To discover the Yorkshire coast is to step back in time.
Visiting Yorkshire, especially its coastal towns and villages, is like a complete reset – hold down two buttons and release! Whenever you come across anywhere that transports you back in time, those places have the magical knack of carrying you away from the modern world and all its pressures and stresses. To a time when life was more simple and pleasures were uncomplicated. This, I find, is the perfect antidote to our busy lives and a weekend visiting North Yorkshire, England, is that pill!
A Weekend Away On The North Yorkshire Coast
There’s something about the cobbled streets of Yorkshire’s fishing villages that ooze a calmness perfect as the soundtrack to a chilled weekend away. Perhaps it’s the fact that there are no car engines to put you on a constant edge? Or the blathering seagulls above, trying to convince you it’s lunchtime. Or maybe just the vaporous air in the north-east of England that casts a dampening blanket on sounds – like somebody turned down the stereo.
Whatever it is – a few days on the Yorkshire coast will reset and recharge even the weakest batteries!
It’s a slower pace and a weekend here should be took at snail-speed. Meandering, savouring and appreciating a corner of England that is steeped in history and hasn’t wanted to catch up with modern society. And why should it – if it ain’t broke…
WHERE TO STAY
Book yourself in to Delft Cottage in Robin Hood’s Bay (it’s one of the closer rental cottages to the car park at the top of the town, as parking is almost non-existent in Robin Hood’s Bay and driving down to the sea on the steep single-lane road is not advised!)
The fisherman’s cottages on the slopes of the village are tucked away down small passages that bend and turn, instantly disorienting its visitors. It’s easy to see how these rabbit-warren streets quickly fooled the tax-man and assisted the smuggling amongst villagers – it’s a real struggle to figure out which way you’re going! But staying in this particular block of cottages is the perfect backdrop for a cosy hideaway weekend.
Robin Hood’s Bay is definitely the jewel of the North Yorkshire Coast and often shows up on postcards from the area. So, spending a bit of time in this lovely little village is a must.
Get lost in the maze of tiny streets and absorb the sea-faring theme from street names, door-knockers and nick-nacks on window ledges – there’s no mistaking that the folk of Robin Hood’s bay are tied tightly to the sea. Between the gaps in roof-tops, you’ll occasionally catch a glimpse down to the beach below and if you keep winding through the bends and turns you’ll eventually deposit yourself in the bay!
There is a lovely 1-mile walk along the water’s edge at low tide to a secret place called Boggle Hole. A little hidden gem on the Yorkshire coast, this cute little cave in the cliffs has concealed many a smuggler’s haul. This particular stretch of coastline is also a treasure-trove of fossils and ammonites – dinosaur footprints are always going to be a winner if you’re looking for things to do with kids in Robin Hood’s Bay!
Back in the village, the Flyingdales Museum is worth a little peek if only to grasp the concept of smuggling and how Robin Hood’s Bay survived. And a quick ‘half’ at the Smugglers Bistro is almost obligatory. Personally though, I’d choose lunch from the Fish Box at the top of the hill – cod and chips with a cup of tea and side of scraps always taste amazing with a sea view!
Post-fish-and-chips you may want a change of scenery. Hop in the car for a 20 minute drive to the cute little village of Goathland in the North Yorkshire Moors.
images from Wikimedia
Look familiar? Both the TV programme ‘Heartbeat’ and the Harry Potter films have shot scenes in this old fashioned village! But it isn’t just quaint and photogenic… Goathland has one of my favourite places to visit in North Yorkshire – a heritage steam railway. Book yourself a return ticket to Grosmont, just up the line, and enjoy a half-hour trip on a beautiful steam train, you’ll feel like a star in your very own black and white movie!
If you have any spare time on your first day in North Yorkshire, nearby beauty spots, Mallyan Spout Waterfall or Levisham Moor could be explored and an appetite worked up for some tasty pub grub at The Station Tavern in Grosmont.
Most people coming to visit Yorkshire and the northeast coast usually make their way to Whitby. And although its connections to Bram Stoker and Dracula are pretty well flaunted, there are many more highlights to this unique little seaside town. Depending on your preferences you could easily spend several hours visiting Whitby.
It was the Gothic-looking Abbey up on the cliff tops that conjured up the Dracula scenes in Bram Stoker’s mind, and when you see it looming above Whitby it does invoke a sense of eeriness, for sure. But the ‘old town’ (east of the River Esk) plays a small part in transporting you back to a Victorian era as well. Cobbled streets and shop fronts with tiny little windows and hand-painted signs make even the most averse shopper linger.
One thing you will notice in this part of town is the quantity of Jet glass jewellery shops, and it comes with a fascinating back-story. Washed up on the shores of Whitby, Jet comes from the wood of Monkey Puzzle trees decayed under extreme pressure for possibly millions of years. It became popular when Queen Victoria started wearing it in mourning after Alberts death, and Whitby began supplying those at court with elaborate, often gigantic, pieces. I love the fact that you can just stumble across your own piece of Jet on Whitby beach, and even take it to one of the shops to have something made for yourself if you desire.
There is a large collection of Jet and Jet-related artefacts over at the Whitby Museum at Pannett Park. In fact, put the museum on your itinerary and for £6 you get a real grasp of the town’s history, including its Whaling connections and the story of Captain James Cook – Whityby’s most notable resident. There’s also a neat collection of ‘curiosities’ thrown in for good measure. Once equipped with a bit of Whitby-history, your take on the town will be both enhanced and enlightened.
One place you mustn’t miss in this North Yorkshire seaside town is Fortune’s Smokehouse at the base of the 199 steps (the steep incline that takes you up to the remains of St. Mary’s church and Whitby Abbey). The Fortune family still employ traditional methods of smoking and they’re the last guys standing from a more plenteous hey-day. Don’t leave without a souvenir.
From here you can either decide on a climb up the 199 steps to the Abbey for some great views and a visit to the English Heritage site, or jump in the car and take a trip to some other nearby fishing villages.
Incidentally, Whitby town straddles both sides of the river and if it is worth crossing the bridge over the Esk for anything, it would be for the views over to the Old Town you were just in. Or, for a slap-up meal at The Star Inn The Harbour – a table with a view and brasserie dishes from the water you gaze upon.
Staithes, about 10 miles up the Yorkshire coast, is like Whitby’s little sister. A village dependant on the sea and comfortable with its foothold in the past and simple ways.
But, the word is getting out about how cute Staithes is and 18th-century cottages are getting snapped up left, right and centre for holiday homes. Well, perhaps not that quickly, but enough to sense that 21st-century people are beginning to move in and houses are being done-up in uber-cool ways. With this wave of contemporary modernistic’s comes the need for places that make good coffee and the odd art gallery.
My hope is that this little Yorkshire hidden gem retains most of its authentic, slightly over-weathered, charm and doesn’t succumb too much to a new generation. But, there’s always a place for good coffee.
Staithes has for a long time attracted artists – it’s just so picture perfect! But there was once a little collective, known as the Staithes Group, that were the North’s answer to The Impressionists (You know; Monet, Renoir and all of the other beret-wearing painters) The Staithes Gallery on the High Street has a handful of pieces from some of this group.
Staithes still has a handful of working fishermen and the local catch is usually cod, lobster and crab. If you like your seafood, call in for a freshly-caught meal at the Cod & Lobster on the High Street.
If you’re fed up of little fishing villages, forget Staithes and head for Sandsend – only 3 miles from Whitby. Less of a village and more of a starting post for some beautiful hikes, you may want to spend the remainder of your weekend in North Yorkshire ambling a section of the Cleveland Way or just a breezy beach walk to blow off the cobwebs.
We’ve earmarked this village for our next short break in Yorkshire because it’s perfectly set up for quiet sunrise or sunset walks on the beach, and it’s developed a bit of a reputation as a foodie-haven. The Hart Inn and Estbek House Restaurant have particularly caught our attention, the latter with a couple of awards under its burgeoning belt.
We’d stay at the Raithwaite Hotel and Spa and make the most of the facilities and pampering – this has to be one of the most luxury hotels North Yorkshire has on offer.
THINGS TO KNOW WHEN VISITING THE NORTH YORKSHIRE COAST
Getting to Yorkshire’s coast by car takes about 5 hours from London. It is easy to get to York from London by train but from York to the coast we really recommend hiring a car. You will cross some beautiful scenery over the Yorkshire Moors and pass through some lovely towns and villages too. A trip to the coast could easily be incorporated into a longer holiday in the area as there are so many lovely places to visit in Yorkshire.
Once on the coast, some of the towns and villages we have mentioned are better explored on foot – several have steep inclines down into the village from the road so car parks are often found on the outskirts of town. It’s also worth noting that the hills are probably not ideal for some, and aren’t particularly disabled-friendly.
Yorkshire is, by nature of being ‘up north’, slightly colder than London and the north-easterly sea breeze is kind of a constant so you might want to pack an extra layer. And an umbrella!
For more ideas on where to go in the UK for weekends or short breaks, check out our other post…