My birthday present on December 25 gave me something to look forward to in those dark, cold days before the dawn of spring. An April midweek break in Sandsend.
It was chosen because the location is a little piece of seaside heaven, plus the hotel, Raithwaite Hall, had a cut-price offer and a pool.
The suggested itinerary for the belated birthday treat included my favourite pastimes – walking, swimming and eating cake and proper chips. It turned out even better than expected thanks to glorious sunshine.
The best day of all was spent on one of my favourite walks… part of the Cleveland Way from Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay. It’s six-and-a-half miles of exquisite scenery with the promise of a cosy pub and a hearty lunch at the end of it.
If you want to follow in my footsteps, it’s very easy, not least because this is a well-trodden path so you don’t have to worry about map reading or getting lost. The walk begins at the bottom of the 199 steps, which lead to St Mary’s Church. Stop for a rest at the top – you will probably need it – and turn round to admire the view of the town and harbour below.
Then follow the path to the abbey, skirting round it and along to the cliff top where you will see the Cleveland Way finger marker. Continue on, passing through the caravan park and back on to the cliff top and the sandy path that is largely flat, easy terrain, apart from two small valleys. One of them is like a fairy dell with a little bridge across the beck. You’ll also skirt round the Whitby fog horn and lighthouse, although most of this walk is on the cliff edge with the sea on one side and fields on the other.
It takes about two-and-a-half hours at a brisk pace (I over-compensate for my short legs!) and this includes lots of stopping and sighing at the amazing sea views, a bit of bird spotting, some bench sitting and gorse smelling. On a sunny day, the soft, barely perceptible scent is heavenly and I don’t think it’s ever been bottled.
The last section is further than it looks. It appears that Robin Hood’s Bay is just round the corner. It isn’t but the views will keep you going.
Once there, at the top of the village, you can walk down the steep main street, as long as you are fit enough to get back up again. Fish and chips are a popular choice for lunch or there are lots of lovely cafes. We opted to eat at one of our favourite pubs. Ye Dolphin on King Street is popular with real ale enthusiasts and also has great food and a real fire.
It is friendly, down-to-earth and the polar opposite of those “plastic” pub chains. Hurrah for that.
After food, we huffed and puffed up the hill to the bus stop, stopping for a bag of sarsaperilla tablets from the sweet shop. Buses to Whitby are every half hour in spring and summer and the ride back (sit on the right for the best views) is picturesque.
As it was my birthday treat, I headed back to Raithwaite Hall for a steam and a swim, then out to the Moon and Sixpence, www.moon-and-sixpence.co.uk, for fried halloumi and chips – the veggie version of fish and chips – and absolutely fantastic with light-as-you-like batter and the best proper chips ever, plus wonderful service. Then it was ice cream from the rock shop for pudding and a visit to the amusement arcade to make me feel ten again.
In the words of Mr Lou Reed, it was oh, such a perfect day.