Welcome to the village that I grew up in for 20 years. Located peacefully on the North Eastern coast of England. Staithes (or Steeze to the locals) is the very last place to separate North Yorkshire with Cleveland. The village only has about 800 permanent inhabitants, although this number can nearly double in the summer months. Simply been here makes you feel from a bygone age.
This is a perfect example of a village that has expanded overtime; the original 'old' village is located at the bottom of a very steep hill, which is about 300 meters long. The original settlement is of Viking origin and the old village is built of tightly packed houses for the fishermen of the village. Its cobbled roads are intriguing and it has many small alleys for you to look around. One of these alleys is rumored to be the tightest in England (I Don't know if that fact or just a village myth when I was goring up!). The beach of the village is possibly the most disappointing aspect ascetically of the village if you are wanting a sandy beach. It has been improving over recent years, but as the beach is sandwiched between three piers to protect the settlement from the rough northern seas it isn't the biggest.
At the top of this hill is the 'new' village are the houses that are mainly occupied now by the local residents. The residents moved to the top of this hill to have easier access to the Cleveland Potash mine, approximately 1.5 miles north of the village and the rail link which arrived the at the end of the 18th century (this closed in the late 1950's) to allow travel to both Whitby and Middlesbourgh. The old station house still exists and is located next to the village car park.
So why is Staithes famous?
Surprisingly for such a small village it is steeped in History. It is often known as locally as Cook's village. Captain James Cook lived and worked in one of the shops at the bottom of the village, it was within the village that he first got his passion for the sea and later moved to Whitby before exploring the world. Within the old part of the village the home where Cook lived is marked with a plaque and is still an occupied house these days.
Despite it small size it is hard to understand how important fishing once to the village. This was once one of the largest ports in the UK, with over 300 men working out of it. The fishermen used to bring the catch ashore and transport via the rail link to larger urban dwellings. However the fishing fleet is a lot smaller these days.
The village also appears in numerous paintings. This was as a direct result of the train line as artists would come to the village just to paint. Such was the impact of these artists that a group was formed called the Staithes group of artists and there work can fetch thousands.
Staithes is one of those small picturesque places that dreams are made of for TV shows. Within my lifetime, all 25 years of it, numerous shows have been filmed here. Including
- Heartbeat (rather unsurprisingly)
- Hetty Wainthrope investigates
- The Fast Show
- Playbus (the kids show)
This is also featured on several Yorkshire Tea adverts
So what is there to do?
Within the village is a heritage museum, which in all honestly, I have yet to visit. There are 2 art gallery's displaying paintings of Staithes and other beautiful villages of the area, While there are the usual village amenities of a Butcher, post office and village shop. The Bottom of the village has numerous holiday homes for people to stay in and is resident to 2pubs, one of these is the cod and lobster that famously gets flooded each year by the sea as it is on the sea front, the other is the George. There are also a couple of eateries; the best of these is the Endeavour fish restaurant which is opposite the George. It's website can be found at http://www.endeavour-restaurant.co.uk/
The village really is a walkers paradise. Many people, after checking the tide, walk around the rocks to the neighbouring village of Port Mulgrave whilst doing an about turn at Port and returning over some farmers fields to see the sea view from the air. Another traditional walk is to go via the village of Dale House and round some different wooded scenery and back onto the cliff tops to the village. Both are around about 5 miles in length. However this is just one of many walks that you can take around the area.
My favourite thing of the village is to head on to the largest pier and simply walk along it to the end and look back at the settlement. It always amazes me how tightly compacted the houses are built in the settlement and how the houses are built into the steep bank sides.
The village also holds a lifeboat weekend with its neighboring village of Runswick. This is usually held in July and brings together activities from 4-5 lifeboats from the area, cliff top rescues, numerous musical marching bands, many activities on the beach which is all topped off by a firework display on the Saturday evening.
How to get there
This is a really quite remote village, getting there is easy from Whitby take the A174 north for about 10 miles. From Middlesborough you want to head to Redcar and then follow the A174 for about 15miles.
A splendid little spot to visit for relaxation. One major drawback is getting around the village is extremely hard as its is built on quite a few big hill sides.
Thanks for reading