Captain Cook and the Cleveland Way

Captain Cook’s monument

I didn’t set out on the Cleveland Way this spring on the trail of Captain Cook, but he did turn up quite a bit along the way.

(I did, a little bit, set out on the trail of George Heneage Dundas, but that’s a whole other story.)

After working around the moors from Helmsley to Kildale, Cook started to come into the story on the fourth day, with Great Ayton in view down below for part of the day, and then his monument on Easby Moor ahead.

The start of the fourth day found me climbing up to the monument itself – an impressive marker on the hillside.

The monument, Easby Moor

The monument was erected in 1827, and has a plaque praising Cook’s abilities.

Monument inscription

(It’s odd to think that this was before Middlesbrough existed – the monument isn’t in the middle of nowhere, as it seems now, it’s overlooking the biggest town connected with his boyhood.)

After a day around Redcar and Marske on the trail of the Dundas family, it was day 6 when I next came across Cook, in Staithes where he spent 18 months working for a merchant before moving to Whitby to train as a seaman. It’s a very picturesque little harbour, piled into a gap between the cliffs.


The shop where he worked has been destroyed by the sea (a common story along this coast), but parts of it were used to build the house called Captain Cook’s cottage. There’s also a museum here, but I was too late to visit it.

Captain Cook’s cottage

The next day I was in Whitby, where Cook served his apprenticeship as a seaman and then worked for several years on Whitby-based ships, working his way up to master before joining the navy at the start of the Seven Years War.

Whitby harbour entrance

A statue to Cook stands on the west cliff – as well as the inscriptions describing it, there are plaques presented by several of the countries which Cook helped to explore.

Captain Cook statue, Whitby
Statue inscriptions

I especially liked this ship:


Down at the quayside, the replica of Endeavour was just returning from one trip and ready to set out for another – which I couldn’t resist. The ship is built on roughly 40% of the scale of the original, but that still doesn’t feel like the original would have been very big!

Small Endeavour

Over on the other, older, side of the harbour is the house where Cook lodged as an apprentice, now the Captain Cook museum. From the street it’s a nice building, marked with the initials of its original owners, Moses and Susannah Dring, although in Cook’s time it belonged to John Walker.

Front of the house

The house is built in an L shape around a courtyard behind – the attic of the main building is where the apprentices would have slept.

John Walker’s house

At the other end, the courtyard runs down to the harbour – and would have been lower in Cook’s day, running down to a slipway.

Looking to the harbour

The museum itself is interesting but not always very clear – they have several exhibits which they’re rightfully proud of, but don’t put much effort into telling the overarching story which these things fit into (what happened on each of the three voyages, for example). My vague memories of the museum at Marton did help a bit!

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