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The Cleveland Way turns 50 years old in 2019

The North York Moors are – to coin a phrase – as old as the hills, but the famed long-distance walking route that traverses the heather moorland is rather younger. When the 109-mile Cleveland Way was opened in 1969, it was just the second of the UK’s National Trails to be established (the first, trivia fans, was the Pennine Way in 1965). These days we have 15 official National Trails snaking across England, Wales and Scotland, with a sixteenth – the mammoth England Coast Path – soon to be unveiled. There’s still arguably none finer than the Cleveland Way.

What makes it so special? The variety. In brief terms, the route winds across raised moorland for the first half of its length – complete with red grouse, hushed valleys and booming views across the landscape – then spends another 50 miles following the cliff-fringed Yorkshire coast past smugglers’ bays, seabird colonies and fishing villages. It begins in Helmsley and ends in Filey – although plenty walk it the other way round.

The scenery en route is fantastic, as is the wildlife. There’s stirring human history and some top-notch highlights to look out for, from the ‘Yorkshire Matterhorn’ of Roseberry Topping to the clifftop drama of Whitby Abbey. In many ways, it’s a shining example of what long-distance walking in the UK is all about.   

The record time for completing the trail is less than 20 hours, but you can’t help feeling that speeding along the trail misses the point. Far better to spend a week or more appreciating the trail to the full. It’s been around for 50 years, and will be a fixture on the map for many more to come.  

YHA has five hostels along the Cleveland Way:

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