The Picturesque Village of Staithes

The Picturesque Village of Staithes

One of the Yorkshire places I fell in love with on Pinterest was the tiny fishing village of Staithes. (Probably because it reminded me so much of Port Isaac in Cornwall.)  When I found a cottage there through Airbnb, I quickly jumped on the chance to rent it.

History in Brief: A staithe is an old English word that means “landing place.” The village got its name because it has two landing places, one on either side of the stream that brings water down from the moor into the sea. Staithes was once one of the largest fishing ports on the northeast coast of England, as well as an important source of minerals such as jet, iron, alum and potash. (We drove past a potash mine every time we left the village, and jet seemed to be the claim to fame of many jewelry shops in nearby Whitby.)

Geologists love Staithes for researching the Jurassic strata in the cliffs surrounding the village. In the early 1990s, a rare fossil of a seagoing dinosaur was discovered after a rockfall between Staithes and Port Mulgrave to the south. This fossil has been the focus of an ongoing project to remove the ancient bones of the creature. Visitors often look for ammonite fossils, which are common in the area.

staithes-cliff

Captain James Cook was the most famous resident of Staithes. Cook became famous for making three voyages to the Pacific Ocean, during which he achieved the first recorded European contact with the eastern coastline of Australia and the Hawaiian Islands, and the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand. He was not, as I mistakenly thought at first, a pirate. (That would be Captain Hook, not Captain Cook.  LOL)

We arrived in Staithes near dusk, after a busy day in County Durham. We were allowed to drive down into the village to unload the car, had to go back to the top of the very big hill to park. Before we took the car back up to our designated space, I got to see the sunset over the harbor.

staithes-harbor

Since it was dinner time, we decided to eat at the Captain Cook Inn, at the top of the hill near the parking area. I would describe the food as bland at best; if you ask my daughter (who is not a picky eater), she would tell you it was flat out awful. (I saw her turn into Gordon Ramsey before my very eyes. Amusing, but I wish we could have avoided it.)

The cottage we rented was on the High Street (or as we would call it in the US, the Main Street), across from a quaint little butcher’s shop.

butcher shop.jpg

butcher shop window.jpg

The street itself was gorgeous, with cobblestones and colorful cottage doors.

staithes-street

staithes-door

staithes cottage.jpg

While Staithes may have once been a prosperous fishing village, it is now mostly a tourist destination. Very few of the cottages seemed to be permanently inhabited, and most shops opened only a few days a week. There is no cell phone service at all in the village.

We had dinner the second evening at The Royal George, a pub closer to the cottage where we stayed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t any better than the Captain Cook Inn, and the menu was almost identical. It occurred to me that in a town full of tourists, restaurants don’t have to be good, just open. There is no need to build a loyal customer base because the customers are always temporary and changing. I don’t believe the stereotype that the British don’t cook well, but in the case of the Staithes restaurants we tried, it was certainly true.

My best advice for anyone going to this lovely little village – and you should – is to go for one day. Get there early in the morning but leave before dinner time. It’s a great place to visit, but with the benefit of hindsight, I wouldn’t want to live there.

Staithes lies on the northeast coast of England, within the North York Moors National Park.  

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