It's a wonderful thing to occasionally take off on a short jolly away from home, something a little last minute which transports you away from routine and grants you some concentrated family time. We did just such a thing last week, decided quite spontaneously to get ourselves away and enjoy a couple of days at the coast.
When we used to live in York, we went to this part of the North Yorkshire Coast quite often as it wasn't too far to travel. Now we've moved 40 miles to the west, it's just a little too far away for day trips, and I can't tell you how much I've missed this coastline. Robin Hoods bay, Whitby, Sandsend, Runswick Bay, Staithes...we know these places well and have many layers of sweet memories attached to them.
We stayed in Whitby this time, mainly due to the fact that there is an amazing Youth Hostel there which made it an affordable way for the five of us to spend the night. Finding a family room for five in a hotel/B&B isn't easy and is often very expensive, so hosteling provides the perfect solution. Of course, if it had been Spring/Summer we would have taken Connievan which is another perfect family solution, but we are not quite hardy enough to camp out in Winter.
Whitby is probably most well known for it's connections to the novel Dracula, as Bram Stoker was heavily inspired by the place and wrote part of his novel whilst staying in Whitby. On the back of that, you do come across some rather wacky people wandering around the town, and there is quite a strong Gothic flavour to to many of the shops. But the gothic thing does weirdly go hand in hand with the traditional British Seaside vibe here (think fish and chips, souvenir shops and candyfloss sitting next door to the "Dracula Experience"). Whitby is also a traditional fishing harbour with centuries of history in the beautiful buildings and ancient streets. It all adds up to a charming, bustling old seaside town with lots of atmosphere and some major quirks.
We had no idea what the weather was going to do, best not to think about it too much. We had a fair idea it would be very cold and we were really hoping for it not to rain/hail/sleet/snow on us. It did indeed stay dry (despite a couple of snow flurries) and as expected it was absolutely stonkin' freezing! It was the sort of cold which makes you want to screw your face up tight as you walk.
But walk we did....down the 199 steps from the top of the cliff where the hostel and abbey are situated, along the narrow cobbled streets of the old town, over the bridge and around the harbour we went. Then out along the pier....brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr it was bitterly cold along here, a biting wind whipping in from the grey north sea. I loved it. I loved the sound of the seagulls and the waves, loved breathing in great gusts of fresh, bracing sea air, loved being out and about with my family. I have to tell you the others did not share my enthusiasm. They endured the walk, but oh they complained and moaned! It's too cold! It's freeeeeeeezing! I'm hungry! When can we go back?! They couldn't wait to about turn and head back to the old town, to one of our favourite pubs for a bite to eat and a warm up.
The Duke of York pub is old, cosy, friendly and atmospheric with amazing views out across the harbour.
We managed to find a table right next to one of the picture windows and enjoyed a superbly cooked early dinner (the local fish in here is delicious and vast, so big it falls off the side of the plate). The Little People enjoyed their food, but truthfully they couldn't wait to get back to the hostel. It's amazing how the promise of bunk beds to play/sleep in can cause so much happiness and excitement (even Little Man was looking forward to going to bed in his Top Bunk).
So nicely warmed up and full of good food, we made our way slowly back up the 199 steps just as darkness was falling.
Back at the hostel, the atmosphere was relaxed and friendly. There was a sizeable Lounge for guests to use, as well as a large self catering kitchen/diner. But best of all there was a Games Room, complete with table football and a pool table. The Little People instantly made friends and the games commenced. It was lovely to watch them so at ease with other children, they are quite confident Little People and happily take most things in their stride. J and I drank beer (the hostel is licenced, oh yeah!) and I crocheted half a daffodil.
We are lucky with Little B in that he can very easily be persuaded out of routine and will happily stay up long into the night if you allow him the freedom to do so. When we stay in Connievan, we learnt the hard way that it is foolish to try and expect him to go to sleep before anyone else. It just does not happen. So when we are away from home we tend to stay up until around 9.30pm, then all go to bed at the same time. It means an early night for J and I, but that's ok as we are an early to rise family. And besides, after all that bracing sea air, good food and beer, I was more than ready to collapse into my bottom bunk.
I tried to take a few pictures of our room to show you, but I'm afraid they didn't come out too well. It was great value for money, and very warm and comfy. Our family room consisted of three bunk beds, a few chairs and some storage cupboards. All the bedding is provided, but you have to make up the beds yourself when you arrive (each bed comes with a freshly laundered, pristine cotton sheet, duvet cover and pillowcase) and strip them off again when you leave. This was the first time we had our own en suite bathroom as we've always had to share a bathroom in other hostels we've stayed at, so it felt quite luxurious in a basic kind of a way.
If you've ever stayed in hostels, you will no doubt know about the breakfasts, they are legendary. Amazing food, and lots of it, for very little money. A great way to start the day. After breakfast, there was only one thing to do......
It was still very cold, but somehow not quite as raw as it had been the day before. The Little People were much happier and didn't complain once, it was lovely just pootling about with them. Eventually we left the beach to come back up to the promenade and it was time to move on. We said our goodbyes to Whitby and drove further down the coast to my favourite of all places.....
....Robin Hoods Bay. The last time I was here was just over four years ago, on my 40th Birthday. I remember it well and the memories remain fresh and intact (mainly thanks to my blog, such a terrific memory-keeping tool).
There are some beautiful little wiggly, windy streets lined with ancient cottages.
A few shops, and an especially good cafe that we always visit here called Swell. The coffee and homemade cakes are scrummy, and on this very cold winters morning, it was deliciously warm and inviting inside. I treated the Little People to a mug each of luxurious hot chocolate topped with a mountain of whipped cream and marshmallows. Payment for the lack of whinging in the Extreme Cold of the morning's beaching. They were suitably grateful and we all enjoyed our Swell time very much.
I never want to leave the sea when I am there, I feel an almost physical pull to stay. It's so strong that I often feel very surprised that I have managed to settle and make my home inland. How odd, why on earth do I not live near the sea?! I fantasize about one day living by the sea. Sigh. I don't feel quite so bad about being home this time cos I know that in five weeks I'll be in Dorset for our Easter break, so the sea isn't that far away really. Just five more weeks to go.