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Friday, 28 September 2012

The North Yorkshire Coast - Staithes to Robin Hood's Bay

The Cod & Lobster, High Street, Staithes, North Yorkshire
The Hart Inn, East Row, Sandsend
The Laurel Inn, Bay Bank, Robin Hood's Bay
The Bay Hotel, The Dock, Robin Hood's Bay

When folk are in need we should all do what we can to help. And many people in the North East of England are indeed in need after the recent extreme floods. So, the entire proceeds of this blog, and it may run into hundreds of pennies, will go to whatever disaster fund has the highest profile.

Enough of the munificence, let’s get down to the pubs on this rather famous stretch of cliffs, bays and sand. The village of Staithes appears to have been hewn out of the sandstone cliffs that enclose it. Down a narrow defile, open only to residents’ vehicles, tiny streets branch off into even narrower lanes between modest dwellings.

So compact is the village that you would think the locals are of a smaller breed suited to life here and on the sea. And the harsh, ragged charm of a place long past its seagoing prime would suggest to uninformed but romantic visitors an association with some legendary maritime figure. Guess what, that notion would be correct. Captain James Cook had his first apprenticeship here.

The Cod and Lobster is right on the harbour walls, these boundaries recently re-built, augmenting the already superb natural inlet. The pub’s name promises a better range of seafood than is offered but there are some fish specials to increase the choice. The beer range is better. This is a pub that doesn’t wantonly raise its prices beyond reasonableness. Mainly because of the lack of money in the village and surrounding districts.

The interior is more contemporary than expected with cream walls, leather furniture and blackboards. Despite the nod to modern trends comfort is the aim rather than style. Thus it may well be cosy in winter but in summer the outdoor benches are the place to be round two sides of the building. Great spot even allowing for the strange flies that annoy drinkers. Fishermen amongst you may know if these are fish parasites.

Between Staithes and, the more famous, Whitby is a pleasant coastal journey that can include a stop at Sandsend. This stretch is open in contrast to the coves north and south. Many people enjoy these sands and also, perhaps, the noted high-end restaurant Estbek House and the pub, the Hart Inn.

Both add to the reasons to linger round here by the pretty wooded stream that idles into the North Sea. The pub is welcoming with a decent range of booze and a great beer garden.

Whitby is just down the coast and needs a blog all of its own, that – when I write it – will include Gothic references and ripping sea yarns along with bar experiences, of course.

A smaller place that can be included in this piece is Robin Hood’s Bay. The associations with the renowned outlaw are very dubious but this village doesn’t need them. It is the eastern end of the 192-mile Coast to Coast walk and is a fitting end to this major trek.

A very steep cobbled road is the main artery with many branches leading to all corners of the village. Similar to Staithes, everything is packed tight here. This may have helped during the smuggling heydays of the 17th and 18th centuries. Secret passages and hidey-holes are rife. These, along with the partially subterranean local stream explain why it is believed possible that contraband such as a barrel of rum could be transported from one end of the town to the other without it ever emerging outside.

Nowadays, handling booze isn’t quite so risky or surreptitious - if you ignore the health fascists - and there’s a couple of fascinating wee pubs tucked away, including the Laurel Inn. A tiny hostelry with a bench outside that allows you a prime view of those going up and down the hill to the sea.

At the bottom of the hill the road becomes a slipway into the perpetually cold waters of the North Sea. Happily, there’s a bar down there – the Bay Hotel - to afford a full appreciation of the setting. The actual bar interior is a tad disappointing; too much faded carpet that seems to date from the last refurb in the 1980s.

It’s normally busy though so maybe the owners don’t feel more investment in the place is worth it. A pity but with a terrace like this one, less important than it might have been. Wrap up if you have to, to enjoy it or the other outdoor area to the side by the road. Either spot is good to watch the waves pound the bay whether at low or high tide. Sit, or stand, and observe the wild power of nature. North Easterners fully appreciate that power this week.

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