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48 Hours in Staithes and the North York Moors Coast

For generations, artists have been inspired by the breath-taking coastline of the North York Moors. With its rugged natural beauty, boundless skies and incredible Northern light it makes the perfect break.

Staithes; a fishing village with an artistic pedigree

“Go to Staithes, there is no place like it in all the world for painting.” So said Thomas Bartlett, drawing master to Laura Johnson, one of the founding members of the Staithes group of 19th century painters.

The stunning quality of light along stretches of the English coastline has long attracted artists.  You may be familiar with the famous artist colony of St Ives in Cornwall but at the turn of the 20th century a group of twenty-five British impressionist painters made their home in the coastal village of Staithes on the edge of the North York Moors; with its winding streets and cottages almost tumbling into the sea, it’s a must-see for visitors.  

With the advent of the railway in 1883, other artists soon followed, attracted by its towering cliffs, wild seas, and warm resilient inhabitants.  The ‘Staithes Group’ documented local life and work and became renowned throughout the world.

Staithes has continued to inspire artists to the present day, for its spectacular cliff-tops and  sandy beach, once a major fishing port, this is a village lost in time.

Today you will find contemporary art inspired by the village and surrounding landscape at several permanent galleries, including Staithes Gallery, home to Staithes Art School, which offers painting weekend courses throughout the year.

The village usually hosts an annual International Arts and Heritage Festival in September, unfortunately cancelled for this year, but normally a magnet for art-lovers when makeshift ‘galleries’ are set up in over 80 homes and shops throughout the maze of narrow village streets; its heritage brought to life in guided walks and talks.

Don’t forget to visit the Pannett Art Gallery in nearby Whitby to view the most comprehensive selection of the works of the Staithes Group and the quirky Whitby Museum to learn more about the group’s life.

Spend the night in one of the cosy fisherman’s cottages or comfy B&Bs with stunning sea views and don’t miss the locally smoked kippers for breakfast!

 Art in Staithes and the North York Moors Coast  Art in Staithes and the North York Moors Coast
 Art in Staithes and the North York Moors Coast

Art in the landscape on the Cleveland Way

Enjoy contemporary works of art within the landscape that has inspired them.

The Cleveland Way National Trail hugs the moorland and coast of the North York Moors National Park. If you walk its northernmost coastal section, you’ll not only encounter the rich sea faring and industrial heritage of the area but also a line-up of celebrated art works.

You’ll also come across a huge colourful mosaic storyboard by artist Ruth Wilkinson installed in 2016 on the sea wall at Robin Hood’s Bay. Comprising more than 300,000 tiles, it depicts 190 million years of the Bay's history.

The cliffs above Saltburn feature an iconic giant charm bracelet and other sculptures by Richard Farrington, cast in steel to celebrate the local smelting industry.

Local sculptor Emma Stothard’s Coronation Lobster, a 3m high bright blue lobster made from galvanised wire, can be seen at Bank Top in Staithes. From there head down the steep hill, where you’ll find the painted Staithes Illusion Trail, created by local artist Paul Czainski. The Trail features eight trompe l’oeil style paintings on the walls of buildings in hidden corners of the village.  

A visit here allows you to create your own retreat, away from the hustle and bustle of the world and soak up the atmosphere which has inspired generations of artists. 

Staithes is known for its seasonal local produce, so round the day off with an relaxing meal of locally caught seafood and a beer in one of the village pubs.

Even if you don’t produce a masterpiece, you’re sure to feel inspired and refreshed by your visit on one of the most stimulating stretches of the English coast.