At Easter, I took a short break on the east coast of North Yorkshire and have been meaning to write about it ever since! It’s a region that we know well as a family: my husband spent many holidays in Filey as a child and, when we were first married, some friends owned a house at Robin Hood’s Bay, at which we spent several wonderful long weekends. Built in the seventeenth century, this was the house that stands nearest the sea, adjacent to the ‘quarterdeck’, or man-made apron for viewing the bay, and, on stormy nights, the waves broke right over it and the whole building shook. (It’s next door to what was the Leeds University/Sheffield University Marine Laboratory from 1912 to 1982 and now, rebuilt, a National Trust visitor centre.) The house is still there, though no longer owned by our friends. During its time, it has been several times hired by authors wanting a quiet place in which to write without disturbance (though when I visited the house its plumbing system was so eccentric that a great deal of time had to be deployed in pumping out sewage and clearing the drains!). Robin Hood’s Bay itself is the setting of the Bramblewick novels, by Leo Walmsley.
No visit to the East coast is complete without a visit to this mediaeval fishing village. However, this year, my husband and I headed a little further north, to Port Mulgrave, a hamlet near Staithes. Bleaker and more desolate than ‘the Bay’, this place really could have been at the end of the world.
One of the most magnificent things about this stretch of Yorkshire coast is that visiting it is like stepping back into the past, but in an unpretentious way (quite unlike, for example, the self-conscious ‘olde-worlde’ well-preserved streets of towns such as Harrogate). The house in which we stayed was a massive building that dated from the period when ironstone was mined there during the nineteenth century. I’m not sure what the purpose of this building was originally: it may simply have been a dwelling for the ironstone workers, or it may have been part dwelling, part factory. Today it has been divided into several cottages, one of which was our holiday house. Intriguingly, the end cottage was burned down some time ago, without any damage having been caused to the rest of the building. Its owner still visits regularly to tend the garden and the empty space where the cottage once stood.
I hadn’t heard of Port Mulgrave before. When I came to look it up, I discovered that the Mulgrave Estate covers a massive area at the centre of which lies Whitby. By chance, on this holiday, we also happened to pass the estate office in Sandsend.
Although it was Easter, we managed to avoid the crowds, apart from an ill-advised foray into Whitby – another favourite haunt – on Good Friday. On Easter Saturday, we walked from Robin Hood’s Bay
to Ravenscar and climbed the cliff that leads to the golf links and the Raven Hall Hotel, where we bought a sandwich lunch and sat outside to soak up the sunshine.
We stumbled upon several plump seal pups at the boulder-strewn end of the beach, just before the start of the climb up the cliff. One of them growled menacingly at our dog, clearly more than a match for him (He’s a very mild-mannered dog, and certainly wouldn’t have hurt it; he stood timidly several feet away and looked in wonderment at it!). Almost full-grown, they were evidently awaiting the return of the parent seals with more food.
I’d never been as close as this to seals before and had no idea how beautiful they are. Glistening and glossy, each was a different colour. Some were dappled like horses.
I admit it, I wrote this post largely as an excuse to share with my readers their beauty and that of this magnificent coastline! Also, some Twitter friends have wondered about my promotion of Yorkshire seafood, especially crab. Now you know! I love this place and everything it has to offer.
[Text and photographs © Christina James 2014]
10 thoughts on “Seal of approval!”
Hi Christina, thanks for interesting post. We have just ‘done Northumberland’ we stayed for three nights on Holy Island – fantastic! We have been to Bamburgh,, there was a Viking re-enactment. We moved south a bit and stayed another three nights near Longframlington, we visited Barter Books at Alnwick, went to have a look at Morpeth, Rothbury, Otterburn. Quite a tour round. We have joined English Heritage, so visited four of their properties. It has not been restful, but certainly memorable
OOOOOH! Envious. Just love Northumberland and Holy Island. What a wild and weatherbeaten coast it is, with wonderful, atmospheric castles. We went out last time to the Farne Islands, to see nesting seabirds – the terns draw blood, swooping on your head! Aieee! Why would anyone want restful, in a place like that! Lovely to welcome you back here, especially with news of a Northumberland visit. 🙂
Madame X and I stopped off in Whitby on our way to Northumberland. Nice post, Christina.
Thank you, Francis. I can’t think of a better place than Northumberland for a pink assignation… except Whitby. 😉
Lovely. Wonderful snaps. The cliff looks delightful. Of course, I’m envisioning the parson tumbling down its face on a damp night. A vocational hazard. Such a nice spot for the crime scene opening there at the base.
Oh, you wicked, wicked man! Getting rid of the parson! Start writing it, Jack; you’ve got the location and the plot in your head already! Thank you, as always. 🙂
Just lovely, Christina. Those seals look like my Sindy when she is feeling particularly hard done by. It must have been a wonderful get away!
I had the same thought – the eyes of dogs and seals are capable of great soulfulness! Whether seals are up to emotional blackmail, I’ve no idea, but I’m certain that dogs are! Thank you! 🙂
Loved this piece, Christina. Robin Hoods Bay was the site of extremely rare treats to run free on the beach as a child. I still have a little piece of jet I found there. Thank you for the nostalgia and marvellous photographs. (Had trouble leaving a comment, but finally made it).
Thank you, Trish, and welcome here. I’m glad that the post touched some chords with you and your memories. Thank you also for giving it spread on Twitter. 🙂