We raced up the little stone steps. All of the other visitors were heading to the harbour, but I was determined to head upwards. The narrow winding stairs led to a patch of green on the cliff edge. Two old benches stood proudly on the
Staithes is a very picturesque fishing village in the Yorkshire moors national park. Nestled between two cliffs, the sleepy hamlet gives the illusion as if nothing has changed since for hundreds of years.
Its name Staithes comes from the Viking word meaning ‘landing place’. Years ago, around 80 boats made Staithes of the largest fishing ports in the area. Nowadays most of the vessels are pleasure boats but there is still a lifeboat as there has been since 1875.
One of Staithes most famous residents was the young James Cook who went on to explore Australia and complete the first circumnavigation of New Zealand. Captain Cook was an apprentice at Staines before he moved to Whitby. Of course, Staithes’ close proximity to the sea must have helped inspire his wanderlust to explore the world’s oceans.
Not only has Staithes inspired sailors but also palaeontologists. We learnt this fact when we entered the delightful gift shop called Cobbles. The young gentleman at the counter told us that they collect the black jet off the beach between Staithes and Whitby. He and his father use the jet to make unique gifts and sell them at Cobbles. The abundance of fossils in the area has led to this part of the Jurassic coastline being given heritage coast status.
After leaving the gorgeous viewpoint we headed back down the little steps. Pink flowers were dancing in the breeze to our left. To our right we could see a few boats gently bobbing in Staithes Brook. The vessels had lovely names such as and At First Light and Eaton Rose. As we carried on further down the lane we passed a couple of sleeping cats. A black cat was carefully perched on a window frame. A tired grey cat was enjoying an afternoon nap on the steps of a sweet cottage. The whole scene was incredibly idyllic.
As expected the beauty of this place has attracted many second home owners from the nearby cities of Leeds and York. Sadly, the permanent population has dwindled as more than half of the houses are now owned by outsiders. Yet some traditions will never leave the village.
One thing I noticed when as we were strolling down the little paths were the lovely cottage names. Jean Ecclestone, a local historian notes “The names of the houses and cottages of Staithes are part of our history in that they were named after fishing boats – cobles and yawls – which sailed from here. My cottage is called Star of Hope, for instance. But there’s also Rose of England, Confidence Cottage, Blue Jacket House and True Love.” What I did not notice was that these coastal cottages only had pretty names and did not have house numbers. In the past few years there has been an ongoing battle between the postal services and the villages.
The Royal Mail were encouraging the resident of Staithes to number their houses as it was confusing relief postmen. Naturally the regular post person could find his way around the cobbled lanes ‘blind folded’ but anyone else struggled with the maze of little streets.
Most of the inhabitants found the idea daft and silly. A few said the relief postman only had to ask if he gets lost. They argue the higgledy piggledy layout of the town does not lend itself to a systematic numbering system. The romantic names are part of Staithes history and removing them would be taking away part of the village’s past.
Therefore, as you are wondering round take note of the sweet cottage names of which the Staithians are fiercely proud of.
After your wondering through the quaint streets you will in no doubt be in need of refreshment. Make your way to the seafront and the beach. There you will find a local favourite, the Cod & Lobster. There is a huge range of food and drink at this pub, including 3 vegetarian and vegan options!
The sea front location of the old pub means the premise has felt the power of the waves on many occasions. During the great storm of 1953 the whole front was washed away! The townsfolk ‘looked on in sorrow as the precious bottles of brew bobbed about on the retreating foam’. The roaring sea has meant that locals have had to dash in and out of the bar to avoid getting wet feet. There is even a separate door to use during rough weather! Luckily during our trip, it was wonderfully sunny meaning we could leisurely stroll through the door without the risk of getting wet.
With a couple of drinks in our hands we took a seat in the sunshine and watched the wonderful August day unfold before us. The Cod & Lobster is right next to the sandy beach. We saw families playing, building sandcastles and messing about in the waves. Dogs were racing about on the sand occasionally daring themselves to swim in the fresh North Sea waters.
The little cobble boats bobbed in the waves. Staithes is one of the few places left in the UK which still uses these flat-bottomed boats.
Alex suddenly noticed a flash of black pop out of the waves and dive back in. It was a cormorant! We, along with other on lookers, watched in awe as the bird stayed for a lengthy period beneath the waves. The sea bird popped out of the water some way away and enjoyed some air before disappearing once more beneath the waves.
After our drinks we walked along the beach. The August sun was beginning to set casting a glorious golden glow across the bay. Staithes has a wonderful beach and despite the bank holiday weekend it did not feel too crowded.
The tide was coming in so we hurriedly headed towards the cliffs whilst we still could. We gingerly climbed on the rocks under the cliffs and looked back at the coastal village. Staithes is quite picture perfect. A little ledge stuck out for the cliffs allowing us to place the camera and take a couple of photos to remember our wonderful afternoon in Staithes.
After our photos we slowly ambled back up the hill and left the harbour behind us. This coastal town was simply idyllic. I felt it would be an ideal place to write a book. We both felt a little sad that we had not rented one of the sweet cottages and had to leave Staithes.
Staithes is a beautiful little village which I would thoroughly recommend spending a relaxing afternoon in. Make sure you make your way up to the secret viewpoint by the Cowbar Cottages. If you get lost just remember that the locals were happily point you in the right direction, after all there are no house numbers to guide you. Yet nobody could ever be in a rush in such a pretty, sleepy village.
Have you been inspired to visit Staithes? Would you like to go? Let me know in the comments below!