Half a pound of vanilla fudge, 199 steps, four miles of beach, a trip on the Hogwarts Express and a taste of Dracula’s blood made for a fantastic family holiday in Whitby
A pretty Georgian house in the picture-postcard village of Sandsend, Beachside Cottage is tucked into a neat parade of houses and hotels overlooking the black weather-beaten railings of the seawall. At one end of the parade is a traditional seaside shop with shiny glass jars of sweets, fishing nets and piles and piles of buckets and spades for sale alongside holiday essentials such as bread and milk and, for those inclined to be communicative, postcards. At the other end of the parade, beneath a stone-walled bridge, is a scene plucked straight from the top of a jigsaw box where ducks bob on a shallow stream, a heron waits hopefully for his dinner and delphiniums and wallflowers glow in the sun.
In this setting Beachside Cottage is perfectly placed for trips to and from the beach. It sleeps eight extremely comfortably and has sea views from many of its rooms, including a beautiful alcove window seat in the sitting room. With wooden floors, a huge dining table and a nautical theme throughout, the cottage provided an ideal base for a family of sandy shoed explorers to come home to each night.
Sandsend Beach is a four-mile stretch of clean, crumbly sand, which is perfect for making sandcastles. The beach, a part of the Dinosaur Coast project, is a huge attraction for fossil-hunters eager to find traces of ancient wildlife from the Jurassic and Cretaceous Ages washed up on the beach. Looking out to sea, it’s easy to be confused by the wildlife of today as both seals and surfers can be seen making the most of the barrel-shaped waves rolling onto the shore.
Food, glorious food
If I’m ever famous and have to give one of those interviews on the back page of the Sunday supplements where they ask you ‘What’s your favourite smell?’ I shall ignore the glories of Stella McCartney’s perfume, I shall dismiss the heady perfume of freshly-opened lilies, and I shall vote wholeheartedly for the warm salty scent of Whitby fish and chips, wrapped in newspaper and eaten on a bench amid the screeching of seagulls at the end of Pier Road.
The Willy Wonka of fudge
The pretty blue-and-white shopfront of Justin’s Original Toffee and Fudge shop has nestled on the cobbles of Church Street in Whitby since 1981. Trays of fudge lie cooling on a counter behind the shop window, enticing passers-by with their sweet buttery scent. Justin’s is the kind of place that tests the true mettle of any familial bonds. My father gains instant hero status by asking what we would like and steps inside. Moments later, my mother, in fresh possession of a quarter of finest vanilla, hesitates only momentarily when asked to share.
Do you want blood with that?
After climbing the 199 steps from Whitby Harbour to Whitby Abbey, the idea of an ice cream soaked in Dracula’s blood was extremely appealing. Okay, so the blood was actually raspberry sauce, but before we entered the Abbey we wanted to enter into the spirit of the place. Whitby Abbey, which was home to the poet Caedmon, is said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Gothic masterpiece, Dracula. It sits on the top of a cliff, high above the North Yorkshire coastline. The remains of the enormous abbey are magnificent with a stark beauty born of their dark, jagged outlines set against the expansive skies of the coast. Visitors can walk all around the remains and learn more about the history of the ancient site in the Visitor Centre, run by English Heritage.
The North Yorkshire Moors Railway runs inland from the coast at Whitby to the market town of Pickering and is the perfect way to see the beautiful countryside of this region. During the journey, passengers can stop at pretty stations decked out in flowers and sample the delights of a traditional platform tearoom. The station at Grosmont is home to the carvernous engine sheds where relics of an age gone by are restored for use by the railway. Further down the line from Whitby lies the village of Goatland and it was this station that was transformed into Hogsmeade for the arrival of the Hogwarts Express in the film of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.