Saltwick Bay, near Whitby – A Gallery

saltwick bay near whitby gallery

By Karen Ruffles

There is something haunting about Saltwick Bay. Black rocks are studded with golden fossils caused by pyrite deposits which oxidise when exposed to the air causing these ephemeral beauties to fade from view.

It’s timeless and yet different every time I visit. On an overcast day, it’s stark and bleak. At sunrise or sunset, unearthly with fiery light reflected in shallow pools. In the sunshine the salt dries and marbles the landscape in striking black and white, which will change again with the tides.

Saltwick Bay gallery charcoal

Saltwick Bay, charcoal pencil drawing

For an artist, that’s irresistible and I return time after time with my camera to capture more moments to draw from. The most dramatic feature of the bay is the wreck of the Admiral Van Tromp which ran aground in September 1976. Her remains make a powerful counterpoint to Black Nab, a shale outcrop that dominates the skyline. I recently met with Cassie Taal, daughter of Skipper Frank Taal to find out more.

saltwick bay gallery Admiral Van Tromp

​Admiral Van Tromp, photo by Karen Ruffles

“Life rafts”

In the early hours, the crew were woken as the trawler hit the rocks, 90 degrees off course. The exact cause remains a mystery as the only crew member awake at the time was John Addison who sadly did not make it off alive. George Eves was also lost that night. In heavy fog and with waves battering the heeling boat, the Whitby lifeboat tried over and over to reach the vessel and those on board. Frank Taal was eventually rescued by the inshore lifeboat, two other survivors were helped ashore by local police and auxiliary coastguards after taking to the water on life rafts. The surviving crew and two lifeboatmen were taken to hospital for treatment.

saltwick bay gallery saltwick nab

​Saltwick Nab, photo by Karen Ruffles

I often get asked about the wreck in my pictures and am surprised how many visitors to Whitby haven’t taken the walk from the East Side. Best undertaken at low tide, I generally recommend walking out along the beach, round the end of Saltwick Nab. The Whitby side is slightly lower than Saltwick and so the tide comes back in here first.

Saltwick Bay gallery black nab

Black Nab, charcoal pencil on watercolour paper

“Short climb”

To see the Admiral Van Tromp, head for Black Nab at the far end of the bay. If you don’t mind a short climb, it’s worth heading up the steps from Saltwick Bay up to Whitby Holiday Park. From there you can return via the cliff path or head out to the road and walk back past Whitby Abbey, then down the famous 199 steps at St Mary’s Church.

saltwick bay gallery wreck and rock

Wreck and Rock, charcoal pencil on watercolour paper

saltwick bay gallery golden ammonite

Golden ammonite, Saltwick Bay

Saltwick Bay gallery seal

​Seal at Saltwick Bay, charcoal drawing on watercolour paper

saltwick bay gallery harbour

​Whitby Harbour, photo by Karen Ruffles

All images © Karen Ruffles. You can see more of Karen’s work at


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