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Whitby in North Yorkshire is surrounded by little fishing ports like Staithes, Port Mulgrave, Runswick Bay and Robin Hood's Bay which gives tourists a selection of beautiful spots to visit
People who visit Whitby tend to like the old world charm of the fishing port with its quaint little cobbled streets and old cottages and shops. But one of the biggest bonuses for people who love this old world historical scenery is that you've got so many other little fishing ports within easy driving distance.
The nearest fishing port to Whitby is Robin Hoods Bay and first recorded reference to the place was in 1536 by King Henry V111s topographer with the statement ‘a fisher townelet of 20 bootes with Dok or Bosom of a mile yn length’. It is very probable that the village you can see today began to form in the 15th century by 1540 it is said that there was approximately 50 cottages. There will be also the Cliff settlement forming due to the fact it was more secure for piracy and easily walked from large boats inland.
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Apparently the 16th century Robin Hood's Bay was more significant and important than Whitby according to Dutch sea charts which were published in 1586. People often think that the name of the village comes from Robin Hood the fictitious character from Sherwood Forest, but there is not one piece of factual evidence is to support this. It is probable that the name originated from local legends like an ancient spirit of the forest Robin Goodfellow.
One thing is for certain that during the 18th century Robin Hood's Bay was actually a thriving smuggling community and one or if not the most busy on the Yorkshire coastline. Its geography helps the situation with its natural isolation whilst being surrounded by marshy moorland on all sides which assisted the well-organised gangs to go about their business with obviously a better result than fishing.
Smuggling was a very dangerous business with the illegal contraband bringing in large amounts of booty which encouraged ferocious battles at sea and on land between the smugglers and the excise men. It is rumoured that the local women would often pour boiling water over the excise men from the cottages bedroom windows in an attempt to stop them. The local man was also under the threat not only from the excise men but also from the press gangs and during the late 18th century moving into the early 19 century local fishermen even though they were supposed to be exempt from the press gangs were often "pressed" which meant that in reality their chances of returning back, very slim.
As with all the little fishing ports down the East Coast from the middle of the 19th century Robin Hood's Bay became to be a hot spot for tourist attraction which maintains to this very day.
Now in the opposite direction if we head down the coast we come to a little place which is just over a mile from Whitby and is called Sandsend
Less than 2 miles down the road from Whitby the place is well worth a visit with its scenic bay set against the backdrop of the steep cliffs. The cliffs also offer excellent walks providing panoramic views down into Sandsend and over towards Whitby where you can see St Mary's church and the harbour. Also on these cliffs there are the remains of the railway track which you can follow being part of the Cleveland Way. If you keep walking you can find an area which is very barren and grey which is actually what is left of a once very busy mining business from the 17th century which was there to extract Alum.
In the centre of Sandsend there is a log cabin cafeteria right on the sands where you can enjoy a cup of tea and a snack with excellent views and then walk and take a look in the arts and craft shops. And if you fancy a stroll you can wander along the excellent beach heading down towards Whitby and if you look carefully you may even find some Whitby jet particularly if there has been a storm recently.
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Runswick Bay is approximately several miles down the coast from Whitby and is another picture postcard beauty spot, with the road and pavement having one of the steepest inclines into the bay itself you literally feel like you're falling off the end of the earth. The properties in the village are relatively new and it definitely has a very prosperous feel in comparison to say Staithes a couple of miles down the coast with its more traditional old ramshackle cottages. The village itself once again historically survived by fishing and illegal smuggling activities in the past, with the beach swapping the footsteps of illegal traders for tourists in the early 18th century.
There is a lifeboat station which has quite a rich history and on one occasion it is recorded that it was manned completely by a singular woman because the lifeboat men were all caught out in a freak squall at sea. The Coast Guard cottage with its thatched roof still stands on the edge of the village.
In 1682 the village suffered an enormous landslide which completely destroyed all the buildings with the exception of one cottage, luckily nobody was actually injured because mourners who were attending a wake were fortunate enough to realise what was happening and sent out the warning to evacuate. There was another large landslide in 1858 which destroyed a small iron smelting works leaving many cracks in the cottages. The village has always been prey to the ravages of the sea but in 1970 the completion of a sea wall was celebrated which has now secured the future of this beautiful bay.
Nine miles down the coast from Whitby is a little place called Port Mulgrave which isn't a major tourist attraction and to be perfectly honest there's not a great deal there but if you like beautiful scenery and like quietness without crowds it is definitely worth a visit.
In fact the quietness of the village now makes it very difficult to appreciate that once this little port one supported a thriving busy mining community. In the early 19th century the Staithes Iron Stone Company conducting mining from this spot extracting iron ore. Cottages were built by the company for the miners and also constructed a harbour jetty which is now abandoned today. The iron was shipped down to Jarrow in Tyne & Wear where it was used for ship building.
Port Mulgrave is still claiming a famous accolade it is one of the most popular Jurassic sites in the UK with the beach between the part and the little fishing port further down called Staithes hosting large supplies of fossils and dinosaur remains.
Approximately 10 miles down the coast from Whitby you come to the little fishing village called Staithes, with the name originating from the word Staithes which means a landing place for boats.
The little cottages and cobbled streets are very authentic with the little alleyways rising steeply up the cliff side gaining access to many cottages on the way. It really does give an authentic charm. The beauty of this little place was so much that it formed a community which was known as the Staithes group which contained artists from all over the country arriving often on a very spectacular railway.
In the past Staithes was one of the busiest fishing ports in the country and the location also a very important mining industry was formed here gaining access to minerals like iron ore, alum and potash. One of the most famous inhabitants of the village from the past was the famous Explorer Captain Cook who lived in the village as a boy and where most certainly gained his lifelong love of the sea, he later went to live in Whitby.
On the main street in Staithes there is a very interesting tourist attraction called the Captain Cook and Staithes Heritage Centre, which contains the worlds, only recreated grocer’s shop where captain cook once worked and it is said that the shutters on the Windows are very possibly the original ones. There are many treasures and interesting artefacts to see.