Cycling from Whitby to York or Hull

What is it like to cycle from Whitby to York or Hull via the North Sea Cycle Route in two days? In this blog we look at this beautiful route of 135 kilometers (for York, about 82 miles) or 127 or 157 kilometers (for Hull, 78 or 97 miles) and give you a good idea of what you may encounter along the way.

Previously we wrote about our route from Berwick on Tweed and Newcastle to Whitby. Whitby is a coastal town at the heart of the North York Moors National Park. The Cinder Track, a cycle path on a former railway line, takes you further south along the coast. It allows you to enjoy both the North Sea Coast and the North York Moors.

The former railway line was built on the high cliffs, giving you splendid views over multiple scenic bays and the green interior. The sound of the breaking waves below adds another layer of peace and quiet. The small town of Robin Hood’s Bay is probably the best stop for a lunch or a picnic.

The section of the trail near Fylingthorpe is truly remote, which is further emphasised at Ravenscar. The place was supposed to be a lively seaside resort, but the tourists stayed away. An abandoned street plan in the fields, a desolate station platform and a tearoom on an empty square is the estranging setting of Ravenscar. You can walk to Blea Wyke Point to take in the views. Further along the trail there is also a walk to the Hayburn Wyke coastal waterfall. Here, you can also do camping next to a pub. The YHA at Fylingsthorpe Bay is also worth mentioning given its stunning remote location.

The total distance of the Cinder Track is only 30 kilometers (around 18 miles), but expect to be on your way for three to four hours. Besides the outstanding natural beauty of the area, there is also the poor quality of the surface of the Cinder Track to take into account. The section between Robin’s Hood Bay and Hayburn Wyke is particularly hard-going. Allow two hours for this section of 13 kilometers (around 8 miles), as you will often be forced to walk your bike.

Rough gravel, some bare rock and also mud after periods of heavy rain are the challenges here and there is only partly an alternative via a quiet country lane. The climbs on this lane are serious though and there is still a section where the dangerous main road A171 cannot be avoided. Our advice is to stay on the trail, accepting the inconveniences and taking your time. At the end of these beautiful outdoors and its remoteness, the spectacular seaside town of Scarborough will be awaiting you.

The Spa at Scarborough opened in 1660 and therefor the town can be considered as England’s very first seaside resort. It has two fantastic beaches with the high promontory of the Scarborough caste ruins in between them. You will first cycle along the quiet north beach, followed by the caste headland and the scenic harbour. At the busy south beach you can cycle along the beach and the historic spa, but this is only possible during low tide as a short section actually takes you onto the beach (see picture). At high tide this section is flooded, so then you will have to use our alternative route on top of the cliffs.

Scarborough is also your preferred lodging town on this route. At its northern end, a campsite and youth hostel cater for all low-budget needs, whilst the town itself features various hotels and B&Bs. At the spectacular Cayton Beach south of Scarborough, you will only find a large caravan park. From here, the route heads inland to White Gate Hill.

White Gate Hill is a road on a steep incline where traffic can be heavy at times. Unfortunately there is no acceptable alternative route available. Keep looking behind for upcoming traffic and dismount to allow traffic to pass safely when necessary. Although it looks not too bad in the picture here, it is best to avoid this three mile road to the village of Hunmanby during weekday rush hours. Just as is the case with the inconveniences of the Cinder Track, this route is officially signposted as ‘Route 1’ as part of the North Sea Cycle Route.

The village of Hunmanby will put an end to some likely inconvenience and offers plenty of route choice regarding your journey further south. If you want to cycle our England North-South Cycle Route further, we recommend heading inland onto the empty country lanes across the Yorkshire Wolds. This route via gentle rolling hills takes you to Stamford Bridge and the city of York. If you want to continue on the North Sea Cycle Route to Hull for the ferry to The Netherlands, you can opt for the coastal route.

On the coastal route, you have the choice of two routes; a direct route and a route via Flamborough Head. The route via this stunning promontory with high chalk cliffs is 30 kilometers (18 miles) longer and also takes you via the Sewerby Hall estate and the seaside report of Bridlington. Both routes merge near the village of Burton Agnes to continue south into the flats of the East Riding of Yorkshire. At the small town of Hornsea you will hit the coast once more. There is a modest promenade and beach where you can enjoy some seaside entertainment.

In Hornsea you will also find the start of the Trans Pennine Trail, a signposted cycle route to the west coast near Liverpool. We join this route towards Hull, starting with a path on a former railway line. As is often the case with such flagship cycle routes in England, it all starts impressive with a piece of modern art and a smooth stretch of tarmac, but soon, the path is not much more than a gravel path, turning bumpy into the Hull suburbs. The main advantage of the route here is that it avoids the busy main roads.

In Hull, you can head directly for the ferry to Rotterdam, taking in panaromic views over the wide River Humber and rounding up your tour across northern England. Do you wish to cycle further south? You should know that the North Sea route further south has multiple issues. These issues won’t make your cycling easy. We invite you using our route southbound via the great city of York. Another time you can read more about this route towards the Pennines and the Peak District National Park.

Practical notes:

The route from Whitby is a continuation of our route from Berwick on Tweed and Newcastle. You can also switch from the train to our route in Whitby.

The described route part starts in Whitby and ends in York or Hull. From York you can choose to cycle further south towards the Pennines and Peak District National Park. From Hull, you can sail to Rotterdam in The Netherlands with P&O Ferries. This night ferry runs daily during the summer, taking about 12 hours. In both York and Hull it is also possible to take bikes on the train. In England, bicycles can be taken on the train for free, but not during peak times and depending on the capacity of the train. On some routes you need to make a reservation for bicycles.

We do not recommend the use of any bicycle trailers, cargo bikes, bike trailers, etc. This is due to various barriers on cycle paths with tight corners and narrow gaps. You may also encounter difficulties on narrow towpaths, steep slopes and when taking your equipment on the train. The section of Cinder Track between Robin’s Hood Bay and Hayburn Wyke is particularly challenging given its rough terrain, even for regular bikes. Note e-bikes can only be charged at booked accommodation on the way; public charging points are rare.

The route in this blog is largely signposted as ‘Route 1 and 166’, but highlights such as the Scarborough beaches and Flamborough Head are not part of these routes. We created the traffic-calmed route between Burton Agnes and Hornsea ourselves. Also, the route to York is not obvious. To cycle the route comfortably, we recommend using our ‘England North-South Cycle Route’ guidebook. This guidebook contains route directions, maps, cycling-focused tourist information and facility listings with campsites, youth hostels, B&Bs, hotels and bicycle repair shops along the way. Order your copy now and you will receive the guide in your mailbox within a week! GPS tracks of the route will be sent to you by email.

The route of this blog is also available in a Route App for your mobile. The routes in this Dutch language Route App contain similar information as our guidebooks with GPS-tracks and can be combined as you please. The facility listings of the guidebooks are also available in the App, with full contact details. The App also features full contact details of all visitor attractions. Sights along the way as mentioned in the books, are incorporated in the Route App with markers. The Route App can be used independently, but for more context and information we always recommend using the guidebooks as well.

Do you fancy reading about other routes? See below for other available blog posts: