Lost Railway Rides: From Scarborough to Whitby on the Cinder Track

Looking for an off-road route that's suitable for an Adventure Road, CX or Gravel bike? Try this...

In the 1960s, over 5,000 miles of railway lines were axed, despite the public campaign to preserve scenic coastal lines.

Today, we can still enjoy these areas of outstanding natural beauty by bike, on foot, or on horseback. We’re exploring some of the best greenways, and this week’s ride goes along the Cinder Track on the edge of the North York Moors.

Words: Maria David

The ride: Cinder Track, North Yorkshire

Where: Scarborough to Whitby

How far: 21 miles

This was originally the Scarborough and Whitby railway which opened in 1885, carrying pleasure-seekers from the town. Naturally, this was a popular line in the summer, but it was often fraught with delays and technical problems due to trains negotiating tricky junctions, hills, and slippery rails from the mist and rain.  Eventually the line was closed in 1965 as part of the Beeching cuts, despite the public outcry to keep open this very popular line.

Thanks to the loss of the line, we get to enjoy 21 miles of the most scenic stretches of greenway in the country by bike.

“It is just a delight to ride in all weathers. There are numerous places to stop and admire the view, plus cafes and pubs along the way.”

Local rider, Lorraine Naylor is an experienced mountain biker and secretary at Richardson’s Cycling Club in Scarborough. She regularly uses the Cinder Track and told us why she enjoys riding on it. She told us: “I love our local Cinder Track. It is just a delight to ride in all weathers. There are numerous places to stop and admire the view, plus cafes and pubs along the way. I use it regularly to get to work and for leisure riding.  There are always interesting people to meet along the way.  We use it for club rides in all seasons and it’s great for beginners as it avoids the main roads and hills!!”

Getting to the start

The start of the trail is in Sainsbury’s carpark on Falsgrave Road, close to Scarborough train station, a popular meeting point for local cyclists. The route is signposted either “National Cycle Network route 1” or “Whitby” as you ride through the parks and residential neighbourhood of Scalby to reach the off-road section.

The trail

The Cinder Track is tarmacked at the start and finish towns as well as in the villages of Ravenscar and Robin Hood’s Bay. Elsewhere, the surface is compacted earth with some stony sections. At one point, near Ravenscar the track plunges down on a steep stony path so a mountain bike with suspension would be useful, though I was on a gravel bike and that coped fine. That there are a couple of junctions to cross, so take care on these.

Adventure Road and Gravel Bikes Explained 

Up to Robin Hood’s Bay the trail follows a gradual climb, but after that you can relax as the road levels off and drops down gradually to the outskirts of Whitby.

On the day I rode the Cinder Track the weather was clear and sunny, but rain from the previous day made the track very muddy in places. It was particularly busy too because a cyclocross cyclosportive was in progress so I had a lot of riders to share the path with.

There was room for riders in opposing directions to pass each other, but the issue was whether or not you minded get splashed with mud as they raced by! I took care not to get too dirty, but the sight of the mud splattered faces of the racers showed that they weren’t bothered!

Throughout this trail you are treated to various beautiful sights – hilltop farmland, secluded woods, with the highpoint being the beautiful coastal path around Robin Hood’s Bay.

Many of the former station houses have been converted into cafes, B&Bs or pretty farm houses. In fact, the old station at Hawsker has a self-catering railway carriage to bed down in as well as bike hire.

As you go over the impressive Larpool Viaduct you get a good view of Whitby in the distance, with its abbey on the clifftop. You can ride right up to it if you have the energy, or just go down to the seafront instead. As I was pushed for time I returned to Scarborough immediately via the road.]

I would only recommend this road if you have an appetite for big hills. These are the North York Moors remember, so it’s all 15% gradients with a few 25% climbs thrown in! Just outside Scarborough I tried out the stiff climb at Harwood Dale, which will be a King of the Mountains climb in this year’s Tour de Yorkshire. With all the day’s exertions I had to stop for a breather. I’m just glad I had lovely scenery to keep me going!

Looking for more Lost Railways rides? Try one of these…

Lost railways: Multi-terrain from Sea to Sea on the Hornsea Rail Trail

Lost Railway Rides: The Peak District’s Tissington Trail

Lost Railway Rides: Alban Way Traffic Free Route for any Bike

Lost Railway Rides: Macclesfield to Marple on Middlewood Way


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