bikes · travelling

The Cinder Track


Ever since we got the Bromptons, Trev and I have wanted to do trips away with them – where we take just the bikes and all of our luggage etc fits on them. I don't know how we came across the idea of doing some of the east coast near Scarborough, but a few months ago that is what we decided we would do.

Trev did a bit of researching and discovered that there is an old railway track, now converted into a cycle route, that runs all the way from Whitby to Scarborough via Robin Hood's Bay. Happily, a beautiful hotel we stayed at last year during our anniversary trip (that part I still haven't written up yet…. Eeek!) is in the next village up from the bay and the grounds back onto the cycle route. It almost seemed to easy to organise πŸ™‚

Before we knew it the planned weekend had arrived and we were at the train station with nothing but what you see in the below picture! Something so nice about being able to carry everything you need on your bike and under your own steam.

The planned journey was to get a direct train to Middlesbrough and from there switch to a train which would take us to Whitby. Total time on trains would be around three hours. We've since discovered that if we got a train to Scarborough and then a bus to Robin Hood's Bay we could have got the journey down to just two hours (and saved a load of cash) but never mind πŸ™‚ Something to know for next time!

Luggage was safely stowed:

We only had 8 minutes between the planned arrival at Middlesbrough and the train leaving Whitby. When we got stuck outside York for what felt like forever, by the time we arrived we only had 3 minutes to make the change. Thankfully a number of other people were in the same boat so we all hurtled around the station and made the train in the nick of time. Just as well as there would have been a 4 hour wait for the next train! Turns out only four trains a day go to Whitby… Another reason to favour the bus option next time!

Taking the trains does give you some good views though:

It was actually sunny when we arrived in Whitby, which you can't really see from this picture. At least it's sunny over the abbey!

We stopped to pick up some food and were ready to head on our way!

As soon as you exit the station, turn left and you come across the first of many signs pointing the way for us (better picture of the sky, too!)

Head down a road, cross a junction and wander up a hill and before you know it, here we are!

The beginning of the Cinder Track… Seemed appropriate to have to head off through a tunnel!

You see your first of many mile markers:

We then soon arrive at the very impressive Larpool Viaduct, which you saw on the board in the pics above. The views from the top are pretty impressive:

There was a lovely dedication to someone since passed:

On the way home I was able to snap some photos of what the viaduct looks like from down on the ground (the weather wasn't as nice on Sunday!):

Turns out the first few miles are ALL uphill. Not at a particularly tough gradient, but it's hard going with luggage and with having been off the bike for a couple of weeks. Funnily though, you seem to eventually reach a point where your muscles warm up totally and regardless of gradient it gets easier and your legs function on some sort of autopilot.

After a few miles we reach the top of the hill and not only is it downhill from this point, but you can see the sea!

There's always time for some scenic shots of the bikes:

Me with my noble steed:

As we got closer to Robin Hood's Bay you can see the impressive curve of the coast towards Ravenscar, which we'd be cycling on the Saturday:

Pretty soon, we'd cycled the six miles to the Bay and saw another Cinder Track board:

A few minutes ride further on is the village of Fylingthorpe in which the place we were staying, Thorpe Hall, is located. It's a stunning building – the oldest part of the building is Elizabethan, with two subsequent sections added on by later owners. It's now owned by the lovely Angelique and David. Angelique is lovely to deal with and was particularly sweet when we came in October and I was rather ill.

Anyway, enough of that. The building is gorgeous, especially when viewed from their extensive gardens:

We were staying in the Squire's room, which used to be the owner's room and is located in the oldest part of the house. Which means lots of gorgeous wood panelling πŸ™‚

Comfiest bed ever!

While the room is not en-suite, you do then have private access to a loooovely bathroom:

Mmmmm claw foot bath! Stone windows!

It was so lovely to sit and relax for a bit and just chill out!

You may notice that there's no tv in the rooms. Angelique and David do this deliberately as they feel there's so much to experience outside the room in the local area etc. However there is a room downstairs equipped with a tv, and games, and CDs and DVDs so there's plenty to do should you not want to leave the hotel!

We wandered down to the Bay for dinner, to a lovely place called Bramblewick where we had the most incredible Aberdeen Angus burger with chips. Words cannot describe the amazingness of that burger!

One great night's sleep and impressive full English breakfast later and we were on the main part of the trip – following the Cinder Track all the way to Scarborough. There had been forecasts of rain for the Saturday, but we didnt expect it to start raining almost as soon as we started cycling!

Still, it gave us a good chance to test out our Aldi pak-a-jaks and for me to practice what I have christened my Mario-Balotelli-why-always-me expression:

It was very wet. And all uphill. We didn't know it at the time and if we had I'd have savoured it more, but this was the best the paths would be for at least the next 12 miles:

It also turned out that the first five miles at least were solidly uphill. Again. But we got some good views! This is back down towards RHB and Whitby:

Soon the rain stopped and we could contrast the lovely sunshine behind us and the view of the Bay with the weather we were cycling into:

We then passed a couple on mountain bikes who had overtaken us earlier but were now delayed with a puncture. Didn't fill us with confidence for the road ahead on our bikes with little wheels!

Finally we got to the top of the hill, almost at Ravenscar, which is a place with a fascinating history. It was going to be a Victorian seaside resort to rival many of the others on the east coast but then during development the developers went bankrupt and work on the town just stopped. This leads to all sorts of interesting things like abandoned railway stations:

Technically half-way! Yay!

We set off on what we knew would be a pretty much all downhill remainder of the ride. As we left Ravenscar, we saw a sign that warned us of path erosion ahead due to flooding. We had no idea how bad this would actually be and as a result there's hardly any pictures of the second half of the ride.

Entire sections of the path had the top layer of soil removed, exposing large pieces of rock and brick underneath. Across most of the paths, you could see where the water had carved channels, coursing back and forth down the hill – making it impossible to ride in a straight line.

It's probably the least I have enjoyed any piece of riding. At times it was bone-shattering. I nearly had more offs than I can count and there were several periods were you just had to cling on for dear life. We weren't even going that fast! We weren't helped by the rain – after the sunny period we had enjoyed after the first shower, what then followed was a proper drenching. Which meant a muddy track. Which meant muddy bikes and brakes that didnt then want to cooperate as much as we would have liked.

I did manage to take one picture – an old railway carriage turned into self catering accommodation which is quite a common sight along the track:

Eventually, after what felt like an eternity and after a period of riding on blissful Tarmac which we couldn't enjoy as we were too drained, we got to Scarborough. The sun came out as we got to the North Bay and we stopped for some well earned pictures:

We cycled around the promenade, following it to South Bay. That bit of riding was just joyous and almost made the previous 15 miles worth it. Riding around in the sunshine on the sea front was just a brilliant experience.

Turns out Scarborough has a castle too! Who knew?

The view back to where we had come from:

No sooner than we were on our way to the train station to catch the bus home and the heavens opened AGAIN. This time we availed ourselves of a local pub and some well deserved food. It became clear that it wasn't my day though when a bottle of ketchup exploded all over me (don't ask!) leaving me looking like something out of a horror movie, covered in mud and blood. Not a good look. I refer you to my Mario Balotelli pose above.

It's a shame that when we woke up Sunday morning the weather was lovely. We said our goodbyes and set off up the hill back to Whitby looking at some glorious views back over towards Ravenscar:

Look! A crossing for noble steeds!

We cycled past another converted railway carriage. This one also features other carriages offering cycle hire, with saddles so comfy they felt like cushions:

We had a lovely chat with the owner who was telling us about some of the challenges he has had running the place. He used to run a tearoom and B&B on the same site, but the council forced closure, not helped by the NIMBY-ist approach of the next door neighbour, halving his livelihood and resulting in the loss of six jobs and more. I find it very bizarre that they did this, in a town which owes its continued existence to tourism. The council has since apologised and I hope they find some ways to make amends, particularly as he's such a nice guy and the carriage accommodation is just stunning! Sleeps six so we may take a trip back there with family or friends in the future.

We were back to Whitby before we knew it, sad to be leaving. There's lots of interesting stuff in Whitby station though:

Drawn by kids from the local school – I love that the sheep appears to be moving so fast he's almost a blur!

Detailed information about the Esk Valley railway, now the only line that serves Whitby and its single platform. There used to be four platforms and more services, but no longer. Now it's just four trains a day.

A beautiful tiled section of wall showing the railways in the north east. I took a few snaps of the part we had visited along with other parts relevant to us:

And finally proof of those four trains a day! You'd have to hope you didn't just miss one as it's a long wait until the next one:

So we set off for the long journey home. I was able to snap a picture of a very cute stone bridge I had seen on the way out. I love how they've left it there alongside its modern replacement!

Before we knew it, we were home and that was the weekend over, although not before I had given Clara a thorough clean. Proper mucky she turned out to be!

On reflection, an odd weekend. I'm very proud of the bikes and to a lesser extent, us, for getting through it. Given that we saw other people with punctures, we did pretty well. Those paths wouldn't have been easy on a mountain bike, so to do it on the Brompton was good going. It's certainly whet my appetite for doing more touring with the bikes, but I now know in my heart that I'm no mountain biker. Clinging on to the bike while hurtling down bumpy things is not for me. But we did it and we can be proud of that!

We're already planning the next trip, which will probably be double the length of the 15 miles we did on the Saturday. So many times we said, ”I'd gladly do double the distance if only the path was even!” I wouldn't even begrudge a hill or two, but the feeling of getting back onto roads after all that track was almost enough to induce tears – it felt like such a relief. But more than anything, it highlights the need to keep working on my fitness. It is woeful, but at least the only place it can go from here is up.

And maybe back to Thorpe Hall again πŸ™‚

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2 thoughts on “The Cinder Track

    1. Thanks Gavin! I loved reading about the trip you and Natalie took to Barcelona recently. Can’t wait to take our Bromptons overseas!

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