This week’s adventure took us over th’ills to Yorkshire. Passports checked, we made our way to Staithes, a hidden little gem of a town a few miles shy of Whitby. The reason for this trip was, of course, Old Jack’s Boat. Little Monkey is delightfully obsessed with the adventures of Old Jack and Salty Dog aboard The Rainbow (if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about either go and find a child to translate or clickhere I’ll wait.). I have to admit, when he asks to watch yet another episode of Old Jack’s Boat, the husband and I will stop what we’re doing to settle down with a brew for fifteen minutes to watch with him; there’s something about listening to Bernard Cribbins that is both comforting and nostalgic.
We arrived at our B&B, The Captain Cook Inn a couple of hours before check in time but we were able to park the car there and wander down the hill into town. We didn’t realise what a luxury this was until we arrived but there is absolutely NO parking in Staithes village, there are a couple of car parks at the top of the hill but all other vehicles are residents’ only. The hill into town is not for the faint hearted, I’ll be honest, its pretty brutal on the way back up but there is a handy bench half way up and a hand rail to ease the climb back up to the top.
Our main aim was to find Old Jack’s cottage, The Mermaid Cafe and The Rainbow. The husband and I were slightly nervous about this as WE know that a) Old Jack wasn’t going to be there d) The Rainbow is an animated boat and 12) Little Monkey has a temper rivalled only by Voldemort when things don’t go his way.
I will say this; Staithes is not even remotely ‘touristy’, which we loved. It’s a tiny little town, nestled in between rugged cliff tops and hills, there is a harbour, a couple of pubs and, well, thats about it. With one main street and a maze of cobbled alley ways shooting off to reveal hidden little gardens or views of the river, its like a child decided to make a village from match boxes and stuck them all on top of each other. We wandered towards the harbour and found the spot where Emily’s Ice cream cart is and spotted the building used as the front for The Mermaid cafe. Little Monkey was slightly disappointed to find that Shelley and Captain Periwinkle weren’t there but we decided they must be out for the day on The Rainbow with Old Jack. Thankfully we made this sound very convincing and on we went to locate Jack’s cottage.
Now, in the long hours spent finding a cottage or B&B which wasn’t fully booked this week, I discovered that Old Jack’s cottage is in fact a holiday rental and can be hired out. Unfortunately it was fully booked. I had forgot to make a note of where it was though and after about ten minutes of ‘oohhh I think thats Old Jack’s house’ in my best mums-a-liar voice Little Monkey was not impressed. I should have known better;
‘That one is too big.’
‘That door isn’t the right blue.’
‘That one doesn’t have a rose bush outside.’
Fortunately a good friend of mine has been visiting Staithes for years and gave me a sound piece of advice. ‘If you need to know anything about Staithes, go and see Maurice in the Kessen Bowl shop, he IS Mr Staithes.’ So off we went.
The Kessen Bowl is one of those gorgeous little shops that has anything and everything you never knew you needed; from buckets and spades to suncream and fridge magnets. (It is also the set for Emily’s sweet shop) We bought a postcard to put in Little Monkey’s bedroom and asked Maurice about Old Jack. What happened next was the same thing we had encountered everywhere: the whole of Staithes is in on the secret. Every single person we had spoken to had kept that little bit of magic alive for Little Monkey.
“Well, if you sneak down the alley way that points to the LifeBoat house you’ll cross over the bridge that Old Jack walks over and on the right is his house. He won’t be in though, he’s out on The Rainbow seeing Charlie Squid.”
It didn’t matter who we spoke to, everyone seemed to know why we were there, what we were looking for and what to say to keep Little Monkey happy and not make us look like compulsive liars. For that we will be eternally grateful to the residents of Staithes; all it takes is for one grumpy old sod to say ‘oh, you know he’s not real, don’t you?’ and the spell is broken. But no-one did, absolutely everyone from people in the street to the ice cream man and even the young girl behind the bar in The Cod and Lobster kept up the pretence. Its like they’re all living in this never ending pantomime and they all know their lines perfectly.
Directions memorised, on we went. We were not disappointed. Little Monkey did the obligatory ‘Good day to you!’ while standing on the bridge and we took a million snaps outside his cottage (much to the amusement of the residents who were enjoying a brew on the bench).
Later on we visited The Cod and Lobster for tea. It was delicious and very reasonable (2 starters, 2 mains and a kids’ meal for around £35) but be warned, it gets very busy! They serve food from 5.30pm but you need to be in a while before that and they will take orders from about 5ish. Be prepared to wait but its well worth it.
We spent the night at The Captain Cook Inn at the top of the hill. I’d highly recommend it as a place to stay. We had a family room on the top floor (double bed, single bed and travel cot) and it was absolutely, immaculately clean. Everything was white, nicely accented with a sea-blue feature wall and matching curtains. There was the usual tea/coffee tray and a little selection of toiletries in the bathroom. The shower a) worked and f) was hot; a novelty which I’ll be honest, I did not expect. The beds were comfortable and because we were on the top floor we couldn’t hear the noise from the bar below. Check out their website, the staff were amazing and couldn’t do enough for us, we’ll definitely stay again.
The next day we packed up after a delicious breakfast and headed on to Whitby for my own little childhood quest; the locations in Room 13 by Robert Swindells. This has been a favourite book of mine for years, if you have never read it have a little look here. The sea front was exactly what I expected; Victorian beach huts, crazy golf, an outdoor swimming pool and lots of imposing hotels. Little Monkey was dying to get on the beach but it was only about 10.30am so we decided on pool, golf and lunch before the beach and the abby.
Whitby is definitely a town of two halves. The front is quiet, quaint and perfect for taking in the views. There are tiny shops selling ice cream and coffee and buckets and spades, little attractions like trampolines and go-karts and benches dotted along the pavement for no other reason than to sit on have take in the passing day. However, on our quest for a real afternoon tea (fuelled by Little Monkey’s love of Teacup Travels, another offering from CBeebies) we came across the other Whitby, the one beyond the Whalebone Arch where flocks of seagulls circle overhead and snatch chips from the hands of unsuspecting toddlers. The Whitby where locals and tourists hustle and bustle together along narrow pavements. There are amusement arcades and this is where you can board a real pirate ship and take a voyage around the bay for £3. If The Husband and I didn’t have two tired and over excited kids with us, we probably would have enjoyed the commotion and battled through to find somewhere lovely for lunch; but we did have two very tired, over excited and hungry kids with us so we dived into the nearest cafe we could find (Shelley’s Teashop) for a buttie and a brew.
After lunch we drove up to the Abby which, Robert Swindells forgets to mention, is an English Heritage attraction. I had imagined that we would pitch up, wander around some ruins and then have a snack before driving home again. No, no, no. We had to be relieved of the best part of £15 before we could wander around some ruins. Luckily for us, Little Monkey and Little Panda are still of that convenient age that means we don’t pay for them to do anything. To be fair, we were offered membership to English Heritage so we could wander around ruins in different parts of the country.
I say ‘offered’, we were actually approached by a shifty looking Scottish bloke sporting beige chinos. He sidled up to us, looked around as if he was about to offer us some coke and whispered
‘Ay, are youse looking to see the Abby today?’
If you’ve never been to Whitby Abby I should probably tell you that it is in the middle of nowhere. There is a field with a couple of horses in and thats it. Its not like we could park up, visit a retail park, nip into the Abby and then go roller skating. I decided against sarcasm, in the interests of setting an example to Little Monkey.
‘Well, if you’d like to take a look at ma map there, and see which other places you’d like to go, I could save you (looks shiftily around) your entire entrance fee today.’
‘Right, we don’t actually visit that many…’
‘You’ll be paying, what, £15 today? Sign up, you can go through those doors for FREE. It will only cost you £4.95 a month…’
‘So not free then really?’
We (politely) declined and paid up. The man at the till was less shifty and even gave Little Monkey a free activity sheet to do. Him and the husband enjoyed flitting around, solving clues and working out anagrams, for which is was rewarded with a certificate at the end. There was also a tent and a long suffering entertainer who was valiantly trying to engage the kids in medieval role play (jousting knights, slaying dragons and the like) on a more busy afternoon I can imagine his job is a lot easier. I have to say that I was impressed with the Abby, the visitor centre is full of artefacts and if the kids weren’t with us I’d have spent a good couple of hours enjoying the free audio guide.
The trip home was like a tour of the service stations of the North. We’ve come to realise that travelling any further than the Trafford Centre will a) cost us a fortune and 9) lead us into that realm of parenthood: Comparing Service Stations. (However, I WILL say that after our Alton Towers’ adventure, we did enjoy Keele services for the variety of fast food and the added bonus of a Dunkin Donuts concession)
Overall, we’d highly recommend Staithes for a lovely little getaway for CBeebies fans.
Next week’s adventure; entertaining them at home, for a whole week.
Pass the gin.