When we think of the word ‘travel’ we usually equate it with distant, far-off lands, away from any sense of home. However, I hope to reverse this trend slightly and provide an alternative guide to travel, looking at places in and around Durham that might just offer up another kind of holiday.
Saltburn-by-the-Sea, North Yorkshire
Some say it’s grim up north, but they couldn’t be more wrong, especially for the case of Saltburn-by-the-Sea, a charming, little coastal town twelve miles east of Middleborough.
Sitting on the very margin of North Yorkshire and County Durham, Saltburn-by-the-Sea offers a space for a quieter retreat, a large half pebble, half sandy beach being the main attraction of the town, a place perfect for families, dog-walkers, or anyone just wanting a bit of time out. The town itself has many pubs, quaint and cosy cafés, and a parade filled with restaurants and takeaways to pass the time away (especially if the beach if proving too cold at this time of year).
One of its main attractions are the surfers who come along to ride the North Sea’s surprisingly huge waves. All kinds of people get involved and there are opportunities to learn right then and there on the beach. The pier also works as a great viewing platform for doing so if you’re not in a surfing mood.
I would recommend visiting Saltburn during the winter when the sunsets are the earliest in the day. Some of the best sunsets I’ve seen have been from its pier. Any budding artists, painters or photographers would do well to spend a few days here.
The place itself just feels friendly and familiar. Although the town doesn’t offer the buzz of the big city, and might be a bit on the quiet side, it’s worth remembering for somewhere down the line. That said, if it’s a short, quiet stay, of two or three nights that you’re after, this would suit you more than well.
Blackhall Rocks, County Durham
We switch onto another beach now, moving onto somewhere a little closer to Durham, that place being Blackhall Rocks, a nearby beach that’s proving to be a well-kept secret. It’s only a relatively short bus ride away (about an hour’s ride), and if you have a car with you there’s no excuse not to visit.
I’ve been there twice now and it’s a great little spot to spend some time out of the Durham bubble with some friends for the day. Again, it’s a lovely beach, dropping below the black craggy rock faces that give the place its name. This beach is a much more secluded spot that Saltburn-by-the-Sea, and sometimes you might just be the only people around. It’s a great place for summer bonfires, and there’s a fish and chip shop not too far away to complete your seaside visit, except here you’re less likely to get your chips pinched by a seagull. As well as the beautiful surroundings, there are caves and rockpools to explore. I would recommend going in the summer months when the weather’s a little warmer. That way you can really make the most of this pocket of natural beauty and quietude.
If you fancy visiting yourself there are quite a few buses that will take you there. One of the buses you can get is the number 24 (heading towards Hartlepool Marina), and then it’s a few minutes’ walk away towards the coast.