Wandering Whitby and stepping back in time

Leaving the Angel of the North earlier in the morning than planned, I had time to do something more in the area before heading to Whitby so after a quick check on what to do, I decided to head back in time.

A long and winding road led me away from the angel and to a land that time had preserved so well. I drove deeper and deeper into the countryside to eventually find myself at the Beamish Open Air Museum, which tells the story of life in North East England during the 1820s, 1900s and 1940s. Due to the sheer size of the place, they have been able to incorporate an 1820s pockerley (farming village), a 1900s town, pit village & colliery and a 1940s farm. All are accessible using the historical tram and bus which connect each era.

For someone who has a real interest in recent history (like me) this is an amazing place and I really felt like I was transported back to the days where these areas were set. This was helped by the fantastic staff who work and dress as though they’re part of that time. You’re able to interact with them and they have a wealth of information to share with you and the attention to detail in the props and restoration of the buildings really allows you to feel wholly transported to these wonderful bygone eras.

I ended up spending double the time at Beamish than planned, as it was just so interesting and enthralling. If you’re ever in the North East, then this has to be on your places to go list, as you won’t be disappointed. I highly recommend it.

I headed from 1940 and made my way to 2017 Durham to have a whistle-stop wander of the 1133 cathedral and castle which are now a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. I didn’t have long in Durham, as I had spent so much more time at Beamish than planned but the initial feel for the place was fantastic. A really stunning City with a lot of students and even more magnificent history. I wish I had longer here and was able to make this somewhat possible due to the fact that I forget where I parked my car again! This regular mishap allowed me to wander the city streets for a little longer than planned and make a definite decision that one day, I will come back to explore properly.

After finding the car (and not just the car but the massive bloody car park it was in), I continued my drive into the night and onwards to Whitby. This was my second drive across the Moors at night and I wouldn’t recommend doing it to anyone. The roads are pitch black and very windy. With snow belting the windscreen of the car, visibility was awful and I was glad to have arrived in one piece.

I’ve been to Whitby a number of times before and always enjoyed it here, which is why I chose to return. The gothic ruins of the Abbey dominate the small seaside town and was the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula and this is also the place where Captain Cook once lived. Still a bustling fishing village, the port is very busy to this day and the fresh fish and chips are still fantastic.

Whitby fishing village

The lighthouse

Whitby Abbey
Settling into Veronica’s house, my latest AirBnB host, I was surprised (and happy) to hear that she was going away for the duration of my stay and I was to have the entire house to myself. I wasn’t necessarily happy that Veronica was going because she is absolutely lovely but having been staying with people every day since I arrived back in the UK, it was a real treat to just have some me time and not have to worry about anyone else in the house.

However this trip isn’t about being housebound and on my first full day, I knew the route I wanted to take – The cliff top walk (Cleveland Trail) to Robin Hood’s Bay. At the end, I would reward myself by taking lunch at the Victoria Hotel, which I know and love the view from, then I would head back to Whitby via the Cinder Track which is the old, disused railway. What I didn’t remember was quite how long the trail is and how muddy it would be this time of year, or how much the increment weather would hinder the hike.

I started up the 199 steps towards the Abbey and St. Mary’s Church, crossed the fields towards the beach and then climbed further, until I was on the cliff top. When I was in the Brecon Beacons, it was similarly as cold but being inland, the mud had frozen and the ground was solid. However on the Cleveland Trail, being so close to the salty ocean air, the ground was not forgiving and the mud was thick and slippery. The twists and turns were steep, deep and perilously close to a fall which would have me tumbling onto the ruinous rocks below. As I squelched on slowly and carefully, the heavens opened and an unregistered pain quickly intensified as I was pelted with hailstones, which were carried from the sky on the bitterly cold winds.

Despite logic telling me to turn around and find shelter, the excitement and trepidation outweighed the risk & pain and the beauty of scenery around me was so vast, I trudged onwards to the finish line and the delicious scampi and chips which I knew would be waiting at the Victoria Hotel in Robin Hood’s Bay.

The walk back, besides the cold, the snow and the hail was much easier and the Cinder Trail follows the old railroad back to Whitby. The Trail gets its name from the cinder left behind by the coal used to run the steam trains on the route, staining the trail black. It was another opportunity for me to be catapulted back in time and use my imagination to feel what it would be like to travel this route in the warmth, speed and comfort of a locomotive, while enjoying the stunning coastal scenery. I followed the track through fields, across a mighty viaduct and along the edge of the coast and with no mud, steep inclines or arduous downward trails, the journey was much easier and did take a lot less time. I made my way back to an empty house, a warm bath and a welcome cup of tea. Having hiked 17 miles (27km) throughout the day, doing over 40,000 steps, I slept extremely well that night, satiated about being back in the great outdoors and really getting a good workout in another country setting which is becoming so vastly appealing to me, ahead of city life.

On my final day in Whitby, I woke up with a very sore calf muscle but was not going to ignore my unyielding desire to wander the village itself, rediscovering all the little laneways and winding streets that snake around the seaside town, cast in the shadows of the cliffs and the Abbey above. I managed about 2 hours of walking before my screaming muscle, despite being heavily strapped up, was beyond being ignored and having teamed up with the pelting hailstones, made me retreat back to the warm empty home which was mine and mine alone for the rest of the day, so I went and I sat and I did nothing. Nothing at all and it was amazing! I slept soundly again that night, waking to the sound of Veronica’s return. After breakfast and non-stop chat swapping travel stories for over an hour, I left this beautiful fishing village and hit the road again, across the snowy and wonderous Yorkshire Moors, which by daylight are absolutely breathtaking.


For a full album of the Beamish and Whitby photos, please search Wandergrin on Facebook and like the page.



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