The sound I least want to hear when I surface in the morning before a walk is that of rain drops. Oh well. They were forecast for later on in the day and my plan was to leave early and complete a good section of the walk before the weather turned, but now there is no longer any hurry.
So far most of my breakfast experiences have been quiet ones with few if any other guests in the room. Not so today with 12 other guests, all non-walkers. One couple are visitors from Australia and the landlord engages them in banter which starts with a playful (but by now probably thinly worn) ribbing of the Aussie cricket team before heading off into a diatribe against whatever he read in the Daily Mail recently.
I almost choke on my toast when being forced to listen to “All these foreigners are benefit scroungers and due to them we have the highest population in Europe“. This from a man who was formerly in the building trade so probably benefited from foreign tradesmen prepared to the jobs some British people don’t want to do at lower wages. This from a self confessed property baron who doubtless rents out houses at an inflated rate knowing that the tax payer will pick up his tab via the housing benefits that some of his tenants will be forced to claim. One advantage of having to sit through a loud public bout of bigotry is that heading out into the rain becomes an attractive option.
If rain “suits” a place then Whitby is that place. The walk down to the harbour provides a visual feast in all weather. A party of school kids bearing clip-boards are supposed to be questioning people on the streets for some project but most of them are too shy to stop anyone until the teacher almost physically shoves them towards passers-by. I pick up some brazil nuts for the journey and set about tackling the famous 199 steps that lead up to the infamous Whitby Abbey, immortalised by Bram Stoker as a setting for Dracula. The steps have always bothered me, not because of the number but because they are spaced just a bit too close together to walk them one at a time but a bit too far to make two a comfortable proposition.
At the top a strong gusty wind is blowing the rain all over the place. Tourists are sheltering in the porch of gothic St Marys church apart from one delightful older couple serenely gazing out over the town below licking ice cream, oblivious to the squall. I salute them!
Amongst the sheltering mortals I bask in a misplaced sense of superiority as I march nonchalantly out of the Church with my rucksack into a storm that holds no fears for me. Fortunately I am out of sight of their admiring gaze when the wind catches my rucksack and slams me embarrassingly into a stone wall. This rucksack makes quite an effective sail, unfortunately. Another pit-stop to remove the flapping waterproof cover which I fear will be rendered ineffective in the north sea.
This will be my shortest walk of the trail and it’s one I’m familiar with. The wind is whipping the sea into a frothy soup on the rocks below. None of the cliff dwelling birds are venturing out in these conditions but a few fellow walkers cross my path. Whitby Lighthouse was built in 1858 and isn’t in operation today although I believe it is still active via an automated system. Some of the buildings are leased out as holiday rentals. This would make a fabulous place to stay, just so long as the fog horn on the roof is no longer in use.
The exposed cliff path winds along some slippery muddy sections, through a caravan site and then by farm land. It’s here that I realise that my glasses are no longer in the pocket I put them in. I check all of my other pockets, plus my face which is normally where they turn up, but to no avail. I don’t need them all of the time but the realisation that there’s an England match on TV tonight sends a chill down my spine. The chances of finding them seem slim but they must have fallen out when I took my camera out of the same pocket to take a photo.
With a resigned air of inevitability I retrace my steps a quarter of a mile to the static caravan site where I last stopped to take a photo. I know exactly where I stood but the chances of finding my glasses are … 100%. There they are – what a stroke of luck! Tired of glasses I went for a contact lens fitting a few years ago but 45 minutes spent fruitlessly trying to fish them out of my eyes was enough to persuade my optician that they weren’t for me.
Back along the path and arable land gives way to pasture fields. On this trip I have developed a great deal of respect for cows. Whatever the weather there they are munching away without a moo of complaint. Even on Fridays subaquatic test of survival I staggered past cows floating in fields next to my path/river that exuded this air of calmness at odds with their ordeal. A lesson for the non-bovine amongst us…
Before I know it Robin Hoods Bay is upon me and it is only 1pm. What a grand building I am staying in tonight! This 19th century lodge was hewn out of stone for a sea-captain. A decorative tiled entrance porch leads through an original stained glassed door into a formal hallway with high ceiling, wood panelled walls and a grandfather clock. A heavy wooden staircase leads up to my room, known as the “Vicars Study” – though my unholy presence will doubtless cancel things out.
I do like my landlady – she is a lot of fun! We talk for quite some time and she shares various tales with me. My favourite concerns an influx of American tourists who turned up in numbers after the area was promoted by The Smithsonian as being good walking country. It seems that many of these visitors arrived lugging six suitcases and suspiciously brand-new unworn walking boots. These city types were expecting relatively level paved walking trails and when faced with miles of undulating muddy path took to catching taxis between their overnight stops, sometimes even leaving their once-used boots behind. All a far cry from the savvy and capable North Americans I have met so far this week.
Following the usual routine of shower, clean clothes and a cup of tea I head down the notoriously steep hill that leads to the bay. It’s hard to describe Robin Hoods Bay if you aren’t familiar with it but it is charming and charismatic in equal measure. The main road is lined with old stone buildings while quaint alleyways wind away past shoe-horned cottages, mostly available as holiday rentals.
The Bay Hotel overlooking the sea at the bottom of the hill bears a plaque marking the end of the Coast-to-Coast walk. This place is legendary amongst C2C walkers who will pose for photos with a pint at the end of their travails. Unfortunately the atmospheric lower bar is shut this afternoon while the upper bay is packed full of people, many of whom don’t appeared to have walked further than from the car park at the top of the hill.
What I really crave for is a seat and a cup of tea so it’s only with partial success that I find myself half way up the hill at the Laurel Inn nursing a beer. This pub, like so many stone buildings in Robin Hoods Bay looks like it has been carved out of the rocky hillside. There could be no more snug hideaway on a grizzly day, thick walls keeping out the elements, timber beamed ceiling, an open fire and sturdy ales. Refreshed by the “cup of tea” my early evening appointment is with the much vaunted Wayfarer Bistro which just about lives up to its hype. Halibut with crab, smoked haddock and samphire sauce is just great. My only complaint – a playlist of James Blunt, Coldplay and Phil Collins. Drone strikes have been ordered for less.
Back at the ranch I have time to reflect on my progress. Perhaps I was spoilt by the first 4 days that were so warm and dry. Friday’s wake-up call has left me wary of rain forecasts but there are just 2 remaining days of this adventure, whatever the heavens send. Enough reflection – I settle in for the evening and consume copious amounts of earl grey while watching an England performance that makes me wish I hadn’t found my glasses.
Here’s today’s walk in point form…
In a nutshell
A bracing but easy walk that perfectly typified the North Yorkshire coastline from start to finish.
A gusty wind blowing salty rain into your face while the sea boils far below – can’t beat it!
The temporary loss of my visual apparatus
The walk to Scarborough should be full of interest. I’m looking forward to seeing Ravenscar – the resort that never was.
|Stage||8 – Whitby to Robin Hoods Bay|
|Distance||7.5 miles||Speed||3.2 mph|
…and the route taken…