TRAVEL NORTH - 8: South from Whitby to the Queen of the Yorkshire Coast
Fancy a visit to Whitby Abbey after dark? As long as the moon is out - or wait a minute, isn't this where Count Dracula came up from the beach in the shape of a grey wolf? Maybe you'd be better off visiting by daylight.
Along the way...
Out of Whitby on the way to Scarborough
Assuming we've stayed overnight near the harbour at Whitby, we head out past the swing bridge and up the hill towards Sleights.
On our left up the hill is the ruin of Saint Hilda's abbey, rendered twice - once by the Vikings and the second time by Henry VIII who should have known better - and visited by Dracula in the late 19th Century (we have Bram Stoker's word for that). Our first visit is going to be to Bay Town in Robin Hood's Bay, fictonalised as 'Bramblewick'. Stopping at the car park at the top of the hill - look down there, do you really want to drive down and up it? - because the only ones who need to either have permits or are delivering to the shops, cafes or pubs. At the head of the slipway opposite the Old Coastguard Station museum is the Bay Hotel. It's worth a look in, and the exhibits change regularly... Test your strength, see if you can raise a hurricane on the wind machine! Opposite is the Bay Hotel with 'Wainwright's Bar' advertised at the front where a bay window looks out over the bay ro Ravenscar. There is also a sign to show this is the end of the Coast to Coast Walk, covered in one of Alfred Wainwight's books.
Outside, when the tide's in you hear the thunder as the big waves hit the wall on either side of the slipway. In the summer, when the tide goes out an ice cream van parks at the head of the beach below the old lifeboat house wall. You can walk out over the rocks but beware, the rocks are slippery with seaweed. Be also aware of the high tide timings. You wouldn't want to get stuck out there, believe me.
There are steep alleys and back streets, a main street that climbs at about 33 percent or 1 in 3 and snickelways that criss-cross the town. Another nice rest is the Dolphin, just up the hill from the Bay Hotel. Filling meals that don't cost the earth can be had at both hospices, but if your taste is non-alcoholic there are several cafes dotted around. There's one with a view down to the beck. Opposite is the old school house where one of Robert Thompson's carved mice sits on the wooden gate. Climbing back up the hill can be eased by using the many steps, and there's another cafe near the top that sells fizzy drinks or ice creams if you've become all hot and bothered by the climb. See what I mean about not driving down and then up the bank? You know it makes sense!
There are further hostelries at the top of the hill as well as Bed&Breakfast stops if you want to stay the night here
The car park is in the station yard. Looking southward is the station house on the road to Fylingthorpe, in front of which is the little cafe that backs onto the now disused station platform signal cabin. The station closed to passengers in January, 1965 after about eighty years of service. The coal depot continued for a lot longer, using road vehicles after the rails had been lifted!
Southward now to Fylingthorpe and Fyling Hall. In the years after the American Revolution this is where George III was accommodated during one of his 'mad' spells. A road leads from Fylingthorpe uphill to the A171 moor road to Scarborough. If you're feeling adventurous or you're driving a 4X4 you can drive past Fyling Hall School down the hill to the beck (stream) below, follow the bed of the beck leftwards and come out below Boggle Hole. Rev up the short hill and you come to a view across the bay to Ravenscar, or Peak as it's also know.
The author Leo Walmsley immortalised Bay Town in his series of 'Bramblewick' books about some of the town's fishermen in the 1930s, amongst which 'Three Fevers' (1932), 'Phantom Lobster' (1933) and 'Sally Lunn' (1937) were reprinted to commemorate the centenary of his birth in 1992 by Smith Settle. The Walmsley Society aims to reprint these and others shortly (see their web site). A model railway named 'Bramblewick' based on Robin Hood's Bay station - with a few embellishments - was created not so long ago by local artist Tom Harland. He was ably assisted with tracklaying and stock by various members of the Scalefour Society. This model can be seen in copies of Model Railway Journal. There are a number of black and white images and drawings in issue no. 102 (March, 1998) and others of around the same time, one issue containing colour photographs which did justice to the layout. I only wish I could have seen it for myself..
Speaking of railways in the area, the Scarborough-Whitby route was notoriously difficult to work in poor weather conditions - moreso than Whitby-Middlesbrough - with the combination of sea-mist on rails that had been greased from steam engines dripping oil through the day. Even worse was the climb through Ravenscar's tunnel. Even though only 279 yards long, it was laid on a tight curve with a 1-in-39 gradient, the result of the local landowner not wishing his vista disturbed by the sight of trains crossing his land.
There's a story about when on 19th January 1959 the first south-bound three-car d.m.u out of Middlesbrough ground to a halt at Hawsker, just south of Whitby. The train returned to Whitby where the centre car was taken out and the two power cars set out again. They fared no better and Scarborough allocated (50E) D49/2 4-4-0 62751 'The Albrighton' tender locomotive (named after a fox hunt) was sent to assist. It fared no better. The passengers were finally taken on to Scarborough by motor coach, arriving mid-afternoon instead of 9.58 am. The next two-coach train out of Whitby at 11.20 am was hauled by Fairburn 2-6-4 tank engine 42084. D49/2 62751 had meanwhile been standing at Robin Hood's Bay station, awaiting further duty. She was attached here as a 'pilot' engine and the two engines set out past Fyling Thorpe for the attack on the climb to Ravenscar. The locomotives' sanders soon emptied with the effort, however and the train set back to Whitby.
Meanwhile the first northbound train from Scarborough set out behind 62770 'The Puckeridge' (again of 50 E) an hour late.at 12.52. Failing to start again on the gradient from Stainton Dale this train had to leave one composite carriage behind and start again. At Robin Hood's Bay the 1-in-43 defeated the engine. So 62751 was sent out to help, the two D49/2 engines finally bringing their single coach working into Whitby Town at 4.40 pm. They returned to Scarborough 'in tandem', (light engines coupled together), sanding the rails as they went ahead of the next d.m.u. the 6pm. It was a design fault of the d.m.u's that no-one foresaw the need for sanding gear. Sanding was carried out overnight ahead of the following day's d.m.u timetable.
Of course the large-wheeled (6'-2" dia.) D49 engines (Shires and Hunts) were unsuitable for this route. The 4-4-0 wheel arrangement was totally wrong for this route at the best of times, the usual engines being either an A8 4-6-2 tank engine with smaller wheels, or a B1 4-6-0 tender engine, also with smaller wheels and designated a mixed traffic locomotive. This meant the B1 was capable of freight working. The class A6 4-6-2 tank engines - rebuilt from 4-6-0 with larger coal bunker and pony truck to support - had been built for the coast route but were re-allocated inland to Hull and Starbeck before WWII. Any of these locomotive types were much better suited with their better adhesion..
The last steam engines to use this line were Viscount Garnock's K4 2-6-0 'Great Marquess' in LNER green livery and NELPG's K1 2-6-0 62005 with the Whitby Moors Railtour in March 1965. The last workings were the track-lifting trains in 1966.
Unless you walked the old trackbed you wouldn't know the problem on this route, but the detour is worth it for the views alone! The tunnel itself is closed as a dangerous structure, but you can walk around as I did some years ago. You WILL notice the gradient, believe me, and understand how tough it could have been for the driver of a big-wheeled engine on the curve on wet, greasy steel rails on a 1 in 39 gradient. There wasn't a hope! The view from the top is fine, providing the weather holds.
Ravenscar was to be a housing development to the south of Raven Hall, with wide tree-lined avenues. People bought plots of land for building on, a hotel was built by the single platform station - that was doubled with a passing loop - and all was set... until one buyer went to look for himself. He saw on the map that the Ravenscar development site was close to a beach. In reality the rocky foreshore - not a beach - was down a narrow donkey track - about 100' (28 meters?) descent. Word got about. Those who had bought plots were stuck, unable to sell them. The rest wiped the sweat from their foreheads and got on with their lives.
Bay Town, Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood's Bay to Scalby Mills
Hayburn Wyke to Scalby and Scarborough's North Bay
Owing to the way the road goes in this part, you might be advised to walk it. There are a number of inns and hostelries to book into so you can get a good look between Ravenscar, Staintondale and Cloughton.
The road to Ravenscar, Staintondale and Hayburn wyke leaves the A171 just past the Duchy of Lancaster sawmill from the Whitby direction - left at the 'T' junction for Ravenscar and Staintondale. The road winds past the few houses and a public house through what there is of Staintondale, on to Peak. All there is to see there is the fine view near the Raven Hall hotel across the bay to Fylingthorpe, Bay Town and out to sea. Coming back on yourself again, near Staintondale village is the Shire Horse Farm Centre. A small show for visitors is enacted daily in summer with cowboy tricks by the owner Tony Jenkins and wife Ann. There are farm walks around the estate. At the farm itself are stables and forge, cottage museum, cafe and shop. You could spend all day here, I remember why my kids were younger we spent a number of hours here before going on to see friends of mine at Scarborough at tea-time. The old station at Staintondale on the way back to the 'main' road still stands as if time forgot the place, but the clock no longer functions... Got to check the time? Buy a watch, you could easily forget about time passing out here! Across the 'T' junction again, go straight on for Hayburn Wyke. A 'wyke' for the uninitiated is an inlet, or cove, and the word comes from the Norse 'Vik' (there's the connection with the Vikings again!) You'll have to do some walking again to get to the wyke, but as you see above the view's worth it.
Straight on again for Cloughton (pronounced 'Clowton' as in 'cow'), and another walk to see the Cloughton Wyke to your left again. Cloughton is a street village that straddles the road up to the moors to Whitby (by way of Flask village on Fylingdales Moor) and downhill to Scarborough. Burniston provides something in the way of refreshment at the 'Three Jolly Sailors' - except they weren't that jolly when the press gangs came up from Scarborough for fresh recruits. On to Scalby, another growing street village that sprawls across to the coast at Scalby Mills. The Scalby Beck empties out here into the iron-cold North Sea. At Burniston the A165 leaves the A171 to follow into the North Bay over Scalby Beck (Scalby Beck joins the overflow channel from the River Derwent called the Sea Cut closer in to Scalby Village). There's a road here that leads steeply downhill to Scalby Mills and the Sea Life Centre.
Taking the road back up the hill to the A165 and turning left leads you past Peasholm Park and the North Bay Lido Peasholm Park is massive, with its open air theatre, boating lake and railway. Spend time at the Lido topping your tan, perhaps - a good way of letting more time slip past... Best take a room in one of the B&B's around the North Bay, you're spoilt for choice. The West Riding used to empty during Wakes Weeks (annual holiday period for the mill workers), everyone coming here. They mostly head off to Tenerife,Torremolinos or the Tyrol these days, although in the current economic climate there could be an upsurge in seaside holidays again.
Get to know Scarborough through the pages of a murder mystery, visit the locations you read about and work out the clues. You're the detective...
Scarborough, North Yorkshire
Locating the one and only Scarborough, Yorkshire
Castle Hill to Esplanade
Peasholm Park to Esplanade
Peasholm Park is a vast tract of land that seems to go on forever and is open throughout the year - although many of the attractions are not. Within the bounds of this piece of real estate is an open air theatre, a boating lake, a 'garden' railway that boasts several 'real steam' scale locomotives, sea battle re-enactments and miles of leafy footpaths with exotic plants and flowers. Opposite Peasholm Park is the Lido with its sun terraces and diving boards of varying heights. I can honestly say when I was about 17 I dived off this one, but my chest felt a bit bruised afterwards. Still, I'm here to tell the tale, forty-seven years on! There are sun terraces around the pool that allow you to lie down and sun yourself out of the wind, and a cafe that sells soft drinks and snacks.
Away from these attractions, follow Royal Albert Drive towards the castle promontory. Before taking the road round below the Norman castle - bombarded in the Civil War from Oliver's Mount about a mile away to the south behind the town - with its ruined keep and walls, stop a short time near where the road bends sharp left. Above, to your right are all the white-fronted hotels and B&B establishments in an impressive line-up along the North Bay cliff. Seaward are rocks seen even at high tide that were put here to stop the erosion of the sea wall. They're even more obvious at low tide. There's a lower road, with rails to the outside of the paving. Watch the rollers come in, one, two - get out of the way before - number three shoots skyward and slaps onto the road and pavement. Those new to the area are taken unawares here if they haven't stopped to watch for long enough from a safe distance! Onward, around the base of the cliff and to Marine Drive that takes you past the funfair. There's a car park at the bottom of the cliff with notices warning of rock-falls, but if you don't mind risking your car - or hire-car - the likelihood of it being wrecked is minimal. , nevertheless NOT non-existent. The funfair is compact yet has the usual attractions, you know, Big Dipper, Helter-skelter, that sort of thing. Along the front of the harbour are further amusements, arcades, pubs, ice-cream parlours and sea-food vendors.
Facing the row of cafes, amusement arcades and pubs is the harbour. At the end, opposite where the Marine Drive turns the bend at the base of the castle cliff, is the marina where pleasure vessels are moored. A long wall on the outer side shelters the marina from the excesses of mother nature - she gets fairly savage in winter - opposite the quay that leads to the lighthouse. You get a great view of the town from here, with the castle behind, Old Scarborough was founded here by the Norse adventurer and settler Thorgils Skarthi. One link was the older past is in front of the castle where the Roman signal station was first built to warn of pirates from across the sea. In the centre of the harbour is the Richard III public house and restaurant where the king stayed for a short time. He was popular in the north, more popular than any of the Tudors including Elizabeth. A large artificial lagoon separates the lighthouse quay from the fish quay where - if you can get up early enough in the morning, not that I ever did! - you could watch the rapid-fire auction of lots brought in by the trawlers and inshore vessels. There is a quality fish restaurant at the road end of the fish quay. Newborough leads uphill to the newer Scarborough past Pacitto's ice-cream parlour where I once spotted Jimmy Savile sitting in his white E-Type Jaguar, chatting up a couple of my good-looking female Art School classmates, Yvonne Bushby and Pamela Maguire (married since then). Keeping on along the front, the wide South Bay beach to your left, the architecture becomes more select, with the grand looking hotels, the hospital and elevated gardens to your right. Still further is the footbridge with the rotunda behind. This is where the original spa spring was located, the exploitation of which rocketed Scarborough into its well-deserved fame. The road that leaves the seafront here leads uphill and into the leafy Valley with its museum uphill to the right and well-heeled houses on the left. Falsgrave is at the valley's head from here, with its own park behind. The spa centre sits at the base of a low cliff on the very end of the drive with the Esplanade where entertainers and orchestras perform for summer crowds seated in deck-chairs in a wide circle around the low stage.
Visit the inlets known here as 'wykes', look around the many bays between Tees Bay and Bridlington Bay, the gull colonies at Flamborough Head and nearby Bempton Cliffs, the broad sandy shores of Whitby and Scarborough when the tide goes out...
Hope you enjoyed your trip...
So what have we seen?
A stretch of coastline that rivals many, including the English Riviera in Devon, or the west coast of Wales, Ireland etcetera. Towns and villages that up until the coming of the railways and then the internal combustion engine were inaccessible except on horseback or by horse-drawn vehicles, cut off in winter because of steep gradients and deep snow. Whitby was almost a closed book until the 1830's when the two Georges, Hudson and Stephenson combined forces to bring the railway to the town. These days the links are maintained by Regional Railways to Middlesbrough by way of Grosmont, and the North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs direct trains from Pickering to Whitby, including the 'Moorlander', the Pullman dining train set. look up www.nymr.co.uk/ for trains, timetables etc., including the history of the line.
We've visited Scarborough, Queen of the Yorkshire Coast with its divers attractions, and most of all we've accepted the warm welcome of Yorkshire. If you need advice on travel contact the website, www.discovernorthyorkshire.co.uk to plan your visit.