Once a Roman signalling station, Saltburn by the Sea went on to become a prime location for smuggling on this coastline. As smuggling declined, Saltburn managed to re-invent itself as a seaside resort in the Victorian period, thanks to the efforts of entrepreneur Henry Pease. This Victorian phase of the town's development is still visible today through the preservation of the Zetland Hotel, the Valley Gardens, the Cliff Lift and perhaps, the most Victorian of buildings, the Pier.

One of the most famous of Saltburn's sights is water balanced Cliff Lift, which opened in 1884 and is the oldest in Britain. The 207 foot track connects the upper and lower promenades. Another historic attraction is The Smugglers' Heritage Centre which tells you all you need to know about smuggling in Saltburn. The museum is sited in a converted fisherman's cottage complete with fascinating, interactive exhibits. Those who enjoy outdoor entertainments can visit the Saltburn Valley Gardens and Woodland Centre. This incorporates ancient woodland and formal gardens. Orienteering is offered in the Woodland Centre. A miniature railway runs from the promenade through the Valley gardens terminating at the Woodland Centre via the Italian gardens and the tea rooms.

The Pier is the most Northerly surviving pier in Britain and since being restored in 2001 is once again open to visitors.

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