Reasons to Visit the Quaint Seaside Town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea

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Nestled on the northeast coast between Middlesbrough and its bigger seaside rival Whitby, Saltburn-by-the-Sea boasts a long stretch of soft sand and the most northernly remaining iron pier in the whole of Great Britain.

Facing due north, Saltburn is exposed to the merciless waves of the North Sea, making it a prime spot for a bit of surfing.

From surfers, dog walkers, families and historians, Saltburn-by-the-Sea has something for everyone.

The History of Saltburn

saltburn by the sea

A smuggler’s cove

Saltburn’s history began as a small hamlet-sized settlement of a few simple fisherman’s cottages and an inn.

It was a centre for smugglers thought to be under the rule of John Andrew, a publican often known as the “King of Smugglers.”

The story goes that John Andrew was Scottish and moved to the Saltburn hamlet after marrying the niece of the Ship Inn’s landlord.

The landlord, a man named Will Harrison, was mysteriously found dead the day after John Andrew’s arrival.

Smugglers cove Quaint seaside town Saltburn
The view from the end of Saltburn Pier with Old Saltburn and the Ship Inn under Huntcliff.

He soon became a well-respected man, helping customs officials track down smugglers.

However, they did not realise just how close they came to the main man of the operation.

The Ship Inn

There are said to be secret tunnels leading from the pub through Huntcliff, the imposing cliff that lures over the inn to the south.

John Andrew’s booty was never discovered despite his eventual capture in 1827 – perhaps you’ll find it whilst scouring the beach!

If your kids are fans of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five adventure stories, they’ll certainly love a visit to Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

Up Until 1881 – The Ship Inn also had another job. It was also used as the mortuary for drowning victims.

Back then, drownings were common, with bodies regularly washed up on Saltburn’s shores.

Eventually, a separate mortuary building was built close by, along with the Lifeboat House and the Rocket Brigade building.

Saltburn morning beach
Saltburn morning

The Ship Inn is still on the beachfront today, serving hearty pub grub and a wide range of ales.

Across what’s now the main road, you can still see the little mortuary (now a Grade II listed building) – the other two buildings were demolished when the road was widened.

The Ship Inn pub is certainly worth a visit – and you can bring your dog too!

You can contact them via: 01287 622361 or via their facebook page here.

The railways

Saltburn grew substantially in the Victorian era thanks to the railway line that was extended from the Stockton & Darlington Railway after the discovery of Iron Stone in the cliffs.

This extension, headed by Henry Pease’s vision, saw the construction of houses and the Zetland Hotel, which had its own private rail platform at the end of the line.

You can still see this from inside the property, which is now separated into apartments.

It’s safe to say that, without the railways, Saltburn likely would not have grown into the popular little coastal spot that it is today.

Saltburn-by-the-Sea has even been featured in a TV show for this reason: The Architecture the Railways Built (S3.E5). Click here to watch

9 Things to See and Do

Quieter than its North Yorkshire coastal neighbours of Whitby and Scarborough, there’s still plenty to do to keep everyone occupied.

And enough places to eat to try something new every night!

1. Saltburn Pier

Saltburn Pier is not only the last surviving pier in Yorkshire, but it’s also the northernmost remaining pier in the UK.

Pier quaint seaside sunset
Saltburn Pier at sunrise with the cliff lift in the foreground and Huntcliff in the distance

When the railway arrived in the summer of 1861, an influx of holidaymakers and day trippers appeared in the town.

The railway line’s engineer, John Anderson, saw an investment opportunity and formed the Saltburn Pier Company and began the build.

The pier was opened in 1869 and had a steamer landing stage at its head, welcoming over 50,000 visitors in the first six months.

However, from the pier, there was a steep cliff to reach the town.

Anderson saw a further opportunity and constructed a cliff hoist which eventually became the famous Saltburn Cliff Lift.

In 1875 – A storm destroyed a large section of the pier (91 metres!). It was repaired and re-opened in1877 with a reduced length of 381m – the length it remains today.

Sadly, as a result of the damage, the Saltburn Pier Company suffered debts and ceased trading by the end of 1879.

2. Saltburn Cliff Lift

Saltburn’s cliff lift is actually a water-powered funicular and is the oldest working water-balance cliff lift in the whole of the UK.

It’s also known as the Saltburn Tramway and its carriages boast beautiful stained glass window designs.

After being closed for a couple of years due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Saltburn’s cliff lift reopened in time for the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June 2022.

Quaint Seaside Town of Saltburn view cloudy
Quaint Seaside Town of Saltburn view

If your legs are weary from walking the Cleveland Way or if you want a relaxing ride up to the town, the cliff lift is a great way to travel.

It’s usually in operation between Easter and October.

3. Saltburn Beach

Saltburn boasts a long stretch of sand leading all the way north to the larger town of Redcar.

There are a couple of shops selling buckets and spades nearby if you fancy digging for John Andrew’s treasure.

There’s also the Surf School where you can have a few lessons to make the most of Saltburn’s fantastic waves.

Early in the mornings, you may even find open water swimmers enjoying the cool and refreshing delights that the North Sea brings at sunrise.

4. The Promenade

Up from the sands is Saltburn’s promenade with its brightly coloured beach huts.

You can rent these for the day – but try to book in advance in the summer and on weekends!

Saltburn's brightly beach huts along the promenade
Saltburn’s brightly coloured beach huts along the promenade.

The end of the pier facing the cliff lift is the prom’s arcade, where children and adults alike can test their luck in the 2p machines or collect tokens for prizes.

There’s also a small crazy golf place on the Prom (where the famous Hollywood Actor Tom Hardy was spotted!).

Don’t Worry! If you fancy some fish and chips, an ice cream or a coffee, you’ll find a range of places here too (more on that below).

5. The Miniature Railway

Littler visitors (and big ones!) can enjoy a ride on Saltburn’s miniature railway, taking you from the Cat Nab station near the beach to the Forest Halt for a small fee.

First established in 1947, the half-mile journey from the beach leads inland terminating near the Italian Gardens.

There you’ll find a small café and a Woodland Centre that hosts activities for children.

6. The Valley Gardens

If a ride on the miniature railway is not quite your thing, you can walk through the valley of Skelton Beck too.

Along the way, you’ll find a children’s adventure playground, places to paddle in the river, and lots of picturesque picnic spots.

Further up the bank, you’ll find the Italian Gardens which we first created in about 1867.

The gardens are a tranquil place to stop for a rest and are maintained to a high standard today.

You could continue your walk through the woodland and along the Cleveland Way to Skelton, taking in the viaduct and dam between the two towns.

7. The Cleveland Way

For the more adventurous, Saltburn is a part of the Cleveland Way.

The Cleveland Way is a walking route that’s 175km long (109 miles) and is one of the UK’s designated National Trails.

It stretches from Helmsley to Filey, taking in the stunning heather moorland at the end of the North Yorkshire Moors National Park as well as the beautiful coastland section that begins in Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

Saltburn-by-the-Sea coast

The route leads into Saltburn through the valley from Skelton before heading up to the cliff top at Huntcliff, behind the Ship Inn.

Huntcliff stands proud at 365ft above sea level, jutting abruptly upwards after a relative flat coastline towards the north.

The Cleveland Way continues along the cliff edge, giving some fantastic views of Saltburn before weaving its way through the other coastal towns and villages such as Skinningrove, Staithes and Runswick Bay.

8. Food and Drink

Food and drink options are plentiful in Saltburn-by-the-Sea.

What to Expect? From ice-cream parlours and traditional fish and chips through to luxurious hot chocolates, cocktails, and curry, Saltburn has something to offer everyone.

Be sure not to miss a traditional lemon top ice cream!

Aside from the cocktail bars, there are several pubs and micropubs offering more traditional tipples with cosy atmospheres to boot.

Enjoying Saltburn sunset
Saltburn sunset

There are also a whole host of cafes serving a delicious array of home-baked goods – and even homemade chocolates!

Dogs are welcome in most establishments too.

9. Shopping

Whilst Saltburn is a small town, there is a range of unique boutiques that draw people in.

From crafty, quirky bits and bobs to clothing, handmade soaps, and health foods, Saltburn has something for everyone.

Visit the Quaint Seaside Town of Saltburn-by-the-Sea
Saltburn from the Pier

Final Thoughts

Even as a smaller seaside town (there are around 6,000 inhabitants), Saltburn still has everything that holidaymakers and day trippers looking for in a traditional seaside break away.

Whether it’s arcades, beach walks or good pub grub, there’s something for everyone.

And it’s all set in the most stunning of locations.

If you’ve not been to Saltburn-by-the-Sea, you’re missing out on something very special.

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