I spent hours researching my dream visit to the north of Scotland. I wanted to go by train to Thurso and then just travel by bus to places like John O’Groats. The train journey was going to take two days: Northallerton via Edinburgh to Aberdeen and, the following day (June 25), to Inverness and on to Thurso. I was so looking forward to it. But, at the beginning of June I accepted there would be a train strike which would completely derail all my careful planning. So I began cancelling my dream trip and decided I needed some beach walking to cheer me up. So out came the maps and my iPad and I decided upon… Saltburn-on-Sea especially as the Cliff Railway would be operating.
One important reason was that I could drive there easily. The rising cost of fuel was no deterrent when it wasn’t possible to depend upon the trains. With my food intolerances I needed to feed myself and I found a one-bedroom self-catering holiday let in one of the ‘Jewel Streets’ between Marine Parade and the main shopping area (Milton Street). For location it was perfect. It was so easy to visit the beach and then shop in a supermarket or the Real Meals Deli. In fact, Saltburn is so compact it is easy to walk everywhere.
In the Lower Path Garden there is a wonderful sculpture of Henry Pease (1807-1881) made using scrap metal by Hilary Cartmel and Michael Johnson in 2002 (left). Its construction depicts many aspects of his life – as a Victorian industrialist, MP for South Durham, and Quaker philanthropist who had interests in the Pease Brick Works in County Durham, coal and iron mines, and the Stockton and Darlington Railway. He formed the Saltburn Improvement Company 1859 after having, it is said, a vision of a new town nestling on the northern side of Skelton Beck. I enjoyed looking for the many examples of Victorian seaside architecture in the town.
For the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee the Friends of the Lower Path Garden had let those attending the Whippet Up’s creativity and wellbeing sessions across Redcar and Cleveland to install 25 ‘crowns’. Most of them were in the garden but that made of driftwood escaped! (Below left The local yarn bombers targeted the posts beside the Fossil Garden with some equally imaginative and joyful celebrations of the Platinum Jubilee.
There was one aspect of the town’s Victorian past that I definitely wanted to experience and that was the Cliff Railway, with its stained glass windows, which rises 37m from the Lower Prom to the Fossil Garden. Opened in 1884 this is described as one of the oldest water balanced funicular cliff lifts of its type still in operation in the UK. (see www.saltburnbysea.com).
Above left: the tramway and Saltburn Pier. The latter opened to the public in the summer of 1869 – the only pleasure pier on the whole of the northeast and Yorkshire coast. On the right: ready to go up on a tram.
Above: The Ship Inn and the original Saltburn which was renowned for its smugglers. I didn’t try my luck at finding fossils on the beach near the inn.
Huntcliff Nab towers over the southern end of Saltburn beach. It’s not surprising that the Romans chose it for a signalling station as it is one of the highest cliffs on the East Coast. The Hunt Cliff Nature Reserve is the home of noisy kittiwakes. It cannot be accessed by we humans although I understand there are good views from the Cleveland Way coastal path. I left that to the more intrepid walkers. Skelton Beck separate the two Saltburns and I had a pleasant walk along its glen, past the miniature railway and through the woods to the Valley and Italian Gardens – the Victorian pleasure grounds created in the 1860s.
The only time I used my car during my stay at Saltburn was when I visited Staithes which is such a honey pot for tourists. Once upon a time it was one of the largest fishing ports of North Yorkshire but sadly few fishermen ply their trade there now. For me the best part of the visit was climbing the steps for the views from The Old Stubble.
Left: Now those are quite some steps! I was fascinated by how they had been worn over the centuries as people walked up and down Mt Pleasant to and from the harbour at Staithes.
Above: looking across the harbour. Below: A view from The Old Stubble
And then it was back to Saltburn. My plan was to beach walk, read and sleep and for me Saltburn was ideal. Even the weather was perfect and I may well have chosen one of the best times to visit because it wasn’t too crowded. It was so good, however, to see school groups and mums with toddlers enjoying a visit to the seaside.