Robin Hood’s Bay, Yorkshire (review published 2016)

We didn’t get off to the best of starts, me and Robin Hood’s Bay.
Within minutes of setting foot in the Yorkshire fishing village I’d taken a direct hit from a seagull’s messy missile.
I tried to laugh the incident off but as I removed my poo-soaked sunglasses I could tell that my four-year-old daughter Cerys was not seeing the funny side.
She was ready to run for cover and needed reassuring that the
only danger the seagulls would be posing over the next seven
days would be to our trays of chips.
After that ‘warm’ welcome, the village and the Caffery family got on fine. Brilliantly, in fact.
We were staying in a 17th century fisherman’s cottage called Peter’s House, which was chosen by The Times in 2014 as one of the UK’s best beach holiday homes.
The three-bedroomed property has a lounge/dining room and sea views from the second floor, where the roof beams include a ship’s mast and other nautical timbers.
Booked through Ingrid Flute’s Yorkshire Holiday Cottages, a real plus point was that we were provided with a permit for Fisherhead car park, the only one in “Lower Bay’’.
This meant we only had to lug our belongings about 30 yards to the cottage door.
The only alternative for holidaymakers is to use the car parks in ‘’Upper Bay’’, up a very steep road.
We were two doors away from the former coroner’s office and mortuary, which is now a volunteer-run museum telling the story of the village’s fascinating history and geology.
Peter’s House (pale yellow) in Robin Hood’s Bay
In the past, whenever I’d heard mention of Robin Hood’s Bay (known locally as Bay Town) I’d always assumed it was some Haven or Pontins holiday resort, so fanciful is its name.
In fact, Robin Hood’s Bay was first recorded in the early 14th century, although there is no evidence to suggest the famous Nottinghamshire outlaw ever made the trip from Sherwood Forest.
The actual origin of the name remains a mystery.
It’s believed Robin Hood was also the name of an ancient forest spirit and that the bay may have been named after this local folk legend.
Rather than robbers who steal from the rich to give to the poor, in reality the village is much more associated with smugglers, who did a roaring trade there in the 18th century.
Despite the risks, smuggling must have paid better than fishing because Bay Town wives were known to pour boiling water over excise men from bedroom windows in the narrow streets.
Hiding places, bolt holes and secret passages abounded. Indeed, it is said that contraband could pass from Lower Bay to Upper Bay without ever leaving the tightly packed houses.
The museum has a model of a smuggler’s house showing how the ill-gotten goods could be concealed, plus a life-size model of a local fisherwife who has some surprises up her sleeve.
Walking the maze of intriguing alleyways today, you half expect a Jack Sparrow-like figure to leap out from around the corners, clutching his booty in one hand and a pistol in the other.

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Another of Robin Hood Bay’s claims to fame is that it’s one of the best places in Britain for fossils. Some are on display in the museum and the eagle-eyed can still find them on the beach.
Our cottage was just a couple of minutes’ walk to the sandy, family-friendly beach, where a wealth of sealife can be found in the ledges of rock, known as scaurs, which reach out to sea.
At stormy high tides, waves can thunder up the slipway and into the street but during our sun-kissed stay the water just eerily crept in, like no other incoming tide I’d seen before.
The slipway is one end of the 190-mile Coast to Coast walk between the village and Glaisdale in Cumbria, and weary hikers can often be seen quenching their thirst in the adjacent Bay Inn.
Across the slipway from the inn is the Old Coastguard Station visitor centre, run by the National Trust, where children can have hands-on fun while learning about marine life and geology.
Among the charming tangle of houses are more great inns dishing up locally caught fish, cafés serving Yorkshire cream teas and shops selling unique gifts, including jewellery made from local jet.
On a sunny day, the top of the hill that links Lower Bay and Upper Bay is a lovely place to sit and enjoy the views, while tucking into 99s that a café sells for just a quid.
There’s also a nautical but nice children’s playground up there.
The start of the descent from Upper Bay to Lower Bay
Next to the playground is a plaque recording an amazing feat of human endeavour when a ship ran aground and broke up in Robin Hood’s Bay during a violent storm on January 8, 1881.
The village lifeboat was unseaworthy and so an SOS was sent to the crew at Whitby, but they were beaten in their attempts to launch because of the prevailing winds.
Instead, the heroic Whitby men carried their lifeboat the six miles to Robin Hood’s Bay, tearing through hedges, garden walls and 7ft snowdrifts during the three-hour mission.
The stranded sailors were all rescued and the drama is recalled in a large picture that hangs over the fireplace at Peter’s House.
I could have gladly spent the whole week soaking up the village’s atmosphere but it seemed rude not to visit the north Yorkshire coast’s two holiday hotspots, which sandwich Robin Hood’s Bay.
In Scarborough we peddled dragon boats in the Chinese-themed Peasholm Park, built sandcastles on the glorious North Beach and climbed to the ruins of the Norman castle.
Another day we headed north to Whitby Abbey and the adjacent church graveyard – used as a setting in Bram Stoker’s Dracula – which overlooks the town’s historic harbour.
A little further north still, we visited Staithes, another picture-perfect fishing village, though no match for Robin Hood’s Bay in terms of atmosphere.
It is where the popular CBeebies programme Old Jack’s Boat is filmed and where Cerys was amazed to find the sea captain’s home.
Don’t tell her, but it’s actually a holiday let!

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Travel file
Adrian Caffery and family were guests of Ingrid Flute’s Yorkshire Holiday Cottages. Established in Robin Hood’s Bay 45 years ago, the company now has more than 400 cottages on its books including ones on the coast (with a particularly large choice in Whitby) and in the Yorkshire Dales and Moors. Peter’s House in Robin Hoods Bay sleeps six (although it’s more comfortable for four adults and two children as one bedroom has bunk beds) and accepts a pet dog. There is wifi. The stairs are steep and not suitable for people with walking difficulties. Rental is from £406 per week in winter, up to £639 per week in summer, with short breaks available outside peak season. For more details on properties and to book contact Ingrid Flute’s Yorkshire Holiday Cottages on 01947-600700 or at

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