Saturday, November 25, 2017

Going where the cold wind blows *

We arrived in Yorkshire in good weather, and the sea spread out far and wide below us to our right as we descended the long and winding road that leads into Whitby. The town is very short of spare space, being a somewhat scrunched-together sort of place, and the hotel has no car park. Instead, there's a Pay-and-Display nearby, charging £8 for 24 hours. 6 hours is the next shortest option, rubbish for overnight stays! Fortunately, we found out at the hotel reception that we could buy there a £1 ticket that allowed us to park on certain neighbouring streets for 48 hours. Something of an improvement!

Pretty much all of the streets in this quaint old town slope down to the sea, sometimes very steeply, with many, more level narrow streets connecting them on the way down. Our hotel, The Resolution (one of Captain James Cook's ships in the mid 18th century), was built on one such hill, and our room, although it was part of a cellar conversion one floor below the "ground floor" reception, was actually at street level further down the hill on the opposite side of the building. If you see what I mean!

The cellar conversion was well done, but it wasn't the warmest of rooms, because the big old radiator on one wall wasn't working, and there was only an electric convector to do its work. The spacious, elegant bathroom was cold enough to keep milk fresh. Our bed was warm, but could easily have been mistaken for a billiard table had it not been for the total absence of green baize. But it was a good place to stay, and very convenient for the town and the harbour.

We spent the rest of the afternoon trying to find somewhere where we could eat later, but everywhere that looked right for us was very busy, and they weren't taking evening bookings. We ate at the hotel, and weren't displeased.

Sunday was photo day, and we wandered down to the town and harbour. It was jam-packed with visitors, and the narrow, cobbled streets of tiny shops were heaving with people. It was really sunny and bright, and so very cold, but this didn't stop people coming out in throngs.

Whitby is very photogenic.


There was a man on the pier, a local, who came down every day, he said, to feed the birds. Not just any birds, but turnstones, recently arrived from Canada and Greenland. We'd never seen one before, and now there was a crowd of around a dozen just a metre or so away from us!

With a few hours to spare, we drove out across the North York moors, where the wind was so strong we hardly dared get out of the car to explore or take photos.

We spent Monday looking at Whitby's dozens of fascinating eclectic shops. There were far, far fewer people now, and we could actually get inside the shops with ease. This small town has many jewellers, and jet features heavily in all of them.

Jet's a stone that's been mined locally for centuries, though cheaper, inferior-quality stone (much of it actually fake) is being imported these days, too. We chatted for some time with a man who crafts jet jewellery in a tiny shop near the abbey ruins, and he was very knowledgeable, and fascinating to speak with.

In the course of our conversation, we told him about Said the Maiden, how they had been scheduled to perform at Whitby's Pavilion Theatre. He told us about MusicPort, who organize musical events throughout the year, and an annual Music Festival. They also have a shop just across the road from our hotel, so we dropped in later to chat with the couple who own it. They told us all about the festival, we told them all about the Maidens, and they were very keen to hear them, with a view to recommending them to the festival organizer. Back at the hotel, I emailed them web links to six videos of the trio, and they are now waiting hopefully for an invitation to play at the festival next October.
Whitby is the traditional seaside resort with rock and toffee cinder and nut brittle and all kinds of other tooth-rotting sweets The beach is huge when the tide is out, but with a wind that could cut you in two, and driven clouds of sand quite capable of depilating any man's five o'clock shadow. There is a promenade with numerous establishments determined to make you part with money for little return. There are buckets and spades and kites, quirky shops with antiques and eclectic clothing and tawdry, tacky gifts. There's fish and chips galore. And restaurants, cafes, pubs, bars and all other manner of eatery fill the remaining spaces. Ancient churches stand resolutely grim and grimy opposite each other, even next to each other. The pervading smell is of cooked food and fishy, oily sea air. The surround-sound is mewling, screeching gulls against the music that thumps continuously out of pubs and amusement arcades.

I love Whitby!

* The title is an (originally unconscious) reference to the song "The Pines" (or "Where did you sleep last night") made famous by Leadbelly, Nirvana - and now, Said the Maiden! (click to view and enjoy)


  1. You are right about it being photogenic, especially in that gorgeous light! Beautiful! It sounds like a nice lively place too! Lovely photos!

    1. Thanks, Val. The whole north-east coast is amazing!