Newest Review: ... once was, tourism is the main industry in the village, with the fossils often found on the beach drawing a number of visitors. There are... more
Time Travel Made Easy
Robin Hood's Bay (North Yorkshire)
Member Name: koshkha
Robin Hood's Bay (North Yorkshire)
Advantages: A fabulous little old-fashioned seaside town
Disadvantages: If you need a lot of entertainment, it's going to disappoint
~The Land that Time (and mobile phone masts) forgot~
Robin Hood's Bay on the North Yorkshire coast is one of those perfect little seaside towns that seem to have stepped straight out of a time warp from a more innocent and simpler age. Short of hijacking Dr Who's Tardis and setting it to the late 19th or early 20th century, a visit to Robin Hood's Bay is the closest thing to time travel. It's the sort of place where wholesome pursuits like hunting for tiddlers in rock pools with shrimping nets and taking bracing walks along the beach, quite possibly in horizontal rain, then returning to a tea shop for a scone and piping mug of tea are the order of the day. It's like stepping into an Enid Blyton novel where adventure lies just around the headland and there might just be a couple of men with no necks up to no good who would have 'gotten away with it if it hadn't been for those pesky kids'. Sorry - I think my Enid Blyton and Scooby Doo references were getting a bit confused there.
Robin Hood Bay is the type of town that has looked progress and modernity firmly in the eye and said "Thanks but no thanks!" although possibly they'd make an exception for four-wheel drive vehicles which are essential for dealing with the local roads especially in the winter. Whilst other seaside towns fell to the evils (or delights, depending on your perspective) of candy floss, amusement arcades, chip shops and J D Wetherspoon pubs, Robin Hood's Bay has turned its back on such distractions, knowing that no such 'modern' gimmicks are needed when you've got a perfect old fashioned village and a spectacular coast line. This is a place where every business is locally owned and run and where you'll find none of the normal stalwarts of the High Street. There's no W H Smith to deliver your newpaper or Boots to sell your headache tablets.
Of course it also helps to be cut off from the outside world by some of the steepest navigable roads in the country, by being separated from the motorways by a formidable and intimidating moor that looks like something out of 'An American Werewolf in London', and by a ban on cars entering the lower part of the town other than to pick up or drop off. All of this isolation serves to make it - put simply - the closest thing to the perfect seaside town that I have found.
~The end of the road - literally~
Robin Hood's Bay is also the start point or more typically the end point - it all depends which way you go - of the famous Coast to Coast Walk and it's a welcome sight for weary walkers who've literally crossed the country to reach it. For those walkers it offers comfy beds, filling meals and a chance to dip their path-weary feet into soothing salt water. It's literally the end of the (very long and uppy downy) road for such walkers and the sight of the sea marks the achievement of what for many is a long held ambition. You'll find a small store selling commemorative certificates, a bicycle propped against the sea wall declaring that you've reached the end of the walk, and a bar in the pub closest to the sea called 'Wainwrights' after the man who first defined the route of the Coast to Coast walk.
If you like a lively nightlife, then Robin Hood's Bay is not for you. When the sun goes down, the town goes to sleep. When the restaurants close, there's little to keep tired holiday makers from their beds. You can't fail to sleep like the dead when the surroundings are so quiet. And speaking of sleeping, there are few actual hotels in the lower part of the town, more up on the cliffs where cars are still permitted. Most of the accommodation is in small B&Bs, some of them with a restaurant or cafe on site but not much more. I would guess there are considerably more rooms available outside the lower town than within it. Other options include a surprisingly large number of rental properties - most of them tiny little cottages, often with open fires. If your idea of heaven at the end of your day is to sip champagne in the Jacuzzi then you'll be better looking further afield. But if you bounce out of bed with a yearning to jump between rock pools, look for fossils and clamber over the sea front, then you're in the right place.
~Bright Lights Big City~
Robin Hood's Bay has a small Fossil and Dinosaur Museum that also serves as a second hand book shop which plays on the town's historical significance as the location of some impressive dinosaur finds. It's unlikely you'll find anything big these days but there are plenty of small fossils to entertain beachcombers. If you like to shop, you'll find lots of arty stores selling hand-made ceramics and odd things fashioned out of bits of driftwood. You'll find traditional locally made ice-creams and sticks of tooth dissolvingly sweet sea-side rock and old fashioned boiled sweets. Museum hunters will find a museum of smuggling and the Old Coastguard's house which is now managed by the National Trust. But generally Robin Hood Bay is not about museums and organised activity - it's about getting down and dirty with nature, hanging out on the rock beach, or sitting on a bench and watching the tide come in and then go out again. If you're a high maintenance person in search of lots of 'stuff to do' then you may find Robin Hood's Bay intensely frustrating - or you might just surprise yourself and calm down and do nothing for a while.
Robin Hood's Bay is for the fit and mobile and hell on earth for those with mobility issues. To get into or out of the town you need to take on a fearsome slope of about 30 degrees or tackle hundreds of steps just to get up the hillside to find your car. Personally I find steps easier for going down hill and the slope better for going up but you'll have plenty of opportunity to test my theories. Most of the B&Bs have rickety staircases and getting to the beach in a wheelchair or on crutches is nigh on impossible. If you have a child in a buggy, check the brakes before you go to Robin Hood Bay - you wouldn't want your little one to get there faster than expected. But for those who can handle the physical challenges, there's an ice-cream van parked up at the bottom of the causeway to reward your efforts. There's also a fascinating exhibit in a shelter in the town centre that tells the history of the local lifeboat and the ships to whose rescue it has been deployed. This is a part of the world where the sea has long been both a source of wealth and a provider of great danger. Even if you're only planning a stroll on the beach, make sure you can see exactly how you'll get back again if the tide comes in.
We spent just two nights in Robin Hood's Bay and I loved it. It's not a cheap place to be because demand outstrips supply and rooms are fully booked for much of the year. Restaurants tend to be mid-range rather than cheap or particularly expensive. Mind you, aside from a bed and some food and the odd ice-lolly there's little else to part you from your money. The fresh sea air, the dramatic coast and the quaint old-world style of the place charmed me completely. I'd recommend a visit to anyone who thinks that sounds attractive and who can live without a mobile phone or internet signal for a couple of days - indeed even more so to those who'd see both things as a benefit to be enjoyed rather than a hardship to be endured.
Summary: Loved it - absolutely loved it