of the chapelry of Fylingdales in the Liberty of Whitby Strand which was a wapentake in the North Riding of Yorkshire. From 1974 to 2023 it was part of the Borough of Scarborough.


New Road, leading down to the sea shore

Robin Hood's Bay is built in a fissure between two steep cliffs. The village houses were built mostly of sandstone with red-tiled roofs. The main street is New Road, which descends from the cliff top where the manor-house, the newer houses and the church of St Stephen stand. It passes through the village crossing the King's Beck and reaches the beach by a cobbled slipway known as Wayfoot where the beck discharges onto the beach.

The cliffs are composed of Upper Lias shale capped by Dogger and False Bedded Sandstones and shales of the Lower Oolite.[6]

The Wine Haven Profile near Robin Hood's Bay is the Global Stratotype Section and Point (GSSP) of the Pliensbachian Epoch (183,0–189,6 mya), one of four chronographic substages of Early Jurassic Epoch.[19]

The headlands at each end of the beach are known as Ness Point or North Cheek (north) and Old Peak or South Cheek (south).


The village was once served by Robin Hood's Bay railway station[20] on the Scarborough and Whitby Railway line which opened in 1885 and closed in 1965. The track of the old railway is now a footpath and cycleway. The nearest railway station is in Whitby.

The village connects to the A171 allowing access to Whitby and Scarborough. The X93 Arriva bus service between Scarborough and Middlesbrough passes through Robin Hood's Bay every hour, increasing to every 30 minutes or every 20 minutes during the summer.[21][22] Robin Hood's Bay is the eastern terminus of Wainwright's Coast to Coast Walk. Robin Hood's Bay is also on the coastal section of the Cleveland Way, a long-distance footpath.


The new St Stephen's Church on Thorpe Lane

Robin Hood's Bay is in the parish of Fylingdales which contains two churches both dedicated to St Stephen. The Old St Stephen's Church, Fylingdales, on the hill side at Raw, above the village, replaced an ancient church which had Saxon origins and was demolished in about 1821 and was a dependent chapel of Whitby Abbey. A new church, also St Stephen's, designed by George Edmund Street, was built in 1870.[6]


The Bay Hotel

The novel Dracula by Bram Stoker, written in 1897, has scenes set in Robin Hood's Bay. Abraham visited the area recreating the steep steps and the sightings of the red eyes, the ship that ran aground with the immense dog, the dog being none other than Dracula.

Robin Hood's Bay is the setting for the Bramblewick novels (Three Fevers, Phantom Lobster, Foreigners, Sally Lunn, Master Mariner and Sound of the Sea) by Leo Walmsley (1892–1966), who was educated in the schoolroom of the old Wesleyan Chapel, in the lower village. The 1935 film Turn of the Tide, based on Walmsley's Three Fevers, was filmed in the village.[23]

In 1925, the Fylingdales Group of Artists was founded at Denton Hawley's studio in Robin Hood's Bay.[24]

In 1948, LIFE magazine ran a story of an unknown Poison Penman who had been writing spiteful anonymous letters to the inhabitants of Robin Hood's Bay since 1928.[25]

The 2008 film Wild Child contains several scenes filmed at Robin Hood's Bay.[26] The 2017 film Phantom Thread starring Daniel Day-Lewis features a number of Robin Hood's Bay locations, including the classic interior of the Victoria Hotel and the clifftops above the village.[27]

Missing in Time, a novel by Catherine Harriott, is set in Robin Hood's Bay and contains references and descriptions of local history, geography and culture. "Robin Hood's Bay" is a poem by children's poet Michael Rosen.

The Bayfair newspaper contains news and local information on the village. Wireless Internet access is provided for visitors all around the village by the Bay Broadband Co-operative.[28]


Local news and television programmes are provided by BBC North East and Cumbria and ITV Tyne Tees. Television signals are received from the local relay transmitter which transmitted via the Bilsdale TV transmitter, the relay transmitter is situated near Ravenscar.[29]

Local radio stations are BBC Radio Tees, BBC Radio York, Greatest Hits Radio Yorkshire Coast, Coast & County Radio and This is The Coast.[30]

The village is served by these local newspapers:

Notable people[edit]



  1. ^ Dobson, R. B.; Taylor, J. (1997) [1976]. Rymes of Robin Hood. Sutton. pp. 179–182, 306. ISBN 0 7509 1661 3.
  2. ^ "Robin Hoods Bay". The University of York Outdoor Society. 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  3. ^ Farnill 1966, p. 12
  4. ^ "STORM AND COMPANY". freepages.rootsweb.com. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  5. ^ "International Robin Hood Biography".
  6. ^ a b c Page, William, ed. (1923). "Parishes: Fylingdales". A History of the County of York North Riding. Institute of Historical Research. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  7. ^ Farnill 1966, p. 13
  8. ^ Farnill 1966, p. 16
  9. ^ Farnill 1966, p. 14
  10. ^ a b Farnill 1966, p. 22
  11. ^ Farnill 1966, p. 34
  12. ^ Farnill 1966, p. 44
  13. ^ Farnill 1966, p. 43
  14. ^ Ravenscroft, John (2006). "Robin Hood's Bay: Fishing Hamlet, Smuggler's Haven". timetravel-britain.com. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  15. ^ "Whitby Lifeboats". whitby-yorkshire.co.uk. 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  16. ^ Lidster, Robin (April 1998). "Heritage & History of Robin Hood's Bay". Bayfair. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  17. ^ "Robin Hoods Bay". UK Fossil Collecting. 18 March 2007. Retrieved 4 July 2021.
  18. ^ Mieszkowska, N.; Sugden, H.; Firth, L. B.; Hawkins, S. J. (28 September 2014). "The role of sustained observations in tracking impacts of environmental change on marine biodiversity and ecosystems". Philosophical Transactions: Mathematical, Physical and Engineering Sciences. 372 (2, 025). London: Royal Society of London.: 4. doi:10.1098/rsta.2013.0339. ISSN 1364-503X. PMC 4150294. PMID 25157190.
  19. ^ "GSSP for Pliensbachian Stage". International Commission on Stratigraphy. 2013. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  20. ^ "Disused Stations: Robin Hoods Bay Station". Subterranea Britannica. 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  21. ^ "X93 – Middlesbrough – Whitby – Robin Hoods Bay – Scarborough". Arriva Yorkshire. 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  22. ^ Smith, Jonathan (19 April 2019). "Walks: Take an Easter stroll from Robin Hood's Bay to the fishing port of Whitby". Darlington and Stockton Times. Retrieved 16 August 2019.
  23. ^ "Turn of the Tide". IMDb. Retrieved 13 July 2019.
  24. ^ "Fylingdales Group". Artist Biographies – British and Irish Artists of the 20th Century. UK. Retrieved 10 July 2020.
  25. ^ "Vicar Exorcises a Poison Penman". LIFE. 31 May 1948. pp. 45–46. ISSN 0024-3019.
  26. ^ "Wild Child (2008) – Filming Locations". IMDb. 2014. Retrieved 9 July 2014.
  27. ^ "TV and Film Locations". North York Moors National Park. Retrieved 21 January 2018.
  28. ^ "Remote North Yorkshire UK Village of Robin Hoods Bay Gets Faster Broadband". ISPreview. 21 May 2012. Retrieved 30 November 2021.
  29. ^ "Freeview Light on the Ravenscar (North Yorkshire, England) transmitter". UK Free TV. 1 May 2004. Retrieved 9 May 2024.
  30. ^ "Yorkshire Radio Stations". Archived from the original on 18 April 2024. Retrieved 9 May 2024.
  31. ^ "Eileen Colwell". The Times. No. 67573. 4 October 2002. p. 34. ISSN 0140-0460.
  32. ^ "Yorkshire Life". Yorkshire Life. Yorkshire Life. 8 September 2016. Retrieved 13 June 2022.
  33. ^ Gower, E. (1978). Robin Hood's Bay (3 ed.). Clapham (Yorks): Dalesman. p. 33. ISBN 0-85206-462-4.

External links[edit]