The picturesque fishing village holds a dark past of smugglers and gangs walking its streets hundreds of years ago. You can learn about the fascinating secrets the cove holds and more with our list of the best things to do in Robin Hood’s Bay including with enjoying the sand beach which offers fantastic opportunities for rock pool exploring and ancient fossils.
You can also wander through its narrow, twisting cobbled streets and alleyways, and visit its old-fashioned traditional pubs where smugglers would frequent and tell tales of their finds along the Yorkshire Coast.
Why is it called Robin Hoods Bay?
The actual origin of the name is a mystery but tales surrounding the name include a story of Robin Hood encountering French pirates who came to pillage the village’s fisherman boats. The pirates surrendered and returned the loot and that is how the village is supposed to have gotten its name.
What is in Robin Hoods Bay?
An old fishing village, it’s unique in its look as it’s made up of a labyrinth of ginnels and cottages. It has traditional pubs and real ale taverns that fishermen would frequent back in the day as well as a range of cultural things to visit such as churches, museums, and the Old Coastgurad station along with a fantastic beach.
1. Lose yourself in history at the old St Stephen’s Church – Things to do in Robin Hood’s Bay
If you’re searching for a spot of history, then the St Stephen’s church, which sits majestically on the hillside overlooking the smuggler’s haven of Robin Hood’s Bay.
The church is a symbol of the historic sea fishing community and inside, although simple, there are reminders of the fishing heritage. It was built in 1821. The churchyard is full or memorials for shipwrecked sailors as well as list of successful rescue missions.
2. Take a trip to the Old Coastguard Station
The building has taken on many forms in its time from its beginnings as a pub to a coast guard service aimed to prevent smuggling.
The original building was knocked down to build a research centre for Sheffield and Leeds universities before being bought by the National Trust and demolished. It was then rebuilt with an exterior shell true to the original. Nowadays you can learn about all aspects of life on the Yorkshire Coast such as wildlife, geology, tide and human history.
3. Unearth some history at the Robin Hood’s Bay museum
Found in the old Coroner’s Room and Mortuary, the building was an old cottage which was built into the upward slope of the land. Displays about fishing and shipping in the bay along with details of shipwrecks, rescues and old photographs and artefacts can be found on display.
You can also learn about the fascinating history of smuggling that was rife in the village with smugglers using the cove for their activities.
4. Go on a shopping spree around Robin Hoods Bay shops
Potter around the cute streets and ginnels visiting the independent shops. Muir Lea store has all you need for a day at the seaside from buckets, spades and others. Berties of Bay overlooking Kings Beck sells fantastic and high quality men’s and women’s clothing inspired by the fishing heritage of the villag from thick woollen jumpers to weatherproof jackets – they’re quite the cool find.
5. Visit where the smugglers enjoyed a pint in the Robin Hood’s Bay Pubs
Robin Hood’s Bay is not all about museums, if you want to immerse yourself in the places these smugglers visited then head down to one of the village’s waterholes. The Bay Hotel sits overlooking the bay with gorgeous sea views where you can sip on a nice ale whilst picturing the smuggler’s boats rocking up onto the shore.
Another great pub to visit is the Smugglers Bistro which is a candle-lit bistro found in the heart of Robin Hood’s Bay. Or, you can make your way up to the top of the village where you’ll find the bay’s smallest pub The Laurel Inn, which has open roaring fires.
One of our favourite pubs is the Laurel Inn just up the hill from here. It is like stepping back inside as you head into the quaint pub with its walls adorned in old-fashioned trinkets. They have some great locals ales on tap along with soft drinks and more to enjoy by the open fire.
6. Head to the beach to enjoy rock pooling
The lovely fishing village has great for rock pooling at low tide. Head down the steep and winding cobbled streets to the beach. You’ll find an array of starfish and other sea creatures along with fossils to hunt down from the Jurassic period.
A few things to remember whilst rock pooling is that should return seaweed and rocks back in place after you’ve searched under them. When handling animals use a bucket filled with water to have a closer look and only keep them long enough to examine them before returning them. And, also, nets are of little use on the shore and bad for the crabs and seaweed so you won’t need them whilst rock pooling.
Slightly further up is this lovely fishing village and if you walk down the steep and winding cobble streets you will find a beach full of rock pools at low tide.
7. Go on a Smugglers Tour
What better to learn about the history of smuggling in Robin Hood’s Bay than a leisurely guided tour around old Bayton? Packed full of historical facts, intertwined with tales of smugglers and the infamous Press Gang it’s the perfect way to learn about the history of the area ready for a visit to the pub to chew on what you’ve learnt.
Tours can be arranged any time of day with no minimum group size. The minimum charge is £45 and each person will be charged £7 so if it was for seven people it would cost £49 etc. Visit the website here to book
8. Take a visit to the magical Boggle Hole
A site of special scientific interest (SSSI) the sheltered bay Boggle Hole is steeped in mystery and folklore. It’s said that Boggles, a form of hobgoblins or goblins, lived in the caves that run along the coastline. Stories that the Boggles had magical powers were shared through generations.
Along with the folklore, the caves were used by notorious smugglers to land and hide their contraband. The bay can be found a short one-mile walk from Robin Hood’s Bay – so if you’re in the area it’s definitely one to add to the bucket list.
9. Take a hike along The Cinder Track or Cleveland Way
You can’t visit the Yorkshire Coast and not head out on a hike. And, The Cinder Track is a disused railway, which has been converted to a bridleway that stretches from Scarborough to Whitby. At Robin Hood’s Bay, it runs parallel to the Coast to Coast path all the way to Hawsker Bottoms. The Cinder Track is quite hilly but well worth it with a picturesque pub and hotel along the way. Hayburn Wyke is a secluded bay with its own little waterfall that runs onto the beach.
Also near to Robin Hood’s Bay is The Cleveland Way, a 109-mile walking route that takes in some beautiful scenery. The Robin Hood’s Bay part includes Robin Hood’s Bay, Ravenscar, Hayburn Wyke & Scarborough. You can enjoy some incredible coastal views along the way.
10. Get extreme with the North Yorkshire Off-Road Centre
If you’re looking for a bit of excitement whilst visiting Robin Hood’s Bay, one of the toughest off-road test tracks in the UK is found along the coast and you can enjoy a range of experiences. From a 4×4 experience that offers off-road enthusiasts a chance to take on an off-road track with one of the best backdrops in the world.
Prices for the experience start at £225, and you can find out more information here.
11. Enjoy some fish & chips with a view
Fish Box is located at the top of the hill just as you’re heading into the old town part of Robin Hood’s Bay. It offers some fantastic views over they bay and is also renowned for its tasty crispy battered fish which goes great with a can of pop. Needed after making your way back up the hill that’s for sure.