Sunday, November 26, 2017

We do like to be beside the seaside...

Nestled behind our hotel, and accessed from the narrow street that passed our room on its way down to a bigger road that led down further to join two other hilly roads that tumbled down to the harbour (get the picture?) was Rusty Shears Tea Room.

Serving excellent food at sensible prices, the shop attracts a steady stream of customers for breakfast, lunchtime snacks and afternoon teas, despite its rather out-of-the-way location. We had lunch there on the Sunday, and breakfast on two other days. It's very charming, and we wish it were close to us in Yelvertoft!

The abbey ruins and the more recent church stand atop the cliffs overlooking the harbour. They're reached by steep, winding, narrow cobbled streets, then 199 steps. Stopping for a breather on the way up, we turned around to see a car make the mistake of turning left onto the very steep ramp (it couldn't be called a road, for no wheeled vehicle would be able to ascend it, nor descend safely) alongside the steps. The driver thought better of it straight away!
The ramp!
Views from the steps

The 12th century Church of St Mary is one of the strangest churches we've seen.

There are pews on a balcony on three of the walls, which isn't unusual in a church of this small size, but all of the pews downstairs are in boxes, installed in the 18th century, many of them owned, at least originally, by particular families. A number of others are reserved for the use of anyone else. Some of them are inscribed "For strangers only". It would be difficult for many of the congregants to see the vicar in his pulpit, such is the height of the boxes and the angle of the pews inside them. Note the primitive stove in the photo. I doubt that it would do much to alleviate the chill in the old building on a winter's day!

The pulpit itself is something of an oddity. It is built with three tiers, though I couldn't discover why there are three.

Most unusually, there are "trumpets" on the back of it, which connect to a tube through which the hard-of-hearing wife of one of the vicars could listen to the service as she sat in the middle tier. So who was ensconced in the bottom tier?

Bram Stoker used St Mary's Church graveyard as the setting for a scene in his novel, "Dracula". In fact, much of the tourist industry of Whitby does its best to profit from the town's involvement in that famous book.

We didn't have time to visit the abbey; the afternoon was wearing thin, and we wanted to have enough time to spend to justify our (exorbitant, we thought) entrance fee.

Grace has recently read the book "Secrets" by Freya North, and the story is set in the town of Saltburn, not far from where we were staying, so we paid it a visit, just out of interest. It's not a seaside town like Whitby, but rather a town by the sea. No cafes, shops or candyfloss stalls. No sea-side promenade, no pier. Just a small funicular railway down the cliff. A dozen or so surfers attempting to ride waves that lacked the energy to give them the lift. We thought them daft, but had to admire their determination. We took no photos. There was nothing worthy. Saltburn was dull and boring, but Grace had at least enjoyed the book!

On Wednesday, we went to Scarborough. There are two beaches, one to the north of a promontory into the sea, and the other to the south. The north beach is wide, with clean, firm sand, but clearly not the popular beach for holiday-makers. Rows of Victorian Hotels stand patiently along the top of the cliff. The only thing that suggests that people do spend time here is the row of beach-huts.

Scarborough South Beach, however, was much more as I'd imagined Scarborough would be. Dry sand whipped across the surface towards the sea. The sea was choppy, and the wind was strong enough to stop you in your stride; one of those winds that makes you lean into it as you try to stand still, then lets you fall over when it stops. The sea front had no surprises, in fact, it has all of the things that the North Beach lacks, though many of the shops and amusement arcades were closed. I was disappointed not to find an eatery called "Scarborough Fare". On the roads leading down to the front many shops were closed right down and boarded up. The one old church is derelict. The harbour, however, seemed to be busier than Whitby's.

On our way back to Whitby, we took a detour via a single width road that wound its way down very steeply towards Robin Hood Bay. We thought Robin Hood came from Sherwood in Nottinghamshire. Perhaps this is where he had his holidays! We arrived almost at sea level at the start of a muddy track that purported to be a navigable route for cars. I didn't trust it. I turned the car around* and crawled back to the main road to continue our journey. The moors were windy and wonderful in the fading light and the layered hues of autumn. A windy wonderland.

(* I automatically typed "winded" here!)

Thinking that Ravenscar would be a scar, a geographical feature that risse above the surrounding land to afford a fabulous view across the sea and the moors, we followed the signs and took another detour. We were wrong. It's simply a village, with a public toilet that has a sign "Welcome to the Ravenscar Toilet" outside it, and a donation box to accept the monetary gifts of those who have been appropriately relieved. We drove on.


Please note that another update to "Hints and tips..." has been added to the Addendum Blog.

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