The Yorkshire seaside town of Whitby may have been firmly put on the tourist map, thanks to Bram Stoker and his vampiric anti-hero, subsequently becoming a North of England Mecca for all things Gothic or Steam Punk, but take a 5 minute drive south from the prominent abbey and you’ll discover a place with a darker, and more factual, history.
Robin Hood’s Bay is a pleasant but not particularly impressive village on first view. The road leading you to parking areas passes a few guest houses, a bowling club and some residential properties. But watch the stream of people leaving their cars and they’ll soon disappear out of sight.
They’re all heading to the oldest part of the village, a myriad of chocolate-box houses, clinging like limpets to their foundations on a steep descent to the Bay.
The narrow streets and alleyways trickle over the cliff-side until they reach the mouth of this cobbled and tarmac river, only a few car spaces wide, and its meeting with the imposing North Sea. Like a backdrop for a Daphne Du Maurier novel, just generally colder and wetter.
Once a haven for smugglers, who used the rugged coastline, flanked at the summit by marshy moorland to their advantage, it’s said that the whole community took part in the operations, swiftly moving contraband up the hill through secret tunnels and cupboards, where it didn’t see daylight until it reached the Yorkshire Moors.
Any officials daring to prevent such antics were likely to have boiling water poured on their heads, courtesy of the fishwives dutifully hanging out of cockeyed windows to warn and protect their kin.
Nowadays, any robbery is in the form holiday cottages within original buildings, with high-season prices steeper than the exit from town. But it’s a magical place, a fairy landscape where even on busy days, you can escape to a quiet and consistently picturesque corner, easy to imagine you are the only person around.
So if you ever find yourself on the East coast of Yorkshire, make time to visit this secluded spot and channel your inner Jack Sparrow. Hunt for your treasures in the extensive rock pools or bring a hammer and crack open a stone or two, to hopefully uncover a fossil.
But even if you don’t find a souvenir to take home, your calf muscles will continue to remind you, several days later, of the visit, as they burn into your bone and scream at you to do more exercise!
IMAGE CREDITS: All my own so please be sweet and ask before sharing!