Robin Hood’s Bay
Location: Robin Hood’s Bay
Robin Hood’s Bay is a small fishing village positioned snuggly between two cliffs in North York Moors National Park. Its nearest neighbors being Whitby, lying 5 miles to the south, and Scarborough, lying 15 miles north. The name Robin Hood’s Bay is based on the legend of Robin Hood gallantly coming to the aid of a poor town that had been met by French pirates. The pirates had come to pillage the village’s boats and would have succeeded had Robin Hood not intervened and forced the pirates to surrender and return their loot to the poor. A beautiful story… if that had ever happened. As it seems, Robin Hood most likely never went to Robin Hood’s Bay, or Baytown as the locals call it. There is no record of Nottingham’s infamous thief in any town records until King Henry VIII took the property in 1540.
Robin Hood’s Bay has an amazing history on its own. There are signs that Romans had been there, which is a likely possibility given that Ravenscar, a nearby village, was once a Roman signal station. The land was settled in 1000 AD by Norwegian and Danish vikings. The Norwegian conquest didn’t last long because in 1069 AD William the Conqueror invaded. William passed the land off to Tancred of Fleming, who gave it to the Abbot of Whitby. In the 16th century, Robin Hood’s Bay became a very important port for Whitby, but in 1540 the abbey and all its property came into King Henry VIII’s procession.
There is a plaque in town records that a brig named “The Visitor” ran aground in 1881. The storm was far too rough for the lifeboat to sail out to them. In order to save those aboard, 18 horses pulled the lifeboat from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay through a 7 foot snowdrift that was cleared by 200 men. Once in the town, the streets were too narrow for the lifeboat, so men uprooted gardens and cleared bushes to make way for the lifeboat. Two hours later, all the men aboard “The Visitor” had been saved.
For a long time smuggling was a major form of commerce for Robin Hood’s Bay. The notorious smuggling port was so successful because of the subterranean passageways that linked the cellars of houses. It was said that “a bail of silk could travel from the bottom of the village to the top without seeing the light of day.” In the 18th century, Robin Hood’s Bay was a key port in receiving contraband from the Americas and the continent, such as tea, gin and rum.
Robin Hood’s Bay is somewhat divided into two parts. On the top of the hill live higher class citizens in victorian style homes. At the bottom of the hill live the fishermen and merchants in houses made of sandstone with red tiled roofs. Most houses were built between 1650 and 1750.
One of the main attractions in Robin Hood’s Bay is the Robin Hood’s Butts. Robin Hood’s Butts is a mile south of the village and is the site of bronze age burial mounds. Robin Hood’s Bay is also of deep interest for those who collect fossils. People go every year to try their hand at finding fossils when the tide goes out.
Robin Hood’s Bay, in regards to literature and entertainment, was the setting for the Bramblewick novels by Leo Walmsley. Robin Hood’s Bay has become a poem by Michael Rosen. Wild Child a film from 2008 was also filmed there.