In the world before 2020, who would ever have thought that we could be so excited about a week in a small, quiet seaside town?
Well, in the event we’ve been counting the weeks and days ever since we booked it. A little cottage, plans for eating fish and chips, hunting fossils and generally mooching about. We managed two weeks with our parents last summer but apart from that we haven’t been anywhere since March 2020, just before the first lockdown, staying with my sister in law. France the summer before was the last time we four were away on our own, not having to carefully plan everything and accommodate other people.
We’d booked a little cottage on a holiday park, starting on a Friday. Himself was working so the boys and I had a normal day until mid-afternoon. I popped to the supermarket, went for a run and did washing. Then finished the packing and loaded the car. I was impressed that I got everything in so tidily, much easier when I’m left to get on with it. I managed to tweak my lower back picking up one of the lighter bags. But hopefully it’ll be OK.
We left at around 3pm, himself just had to turn off his laptop and go. We were all set. The traffic around Manchester and Leeds was pretty stop start but not terrible. After York we decided to get some dinner and found a nice little bar in Malton called Oyster and Stew where we had a picker – what we call a shared meal. Gnocchi for the grown ups with vegan dippers, local sausages and wedges for the boys and two massive corn bread rolls to share. Delicious and just the right amount.
By the time we crossed the moors, past Fylingdales and down the very steep hill into Whitby to find our cottage, it was past 7pm. The cottage was small but perfectly formed – three bedrooms so the boys don’t have to share and have half a chance of sleeping in. We unpacked and I discovered two oversights on my part. The kids washbags were still on the side in the bathroom at home, at least I had a spare toothbrush in mine which would do until we found a shop. Worse, I’d packed zero t-shirts for small boy. Day 2 would require some reuse and resourcing of toothbrushes and t-shirts. Bugger.
Before bed we had a brief explore of the holiday park. We knew that the swimming pool was closed but the park was close by and we found a stunning view of the viaduct.
Having driven all the way across the country, himself was exhausted so he fell into a deep and snoring-ridden sleep come bedtime. To have half a chance of proper sleep I moved into the second bed in small boy’s room – nice and quiet. However, he’s a very wriggly sleeper and his bed had a rather rustly mattress protector so my night was still a bit disturbed.
Both the boys and I all woke up at 7.30am and went downstairs to let himself sleep a bit longer. Some lovely cuddles, no TV, and investigating the National Geographic Kids magazines kept us busy for an hour. Then himself was roused and we had breakfast with pain au chocolat – not quite the standards of French patisseries but a nice treat. Small boy took his remote control car onto the patio and we got dressed to head out and explore Whitby.
We also needed to buy toothbrushes and t-shirts after my packing fail. We walked along the Cinder Trail from our cottage into town, about 25 mins along an old railway line. Large boy kindly carried my little day backpack with water and suncream and sunglasses and so on in it, to save my sore back. We found the harbour and station and had a wander along to the end of the mole part of the harbour wall. Large boy and I were very brave overcoming our dislike (petrified fear) of boardwalks high above the ground or water. Then we had a coffee and a waffle for a morning snack – the boys were covered in chocolate of course. After an emergency toilet stop for small boy, we popped into Mountain Warehouse and picked up some t-shirts for 50% off, I spotted some bargain jumpers to go back for another time. Then Boots for toothbrushes and our chores were done. After wandering round the lanes, we crossed the harbour bridge and decided to find some lunch. We stored away some ideas for other days, but we found Albert’s Eatery – a lovely setting, quiet and a really interesting menu. Himself and I could each have tried at least three choices. The kids had scampi for the first time and loved it, so extra bonus there!
Finally, time for an adventure that large boy had been waiting for since reading up on Whitby weeks ago – climbing the 199 steps to see Whitby Abbey. We’d been expecting them to be hard going, having clambered up the Pollenca steps two years ago. In the event they weren’t too bad (but I’m writing this the same day as we climbed them, so who knows whether our legs will agree tomorrow).
After admiring the outside of the Abbey and walking a little way along the cliff to path, we then went in search of ice cream and a seat. Stopping on the way to give into temptation and let large boy get 3 books for £5. Then, instead of awkwardly choosing somewhere near the bottom of the steps and then trying to herd boys and ice creams amongst the crowds, we crossed back over the harbour and went up to the promenade, finding a little kiosk with local ice creams and a milkshake. Then it was time to wander back to our cottage. We browsed the promenade activities to plan later – go karts, mini golf, paddling pool – and turned back towards the Cinder Trail. By the time we got in it was ticking towards 5pm. After our big lunch we decided on a light tea – bacon butties quickly sourced at Sainsbury’s just up the road, followed by lemon tart (never let it be said that large boy doesn’t have a sophisticated palate!)
A quick bath for the boys, washing the suncream off, and we found a Jurassic Park film on TV to watch before bedtime. Perfect. All in all we’d walked 11.5km according to Strava, we’d better sleep tonight!
Once the kids were in bed (or at least reading in large boy’s case), himself and I tried to plan a bit what we wanted to do when.
We had a leisurely wake up and breakfast, I read on the patio for almost an hour while the boys played with their RC car and himself found some American Pickers to zone out to. Then we went to Ruswarp and had a little ride on the miniature train there. We spent the short ride pretending the boys were 4 years younger than they are, in the hope that they’d be enthusiastic about the small loop.
We headed over to Staithes for some more nostalgia for the kids younger years – they claimed to have no idea who Old Jack is, why he had a boat and didn’t recognise the wonderful Bernard Cribbins! I was horrified, but got my photo taken with his cutout. A mooch about the beautiful little village and we had awesome sandwiches for lunch from the Sea Drift tea shop on the harbour while watching the fishermen unload lobster pots, followed by some equally amazing traybakes.
Having hauled ourselves back up the massive hill to the car we headed back towards Whitby but got distracted by metal detecting on Sandsend beach. Small boy and I built rock towers and he threw stones in the sea, himself and large boy found no treasure.
Then back to the cottage to chill out for a bit. Well, for himself at least – the boys and I went for a run and bike ride. This was possibly not my best ever idea, we went up the disused railway track. When I say up, I mean up, up the hill. 2km up the hill, by the end of which I’d pushed both boys short distances. Then, of course, back down the hill. I saw the boys for approximately 50m, then they were gone, free wheeling and out of sight after the first bend. I was going quick, not quite full pelt because I knew I would catch them and I had 2km to go, but I didn’t get close to them until the starting point where they were waiting. They wanted to cycle along along top of the viaduct so we carried on, then turned back again and returned to the cottage. I looked at my stats: 4.34/km and 7.30/mile chasing boys downhill, yep that’ll do it.
After a shower, we were quickly out of the door for the last part of our action packed day! We’d checked the tide times before bed the previous day so we knew high tide was 2.30pm and we were hoping to get from the slipway onto the Whitby eastern foreshore at 5pm. There’s a fair gap at the bottom of the slip and the big retaining rocks that was pretty deep. It was still impassable just before 5, so we walked along the harbour wall a bit while we waited. Himself got impatient and decided he could make the jump, he was both right and wrong. He made it but got rather wet feet. He went off to find some rocks, with no idea what he was looking for. We’d brought hammers so himself threw the rocks to me and I bashed them to bits to see what was inside. After a bit, large boy was able to jump over the ever smaller gap at the bottom of the slip and went off to help his dad, not much later small boy decided he would be brave enough to go too. We had a lovely hour and found some pretty good samples – ammonites, oysters and bits of jet, some pyrite too! By 6.30pm I was hungry, so we called it a day and went in search of dinner, eventually ending up in Magpies for a chippie tea – good stuff!
Finally, back to the cottage and straight to bed for the boys, 8.30pm is usually way past their bedtime so they (and we) were exhausted.
The weather forecast wasn’t amazing so we decided to head over to Eden Camp, a WWII museum that himself remembered visiting as a child. Good choice because it started raining just as we left Whitby. It had cleared up by the time we arrived though.
Eden Camp was a prisoner of war camp, housing prisoners from all over up until about 1948. It’s been converted into a fabulous, evocative museum, at times poignant experience covering all aspects of the war – from military aspects, to those left at home, bomb disposal, women’s changing roles and those captured both from the allied forces and the “enemy”. There were some parts that we didn’t visit – the holocaust section had a warning for parents and we decided not to take them through that. It’s not that we shy away from tough topics, but the images might be a bit much. A decision we were glad of when we reached the model of a British POW in the far East, with ribs showing and a description of their living conditions. Large boy found it upsetting and we took the opportunity to talk to him about the Holocaust too.
The boys loved the big machinery on display – tanks, anti-aircraft guns, armoured cars and full-sized hurricane and spitfire models.
The boys hid in an old red phone box and had no idea what it was for. We had an easy lunch of sandwiches and the boys loved the play area – set out with guard towers and lots of places to climb and hide. Early in the afternoon, the rain came on again so we decided to head off.
Another nostalgic throwback for himself, we drove out to Goathland – setting for Heartbeat off the TV. Its a beautiful little village and we visited the village stores for some homemade fudge, and a wooden ball and cup game for large boy. I resisted the marmite mug and the Be-Ro flour measuring cup, just. As we’d walked to the village from where we parked the truck on the outskirts, we’d seen a footpath sign to the Mallyan Spout waterfall. So, fueled by fudge, we made our way down the steep path. Large boy bending my ear about Minecraft allowed himself and small boy to build a lead. They waited for us as the bottom of the steps, where we discovered that the rest of the path was climbing over some massive rocks. We made it, free of injury or wet feet, and the sight was lovely.
The climb back up was hard going, large boy declared he had chopstick legs and small boy stripped off his t-shirt.
Back at the cottage, we tried to book somewhere for dinner without success. It seems many places are closed on a Monday and others were booked up. Eventually, we had another chippy tea – each of us chose a different main from the day before though. Then a game of Exploding Kittens, some junk TV, reading and bed for the kids, while himself booked Flamingo Land for a couple of days later.
Wow, I managed to lie in until almost 9am! That felt lovely.
With a sunny day forecast we had decided to head South and explore Scarborough. We drove down late morning and parked near the North bay, starting with a visit to Peasholm Park. The boys spotted the dragon pedalos and were immediately determined that they needed a ride. Of course himself and I did the pedalling, large boy’s legs aren’t quite long enough. Yet.
Then we went to see the little train over the road but decided to give it a miss and walked down to the front instead. By late morning, the tide wasn’t in yet and the beach was pretty busy, himself realised he’d forgotten to put the metal detector in the car. Instead of getting our feet wet and sandy, we made the climb over the big hill to the South bay and found lunch at the King Richard III pub (sandwiches for grown ups, panini for large boy and baked potato for small boy despite the hot weather).
We wandered along the sea front, buying nougat for my mum and seagull poo for our neighbours who were watering my veggies (I hope) and visiting the arcades, the boys loved the 2p machines. No surprise there. We had a round of crazy golf, himself thrashed us all as usual but small boy beat his brother by 1 point.
Mid-afternoon, we were all feeling a bit warm so we took the funicular railway up the hill and made our way back through the town centre towards the car park, admiring some lovely views on the way.
Of course, an ice cream pit stop on the way back was essential and small boy ate most of a Mr Whippy – almost unheard of, he’s notorious for not liking ice cream. Strange boy.
Once back in Whitby we chilled out for an hour, the boys rode their bikes and we had a round of Bug Bingo.
We rounded out the day with dinner at Al Taco: nachos for large boy, tacos for himself, fajita for small boy and burrito for me. A fantastic array of dishes, prepared right in front of us and adapted to our needs – they made a half portion of fajita for small boy even though it wasn’t on the kids menu. Then a little wander along the sea front with fresh donuts for pudding.
We wanted to have a full day in Whitby, properly exploring everything the town has to offer. After a semi-decent lie in, I went for a run – total fail, far too hot and a massive hill for a solid 3km. Once I was home and cleaned up we were ready to head out. We started with the Abbey, large boy had been keen to get right up close to ruins.
After an hour admiring the grandeur and solidity of the ruins, letting large boy learn how to use the big DSLR camera, we browsed the museum and small boy outdid himself reading the captions. It was a very hot day, so we had a boat ride planned but the thought of walking back up the 199 steps at the end of the day was rather intimidating. So we moved the car over to the top of the cliffs, convenient for our afternoon activities. We went straight for lunch at Stokers cafe, barely resisting a vast array of amazing looking cakes. But for good reason, our next stop was a boat ride and no one wants to go to even the calmest sea with an over-full tummy. Small boy had a strong aversion to the pirate tour boat, so we went for the yellow one instead. A little trip out through the harbour and into the bay was lovely, the guide providing tidbits of information about Whitby. It was an absolutely gorgeous day, so I slathered everyone with yet more suncream with the sun reflecting up off the sea.
Back on dry land, we went searching for large boy’s particular request – a piece of jet on a cord or something non-metallic for his wrist. This is apparently unheard of, jet is hard to drill and so tubes aren’t usually available. After visiting a few shops we found a charm for a lady’s bracelet that would do the job, but at £40 that was rather too expensive for a 9 year old to be wearing. Instead, himself took the boys to a shells and gems shop and they both chose sharks teeth. Large boy got a pendant that he can barely fasten and unfasten (and which broke before we got home home) and small boy chose a little box of loose teeth – a bit weird but whatever float their boats.
I browsed the shops and bought a couple of tops for myself and then we went back to the car, where the boys changed into their trunks (barely avoiding flashing the kids coming out of a local school). We spent a lovely hour and a half with them splashing about the paddling pool, while we enjoyed the sunshine and some cold drinks. Back at the cottage the boys showered and I started packing to go home (boo hiss) before going out for dinner at Pizza West. I indulged in a glass of prosecco before enjoying beef ragu papardelle and himself had lobster pasta while the boys shared a pizza. We all had sumptuous canoli for pudding.
Another beautiful day, lots of fun and memories feeling like a proper summer holiday.
A second night spent in small boy’s bedroom to avoid himself’s snoring (although small boy also snores apparently), I was woken by him wriggling and muttering at 6.30am, then he was up properly just after 7am. I recommended he should read for a bit, however that didn’t help me get any more sleep as he reads aloud and every now and then he would spell a word out for me to tell him what it said. Very cute but I knew a tired day was ahead of me.
By the time we’d all got up and had breakfast of toast (we ran out of milk, doh) we had a little time to kill before heading out for our big holiday treat. Small boy played with his remote control car and then both kids made loom bands. Himself chilled out and dealt with a random question from a colleague while I wrote in the visitor’s book.
And so we were off to Flamingo Land. Himself loves a rollercoaster, me not so much and the boys are hit and miss. This was a miss day for large boy, he went on all the kids rides no problem but was obstinately steadfast in his determination not to go on the adult rides. I was actually proud that he stood firm against the persuasive powers of his parents. If he can withstand offers of teddies, candy floss and other treats while knowing dad was a bit disappointed not to share the thrills with him, then he will hopefully also be able to resist attempts to talk him into doing silly things as he grows up. I mean, sure, everyone needs to make mistakes but if it comes to serious things, I’m reassured that maybe he wouldn’t bow to peer pressure.
We had loads of fun on the kids rides and those are scary enough for me anyway. I wasn’t tempted by the big coasters at all, but I’d have gone on with large boy if he’d wanted me to – got to lead by example and all that. Himself went on all the rides and we also visited the zoo. It was lovely to see quite big enclosures and to be able to walk in with the wallabies.
Small boy’s favourite ride was Vortex which swung back and forth while also swinging. Large boy loved the aeroplane coaster and went on four times, finally waving his hands in the air on his last go. Himself enjoyed Mumbo Jumbo which has world record a 112° vertical turn. For me, I just enjoyed riding with the boys.
We stayed the whole day there, from 10am opening to buying memento teddies (tiger called Alina for small and hedgehog called Hedge for large) at 5pm. By the time we got back to Whitby it was tea time, so takeaway chippy tea from Trenchers fit the bill and we ate it on the cottage patio to finish a lovely last day.
Just a little tidy up, packing and getting ready for the journey home, then bed.
Yeah, the last Friday counts as a holiday day too. We got up quite early and packed up all our gubbins (as my grandma calls it) into the car, making sure that buckets were accessible. I’d managed to miscalculate our milk supplies and I’d used the last of the milk up for my Thursday morning coffee before Flamingo Land, so there was nothing for breakfast. Doh? Nope! We went to Emma’s Diner for a brilliant brunch! Latte and a sausage sarnie for me, full on pancakes and bacon for himself and the boys both had truly enormous milkshakes with 3 scoops of ice cream coupled with bacon butties, because why not?
Our plan was to head down to Scarborough to go rock pooling, but in the event we decided to drop into Robin Hood’s Bay first. Having parked up, we took the scenic route down to the sea front, coming out onto the foreshore to find a rocky shelf with a few fossily-looking rocks. We cracked a few open but didn’t find anything, so started to peek into the pools left by the receding tide. Straight away we found a little flat fish, almost perfectly camouflaged but giving itself away when it moved. We popped it in the bucket, but small boy quickly returned it to its home.
Further along the beach, we found some bigger deeper pools and captured several crabs and a shrimp. Another family had even found a big sea anemone.
As the parking time ticked away, we climbed back up the steep hill, browsing a few shops on the way. I picked up some little dinosaur trinkets for small boy’s upcoming birthday and both the kids chose a memento – large boy had a slice of blue agate and small boy a dinosaur tooth or claw of some sort. Finally, at 1pm we could delay no longer and we got in the car to come home. It was a fairly long drive, made slow by some bad traffic that prompted the sat nav to take us a different route. Home at last by 6pm though, and straight away the washing machine was on and chinese takeaway ordered.
It was a totally wonderfully fantastic week away. We ate so much good food, did new and different things, discovered fossils and indulged in new books. According to Fitbit I covered 95km during the week (10km running by myself), but Fitbit is notorious for underestimating distance so I think it was an easy 100km week. For the boys, that’s really far, especially with all the hills and steps, they did brilliantly, barely complaining. I really hope we can go back to Whitby again, or somewhere nearby. I know the fabulous weather played a big part in enjoying this holiday, but there are still so many things we want to do. Maybe we’ll be back again next May half term.