Five miles south of the North Yorkshire town of Whitby is the small coastal fishing village of Bay Town.

Bay Town is more widely known as Robin Hood’s Bay. The origin of this name is uncertain and it is doubtful if ‘Robin Hood’ was ever in the vicinity. An English ballad and legend tells a story of Robin Hood encountering French pirates who came to pillage the fisherman’s boats along the northeast coast. Ultimately the pirates surrendered and Robin Hood is said to have returned the loot to the poor people in the village that is now called Robin Hood’s Bay.

In historical books the village is first mentioned in 1536 and in the 19th century Robin Hood’s Bay was seen as being a more important town than Whitby.

The village has a long tradition of smuggling and there is said to be a network of subterranean passageways linking the houses. Tea, gin, rum, brandy and tobacco were among the contraband smuggled into Yorkshire from the Netherlands and France.

In 1773 two excise cutters, the ‘Mermaid’ and the ‘Eagle’ were outgunned and chased out of the bay by three smuggling vessels and in 1779 a pitched battle took place on the dock over 200 casks of brandy, gin and 15 bags of tea!

Fishing and farming were the original occupations for those living in the village with the fishing industry reaching a peak in the mid 19th century. Using ‘cobble’ boats for line fishing in the winter months and larger boats for herring fishing during the summer. Many houses were built as the village grew between 1650 and 1750 as the fishing industry peaked but by the latter half of the 19th century the fishing industry had started to decline.

Today tourism is the largest source of income for the village with day trippers and holiday makers making the most of the sheltered bay. Coming to the town and enjoying the beach and exploring the rock pools at low tide or meandering through the tightly woven streets and houses that are built on the steep hillside that drops down to the sea. Artists come to the picturesque village to sketch and paint the scenery and, in what is one of it’s more famous claims, walkers arrive at the town in heavy boots carrying their walking poles and rucksacks after completing the famous ‘Coast to Coast’ walk – the 182-mile long journey that travels from St Bees in Cumbria on the west coast and heads eastwards across the country to Robin Hood’s Bay  – before sitting to enjoy a well earned pint as they look over the north sea.

To see further pictures from this ‘Coast People‘ project and more of my photography follow the link to visit Room 2850

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

An artist sketches the view as he looks out over Robin Hood’s Bay

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

An ice cream van sits on the beach offering refreshments to visitors to the beach

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

A flag flies proudly from a sandcastle on the beach

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

Enjoying his pipe, a walker rests awhile

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

Looking through the tight streets and over the bay towards Ravenscar

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

A woman sits enjoying some chips as she looks over the beach at low tide towards Ravenscar in the distance

Robin Hood's Bay

Seagulls perch on and fly over the large sea wall

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay


Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

A father with his sons explore the rock pools at low tide

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

A young boy beach-combing on the sand at low tide on the beach in the bay

Coast People, Robin Hood's Bay

A more modern fishing boat sits overlooking the area to the north of the bay known as ‘Dungeon Hole’

‘Coast People’

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