My Yorkshire: Why Runswick Bay is the prettiest village in England let alone Yorkshire

Andrew Clay is chief executive officer of Scarborough Museums Trust. He is married to Lindsay, who works in the NHS, and they have three daughters, Mimi, 21, Rosa, 17, and Jennifer, 9. Andrew lives in Scarborough.​

What’s your first Yorkshire memory?

My family have been “mill people” since 1870 – our family business is still run by my twin brother John and my cousin - so our roots are in the west of the county. We had a very happy childhood, there were a lot of visits to my grandparents, who lived at Bramhope, and excursions to places like Newby Hall. Even then, I’d love doing things like polishing the silver, and one year (I’d have been about ten or so) I actually asked for a Miller’s Antiques Guide for Christmas.

What’s your favourite part of the county – and why?

Runswick Bay. Picture by Simon HulmeRunswick Bay. Picture by Simon Hulme
Runswick Bay. Picture by Simon Hulme

Runswick Bay, just north of Whitby. It’s the one place that I can go to, and completely relax. We’ve had a family retreat there for decades, and in fact on of my ancestors was the artist Mark Senior, whose studio (which was built specially, in the garden) is still there.

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What’s your idea of a perfect day, or a perfect weekend, out in Yorkshire?

Getting over to one of our glorious stately homes (Harewood, Newby, Castle Howard, Burton Agnes, the choice is extraordinary) and having a good nosey around, having a lovely long and indulgent lunch – somewhere like the Devonshire Arms at Bolton – and then maybe staying over for the night. Days together as a family are getting precious, since our three daughters are all growing up fast, and they all like doing other things.

Do you have a favourite walk – or view?

Andrew Clay at The Woodend. (Pic: Richard Ponter)Andrew Clay at The Woodend. (Pic: Richard Ponter)
Andrew Clay at The Woodend. (Pic: Richard Ponter)

From Runswick out over the sea, on any day, at any time, and in any weather. No two seconds will ever be the same…..blink, and the whole picture will have changed.

Which Yorkshire stage or screen star, or past or present, would you like to take for dinner?

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Time with Sir Alan Ayckbourn – who surely should be called “Mr Scarborough” would be a great pleasure. A charming and supremely talented man. Charles Laughton was born not so far from our Museum, and he’d surely be a wonderful source of unfettered gossip from the golden days of Hollywood.

If you had to name your Yorkshire ‘hidden gem’, what would it be?

Scarborough is a place that is busting with hidden gems, there’s one just about around every corner. But I’m going to be a little naughty, and suggest that a visitor would find more than a few within our own Rotunda Museum – don’t let the scaffolding and the canvas outside fool you, because, while we are indeed undergoing restoration and renewal, we are still very much “open for business”. We may be small, but we are perfectly formed, and there are so many treasures within our walls.

If you could own, or have access to, one thing in Yorkshire for a single day, what would that object or place be?

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Talk about being spoiled for choice! May I offer a little warning to the lovely people at Harewood House that, should they ever find that they are missing a wonderful little Sevres cup and saucer after I’ve been over on a visit, they will not have very far to look…..I will be the culprit. Their collection of fine French china and porcelain is superb. Breathtaking. Giving it back after a day will break my heart.

What do you think gives Yorkshire its unique identity?

Just a few weeks back, I had to drive over to Settle for a business meeting, and I made absolutely sure that I factored in extra time, so that I could break the journey every now and then, just to be able to “stand and stare”, to drink in the scenery, and to appreciate it. You have tradition, you have history, you have people, you have landscape, all so different, but equally all part of a harmonious whole.

Do you have a favourite restaurant, or pub?

There’s a great little bar-cum-pub on Northway here in Scarborough, called Craft, which has terrific guest beers, and which is intimate, cosy, relaxing, and – best of all – within walking distance.

Do you have a favourite food shop?

We are great supporters of our farm shops, and of our local markets. Locally sourced produce, first-rate service, great range of choice. Hang the supermarkets, shop with the place around the corner whenever you can.

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How do you think that Yorkshire has changed, for better or for worse, in the time that you’ve known it?

One of the very sad downsides is the decline of local businesses, where-ever they may have been, from the great family mills and makers to the corner shops, and everything in between. They truly were very special, and they will never properly return. The upside is that many of our great towns and cities have regenerated themselves – somewhere like the centre of Leeds is now pulsing with life, and has some great retail, and when you go to Sheffield, and emerge from the station, it’s breathtaking.

Who is the Yorkshire person that you most admire?

Harold Wilson, who always seemed to get on well with people, and who was far more multi-faceted than people gave him credit for. My father used to admire him, and so do I. He gave the impression that he was very grounded – that ‘man of the people’ stuff with his homely pipe, for example.

Has Yorkshire influenced your work?

In every regard and in every particular. It’s where my heart is, I have never worked anywhere else, and I love it for its sheer variety.

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Name your favourite Yorkshire book/author/artist/CD/performer.

David Peace, as a writer (he was a year above me at school), whose work has included some brilliant novels like The Damned United and the Red-Riding Quartet, David Hockney as an artist without compare, and Thomas Chippendale, an ordinary lad from Otley who single-handedly revolutionised the world of furniture and interior decoration.

If a stranger to Yorkshire only had time to visit one place, it would be?

Here we go on a whirlwind tour of the county, and it would include York Minster, Rievaulx and Byland Abbeys. People assume that they were completed in a few decades, instead of over hundreds of years, with generations of people working on them – and the National Rail Museum, another temple to engineering excellence. And, as you might guess, I’d urge them to pop up to Runswick, which is the prettiest village in England, never mind Yorkshire!