In Sandsend Sheena Hastings discovers why the seaside is too good to keep it just for the summer.
IT’S very difficult to concentrate on anything after Wednesday lunchtime when you’ve got a weekend at the glorious Yorkshire seaside coming up.
Half the week’s spent making lists in spare moments, as well as obsessively watching the weather and wondering what to pack. Travel hopefully is my motto, so I throw in both the all-weather coat, hat, scarf, gloves and sun cream, even though our short break is in March.
I know, I know, you’ll be thinking “Who is she kidding?”, but we’ve been sunburned before by a surprisingly strong early spring sun on the east coast.
Time was, when I was little, that we didn’t venture to the seaside much in autumn/winter/spring because the coast more or less shut up shop to tourists. But now the east coast of Yorkshire never sleeps. Hardy walkers, cyclists and even surfers are out in all but the wildest weather, the shops set out their stall in November the same as if it were July, and honeypot cafés like the Magpie in Whitby are almost as likely to see a queue down the steps on a half-decent day in February as they would in August.
Six of us, three couples who don’t get to see enough each other while hard at work in Leeds, left our landlocked homes and headed off to East Row Lodge in Sandsend, the small village two miles north of Whitby, as soon as we could pile into the car after work on Friday.
By 8pm we were under the twinkling stars, opening the door of a large ground-floor three-bedroom apartment looking out over the sea. Recently renovated to a very high spec and with beautiful lamps, mirrors, rugs and bedding, the third bedroom is, romantically, a cute suite in a beach hut across the patio from the main house.
By 8.30pm we each had a large glass of wine in front of the wood burning stove, and soon afterwards we were tucking in to the curries I’d cooked to take with us. By midnight six heads were nodding. Such lightweights.
You’ve really got to allow for early breakfast and later breakfast when by the sea, because the salt air does something to the appetite. By 10.30am the sun-drenched beach across the road was alive with walkers and their dogs, and kids in wellies were dancing about in puddles. We headed to The Wit’s End Cafe about 200 yards away for a (Yorkshire) bacon sarnie and big pots of tea before turning towards Whitby along the two miles of glorious sand. After half a mile a layer was stripped off.
The town wasn’t as busy as August, obviously, but it was buzzing. The sun had lured families for fish and chips by the harbour. We distracted ourselves in the underworld of The Dracula Experience. I won’t spoil it for you, but there is one truly scary moment.
Hungry again, we wolfed down crab sandwiches and beer at Bino’s Bistro, where the specials board listed horsemeat burgers. This was at the height of the furore... but at least it wasn’t masquerading as something else. The waitress said they’d sold out anyway due to high demand.
The choice of good quality places to eat on the east coast, has grown exponentially in the last few years. Among the best is The Horse and Hounds at Goldsborough, a couple of miles from Sandsend.
The local taxi charged a steep £15, but this former boozer is well worth finding. The menu changes frequently, the food is almost all local and all organic, and the fish is chosen and cooked beautifully.
Sunday dawned cooler and with a duller sky, perfect for a seven-and-a-half-mile circular walk from Sandsend up through the woodlands of the Mulgrave Estate to to the ridge where Mulgrave Castle stands.
Of Norman construction, it was garrisoned by royalists during the English Civil War before being dismantled by Parliamentary order in 1647, probably using gunpowder.
There hadn’t been rain for a few days, but the ground underfoot was still a challenge in places. We improvised walking sticks from fallen branches, but if anyone was going to have a disaster it was your truly. I left a boot behind in a deep muddy trough, then balancing on one leg while laughing my socks off was bound to bring on further trouble – which it did.
Back in the village, people in The Hart Inn didn’t notice how much filth came through the door with us, and we rounded off a weekend that seemed to have been much longer in terms of the benefits we felt with a long late lunch of giant fish and chips.
Sheena Hastings and friends stayed at East Row Lodge, Sandsend, courtesy of Yorkshire Coastal Cottages. Properties are available from Saltburn-by-the-Sea to Bridlington, including the seaside locations of Staithes, Runswick Bay, Robin Hood’s Bay, Whitby, Scarborough and Filey. East Row Lodge is 5-Star Gold-rated, and a week costs £525-£895. Short breaks also available. 0845 068 2020 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Wits End Cafe and Walled Garden, Sandsend is open all year round for simple, high quality food and wine. 01947 893658
The Fox and Hounds at Goldsborough near Sandsend is open for supper Wednesday-Saturday: 01947 893372, www.foxandhoundsgoldsborough.co.uk